Dutch news in brief, Monday 12 January 2009
Read the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands for the latest news in the Netherlands.Obama’s euphoria could be short-lived
On 20 January 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. Several Dutch newspapers write that although President-elect Obama enjoys overwhelming support in the Netherlands "the feeling of euphoria could be short-lived".
"Don’t leave Obama out in the cold" writes de Volkskrant. The left-wing newspaper says that he "will explicitly seek the support of the European allies, for instance in asking for additional troops for Afghanistan. It will not help the already poor transatlantic relations if the partners leave him in the cold."
The appeal was made by five former Dutch foreign ministers at a debate held on Sunday which had been organised by de Volkskrant. The theme of the debate was 'Obama and us'.
The paper reports that "From Henry Kissinger to Condoleezza Rice: their experiences with their American colleagues were not unequivocally pleasant. Nor is forthcoming minister Hillary Clinton the kind of woman who will treat Europe with kid gloves."
Former foreign minister Max van der Stoel says the good news is that "Obama has already indicated clearly that he values good ties with Europe."
Netherlands says no to Guantanamo Bay prisoners
The newspaper NRC Handelsblad covers future US-Dutch relations from a different angle: how to deal with the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
"On this point Washington is disappointed. For instance with the position of the Netherlands, which always strongly condemned the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay, but now refuses to cooperate with the closure (of the facility) promised by Obama by taking in released prisoners."
The paper writes that there are serious grounds for suspicion with regards to around 80 of the 250 inmates still incarcerated at the facility. Many of the remaining prisoners, however, cannot go home because there is the danger that they will "be persecuted or tortured in their home country".
NRC Handelsblad says that so far Albania is willing to accept five Uygurs and that Portugal announced in December that it would accept some prisoners. Germany is considering the matter.
"However, the Netherlands is not prepared to help out," writes the paper which quoted Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen: "The care for those who are not to be tried but released is first and foremost the responsibility of the United States. We did not set up or support Guantanamo Bay. We did not make the mistakes. I don’t see why we should provide asylum to people who are released [from prison] there."
Sarah Mendelson, one of Obama’s liaisons, described the foreign minister’s remarks as "enormously disappointing. The Obama administration wants to restore America’s contacts with the international community. He should be able to expect something from a country such as the Netherlands."
Dutch prepares for new role as European gas distributor
The conservative newspaper De Telegraaf writes that the Netherlands is getting prepared for "a new role as distributor of gas for Europe" by using liquid gas which will be transported by ship to a brand new terminal on the plain of the Meuse River. The new terminal would be built next to the current one in Rotterdam.
The paper writes that “gas deliveries from Rotterdam via the enormous Dutch distribution network would make Europe less vulnerable in future to problems such as those with Ukraine and Russia”. On Sunday, it became clear that the Russians had again retracted an accord they had signed with Ukraine that very afternoon, leaving Eastern Europe without gas.
De Telegraaf writes that it appears likely that Algeria will soon supply the Netherlands with liquefied natural gas. Economic Affairs Minister Maria van der Hoeven has had a number of "positive talks" with Algerian officials. Her Algerian counterpart will arrive in the Netherlands in the near future to discuss the issue further. De Telegraaf reports that the first deliveries of Algerian gas could arrive within two years.
Police defend screaming anti-Semitic protestors
De Telegraaf reports on how police clear the way for haters of Jews.
On Sunday, former police officer Ton van Dordt saw a group of snot noses (the Dutch term for brats) of around 12 years of age screaming "Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas" led by two adults.
As the police officers watching the group did not do a thing, Van Dordt decided to take action himself. He cycled to the group and asked the youths if they thought it was normal to chant such grievous slogans. The youths began to kick his bike and threaten him.
It was then the police officers took action. Van Dordt thought they were coming to help him, instead they asked him to leave.
"The police said the group had been protesting for two hours without problems. I was the one who made the situation explosive." A police spokeswoman said police had decided not to intervene because "it was extremely busy in the centre and you never know what such a group is liable to do".
Controversial art shows Netherlands under water
The presidency of the European Union has been in the hands of the Czech Republic since 1 January. De Telegraaf reports that, as an ode to free expression, Prague chose one of the country’s most controversial artists, sculptor David Cerny, to create a work of art which it donated to Brussels.
The work of art is certainly controversial. The 16 metre by 16 metre map of Europe makes fun of all 27 members. Poland is represented by two Catholic priests dressed as soldiers proudly hoisting a gay flag. Italy is represented by randy football players. Denmark (made up of lego blocks) and Sweden (as an Ikea box) are treated relatively leniently. The artist makes fun of his own country – a screen showing President Vaclav Klaus repeatedly giving a speech in which he says "climate change does not exist".
The Netherlands is no longer represented by windmills, but is alas under water - only the tops of minarets remain standing.
[Radio Netherlands / Frank Scimone / Expatica]