Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 4 November 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio NetherlandsJustice ministry to drastically reform prison leave
Sources in The Hague report Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch and Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak will announce a drastic recalibration of leave arrangements for prisoners during Thursday’s parliamentary budget debate.
De Telegraaf writes the interests of victims, the seriousness of the crime and flight risk will play a much larger role in the decision whether to grant prisoners a few days leave.
Standard arrangements will be replaced with a decision making process in which prison wardens instead of judges will make the final decision. The wardens must base their decision both on the advice of the Public Prosecutors’ Office and the personal circumstances of the prisoner in question.
The measures come after several high-profile incidents involving prisoners on leave. At the weekend, a woman in Utrecht was raped by a criminal who failed to return from leave. Earlier this year, convicted people trafficker Saban Baran fled after being granted leave to visit his newborn child. Since then, another people trafficker has followed suit.
Minister explores possibility of military mission to Africa
AD reports Development Minister Bert Koenders is “secretly working on a military mission to Africa”. The minister is reportedly investigating if Dutch troops can be sent to conflict regions in Africa. If necessary, the Netherlands should carry out such a mission without collaboration with other European or NATO countries.
Sources close to ministry officials confirm authorities have been working on the plan since September. A development ministry memo mentions the Sudanese region of Darfur, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo as areas of possible deployment.
The same document shows that these scenarios have already been discussed by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, the two deputy prime ministers and the defence and development ministers.
According to AD, ‘explorations’ are being conducted by the ministry, even though deployments to Africa are out of the question while the mission to Afghanistan is still ongoing.
Meanwhile, the parliament is still debating whether the Netherlands should stay on in Afghanistan when the present mission expires.
Despite the fact that parliament has said earlier that any mission involving Dutch soldiers should take place in collaboration with a European country or a NATO ally such as the United States, Minister Koenders believes it’s worth the effort to investigate whether the Netherlands could carry out a joint mission with a country such as India.
Groningen’s Blue City apparently a failure
The northeastern city’s attempt to lure new residents by means of a prestigious building project has apparently ended in a financial debacle.
Trouw writes the Groningen council has ended its collaboration with the project developer involved in the construction of the Blauwestad (Blue City) project where 1,480 building lots are built around an eight-square-kilometre artificial lake.
So far only 180 lots have been sold since 2005.
Groningen hopes ending its collaboration with the project developer will provide new opportunities to do business with various developers only interested in building around 20 to 30 houses.
The province still believes in the project and has no intention of allowing cheap houses or social housing to be built there. Millions of euros have already been invested in infrastructure for Blauwestad.
The project is vital to provincial efforts to revitalise the regional economy and attract new residents from the western agglomeration. A recent government-sponsored report shows that the population in the northeast of the province of Groningen will decrease by 16 percent over the next 15 years.
In the past 10 years, 5,500 homes or 20 percent of the province’s total social housing in the east and northeast of the province have been demolished.
Royal family no longer billionaires
The royal family are no longer billionaires as they lost 20 percent of their fortune to EUR 800 million, earning them 25th place on the list of the rich people, according to Quote 500.
This is the first time the queen's press office has officially commented on Quote calculations, reports De Telegraaf.
The only member of the family to ever publicly say anything about the family fortune was the late Prince Bernhard, Queen Beatrix’s father. In 2003, he sent a fax to the US business magazine Forbes in which he stated the Van Oranje possessions amounted to USD 213 million.
Meanwhile, de Volkskrant writes Queen Beatrix has restored the old tradition of receiving all 150 MPs at Noordeinde Palace.
Ten years ago, the queen decided to end the traditional audience because MPs leaked stories to the media.
Queen Beatrix objects to Crown Prince’s vacation home in Mozambique
AD quotes the RTL Nieuws news channel which reports that a source close to the royal family said Queen Beatrix has always had objections to Crown Prince Willem-Alexander’s plan to build a vacation home in Mozambique.
The queen reportedly suspected that building a villa in a poor African country might cause problems, but her son said: “I’m never allowed to do anything and I’m just going to do this”.
According to RTL Nieuws, Queen Beatrix will not abdicate this year because she does not want to burden the cabinet with any problems which could arise if Crown Prince Willem-Alexander as king becomes involved in scandal as a result of the Mozambique project.
The queen, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Máxima are currently on a state visit to Mexico.
Aid Dog Foundation seeks more donation
Free newspaper Sp!ts publishes a photograph of a golden retriever putting laundry in the washing machine. The dog is an ‘aid dog’ trained by the Aid Dog Foundation. The foundation fears for its continued existence if it cannot find the money to keep training aid dogs for people with physical disabilities.
The Aid Dog Foundation is sounding the alarm because donations have decreased substantially since 2008, while waiting lists keep growing.
The foundation trains 120 dogs a year, of which 70 eventually prove suitable. Director Janet van Keulen said: “Being able to live independently cannot be expressed in money… in addition to which, an aid dog saves more than EUR 80,000 in care costs.”
Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica