Dutch news in brief, Thursday 11 December 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.Tax department gets tough with defaulters
Today's AD reports that the tax department announced a major offensive against people with overdue taxes. As of 1 January the tax authorities will launch a pilot in which defaulters first receive a final notice followed by an enforcement order. If still no payment is made, the tax department can take EUR 1,000 a month out of defaulters' bank accounts for a three-month period.
Now tax debts can only be collected by seizing valuable possessions after several written reminders. If the pilot proves successful, local councils will also adopt the new procedure. The pilot was made possible by a recent amendment of recovery laws.
PM no longer rules out 'unorthodox' measures
De Volkskrant writes that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is no longer ruling out budget cuts to prevent the budget deficit from rising too quickly. This is the first time the prime minister clearly warned of possible drastic measures to fight the credit crisis.
Despite an expected economic recession, the prime minister still maintains strict budget. However, he said he would consider a flexible interpretation of the rules if necessary.
His statements were apparently intended to please both major coalition partners. The Labour Party wants a looser interpretation of the rules, and the Christian Democratic CDA wants to intervene at all costs, should the budget deficit rise over 2 percent in 2010.
The Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis predicts a 2.4 percent deficit and says it would understand if budget agreements were renegotiated. Labour Party leader Mariëtte Hamer agrees, fearing budget cuts would inflict damage on the economy. "Rules are rules, but they can always be adjusted," she says.
Upsurge in number of Dutch neo-Nazis
De Volkskrant also reports on the growing number of Dutch neo-Nazis. The Racism and Extremism Monitor, a recently published joint report from the University of Leiden and the Anne Frank Foundation, shows that their number increased ten-fold since 2004.
In 2004, the number of right-wing extremists was estimated at 40, compared to 400 in 2008. In its latest annual report, the Dutch national security service gave the same estimate.
Researcher Jaap van Donselaar, one of the authors of the report, says the increase has two main causes. “There has been little opposition from the government, which has mainly focussed on Muslims instead of right-wing extremism, which has allowed the latter to flourish," he says.
A second factor is the continued radicalisation of young right-wing extremists. "Several thousand young people in the Netherlands have extremist sympathies, and they form a breeding ground for neo-Nazis,” Van Donselaar says. He also points to broadening neo-Nazi themes. “Recently, there have been discussions about squatting, and they are fiercely opposed to drugs," he says.
The Racism and Extremism Monitor classifies Geert Wilders' Freedom Party as a right-wing extremist group. Mr Wilders said it was an insult to the party and its voters.
Comic book explains mental disease to kids
Trouw reports on a comic book which explains mental disorders to children. The story's sub-heading reads, "It's not strange that daddy should talk to himself". The comic book, called “Deranged” tries to answer questions about why some people talk to themselves, what a psychosis is, and how to explain to a child that his/her mother is schizophrenic.
The book is an initiative of Arjen Bergman, who works at a psychiatric information centre in Leiden. He noticed that most of the existing leaflets about psychiatry were too complicated for children. Sandra Heemskerk, a 19-year-old former psychiatric patient, was officially presented with the book today. When she developed a mental disorder in secondary school, she lost contact with most of her friends and spent a long period at home suffering from depression. She now represents the interests of young people with a mental disorder. "Information on disorders is really important for children," she says.
"Friends usually have little understanding when something goes wrong with you, while at that age it's really important to stay in touch. It's often very difficult to explain what is wrong with you," she says.
Arjen Bergman says, "It's taboo to talk about disorders, which is why patients are often shut out. The disease itself is not the worst part; the problem is many social contacts are lost because people do not understand the patients. Many teachers are reluctant to discuss this issue in class, but they should. Children often don't know why some people act strangely, or mistakenly believe it's only happening to them".
Dutch TV host jumps into river to promote book
De Telegraaf reports that Dutch TV celebrity Beau van Erven Dorens nearly drowned on Wednesday when he jumped from the Magere Brug ('Skinny Bridge') into the Amstel River. His dive was intended to promote his new book, “Pain”. The author wanted to swim from the bridge to his home on the nearby Prinsengracht, but soon found out that the water was intensely cold.
The paper features a picture of Mr Van Erven Dorens in mid-air, after leaping off the bridge, and a second photograph of him being pulled out more dead than alive by a police officer.
The author states, "The police said... I was the biggest idiot in the Netherlands. The water was so incredibly cold, I could no longer move my hands. The officers saved my life."
[Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica]