Dutch news in brief, Wednesday 7 October 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.Parliament debates on anti-squatting law
Parliament debates Wednesday a private member’s bill which would make squatting a criminal offence punishable by up to one year in prison, or up to two years if a squatter has committed violence.
de Volkskrant writes that the bill is sponsored by the conservative VVD and two of the coalition partners: the Christian Democratic CDA and the Christian Union.
Most of the other parties are opposed to a ban on squatting, which means the bill’s sponsors need the support of the populist Freedom Party (PVV) to secure a parliamentary majority.
The initial maximum jail term of four months was immediately rejected by the PVV which wanted a longer jail term of four years.
The jail sentence to one year is clearly intended to persuade the PVV to support the bill although the party said it would not give a reaction until later on Wednesday.
At present squatting is condoned if a building has been vacant for more than a year.
In a commentary, de Volkskrant writes that squatting has long been considered as an act of social justice in the fight against rack-renters, but that the idea that squatting is a useful correction on a failing housing market has become a minority point of view.
However, a series of violent evictions have destroyed the romantic image of a legitimate fight against housing shortages. In addition, it's mostly office buildings which are unoccupied these days.
Justice Minister wants to amend legislation on prosecuting genocide suspects
Trouw writes Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin wants to amend current legislation to expand the possibilities of prosecuting genocide suspects.
In a letter to parliament, the minister proposes amendments which would allow the government to prosecute cases dating back to 1966 instead of 2003.
Suspects of genocide and war crimes committed in 'peacetime' could be extradited to another country or international tribunal. Conversely, the amendments would also enable the Netherlands to take over the prosecution of a genocide suspect from an international tribunal. This is important to the government because international tribunals focus primarily on the 'big fish' while the prosecution of less important suspects is usually left to national authorities.
The amendments, if adopted, could affect the status of foreigners living in the Netherlands who are suspected of war crimes.
In his letter, the minister said: "It is unacceptable that a foreigner who committed genocide elsewhere should remain immune from prosecution because the Netherlands had no jurisdiction when the crime was committed. It would send the wrong message to victims and their relatives."
Under current legislation genocide suspects can only be prosecuted when the genocide was committed by or against a Dutch citizen or citizens. The minister said this is unacceptable because the Netherlands is a host country for several international courts and tribunals.
Secondary students to take compulsory arithmetic test during final exams
De Telegraaf reports Deputy Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt will announce the introduction of compulsory arithmetic tests for all secondary school students sitting their final exams on Wednesday.
The measure is prompted by the alarmingly low levels of arithmetic skills among most students.
In 2010, the ministry will launch a trial among 1,000 secondary school students to determine how much weight the arithmetic test should carry in the final exam.
The minister’s drastic measure is intended to guarantee that secondary education students are well prepared for their continuation courses.
According to De Telegraaf, standards of reading, writing and arithmetic have slipped substantially across the board in the past decades.
In a recent survey, most students at a teachers’ training college for primary education failed a basic arithmetic test. Most Dutch primary and secondary schools are currently in the process of introducing stricter norms for reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Balkenende in good shape
De Telegraaf publishes a photograph of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende kicking away a football among a group of children at the official launch of the 1GOAL-Education for All campaign.
The global campaign is linked to the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa and is intended to give all children the opportunity to get an education.
De Telegraaf writes "Balkenende is back in shape. His political abilities may leave something to be desired but when it comes to kicking a ball Prime Minister Balkenende is in excellent shape".
Radio Netherlands / Georg Schreuder Hes / Expatica