Press Review Thursday 22 April 2010
Although it doesn't make all the front pages, today's big news is the possibility of a new Dutch military mission in Afghanistan. A majority of MPs looks like backing a motion asking the caretaker government to investigate the possibility of the Netherlands training Afghan police officers.Disagreement among ministers on whether the present mission should be continued in a slimmed-down form brought the fall of the cabinet and led to early elections in June. The around 1,500 Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province at present are due to withdraw in August. Nrc.next says caretaker Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen is "sympathetic towards the police training motion". He would be: his Christian Democrat party wanted to extend the Dutch presence in Afghanistan beyond this year. The Labour Party, on the other hand, insisted the mission should end as ministers had promised. The deployment had already been lengthened by 12 months and was unpopular in the country. The original wording of today's parliamentary motion mentioned 50 Dutch police trainers to be protected by 200 to 250 soldiers. Numbers have now been dropped to make it less contentious, but Labour MPs are still worried that a low-key military mission is being introduced by the back door. Meanwhile, Nrc.next features a large photo of Dutch soldiers scanning dusty ground ahead of a convoy of military vehicles. It says they are pictured in the Netherlands, practicing for the withdrawal of the Dutch forces from Afghanistan. A soldier says that last year they were practicing "to knock out the Taliban" but that now "it's mostly about self-defence and retreating quickly in the face of attack". An officer confirms to the paper that many soldiers feel "it would have been better to stay longer in Uruzgan". Minister rubbishes her own policies Caretaker Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg is coming under fire for changing her tune now elections are near. Today's de Volkskrant reports her as saying the Netherlands is far too strict in implementing European rules on nature conservation. "Who's been doing that then?" asks Provincial Deputy Harry Keereweer. "It's Verburg herself, isn't it? It says a lot that the minister has started criticising her own policy now it's election time." He thinks Natura 2000, the EU's programme to counter the decreasing numbers of European plants and animals, will only work through a consensus between provincial governments, nature protection organisations and farmers. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso appears to agree with the criticism of Ms Verburg. In a leaked letter sent at the beginning of this year, he says the Netherlands has made the Natura 2000 rules too strict and technocratic. Higher education pays say researchers Always quick to highlight educational issues, the Protestant daily Trouw's front page tells us that investment in higher vocational education pays, to be exact three euros for every euro put into the system. Researchers at Maastricht University have measured the positive effects of higher education on wages, economic growth, use of welfare resources, health and crime. Their conclusions, including that the fewer who drop out of higher education the better, are music to the ears of teaching professionals. "Everyone presumes that investment in higher education brings returns," says chair of the Higher Vocational Education Council Doekle Terpstra, "but no one had worked out how much, before this. Now, we can be sure that education doesn't cost anything, but is the cleverest and quickest way to prosperity and economic growth." Civil servants protected from future cuts De Telegraaf's main headline tells its mass readership that the number crunchers at the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis CPB are protecting civil servants from future government cuts. The paper explains that political parties submit the figures behind their election manifestos for endorsement by the boffins at the CPB. This, says De Telegraaf, amounts to a monopoly, because politicians think the CPB stamp of approval is essential for voters to consider their financial plans sound. However, plans put forward by the Christian Democrats and conservative VVD party for savings on the wage bill for workers in government offices have been thrown out by the CPB a government office. The paper pours oil on the fire by pointing out that a prominent Labour Party figure heads the CPB. "This is surely political favouritism," snarls a unnamed 'senior' Christian Democrat. A possibly less senior member of the VVD tells us that "this undermines the CPB's authority". He goes on to assert that civil servant salaries have increased two to three percent more than the market average over the last decade. Seniors go for limited driving licences Finally, AD reserves a slice of its front page to inform us that special driving licences for the elderly are becoming increasingly popular. More and more people over 70 are making use of the licences which limit the area where they can drive, for example to within a 10-kilometre radius of their home. "Many elderly want to remain mobile as long as possible," explains Rudd Bredewoud from the Driving Proficiency Office CBR. However, he is quick to counter suggestions that safety is being compromised to help old people stay behind the wheel. He assures us that the licences are only given out "after a thorough test and not because of social considerations". On page three, the paper sports a photo of a small elderly lady loading the boot of her rather large executive-type coupé. The headline reads: "Shouldn't you just give the driving licence up, Ma?". Obviously not, she should go for the new limited licence for seniors.
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