RNW Press Review, Monday 21 July 2008

21st July 2008, Comments 0 comments

Catch the news in brief from the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

21 July 2008

Raising retirement age to 70 not a solution
The mass-circulation daily, De Telegraaf, scooped an interview with Employment Minister Piet Hein Donner which was published in the Sunday edition.

The minister suggests raising the retirement age to 70 to combat the problems of too small a workforce paying for too many pensioners in the years to come.

De Volkskrant reports that Donner's idea has been savaged not only by the opposition and unions, but also by his own Christian Democrats and the Labour Party, both members of the government coalition.

A Labour MP says: "Even if it's not a concrete proposal, it's not going to lead to anything and will just worry people." He thinks the minister should begin to tackle demographic change by first "helping people under 65 find work".

Trouw picks up on the union response to Donner's comments that pay demands this autumn should be kept low to avoid creating a spiral of rising inflation.

The unions are pointing the finger at the government's proposed VAT rise from 19 to 20 percent. A union spokesman believes: "The rise in VAT will increase inflation; the higher inflation, the higher the pay demands."

Weed not allowed at outdoor dance event
nrc.next informs us of the consternation displayed by visitors to an outdoor dance event in Best in the south of the Netherlands at having their joints and bags of marijuana confiscated at the entrance.

"For years, you've been able to take it in, and now suddenly it's not allowed. Laughable. I know ecstasy pills are not allowed in. But weed?" says 36-year-old Bas.

The paper, however, points out that the zero-tolerance policy is nothing new.

Guidelines up to 2008 allowed the police to turn a blind eye to small amounts of cocaine, speed, ecstasy and marijuana for personal use in clubs and at dance events.

However, the policy was tightened up some time ago. The police at the Best rave apparently arrested 16 people, seven of them for possession of hard drugs.

A narrow miss by two trains
The AD says two trains narrowly avoided a head-on collision on Sunday evening in the southern Dutch province of Limburg.

A passenger train run by the Veolia Rail transport company seems to have gone through a red signal. It nearly hit a train going in the opposite direction towards the German border.

Staff from ProRail, the company in charge of railways infrastructure, was able to contact the driver and avert catastrophe. The director of Veolia is at a loss to know why the much-lauded automatic braking system failed to come into operation when the red signal was passed. "What took place raises questions," he tells us.

Church volunteers save state over EUR 3 billion
The weekend edition of the Protestant daily Trouw covers a report entitled Count Your Blessings which estimates that church volunteers are saving the state over EUR 3 billion a year.

Their activities include visiting the sick, relationship therapy, language lessons, work with the homeless and prostitutes, food kitchens and emergency financial help. The volunteer work is also said to promote integration and social cohesion.

However, it appears the churches receive scant recognition for their work.

The paper quotes the report: "The churches complain that the government and especially local authorities do too little to support their activities. This is illustrated by the lack of co-operation between governmental institutions and the churches."

One of the report's recommendations is that the government help churches recruit more volunteers.

Plane prize offered by Greenchoice stirs controversy
A front-page story in Saturday's De Volkskrant is headlined: "Climate lottery! Prize: plane ticket".

A new environmentally friendly energy company, Greenchoice, has launched a lottery to attract donations for buying land in the Amazon rainforest. The purchase of land is designed to compensate for the use of gas at home. The lottery prize is a plane trip to the Amazon.

The paper points out that, for each passenger flying to South America, 2.5 tonnes of CO2 are spewed into the air.

"We want to involve our customers in what we are doing. One way is through letting them visit our projects," explains a Greenchoice spokeswoman.

However, a member of the company's board disagrees: "I'm not a fan of eco-tourism, especially when it involves air travel," he tells us.

[Radio Netherlands / Mike Wilcox / Expatica]

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