Minister regrets 'doom-mongering' accusations

19th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 October 2005, AMSTERDAM — Government Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold has stirred up a political storm for the second time in a few weeks by claiming Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is contributing to scare-mongering by constantly warning about terrorism.

19 October 2005

AMSTERDAM — Government Reform Minister Alexander Pechtold has stirred up a political storm for the second time in a few weeks by claiming Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is contributing to scare-mongering by constantly warning about terrorism.

"We should now have less chatter about the terror threat," Pechtold said during an interview conducted two months ago with 'Contact"', the magazine of the youth section of the orthodox Christian party SGP. "In my opinion, our society must get used to this new form of waging war."

Asked if he feared terrorist attacks in Dutch cities, Pechtold replied: "I think we have to keep a cool head. In recent times I have noticed Dutch people react in an exaggerated way to the terrorist threat — as if our cities are full of terrorists."

Pechtold said "movies were back playing on television" within 24 hours of the bomb attacks in London. In contrast, discussion programmes in the Netherlands featured "so-called" specialists warning about terrorism throughout the summer.

His words were seized on by the media on Tuesday evening. By Wednesday morning, the government information service RVD said Pechtold, who is in the Netherlands Antilles, phoned Balkenende to apologise.

The RVD said Pechtold sincerely regretted the remarks made during the interview about the government's big cities policy two months ago. He apologised to the prime minister for creating the impression he was criticising Balkenende's policies.

Pechtold is a member of the small coalition party D66, and his comments on the terror threat drew angry responses from Balkenende's Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Liberals (VVD), the second coalition party.

Home Affairs Minister Johan Remkes (VVD) said Pechtold should stick to his own portfolio. Remkes and Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner (CDA) are jointly responsible for coordinating the Dutch response to the terror threat.

"One must not make out as if your colleagues are exaggerating the threat," Remkes said on Radio 1 on Wednesday.

CDA MP Wim van de Camp asked rhetorically what Pechtold was up to. Noting that Pechtold had recently questioned the coalition's policy not to abolish mortgage tax relief, Van de Camp said: "I find this vanity rather irritating".

Pechtold also said in the interview with the SGP magazine that the security service AIVD should be given the space to reduce the threat of terrorism and that everyone should remain alert.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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