RNW Press Review - 5 March 2008
A roundup of today's press from Radio Netherlands.
RNW Press Review - 5 March 2008
by Mike Wilcox
There's no getting away from right-wing MP Gert Wilders' anti-Qur'an film which he hopes to have broadcast soon.
De Volkskrant reports that the European Commission has warned EU representatives in Islamic countries about the film. However an EC spokeswoman plays the move down: "The message was just meant to make sure they can prepare answers to certain questions," she says.
Meanwhile, the NRC Handelsblad says Mr Wilders is blaming Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende for all the fuss, accusing him of creating a "self-fulfilling prophecy". He says the prime minister "has made sure that everyone from Timbuktu to Afghanistan knows that the film is coming out".
It's also big news today that the Netherlands has recognised Kosovo more than two weeks after its unilateral declaration of independence. Trouw says the wait was designed to put diplomatic pressure on the Kosovan authorities to ensure that the Serbian minority, and its religious heritage, was given sufficient protection.
The NRC Handelsblad reports that Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen wanted to study the new state's constitution first. He also says that he is "satisfied" about "the responsible and calm position taken by the government of Kosovo following the declaration of independence". The paper believes the government decided immediate recognition would be seen as too demonstrative a sign of support for independence.
Both the AD and De Telegraaf have front-page photos of soldiers receiving peace-mission medals. They have spent a six-month tour of duty in the Afghan province of Uruzgan, fighting the Taliban. The armed services commander, Dick Berlijn told them: "We're there to help the population, so they can build a better life for themselves. Sometimes it's a hard fight."
De Telegraaf says the 1500 soldiers receiving medals found the minute's silence for the five Dutch soldiers killed in Afghanistan a moving part of the ceremony.
On its front page, Trouw reports that local authorities in Utrecht plan to assess mentally-disabled pregnant women. Experts will decide before they give birth whether they are capable of caring for a child, and a foster family may even be sought. One of the people behind the plan says: "The authorities responsible want to be ready with help and guidance".
However, organisations representing the mentally disabled are calling the move discrimination and are considering legal action. A spokesman thinks it is impossible to know how parents will care for children before they have given birth. "I suspect the idea behind this is to discourage mentally disabled people from having children," he says.
Much of the front page of the AD is given over to the news that the last 250 independent post offices in the Netherlands are to close. The post offices are jointly owned by the ING banking group, which took over the Post Bank, and TNT Post, which now runs the Dutch postal service. The number of independent post offices has dropped from 1,300 in 1989.
An insider says "post offices appear not to be cost-effective". TNT is insisting on a reasonable redundancy settlement for the round 2400 staff who will loose their jobs. Neither ING nor TNT will comment, but the paper says the blue Post Bank logo will go as part of the shake-up and its branches will be changed to ING outlets. Supermarkets and newsagents will probably take over services at present offered by the post offices.
De Volkskrant describes a man called by the prosecution in a gangland killing case as the 'dream' crown witness, that is as long as his story holds. He has agreed to give evidence against 14 defendants in no less than eight gangland killings. He himself took part in one murder but claims to have been put under pressure and now regrets his actions. "It was the heaviest experience of my life," he explains. In a deal with the prosecution, he will serve a reduced sentence.
During the present trial, he is not visible to the public but can be seen by the judge, lawyers and accused. However, he is appearing in court in a grey wig. The defence wants this to be removed, but the prosecution is unwilling to let the defendants see to what extent the witness' appearance has changed. The case continues.
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]