Dutch news in brief, Thursday 4 September 2008

4th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

4 September 2008

Political parties call for legal steps against Greenpeace
Today's De Telegraaf reports on its front page that the conservative VVD party and the Christian Democrat CDA are calling for legal steps against environmental organisation Greenpeace.

The organisation incurred the wrath of the two conservative parties when it started dumping rocks in the German sector of the North Sea.

According to Greenpeace, the area in question has been declared a nature reserve but no practical steps have been taken to protect the area, which is home to large numbers of porpoises and seals.

The organisation says the action is intended to make it impossible for shrimpers to fish the ecologically valuable area, and also as a wake-up call to the authorities to take protection of the seas seriously.
However, the VVD and CDA view the situation rather differently. VVD MP Paul de Krom says the Public Prosecutor's Office should bring charges against Greenpeace for the pollution of fishing grounds and endangering the lives of fishermen.

CDA MP Joop Atsma agrees that the environmental organisation is involved in criminal activities. He says: "These fishermen are doing nothing wrong, they are fishing areas where it's legal for them to fish, and are in compliance with all environmental regulations. Greenpeace, on the other hand, is destroying the seafloor".

Greenpeace Director Liesbeth van Tongeren says the action has since ended: "The rocks are located in just a few small areas of the nature reserve and if a judge imposed a fine or ordered us to clear away the rocks we would comply".  

High energy bills
De Volkskrant writes that for many years, both consumers and businesses in the Netherlands have been paying far too much for their power supplies.

A group of organisations, including consumer watchdogs and branch organisations for commercial energy consumers, is accusing the government Competition Authority NMa of setting the rates for the transport of power for the period 2004 -2010 too high. In total, clients will be overcharged by as much as EUR 1 billion in that six-year period.

In a reaction, the NMa acknowledges that customers have been paying too much, but says nothing can be done about it.  

Spokesperson Hans Grünfeld, who represents the group of consumer organisations, says the NMa has failed to crack down on the excessive profits enjoyed by the companies that operate energy transport networks. "It's time for an independent investigation".

Grünfeld says it is also necessary to take action because inflation is mainly fuelled by high energy prices.

NMa executive Peter Plug rejects the criticisms: "We will lower energy transport rates by as much as EUR 133 per household until 2010, skimming nearly EUR 1 billion offs the profits of the power transport companies".

Plug says the NMa must balance two interests: making sure that consumers are not overcharged as well as enabling power transport companies to make adequate investments in their networks to safeguard the power supply and public safety.

New Delta Plan
Most of today's papers write about a report published on Wednesday by a government-sponsored commission.

The report makes a number of recommendations to safeguard the Netherlands against flooding as a result of rising sea levels.

De Volkskrant has a picture of a man looking at the locks in the dam that closes off the IJsselmeer, the country's former inland sea. The locks regulate the water level in the IJsselmeer.

In its report, the commission writes that "the Netherlands should become aware of the danger", and "It’s necessary to look far ahead".

Some of the commission’s recommendations include raising all the dikes as well as the beaches along the North Sea shore.

It also recommends that the government raise water levels in the IJsselmeer to create a fresh water reservoir to safeguard the water supply in the drier summers that are expected to occur in the future as a result of global warming.

Holland Casino can’t spot gambling addicts
AD reports that gambling-monopoly holder Holland Casino has been seriously embarrassed by revelations made by former employees.

Holland Casino is said to be incapable of monitoring the losses and spending behaviour of gamblers. Staff also appears to have great difficulty identifying addicted gamblers.

For years, Holland Casino has claimed it was doing everything in its power to fight excessive gambling. The company said it could identify such behaviour at an early stage, and argued that staff was trained to spot gambling addicts.

However, in a court case filed by a gambler who lost EUR 2 million, the head of security at two of the company’s casinos testified that "Holland Casino does not keep track of how much a player wins or loses per visit. I am unable to monitor gambling behaviour, and have no idea whatsoever about how much money clients bring into the casino and how much they spend on chips".

Holland Casino says it's doing all it can to prevent irresponsible gambling, but argues that its clients bear ultimate responsibility for their own behaviour.

The Christian Democrats have asked Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin for clarification.

A Labour Party MP said: "This is the umpteenth signal that preventative policies are not working".

Goodbye wheel clamps
De Telegraaf reports that the thing most hated by motorists, the wheel clamp, will be abolished after a quarter century of unwelcome service.

Amsterdam traffic councillor Tjeerd Herrema has made good on a promise he made earlier in 2008, and announced that the wheel clamp will be abolished as of 1 January 2009.

"We have a strict and expensive parking policy, but we also want to be a hospitable city, so a wheel clamp is the first icon you want to get rid of. In future it will only be used for the worst defaulters".

In 2007, Amsterdam traffic wardens fitted 22,000 wheel clamps, which cost the unfortunate motorists EUR 100 per clamp and even more if the vehicle in question was not removed within 24 hours.    

[Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder-Hes / Expatica]

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