Press Review Thursday 22 July 2010

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The way forward for government coalition talks is anything but clear as Queen Beatrix takes advice. Construction workers' fixed holidays and 'give-away' degrees come under the spotlight, while Nijmegen's walkers go gay.

Coalition talks - confusion reigns The fallout of the collapsed talks on a new government coalition continues to dominate today's front pages. The confused situation where no combination of parties able to command a parliamentary majority seems possible is mirrored in the diverse reports of the various papers.   The left-of-centre De Volkskrant says Henk Bleker, the chairman of the Christian Democrats CDA, is calling on Labour to reconsider its rejection of a centrist coalition with the conservative VVD and his own party.   AD picks up on something else Mr Bleker said: "CDA opens the door a crack to Geert Wilders" reads its headline. The populist anti-Islam MP who heads the Freedom Party PVV won a considerable slice of the vote in June's general election. The paper reports that the Christian Democrats are now willing to talk to Mr Wilders about forming a government if he is willing to drop some of his party's more contentious demands such as fines for wearing the Islamic veil and ethnic registration.   De Telegraaf treats its mass readership to yet another spin on the CDA position. It says the party thinks VVD leader Mark Rutte should do away with the traditional coalition negotiations and just write draft government programme for himself. "The other parties would then have to say whether they thought the draft programme could serve as the basis for negotiation," CDA leader Maxime Verhagen is quoted as saying. The paper tracked him down to his holiday address in the Caribbean.   Pivotal role of Queen Beatrix The Protestant daily Trouw thinks Mr Wilder's Freedom Party is closer to a place in new coalition talks. It says no one's putting their money on a centrist government with the VVD, Labour and the CDA.   It also points to the powerful position of Queen Beatrix at times like these. She appoints the official mediators informateurs who preside over the horse trading between the parties trying to form a coalition. The paper reminds us that she will be receiving very different advice about how to proceed from the various party leaders over the next few days. picks up on the delicate situation, noting that her majesty held talks yesterday with a number of close advisors including former Christian Democrat prime minister Ruud Lubbers. The queen has now confirmed Mr Lubbers as the new official mediator to try yet another combination of parties headed by the VVD.   The end for fixed construction sector holiday? The construction sector in the Netherlands closes down for a long break every summer. Everyone accepts that if the work on a project, big or small, is not finished by a certain day usually in late July, about three weeks will be added to the waiting time. However, today's De Telegraaf tells us that this traditional builders' vacation is under threat.   The biggest construction union says it's old-fashioned and should be axed as more young people start work in the sector. "They are not traditional 'bread winners' but are often part of a couple who both work and run the home. They have to be flexible. A fixed period when the boss says 'take your holiday' doesn't fit in with this. It's getting in the way of modernising the sector," explains a union man.   In fact, the paper reminds us that legislation was introduced in the 1980s, allowing workers to choose when they take leave. However, old customs die hard and a survey shows that 90 percent of construction employers still stipulate a fixed holiday period.   Degrees being 'given away' In one of its background pieces, tells us that the perpetual student is not a thing of the past. And it appears many educational establishments are not above handing diplomas out on a plate to get rid of students who overstay their welcome.   The problem is that, the longer students take to finish their courses, the less money colleges receive from the government. A number of recent exposés show that degrees and diplomas are being given away to get rid of long-stay students.   An unnamed journalism student comes clean: " A teacher told me - 'We can't teach you any more at this college, so I'll have a look and see what we can do to give you a bit of paper as soon as possible.' - After that, I graduated quickly and without any difficulty." He gives a number of examples, including a project, which should have represented three months' work but which actually took him just a couple of days to complete.   An education authority spokesman finds it acceptable that, for example, professional experience should in some cases be allowed to replace academic work. However, he says this should not be on an ad hoc basis and that independent examination committees should oversee the process.   Nijmegen walking event goes gay Finally, De Volkskrant fills half its front page with a photograph of two women, clad in pink dresses and heavy-duty walking boots. They are dancing together in a country road to music provided by a brass band. Yesterday was Pink Wednesday - the second day of the Nijmegen Marches was given over to a celebration of solidarity with gay people.   It started in 2002, with two gay bars in Nijmegen flying the flag for gay rights during the city's famous international walking event. The idea caught on and more and more local businesses joined in. Now, it's a city-wide event, with stages, open-air discos and dancing in the streets.


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