Dutch news in brief, Monday 3 November 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.3 November 2008
Dutch provinces and towns to sue Icelandic bank
An attempt by two Dutch provinces and 29 towns to take legal action against the Icelandic bank Landsbanki is one of the top stories in today’s newspapers.
Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos, who has negotiated an agreement with the Icelandic government, is said to be “furious” with the provincial and local authorities.
De Volkskrant writes that the minister fears attempts by the provinces of North Holland and Groningen and 19 towns to recuperate their losses “could pose a danger to the interests of the duped private savers”.
An estimated 120,000 people opened accounts with Icesave in 2008 because of the high interest rate it paid at 5.25 percent.
The Dutch government has negotiated an agreement whereby Iceland will reimburse the first EUR 20,000, with The Hague reimbursing any additional sums up to a maximum of EUR 100,000. The agreement would cover most private losses in the Netherlands, which are estimated at between EUR 1.6 and 1.7 billion.
However, local authorities who invested millions of euros or more also want their money back. De Volkskrant reports that “Local authorities have already successfully seized EUR 100 million in Landsbanki assets.”
A spokesperson for the province of North Holland told the newspaper: “There are a lot of vultures waiting to sweep down, outside the country as well; which is why we have to hurry. It would be nice if we could work together with the government.”
However, the province’s royal commissioner, Harry Borghouts, has already threatened to sue the national government.
De Volkskrant reports: “This made Bos so angry that on Friday evening he made a live phone call” to a current affairs programme on television.
North Holland Provincial Deputy Ton Hooijmaaijers of the conservative VVD party berated the government for attempting “to thwart a civil lawsuit”.
De Volkskrant reports that Hooijmaaijers, who is responsible for the province’s financial affairs, has received threats due to the EUR 78 million that North Holland may have lost in Landsbanki. He has also had a dead dog’s head left outside his front door.
US thinks Dutch legal system too soft
De Telegraaf writes that the largest party in the three-party coalition cabinet, the Christian Democrats, wants to compare the Dutch criminal justice system with that of the United States and other European countries.
“If criminals are released sooner in comparison with other countries, then punishments should be made more severe.”
De Telegraaf writes that when Dutch MPs visit New York, they are often told the legal system in the Netherlands is “too soft”. Christian Democratic MP Sybrand van Haersma Buma told the newspaper that: “FBI agents think it is strange that people here get such low sentences.”
Cutback in psychiatric care
De Volkskrant reports on the consequences of plans by Deputy Health Minister Jet Bussemaker to cut EUR 800 million from the budget of the AWBZ, a national health insurance scheme which covers long-term stays in psychiatric hospitals and finances shelters for the homeless and drug addicts.
The newspaper says: “As of the first of January 2009, guidance for people with a light physical or psychiatric handicap will be scrapped from the budget. The cutback will affect an estimated 60,000 people.
“Tens of thousands of people with psychiatric problems, such as drugs addicts, homeless youths and victims of domestic violence will no longer be able to live independently. Several shelters fear that they will land on the street or will be placed in an institution.”
De Volkskrant writes that thousands of older people will no longer be able to live independently and will be forced into old-age homes. The shelters predict that the measure will in the long run cost society more money: “A prisoner or drug addict costs society at least half a million euros per year.”
An organisation for the elderly says the cabinet is guilty of petit-bourgeois thinking. “This way they will attain the opposite of what they intended in the first place: to let people live at home as long as possible.”
Top 100 Dutch traditions
The Dutch St Nicholas holiday, which sees presents given on the evening of the 5 December, is the number one Dutch tradition.
According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Dutch Culture, the centre made a list of the 100 most-cited traditions. The Sunday edition of De Telegraaf had a photograph of Queen Beatrix hanging up a typical Dutch tea towel on a clothesline with the logo for “The Year of Traditions 2009”.
De Telegraaf writes: “It’s probably been quite some time since she hung up the wash herself. But yesterday that’s how the queen officially opened the Year of Traditions. Afterwards pupils from Hilversum followed her example and hung up 100 tea towels with the name of the tradition written on each one.”
Among the top ten traditions are Queen’s Day, eating raw herring, and serving doughnut balls on New Year’s Eve.
In the survey, people were not given examples but were asked to fill in their own ideas of what Dutch traditions are. The end of Ramadan - the sugar feast or Eid al-Fitr -came in 14th place, showing the influence of immigration in this country.
Further down the list are the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice and the Jewish day of repentance, Yom Kippur.
The tradition of cycling comes in 34th place, reading e-mails in 56th and, last but not least, the 100th top Dutch tradition is watching the 8 pm evening news.
[Radio Netherlands / Frank Scimone / Expatica]