Press Review Friday 28 May 2010

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Crime is set to rise in the Netherlands due to cutbacks, Dutch doctors come out against male circumcision, and the Netherlands flops at the Eurovision Song Contest yet again.

Netherlands more dangerous, Amsterdam safer The Netherlands is set to become more dangerous, says Protestant daily Trouw. The country simply can’t afford to fight crime. As the June 9 election approaches, politicians are falling over each other to promise tougher law and order measures, but given the economic situation it’s just not realistic. “Because of the crisis, there will have to be cutbacks everywhere – with us too,” says public prosecutor’s office chief Harm Brouwer. “But the politicians will also have to make cutbacks in their ambitions, because we won’t be able to maintain the current level of security.”

Fortunately for residents of Amsterdam, there’s better news. AD leads with the story that crime figures in Amsterdam fell under former mayor Job Cohen, and faster than the national trend. This is also good news for Mr Cohen, who now leads the Labour Party, and is struggling in the polls. The parties on the right accuse him of being soft on crime. Anti-Islam populist Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders said on Sunday, “When you say you want to do for the Netherlands what you’ve done for Amsterdam, that’s not a promise but a threat,” AD reports. But on law and order, the Amsterdam crime figures look like a ‘get out of jail free’ card for Mr Cohen.

Election ultimatums could benefit anti-Islam party Once all the votes have been counted in a Dutch election, the convoluted process of negotiating a coalition begins. And today’s papers are full of speculation about what coalitions are possible given the state of the polls and the positions of the parties.

‘Breaking points’ are the problem, says AD. These are the policy positions on which parties declare they will refuse to budge, effectively ruling out a coalition with a party that takes another line. And according to AD, the breaking points are coming so thick and fast that “the formation of a workable coalition is becoming impossible.”

Mortgage interest tax relief is the thorniest problem – no, not exactly a glamorous issue, but it has become such a political hot potato it’s referred to here as ‘the m-word’. The Christian Democrats say they won’t govern with a party that refuses to keep it. The democrat party D66, de Volkskrant reports, now says it won’t govern with a party that refuses to scrap it.

This poses a dilemma for the conservative VVD, currently leading in the polls and a staunch supporter of the tax break which is so handy for well-heeled homeowners. At least three parties will be needed to form a government, and the smaller centrist D66 could be a key partner to make up the numbers in a centre-right coalition. If the VVD won’t back down on the m-word, left-leaning de Volkskrant points out, its only other option is Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party: “Wilders, the only other champion of mortgage tax relief, is smiling invitingly.”

Doctors say no to circumcision “The circumcision of boys is in the vast majority of cases medically pointless, risky and is moreover a violation of the child’s physical integrity.” This is the new standpoint released by the Royal Dutch Medical Association KNMG, Trouw reports. Between 10,000 and 15,000 boys are circumcised in the Netherlands each year, mostly for religious reasons, and the KNMG “objects to it in principle”.

The association takes the line that if there’s no medical reason for an operation, you shouldn’t do it. “The rule is you don’t cut healthy children,” KNMG’s chairman told de Volkskrant. The operation is far riskier than people think, the association claims, and it’s advising doctors to point out the dangers to parents before wielding the scalpel.

The KNMG isn’t calling for a ban, as with the much more severe practice of female genital cutting, because this would just push the practice underground. And a urologist in de Volkskrant stresses that the objections are only against circumcising babies and young boys: “When they’re older people can decide whatever they like.”

Murder was “bad horror film scenario” The murder of 12-year-old Milly Boele is back in the news, as the gruesome details of the case are revealed. The murder was like “the scenario for a very bad horror film”, says popular daily AD, quoting a friend of the family.

AD sets out the latest police version of the murder. Milly Boele’s policeman neighbour lured her to his house, where he took her mobile phone from her and smashed it so it wouldn’t give away her location. He then tied her up and raped her before strangling her with a belt. The policeman buried her body in his back garden. Days later, his girlfriend persuaded him to turn himself in to the police and the body was found. The family friend told AD, “The things you see in films and on television, here they became reality.”

No Eurovision success for girl-next-door Sieneke “Failed again.” Nineteen-year-old Sieneke beams on the front pages of the popular dailies, but she didn’t manage to take the Netherlands through to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo. This means the country will be missing the final for the sixth year in a row, mourns AD. De Volkskrant puts it more bluntly: “No other country has performed so badly in the song contest in recent years.”

Girl-next-door Sieneke with her cheerful Dutch ditty was up against glamorous divas singing earnest ballads, and couldn’t compete. This year the Dutch took a “radically different approach” to the festival de Volkskrant explains: an unknown 18-year-old accompanied by a barrel organ, singing a Dutch-language song by Pierre Kartner, better known as Smurf songwriter Father Abraham. As the paper puts it, “The choice was controversial from the start.” Sieneke was left in tears, and Dutch Eurovision fans looks forward to next year.


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