Dutch news in brief, Monday 29 June 2009

29th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

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

Coalition parties launch offensive on Wilders
The coalition parties have decided it is time they open a counter attack on Geert Wilders, rather than leaving the dirty work to the opposition. AD prints photos of the three cabinet ministers who have picked up the gauntlet.

Stepping up for the Christian Union, Eimert van Middelkoop called the Freedom Party leader "a transitional figure in a rearguard action." The Labour Party’s Ebberhard van der Laan told the paper that "Mr Wilders is good at throwing fireworks and running away", referring to his tendency not to defend his claims in a debate. And last but certainly not least, heavyweight Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen takes the corner for the Christian Democrats, accusing the controversial right-wing politician of perpetrating division.

Meanwhile in de Volkskrant, Rotterdam alderman Hamit Karakus warns that the negative effect of exclusion is giving even successful young people with an ethnic background the feeling they are not welcome in the Netherlands. "I can see how the message of radical Muslims is attracting a small but growing group."

The Labour alderman criticises the rigidity with which the party has dealt with Wilders up to now. "We have to show what Dutch society would look like under Wilders and wake up the electorate."

Local election in Wilders’ stronghold tops Labour agenda
Next year’s local elections were also at the forefront of people's minds at the Labour party congress in Arnhem last weekend, according to Trouw. The party concluded that it had completely underestimated the importance of the European elections earlier this month. The party leaders were accused of leaving the candidates in the cold; leader Wouter Bos once again apologised for his declaration that he didn't even vote for the number one candidate on his party’s list.

But the leadership retorted that they had been available and that the local labour groups had not called on their support.

Parliamentary faction leader Mariette Hamer urged members to get back on the streets and make contact with the voters. The perfect opportunity to do so will present itself in November in Wilders' stronghold Venlo; the lion's den, so to speak. The local elections are early there, due to the redrawing of council borders.

By then, some of the other matters discussed at the congress may have borne fruit, such as a new code of honour for Labour Party officials, to clean up the general image that politicians enrich themselves using public money. Although the Dutch expenses affair is mild compared to the furore in the UK, no party can afford to lose votes over a claim for a pair of lost sunglasses. "It is not just rules and regulations that apply: we are subject to our own social democratic morals."

Over-55s problem drinkers on the increase
The Trimbos institute has warned that the number of over-55s with a drink problem has more than doubled in the last ten years. AD reports that the figures are only the tip of the iceberg; a spokesperson for the institute said "only five percent of people with a drink problem come to us. There are probably around 150,000 problem drinkers." Currently attention is being focused on young drinkers but over-55s now represent 22 percent of the people with a drink problem.

The number of women drinkers is increasing faster than that of men. Part of the reason that the figures for this group are so high is that the over-55s generally drink every day. Once people stop work, there is no reason not to start drinking a little earlier in the day. Drinking alcohol is generally accepted and, in fact, it is difficult to get away from it, said an expert from Minnesota; there are even old people's homes which have a happy hour.

Aggressive drivers face stiffer sentences

According to Trouw, the Public Prosecution Office will demand longer sentences for aggressive drivers following a survey by the PPO. Accidents caused by aggressive driving will punished with 25 percent longer sentences in future. Likewise, if racism or discrimination is behind a threat or an assault, the perpetrator will see the penalty increase by a factor of 50 percent, rather than the 25 percent currently added to a sentence.

In general, the public wants stricter sentences but not always. For instance, many people think offenders should be let off with just a warning in some cases. The Ministry of Justice, however, has decided not to take on all the suggestions put forward by the public. Some respondents thought women should be allowed to carry tear gas in their bags for their own protection. However, tear gas is forbidden by the lawmakers. "We can of course drop cases, but I do not want to go down the road of tolerating weapons," said ministry chief civil servant Harm Brouwer.

The Public Prosecutors intend to explain how they reached their decisions about sentencing and publish the ministry's guidelines on the Internet. The ministry hopes the new measures will increase public support for its work.

Crazy veggies back on the menu
De Telegraaf reports that curvy cucumbers, bendy beans, sexy spuds and crazy carrots will be allowed back into European greengrocer shops as of 1 July. The European Union has decided to remove unnecessary legislation and scrap some of its more controversial directives. Twenty-six varieties of fruit and vegetables will no longer be subject to scrutiny when they are picked, sorted and sold to the public. Another ten varieties, including apples, pears, strawberries and tomatoes will be allowed past the aesthetics committee but only with a special label.

EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said "It’s a waste to throw away fruit and vegetables in a time of food scarcity just because it is oddly shaped."  

Radio Netherlands / Nicola Chadwick / Expatica

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