Dutch news in brief, Monday 9 February 2009
Read the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands for the latest news in the Netherlands.
Government response to crisis under fire
Today's edition of de Volkskrant reports on the cabinet's alleged lack of decisiveness in the face of a deepening economic crisis.
The chair of the Social and Economic Council—an important advisory body—Alexander Rinnooy Kan says the "Cabinet is too slow to respond to the recession." He warns that the recession will needlessly deepen unless the cabinet takes adequate measures in the coming weeks: "Employers and unions are ready to take action, but everybody is waiting for the cabinet."
The recession has lead to decreasing revenue for the treasury, while expenses are rising. The growing budget deficit prompted Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende to say on Friday that the cabinet was considering several options to keep the deficit under control, including raising the retirement age and limiting mortgage tax breaks. However, furious protests from both employers and unions forced the PM at the weekend to say that limiting mortgage tax breaks was not an option he would consider.
AD writes that discussions on how best to fight the financial crisis have sparked a serious row among cabinet ministers. Both the Labour Party and the Christian Union are furious at the prime minister for ruling out limits on mortgage tax breaks. They say they have their political preferences just like Balkenende, but feel civil servants should be given a free hand to search for solutions.
AD writes that a spokesperson for Finance Minister Wouter Bos (leader of the Labour Party) said the minister was surprised about the prime minister's statements regarding mortgage tax breaks. He said the cabinet should rule nothing out in these serious times.
Christian Union leader and Youth and Family Minister André Rouvoet agrees, saying: "We agreed on Friday to keep all options open, and on Saturday Balkenende rules one of them out. That's obviously not a good thing."
First prosecution of genital mutilation
Today's edition of Trouw reports the first ever prosecution in this country for genital mutilation. A Moroccan man from the city of Haarlem has been arrested for having his five-year old daughter circumcised.
The child's foster parents—she was removed from the care of her birth parents in 2008—discovered her genitals had been mutilated, and filed a police report. Doctors confirmed the mutilation and concluded it had taken place relatively recently.
Several organisations say female circumcision is extremely rare among second-generation immigrants. Female circumcision is practised in Morocco, but only in small, very religious communities, none of them located in the areas where most Moroccan-Dutch citizens are from.
Deputy Welfare Minister Jet Bussemaker recently decided that immigrant parents who visit certain 'high-risk' countries have to sign a contract in which they agree not to have their child circumcised. The parents will be prosecuted if a medical examination shows their child was circumcised after all.
Controversial website sparks threats
AD reports that a recently created website featuring the photographs and addresses of convicted paedophiles has prompted several incidents. The windows of a dwelling listed on the website were smashed in on Saturday morning, and a man in the province of Gelderland received several death threats by phone.
He has announced he will file charges against the sponsor of the website, the foundation Stop Kindersex (Stop Child Sex, ed.), and demand his photograph and address be removed from the website.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office says it will take no steps to block the website, prompting criminal lawyer Frank van Ardenne to comment that "the authorities have a responsibility to protect all citizens."
Crime reported Peter R. de Vries says the government is "taking the easy way out," and has called the website dangerous.
Stop Kindersex spokesperson Yvonne van Hertum says the website will not be taken off line, but house numbers have been removed from addresses listed on the site.
"We're satisfied as long as we can keep children out of the clutches of these creeps."
The Stop Kindersex website is registered in the United States to circumvent Dutch privacy laws.
Dismissals hotline to hire more staff
Labour law specialists working at the Dismissals Hotline say they are receiving increasing numbers of phone calls from people who have just heard they have been let go.
Many of them are whispering into the phone while sitting in a lavatory cubicle at their place of work. Should they fight their dismissal, do they have to hand in the key to their lease car immediately?
Labour law firm Van Gelderen, which runs the Dismissals Hotline, says it is receiving more than 400 phone calls a month, 40 percent more than in the first half of last year.
More than 20,000 people have visited the law firm's web site ontslag.nl (dismissal.nl, ed.), an increase of more than 30 percent. The firm is so busy, it's considering hiring more staff. Senior partner Maarten van Gelderen says: "We're starting to look like a call centre, and the end is not yet in sight."
The large-scale dismissals expected as a result of the reorganisations announced by major companies like ING (banking and insurance), Philips (electronics) and Corus (steel production) are not likely to happen for a few months.
"Super Sven" wins all-round ice-skating championship
Both De Telegraaf and de Volkskrant feature front-page photographs of Dutch ice skater Sven Kramer, or 'Super Sven' as De Telegraaf calls him, who has won his third consecutive world title in the Norwegian town of Hamar.
His only serious rival, Norwegian skater Havard Bökko, never really posed a threat to the reigning world champion.
Sven Kramer says his next challenge will be to win three gold medals at next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
Radio Netherlands/Georg Schreuder Hes/Expatica