Press Review Friday 23 April 2010
No big stories dominate today's papers. Instead, we're treated to front pages displaying a variety of international and domestic news.
Dutch concern about Belgium De Telegraaf devotes part of its front page to the fall of the Belgian government over its failure to thrash out a deal on Flemish and Walloon voting rights in the constituency round Brussels. Belgium, divided into its Dutch and French-speaking parts, is often the butt of jokes in the Netherlands. However, there is a serious side to the Dutch attitude and there have been calls for the Flemish part of Belgium to annex itself to the Netherlands. De Telegraaf says the fall of yet another Belgian government because of the Dutch-speaking/French-speaking political divide has worried politicians here in the Netherlands. "It's beginning to look insoluble," says one Dutch MP. Another tells us: "The present generation of Belgian politicians doesn't seem to be able to do the balancing act. Maybe Belgium is witnessing the end of its present formation as a state." Trouw also features Belgium on its front page saying its down to King Albert to try and get politicians to form a new government - an almost impossible job. And this, while the country struggles to deal with the fallout of the economic crisis and is due to take over the European Union presidency soon. Christian Democrats doing badly in run-up to poll De Volkskrant keeps us at home, preferring to report on how the Christian Democrats CDA are doing just six weeks before the election. The news is not good: they are failing to improve on their recent bad showing in the opinion polls. The party is even doing badly on the economy, with voters preferring to bet on the policies being put forward by Labour and the conservative VVD. But, the main problem is CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, whose popularity rating is at 31 percent, a historic low point for a sitting premier. His unpopularity means the party is even failing to pick up potential votes being lost by the far-right Freedom Party. AD takes up the leadership of the CDA issue, reminding us that Mr Balkenende has implied that he will leave politics after the election if he does not become prime minister again. It reports that caretaker Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen says he is not interested in taking over the party leadership: "No, I'm not the crown prince". "You can get higher up in two ways," he informs us, "through calibre or by stabbing other people in the back. I'd never do the latter." The paper declines to comment, but moves swiftly on to another possible candidate. Cleaning strike over with 'person' deal Trouw has a large front-page photograph of smiling and applauding ladies in Islamic headscarves. They are some of the cleaners who have been on strike for nine weeks, leaving Dutch stations and other public places decidedly less clean than usual. They have now accepted a new pay and conditions package, including a wages rise of 3.5 percent over two years and Dutch language lessons for those who need them. But, says the Protestant daily, the big gain is a code of conduct for the employers. This should ensure that the low-paid cleaning workers do not end up shouldering the burden of cuts in the competitive sector. "The word 'person' isn't mentioned in the contracts between the cleaning companies and their clients," says a union man. "That's got to change." Phones increase cycling dangers The photo shows a typically narrow street between Amsterdam's famous canals. Crowds stand on the pavement drinking outside a café; a motorbike has stopped on one side of the street where a man walks, window shopping and talking into his mobile phone; a young woman cycles, negotiating her way past a stationary bike, she's also on the phone. It's a modern Dutch city scene courtesy of nrc.next. The paper reports that, while traffic accident deaths in general were down in 2009, 128 people aged between 18 and 24 died on the roads last year compared to just 107 in 2008. Young people on bikes, it says, are twice as likely to have accidents as the average cyclist. This is down to listening to music or talking on the phone whilst cycling. Cyclists who regularly phone, pick up calls or listen to music whilst on the move are reckoned to have 30-percent more chance of being involved in an accident. A campaign aimed at school students from 12 to 17 has been launched. It aims to stop them using the phone or listening to iPods and the like whilst on the bike. No average spring day Finally, another photograph; this time on the front page of de Volkskrant. A crowd of laughing ladies sporting short skirts and bare legs are doing a shimmy for the camera in the sun. They were busy yesterday, celebrating Short Skirt Day which was instituted by Martin Bril, the popular journalist and writer who died a year ago. The paper thinks he probably had a warmer day in mind when he wrote: "Short Skirt day is that spring day when all women, as if by magic, suddenly wear a skirt with bare legs beneath".
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