Dutch personalities of 2005

21st January 2005, Comments 0 comments

The Netherlands in 2005 ... social tension, wage moderation and terror trials. And with the changing of the guard in the union movement and hopes the national soccer team will qualify for the World Cup, who are the people set to shape the immediate D

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MONARCH

Queen Beatrix

In her 25th year on the throne, Queen Beatrix will be hoping for a better year in 2005 than last year, which saw the deaths of both her parents, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard. The jubilee celebrations will start with a concert on Dam Square in Amsterdam on 29 April and events will continue across the nation until mid-December as the Queen visits every province. Queen's Day will be celebrated on 30 April with its customary street markets and parties as Beatrix and other members of the royal family will make an official visit to The Hague; the main focus being the coastal town of Scheveningen. On 20 September, Beatrix will give her annual Speech from the Throne in The Hague prior to the Dutch government's presentation of the 2006 Budget.

POLITICAL PERSONALITIES

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

Fresh from his international success last year as European Union President in brokering an agreement to start accession talks with Turkey, Balkenende will be looking this year to confirm his leadership credentials on the domestic stage. Having set out to lead the economy out of recession, streamline government spending and iron out tension between the immigrant and native Dutch sections of the population, the Christian Democrat CDA leader remains unpopular with voters. His party dropped considerably in polls last year before staging an end-of-year comeback. Nevertheless, a newspaper survey awarded Balkenende the worst politician of 2004 title, trumping the ranking of 11th that parliamentary journalists gave him last year and the second-to-last place in 2003. Heading towards an election in 2007, Balkenende will need to start regaining voter confidence this year if his stated wish to remain as Prime Minister beyond 2007 is to be realised.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk

The Netherlands' very own "Iron Lady", Liberal VVD Minister Verdonk is carrying the responsiblity for the dual policies of tightening immigration rules and stimulating integration among newcomers. Emboldened by parliamentary approval last year to deport 26,000 asylum seekers, Verdonk intends to restrict the rights of many new Dutch nationals to keep their original nationality. Legislation is also pending stipulating the integration of 750,000 people ranging from marriage immigrants to imams to lower educated Dutch nationals. Shocked by the murder of Theo van Gogh and ongoing social tension between immigrant and native Dutch communities, Verdonk is taking the lead — and at times the flak — for trying to solve the "clash of cultures". Verdonk intends to make it harder for people to bring marriage partners — particularly those from Morocco and Turkey — into the country and will force many of them to undergo integration exams before their arrival. A large section of the population applauds her stance.

Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm

Gone are the boom days of the late 1990s when Zalm was at the helm of an economy soaring high in the Wim Kok Cabinet (1994-2002). Instead, Zalm has been the master of the budgetary knife in the past two years as he sought to cut the budget deficit under 3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to bring it in line

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