Press Review Wednesday 11 August 2010

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Coalition talks agree on cuts, while Geert Wilders is the ghost at the feast. A minister is accused of playing poker, a football sponsorship deal backfires and there's talk of lynching. 

Coalition talks agree on cuts Today's papers are dominated by domestic issues with pieces on the devastation in China and the UN report on Afghanistan relegated to inside pages. 

De Volkskrant devotes its entire front page to the negotiations on forming a new Dutch coalition. In something of a scoop, it says the two parties hoping to form a minority government have already agreed cuts amounting to 16 billion euros. 

A mind-boggling diagram of the proposed economies in billions of euros and percentages thereof snakes down the page where one might have expected a nice photograph. The conservative VVD's cuts are outlined in blue, those of the Christian Democrats in green. And, yes, they do look remarkably similar. Most of the cuts, we are told, will be made in health care and social security. 

The paper explains that the "confidential" information was collated by the finance ministry simply by putting the two parties' budgetary plans next to each other. Not really confidential at all, you may think. The paper reminds us that the parties hope to lop a whopping 18 billion 7 percent off government spending by the end of 2015. 

Minority government 'threatens Dutch consensus' As if to remind us of the ghost at the feast, the other article on de Volkskrant's front page reports that Dutch diplomats have been instructed to dampen down international fears about the role of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders in the proposed new government. While not actually being part of the cabinet, his far-right Freedom Party PVV will agree to support it in parliament. In return, the PVV will have a say in framing the government programme. 

Trouw picks up on this, telling us that the CNV Trades Union Federation is warning that a minority government will jeopardise the prized consensus within Dutch domestic politics. Agreements between the 'social partners' - the government, employers and the unions - have traditionally steered the Netherlands away from serious industrial action and social unrest. 

CNV chair Eric de Macker fears it will be impossible for the social partners to make agreements which fall outside the government programme agreed with its PVV supporters. "It's completely unsure whether we will be able to find a solid negotiating partner in this sort of government," he complains. 

He goes on to warn that it doesn't look like the unions are going to be asked what they think about the swingeing cuts on offer. If public opinion is not behind the cuts and the unions aren't involved in a mediating position, there could be increasing resistance to mass redundancies. Ominously, he tells the paper that he "doesn't want to start talking about the sort of things that are going on in Greece". 

Minister 'playing game of poker' Meanwhile, the serious job of government must go on, as an inside article in demonstrates. It reports that caretaker Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin will not allow public poker games to be organised outside casinos. And this, despite a court in The Hague recently ruling that poker is a game of skill, not chance, and as such doesn't fall under the legislation regulating gambling. 

The court ruling led the Twente Poker Association - devotees of a variant of the game known as 'Texas Hold'em' - to set up first 'legal' Dutch poker room in a bar in the small town of Glane near the German border. However, Mr Hirsch Ballin has ordered the Glane game to close, citing the Supreme Court which in 1998 said that poker was a game of chance. 

The Public Prosecutor's office is meanwhile appealing against the recent lower court ruling, but lawyer Peter Plasman thinks the authorities will regret it if they lose the case. He believes if the ministry forces poker businesses to close and goes on to lose the appeal, it will have to pay compensation. He accuses the minister of "doing precisely what he says the Dutch may not do - playing a game of poker". 

Care organisation sponsors football club Today's AD fills us in on a furore in Groningen in the far north of the Netherlands. Local Socialist Party and union figures have slammed the city's home help organisation for sponsoring the local football team to the tune of 80,000 euros. And this, after Home Help Groningen, which supports the elderly and sick living at home, received 15 million euros of public money last year to keep it afloat. 

The sponsorship deal comes complete with a motto: FC Groningen plays football with passion, Home Help Groningen works on good care with passion. "You should build up a good reputation by doing good work, not by sponsoring a football club," fumes one Socialist MP. 

Home Help director Filia Kramp defends the sponsorship deal: "We are a business. The 80,000 euros comes from the PR and marketing budget and does not negatively impact the provision of care. It has nothing to do with government support. That can be accounted for to the last penny." 

Readers asked to catch tram thugs "A telling-off leads to lynching" reads a small front-page headline in today's De Telegraaf. The police want to question five young men and two women after a 26-year-old man was seriously assaulted on an Amsterdam tram. 

The story unfolds in detail on an inside page. One of the young men was spitting inside the tram. "Do you think it's normal to spit all over the tram floor? Everyone's got to sit here too, haven't they?" the victim asked him. One of the young men produced a knife, while another came at him with "a kind of flying kick".

The 26-year-old was stabbed in the neck, head and back and ended up being kicked around the floor and bitten by a dog. Publishing photographs of the attackers taken by security cameras in the tram, the populist paper calls on its mass readership to "catch the thugs!"

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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