Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 14 January 2009

14th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands for the latest news in the Netherlands.

Government to investigate anti-Israel demonstrations
Today's AD reports that the justice ministry has decided to launch an investigation into recent anti-Israel demonstrations after all.

In the past few weeks, demonstrations against the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip were held in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Protesters chanted hateful anti-Jewish slogans and the name of Adolf Hitler.

The CIDI (Israel Information & Documentation Centre) is furious about the alleged inadequate conduct of the police during the demonstration. The CIDI says: "The police just stood by and did nothing." The organisation argues that this means the police sent a message to the effect that "threats against Jews are acceptable".

The Utrecht police say they did not intervene so as "to avoid escalation".
Chairman Driss el-Boujoufi of the CMO, a liaison group for the Moroccan community, has called on Dutch Muslims to keep their emotions under control, but fears this will prove increasingly difficult as the conflict in the Middle East continues.   

The Rotterdam police have announced that the burning of Israeli flags will no longer be tolerated. The police will also take action against racist and hurtful slogans.

A spokesperson for Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said, "This can also happen afterwards, if that is better".

More government support for the economy
Also in AD, a report on a cabinet announcement that it is considering providing additional support for the Dutch economy. The cabinet says an earlier measure intended to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to take out loans may be extended to include large companies.

This extension of government guarantees for business loans is intended to create a better climate for investments. The guarantee scheme will also include construction companies and care providers, a number of which are facing serious problems because they are unable to obtain financing for new construction projects.

Finance Minister Wouter Bos says the plans will not involve billions of euros. He said the guarantee scheme was primarily intended to persuade banks to start granting loans again.

In parliament, the minister denied that, in comparison with other governments, the Dutch government is not doing enough to help the economy. Mr Bos said the cabinet had already spent 80 to 90 billion euros on various support measures. 

A decision on the new measures will be taken on Friday. 

Parliament fears rich provinces will squander their money
Today's de Volkskrant writes that both the Labour Party – part of the three-party coalition government - and the opposition conservative VVD party are worried that some Dutch provinces will squander the money they stand to earn through the sale of power company Essent.

Labour MP Paul Tang says: "There is a risk of an urge to spend taking hold". The conservative VVD fears the provinces will "indulge in hobbies" if too much of the "taxpayers' money remains lying on the shelf".

VVD MP Frans Weekers says: "Sometimes provinces will support development projects or introduce a poverty policy, while this is not part of their remit". He said the government should take another critical look to see whether the provinces have "too much fat on their ribs".

Monday's announcement of the sale of power company Essent to German competitor RWE means that a number of local councils and provinces - often major shareholders in Dutch power companies - stand to make a small fortune. Main beneficiaries in this case are the provinces of North Brabant, Overijssel and Limburg.

The intended sale of power company Nuon would provide a similar windfall for the provinces of North Holland and Gelderland. Various MPs are now expected to submit proposals to cut government contributions to provincial budgets.

Defence minister caught in blatant lie
Today's De Telegraaf reports that Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop has been seriously embarrassed by an interview he apparently gave to De Telegraaf at the end of last month regarding the future of the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan.

In the interview, he said: “President Obama can call me a dozen times, but our mission in Uruzgan ends in August 2010. And we are not going to a different area. That is not an option”.

His colleague, Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said last week that a new mission to Afghanistan would be considered, adding that Mr Van Middelkoop's statements did not reflect a cabinet decision.

In parliament on Tuesday, the minister flatly denied speaking to De Telegraaf about the desirability of a prolonged Dutch stay in Afghanistan. The minister said: "I never gave, let alone authorised, an interview with De Telegraaf".

The paper's chief editors responded by calling the minister's statement "a blatant lie". De Telegraaf  writes that the minister's statements were submitted to the defence ministry and approved prior to publication.

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the minister was eventually forced to admit "It would have been better not to speak of 'conjured-up' quotations".

Protest against higher fines
Several papers report on the government decision to make motorists pay for the administrative costs of traffic fines has led to furious reactions from the conservative VVD party.

As of 1 January, motorists have to pay a maximum of seven euros extra per traffic violation. In a reaction, the VVD is demanding that Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin make criminals pay for their own trials.

VVD MP Fred Teeven said: "This is the world turned on its head. A crook can stand trial for free, but a citizen who incidentally breaks the speed limit by a few kilometres has to pay extra".  

Radio Netherlands/ Georg Schreuder Hes/ Expatica

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