Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 17 March 2009

17th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

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

It could all be over before coalition reaches agreement

nrc.next has a report on the cabinet's continuing efforts to reach agreement on how best to tackle the economic crisis. The paper writes that "New, possibly even worse figures on the economy will be published today. However, the cabinet seems incapable of reaching any sort of agreement on a plan to fight the crisis". The conclusion after one-and-a-half weeks of crisis talks is: "yes, there is a crisis, and, no, the cabinet has not yet decided on a course of action.

nrc.next says the outside world is clamouring for action. Employers’ organisations raised the alarm on Monday following a survey which showed that Dutch businesses were in even worse shape than previously thought. And the unions want measures to keep rising unemployment in check: 425,000 at the end of this year, and expected to increase to 675,000 in 2010.

However, the cabinet has been paralysed by an ideological stalemate. The Labour Party, led by Finance Minister Wouter Bos, is vehemently opposed to budget cuts and want to use investments to revive the economy. The Christian Democratic CDA on the other hand gives priority to keeping a balanced budget.

According to nrc.next it's a matter of political profiling: Doing something for the average wage earner now versus taking fiscal responsibility for future generations. The paper wonders whether the stalemate is really such a bad thing. The deficit will increase in bad times and decrease again when the economy recovers.

The paper argues that most economists agree that it may be all for the best to let the system sort itself out. Massive stimulus measures may not take full effect until after the recession is mostly over, while budget cuts would only slow the economy down. Doing nothing might just be the best strategy, which is exactly what the cabinet is fully occupied with.

Banker says sorry

Today's edition of de Volkskrant reports on a first in the current financial crisis: a banker who apologises for not 'picking up on signals'. The paper writes that the apology, offered by Van Lanschot CEO Floris Deckers, was carefully worded to avoid lawsuits by stockholders. Bankers reportedly fear that any apologies for misconduct would expose them to huge damage claims, so no one is expected to follow Deckers' example.

In a letter to the editor of NRC Handelsblad, the Van Lanschot CEO writes that he was aware there were numerous issues with the way bankers were operating, "but I did not speak out". Deckers says he should have publicly pointed to "symptoms I felt uncomfortable with".

Parliament and the government have welcomed the apology, but Boele Staal, the chair of the Netherlands Bankers' Association, argues that all the banks ever did was what their customers and shareholders demanded, i.e., maximize their profits. At the end of last year, Staal said bankers were "fully justified" in asking themselves what they should apologise for.

Television viewers pay indirectly for watching commercials

De Telegraaf reports that television viewers unwittingly pay for the privilege of watching commercial messages on television. Part of the subscription fee viewers pay to cable companies is paid out to Tick, an institution which collects the royalties on TV commercials. Tick argues that commercial messages are covered by copyright just like music or feature films. Each year, Tick collects around 200,000 euros in royalties, which it uses to organise conferences and seminars.

Labour MP Martijn van Dam says the situation "is completely absurd. The producers of commercial messages should be grateful we keep watching their commercial instead of zapping to another channel".

Copyright Professor Dirk Visser says royalty payments to producers of commercial messages are "insane". "The collection of cable fees was never intended for this". He said the fact that none of the royalties collected are ever paid out to the actual producers was "unacceptable".

Former Dutch army interpreters in Iraq fear for their lives

Free newspaper De Pers writes that the situation for Iraqi interpreters who worked for the Dutch army has become increasingly unsafe since the Dutch troops left four years ago this month. In an interview with the paper, seven former Dutch army employees, who say they "speak on behalf of everyone", argue that the situation in al-Muthanna province is becoming increasingly desperate, also because of a reduced US presence. The seven are demanding the Dutch government either pay them a substantial sum to allow for their relocation to a different city in Iraq, or admit them as refugees.

Extremist Shiite militias are reportedly gaining in influence and have threatened to kill all 'traitors': anyone who has ever worked for the multinational force in Iraq. Two of the former Dutch army employees have already been killed, an interpreter was killed in 2006 and a legal advisor in 2007. The Dutch Stabilisation Force Iraq was deployed to the south of the country from August 2003 until March 2005.

De Pers writes that the majority of the local employees consisted of about 60 interpreters, who did translations, collected information and advised Dutch soldiers on local customs and culture.

Royal Library acquires unique book published in 1491

Trouw has on its front page a picture of an open book, showing an illustration and part of the text of a 15th century biography of Alexander the Great. The Royal Library in The Hague has acquired one of only four copies of a mediaeval fictitious history of Alexander the Great. For centuries, nobody knew what had happened to it, until it was bought by a Belgian at an auction in 1976. On Saturday, it was again put up for sale and bought by the Royal Library for 100,000 euros.

The book is unique because it is the first non-religious printed text, and deemed a major link in Middle-Dutch literature. The book was printed four times in the 15th century, for the first time in 1477 by printer Gerard Leeu from Gouda. One copy has been preserved of each edition. The other three existing copies of the text are in Berlin, Washington and San Marino.

Radio Netherlands/Georg Schreuder Hes/Expatica

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