Dutch news in brief, Monday 2 March 2009

2nd March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

Is Wilders the new Pim Fortuyn?

The quality free newspaper De Pers leads with the questioning headline: Is Wilders the new Pim? An opinion poll published yesterday showed for the first time ever that if elections were held today the Freedom Party of populist politician Geert Wilders would become the largest in the Dutch parliament.

The Freedom Party would gain 27 seats in the 150-seat parliament (now nine), while the governing Christian Democrats would fall from 41 to 26. De Pers sees countless similarities between Wilders and Pim Fortuyn, the flamboyant populist politician who was assassinated nine days before the parliamentary elections of May 2002.

“Similar to Fortuyn, Wilders holds strong convictions about the danger of Islam and he is also a fierce opponent of the political establishment. His provocative views go down well in the media, as did Fortuyn’s. And the same as Fortuyn, he is easy to understand and convincing, especially in comparison to other politicians who often get bogged down in murky gobbledygook.”

The paper thinks the elections for the European parliament in three months could do what the Rotterdam municipal elections of March 2002 did for Pim Fortuyn. Then his party became the largest in Rotterdam, gaining 17 of the 45 seats in the city council. De Pers notes that the next parliamentary elections are not until May 2011. However, since the governing coalition only has 52 seats in the polls it expects the cabinet will do everything possible to avoid early elections.

The Netherlands' 13th province

AD interviews Paolo De Mas, whom the newspaper describes as the leading researcher of Morocco in the Netherlands. The geographer has been studying Moroccans from the Rif region since the 1970s. Around 70 percent of Moroccans living in the Netherlands are Berbers from the Rif, sometime referred to as the Netherlands’ 13th province.

De Mas says that some of the problems faced by Moroccan youths in the Netherlands are culturally determined, but the basic problem is the lack of jobs. He points to what he says is a more successful integration of people from the Rif region in Germany, where there are more opportunities to study and fewer youths are unemployed, with the result that there is less crime.

De Mas also points to a 1972 study recommending that immigrants be taught Dutch. “But that fell on deaf ears.” He says that for even suggesting in the 1970s that the integration of people from the Rif could lead to difficulties a scientist “would more or less be stoned."

Environmental groups appeal to PM to help save Amazon

AD writes about this week’s visit to Brazil by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and a delegation of Dutch businessmen. Greenpeace fears the prime minister will for the most part discuss the production and trade of bio-fuels, such as soy. “The Netherlands has the dubious position of being (the world’s) largest importer of soy,” says a spokesperson for the environmental organisation. “The growth in the cultivation of soy, for bio-fuels among other things, poses an unprecedented threat to the Amazon.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature is also seriously concerned about the future of the Amazon rainforest. It says the expansion of the cattle breeding industry and soy cultivation, along with the building of roads and dams and the accompanying deforestation has led to an “alarming situation."

AD says environmental organisations are appealing to Dutch companies not to carry out investments in projects which will harm the Amazon forest. They hope the prime minister and the trade mission will only invest in sustainable products and projects. Greenpeace has also appealed to the Netherlands to invest in a Brazilian fund which has been set up to protect the Amazon. The group points out that Norway has already invested in the project.

Public interests sacrificed to market

In today’s editorial, Trouw praises Frank Ankersmit, a prominent philosopher who left the conservative opposition VVD party a few days ago after accusing it of sacrificing public interests to market forces. The paper writes that until recently “The dominant belief was that citizens’ interests were best served by the free market whilst the government confined itself to the remainder, in other words, areas where the market could not make a profit, such as the country’s defence or the guarantee of a minimum income for the week.”

However, Ankersmit thinks that in the light of the economic crisis this position is “no longer sustainable." He is disappointed that the party “unabatedly” follows the same course and “reduces politics to being an obedient slave of the economy." He says that if the present crisis has taught us anything it is that the political system has parted too easily from public affairs.

The paper agrees. It argues that: “In recent years the market stood at the forefront and the political system plodded along behind. That was wrong, for no matter how important the market is, it is not capable of coming to grips with the current problems. The political system must again learn how to fulfil this role with a great deal of verve.”

God gets mobile phone

According to the free newspaper Spits, Dutch artist Johan van der Dong has provided God with a mobile phone service so that “God will be available all the time and everywhere so that the modern person can consult him whenever he or she has the need.” He hopes that people will leave a message. “That way people can arrange their thoughts, which is a way of praying.”

God’s mobile number is 0031-6-44244901. Upon calling one hears the message. “This is God speaking. I am not available at the moment. Leave a message, or call later. And who knows, maybe I will get back to you.”

Radio Netherlands/Frank Scimone/Expatica

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