Dutch News in brief, Friday 23 January 2009

23rd January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands for the latest news in the Netherlands.

Minister apologises to MPs

"Prostration" crows the headline in today's De Telegraaf. Below, Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop is pictured in an apologetic pose before parliament yesterday. Last week, the minister denied having told the populist daily that Dutch troops would pull out of Uruzgan in Afghanistan in 2010, and that  "we won't re-deploy to any other region. That's not an option". Yesterday he told MPs: "I didn't lie. I made a mistake."

Last week's denial appears to have been designed to fall in with the more circumspect stance being taken by the rest of the government. They want to keep their options open in case the new United States administration asks the Netherlands to remain part of the Afghan ISAF mission beyond 2010.

Yesterday, however, Mr van Middelkoop appeared to make a definite commitment to leave Afghanistan in 2010. Just where that leaves government policy on the matter remains to be seen. The paper does not dwell on the possible political fallout. Instead it prefers to wallow, quoting the minister: "De Telegraaf was blameless. I can understand its dissatisfaction", he simpers.

Labour softens integration document

De Volkskrant reports that Labour's executive is to re-draft its paper on integration policy being presented to the party congress in March. Labour members think it is too critical of the immigrant community. Positive aspects such as the entrepreneurial skills and success in higher education booked by members of the immigration community will now be highlighted.

Rather than face destructive amendments to the document during the party congress, it is being altered beforehand. Party Chair Lilianne Plouman says: "We'll be more explicit about the things which are going well. They are in the text, but they could be more detailed. We in the executive don't have a monopoly on the truth. Discussion only serves to improve the document," she concedes.

Middle East problems in the Netherlands

The Protestant daily Trouw says Integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan is calling on Muslims to attend Sunday's Holocaust commemoration in Amsterdam. He is said to be extremely worried that the problems of the Middle East are being imported into the Netherlands. "If the conflict is ever to be solved....they [Muslims and Jews] will have to understand each other's suffering and grief," he believes.

Muslim organisations say the government has been too soft on Israel in relation to the recent fighting in Gaza. The minister points out that the Netherlands is giving 75 million euros in aid to Gaza. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is meeting members of the Islamic Dutch community today to discuss this and other issues.

More fake pills entering EU

Nrc.next is alarmed by the increasing amount of fake medicines entering the European Union. A chemist points out how the packaging of tablets he is analysing is an almost exact copy of the real thing. "The criminals produce really detailed work for their fakes," he says.

The European Commission says that, in just two months in 2008, 34 million fake medicines were confiscated by EU customs. The drugs range from antibiotics and malaria tablets to erection pills. The chemist points out that some of the fakes have no active ingredients at all, while others have too much. "There are fakes and fakes," he tells us.
Bonus for later retirement being paid late

The AD says the new monthly bonus being given to people who stay in employment beyond the age of 62 is not going to be included in monthly salaries till 2010. People qualifying for the extra cash this year will have to wait till their tax for 2009 is worked out. They will get a lump sum in the summer of 2010. The Labour party's Jacques Tichelaar says the delay is unavoidable. "The tax office has had little time to prepare. Paying out the bonus is complicated," he explains.

The government introduced the bonus to encourage people to stay longer in employment. However, increasing numbers of people are already staying in work longer. The average age at which Dutch people retire has gone up from 60 in 2000 to 62 now.

Stars at film premiere

We started with a picture and we are ending with one. This time it's not a cringing minister but glitzy stars. Tom Cruise is pictured on two front pages, all smiles with two Dutch actresses who feature in his recent film, Valkyrie. Carice van Houten and Halina Reijn, one sultry and the other sporting a wide grin, joined him in Amsterdam yesterday for the film's Dutch premiere.

Radio Netherlands/Mike Wilcox/Expatica

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