Dutch news in brief, Friday 27 February 2009

27th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

Schiphol crash - what the papers say

Unsurprisingly Wednesday's crash at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is still dominating the Dutch papers today. The general mood seems to be one of relief—the tragedy has claimed nine lives so far, but things could have been a lot worse.

De Telegraaf comments "when that massive Boeing 737 fell like a stone from the sky on Wednesday, we were lucky, however cruel that may sound to those directly involved. The aircraft narrowly avoided crashing onto one of the busiest motorways in the country."

Former pilot and spokesman for the Sustainable Aviation Platform reveals in AD that the soft clay of the Haarlemmermeer polder, where the plane landed, probably saved many lives "by absorbing part of the shock".

NRC Handelsblad is encouraged to note that "Wednesday morning's air disaster was not followed by a disaster involving failures in the emergency operation ... on a hectic day when the airport, the authorities and the emergency services had to give of their best, hardly anyone put a foot wrong."

However, AD's editorial is critical of Pieter van Vollenhoven who heads one of the institutes investigating the cause of the crash. While praising him as "a committed chairman" the paper notes that "his commitment has a dark side" and that it was not his place "to give graphic details of how the crew met their deaths", especially not when other officials "had chosen their words carefully and with respect."

Schiphol crash sparks concerns for local residents

Nrc-next features an eerie illustration of a plane casting a shadow over a neat row of houses above the headline "And what if one falls on a housing estate?" The paper goes on to answer "It easily could have. Yet houses continue to be built right next to Schiphol ... The Turkish Airlines crash shows that it's high time for measures to be taken."

As Trouw reports, in recent years new housing developments have been built and existing ones expanded near the runway where the crash took place - a runway which the airport uses intensively. One local resident comments cynically "Maybe it's a good thing that one falls out of the sky every now and again. At least it keeps the discussion about Schiphol's expansion alive."

A local doctor has noticed increasing concern among his patients. "Events like this make some people nervous. They generally see around 200 planes a day and now they see the potential danger." He saw a rise in the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills in the wake of the 1992 air disaster in Amsterdam's Bijlmer district and he expects to see a similar rise now.

But a majority of De Telegraaf's readers take a more pragmatic approach. Asked whether an airport should not be allowed in a densely populated area, 55% disagreed: "Let the moaners move. Schiphol was there first."

EU whistleblower calls it quits

Nrc-next takes a look at the career of Paul van Buitenen, the EU whistleblower whose revelations of fraud led to the resignation of the entire EU Commission and launched him on a political career in the European Parliament. But the paper comments "he came, he saw, but he did not conquer corruption" and concludes "his battle was lonely and failed to produce concrete evidence."

The "lonely battler" has now announced that he will not be standing at the next European elections. "I don't want to be a Don Quixote" he sighs, citing a lack of support and therefore success as the reason for his decision. In 2008 he presented a hefty report which found that European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF was "paralysed" by "nepotism". But a fellow MEP complains "a 200-page report that certain things aren't what they should be is no good to me. I need hard facts."

Despite his hard line on fraud in the EU and his dubious record as an MEP—of all the Dutch members he has the highest absentee rating and has only addressed the general assembly 10 times in the past 5 years—Van Buitenen remains a believer. "We need the Union. I see Europe as a calling," he insists. Perhaps that's why he is reluctant to shut the door on the world of politics completely. A committed Christian, Van Buitenen says he may yet stand if the "hand of God" intervenes before the April deadline to register as a candidate. Quite what form this divine intervention would have to take, he won't say.

Farewell to the spirit of the Sixties

Several of today's papers bid a fond farewell to Robert Jasper Grootveld, a leading figure of the Sixties counter culture in Amsterdam. NRC Handelsblad describes him as "an artist" "a provocateur" and more intriguingly "an anti-smoking wizard." The paper praises him as the man who "declared Amsterdam to be the magical centre of the world" in the 1960s" and "a pioneer of mass non-conformity."

De Volkskrant pays tribute to Grootveld as "the face of the 1960s" and describes the impromptu "happenings" he staged in the Dutch capital as bringing a "symbolic and hilarious end to the narrow-minded bourgeois mentality of the post-war generation." True to the free spirit of the decade he embodied, he was the first Dutchman to publicly sell marijuana and dreamt of building a massive floating garden for the children of Amsterdam to play in.

He was also a man of contradictions, however. A self-declared "anti-smoking wizard" he slapped a big 'c' for 'cancer' on cigarette advertisements but paradoxically he remained a chain smoker all his life, a habit which eventually led to his death. But as the de Volkskrant notes, the campaign wasn't born of moralism but of fascination. "Grootveld was fascinated by addiction because he saw it as being anti-freedom. The addiction to smoking but also the addiction to advertising."

NRC Handelsblad comments "that he was a pioneer" in "transforming himself into a living artwork," while de Volkskrant concludes "he will mainly be remembered as a driving force for change in the 1960s, change that determines Amsterdam's hip reputation to this day."

Inspiration vs perspiration

Trouw presents some comforting news for all us mediocre types: "you don't need talent to be brilliant." The paper talks to Remy Rikers who will be inaugurated today as Professor of Educational Psychology at Rotterdam's Erasmus University.

According to Professor Rikers, "talent is a vague concept—we don't even know whether it exists. Research mainly suggests that outstanding achievers invest more time in their ambition than those who don't get as far." He cites a research project at Berlin conservatorium, where the students teachers identified as "top talents" turned out to have put in six thousand hours' more hard graft than their less outstanding counterparts.

Unfortunately it's not just a case of putting in the hours: it's all about the quality of the practice. Canadian research on figure skaters shows that regional or national competitors fell far less in practice than skaters at Olympic level. That's because the Olympic skaters were focused on new jumps while the less good skaters spent more time practising the tricks they knew.

If talent does exist, concludes the professor "it probably has to do with commitment, determination and believing in your dream." Time to get to work then...

Radio Netherlands/David Doherty/Expatica

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