Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 23 September 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.23 September 2008
Stir over electronic travel pass
The controversy surrounding the introduction of a new national electronic travel pass in the Netherlands rumbles on in today’s papers.
All newspapers report on organisations representing consumers, passengers and students have pulled out of talks aimed at getting the scheme up and running. At first the plan for a single card for bus, tram, metro and train seemed like a great idea, but in recent months discontent about the costs, complexity and security of the system has been steadily building.
Deputy transport minister Tineke Huizinga is quoted as saying she is "most surprised" by the organisations' decision to walk out on the talks. But according to some, she has no right to be.
"For four years now we've been talking to the public transport firms about the improvements that are needed but without any real success," says a spokesman for passengers' organisation Rover in Trouw. "There comes a time when you have to say 'this can't go on'. If no one gives a red light, the train is just going to keep on rolling."
"Continuing the talks at this stage is senseless," chimes in a spokesman for the Consumers Association in AD. He says he can see nothing but disadvantages in the new system, adding: "Let's pick up the pieces and start all over again from scratch."
It remains to be seen whether the minister's latest plan to restore confidence will work. She wants to get the representative bodies talking to the makers of the system in the hope of getting things back on the rails.
All the papers agree that her plan to introduce the system in 2009 now seems further away than ever.
Consumers complain festive sweeties
More consumer complaints in today's AD, about the appearance of festive sweeties in the shops over two months before the traditional kiddies' holiday of Saint Nicolas.
It seems good old Saint Nick and his little black helpers - the Dutch equivalent of Santa and his elves - are already grinning at the little mites from the sweetie wrappers of every supermarket shelf in the country, driving the kiddies into a frenzy of anticipation and their frazzled mums and dads round the bend.
"They're strategically placed, right where my five-year-old son can't miss them," grumbles one indignant father. "Don't tell me the shops haven't thought about that ...
Telling the kids Saint Nicolas hasn't arrived yet only works for a couple of weeks ... and it's still two months to go till the 5 December."
The parents are supported by a child psychologist who warns that "commercial interests are winning out over what is good for our children ... The Saint Nicolas celebrations are an emotionally charged time for kids. It has to have clear limits."
Retailers however say consumers should be responsible for their children. A spokeswoman for the sector responds snippily: "Supermarkets are not here to bring up your children for you."
AD's editorial agrees to some extent: "Of course supermarkets don't mind whining kids ... as long as their parents give in to them. In the end this is a parental responsibility."
Twinning with Gaza
De Telegraaf is getting all hot and bothered about the plans of left-wing parties in Rotterdam to make Gaza its twin city.
It's an initiative by Rotterdam's Socialist and GreenLeft parties, with broad support within Labour as well. The paper reports that the move has the support of a number of prominent figures, including former culture minister Hedy d'Ancona, with the aim of ending Hamas's international isolation.
The paper leaves the reader in no doubt as to what it thinks of the plan to link up with Gaza "the stronghold of Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas".
In an editorial piece, it fulminates "they claim they want to help the people of Gaza but the plan to annex Gaza as a twin city is completely crazy. The left-wing parties in Rotterdam should be concerned with the problems affecting the people of Rotterdam instead of glorifying a criminal terrorist regime."
Dam square to be handed to Royal House
Nrc-next reports on plans to hand the Royal Palace on Amsterdam's Dam square over to the Royal House. Currently, the building is controlled by a number of authorities.
Placing it firmly in royal hands is part of a campaign to make the funding of the Dutch royal house more transparent.
Professor at the University of Amsterdam Bram Kempers is in no mood for mincing his words: "For decades the palace has been a black hole in the centre of the city ... closed except as the setting for the odd party. What was once the glorious centre of Amsterdam has been transformed into an inaccessible colossus on the capital's most important square."
Kempers points out that the building was originally designed and used as the city hall but became more of a royal haunt over time, even though the royals didn't like the place much.
The professor wants to see the building getting a public function, harking back to the days of the Dutch Golden Age. It should be a place to welcome dignitaries, a museum and venue for generating academic and cultural debate. He warns "together we should do all we can to prevent it becoming a defunct party centre."
De Volkskrant tells the grisly tale of an 85-year-old man in the village of Eerbeek in Gelderland who, despite a heart condition, stalked his neighbour and sent him packing.
The reason? Apparently he was irritated by his neighbour's pets and his habit of collecting things.
The result was a five-year campaign of terror including puncturing his neighbour's tyres, setting fires on his property and turning the neighbourhood against him with accusations that he was a pyromaniac. Eventually the poor put-upon soul was forced to move.
The public prosecutor described the pensioner as "ruthless" pointing out that "the victim has lost everything - his home, his animals, his property. He was driven out of the neighbourhood like a pariah."
The pensioner's lawyers argued that he was too elderly to be imprisoned but the judges ruled otherwise given the severity of the case.
[Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica]