Press Review Wednesday 19 May 2010

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With South Africa's World Cup football tournament due to kick off on 11 June, de Volkskrant and AD report that al-Qaeda is planning attacks on the Dutch and Danish teams in revenge for insults in the two countries’ media to the prophet Mohammed.

The claims come from a 30-year-old Saudi Arabian, Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani, who was recently arrested in Iraq. He said, "The aim is to attack the teams and their supporters. If we cannot hit the teams, then we will target the supporters."

Part of the reason why the FIFA World Cup was chosen for an attack is because it is easier to travel to South Africa. But no preparations had actually been made and the plan still reportedly had to be approved by al-Qaeda leaders.

Mr al-Qahtani, who has been in Iraq since 2004, was arrested after a letter from him outlining the plans was found in a raid on al-Qaeda leaders.

The Dutch squad, which is flying to Austria today for training, was not aware of the threat reports AD. A spokesperson for the South African police said they were awaiting information from their Iraqi colleagues.

AD writes that The Dutch football association KNVB spoke with the foreign ministry and the Dutch ambassador in South Africa last night to assess the gravity of the threat.

The KNVB had already appointed its own expert to monitor security matters. The foreign ministry has the last word on the Dutch squad's security arrangements.

Election campaign hots up a little It looks like the election campaign in the Netherlands is finally getting into full swing. The start of the campaign was postponed out of respect for the victims of last week's plane crash in Libya, after over 70 passengers turned out to be Dutch nationals. Trouw prints a photo of the Dutch parliament commemorating the dead.

"Labour gets into a panic" is the headline in populist paper De Telegraaf. The announcement that Job Cohen's Labour Party has added another 10 billion euros' worth of cuts to its manifesto budget was gratefully sprung upon by the other parties. AD writes that the "radical change of course smelt like fear", adding to the image that economic affairs were not Job Cohen's strongest point. De Volkskrant is somewhat milder in its criticism and explains that the announcement only specifies where the party would make the cuts which had already been earmarked in its manifesto.

Meanwhile, Trouw reflects on the fate of successful mayors, like Job Cohen, who return to the hard political world of The Hague. Former Amsterdam mayor, Ed van Thijn returned to a ministerial post in 1994, but he was forced to resign after just four months. He even wrote a book on his short stint as minister entitled, Return ticket to The Hague.

Who should rule the skies? "Who should be the really rule the skies?" asks Protestant daily Trouw. The question has arisen after criticism that Dutch airspace was closed unnecessarily earlier this week. "Everyone went to bed thinking there was nothing wrong, and the next day it was closed," complains a KLM spokesperson.

The process is as follows: the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre VAAC maps the ash cloud and indicates whether concentrations are high or low. These maps are passed on to the Dutch met office, which assesses whether or not planes should fly. It is the minister who takes the final decision, in consultation with other countries.

Flights were grounded at three Dutch airports on Monday and tens of thousands of passengers stranded. Pieter Hartman, KLM CEO, called the measure an "overreaction".

The International Air Transport Association IATA also criticised European leaders yesterday because they did not base their decisions on the facts. IATA wants to see a similar system to the US introduced in Europe. The US authorities close down airspace, but airlines are free to take the risk. That means pilots are the boss.

Eurocontrol, which coordinates European air traffic, however, disagrees with introducing this system as there are many more flights in European airspace than in US airspace and there is less room. Parents getting the message about under-age drinking Parents are starting to get the message that alcohol is not good for their offspring. De Volkskrant says that just four years ago, 25 percent of parents in the southern province of Brabant did not see anything wrong with under-age drinking. Now, nine out of ten parents think teenagers should keep off the drink until they turn 16, which is the legal age for alcohol consumption in the Netherlands.

Supermarkets have also become stricter about selling alcohol to youngsters, but researchers at Twente University have discovered that sports clubs and pubs still flaunt the rules.

In 2006, the province of Brabant set aside 800,000 euros for a campaign against under-age drinking. The province's teenagers were among Europe's heaviest under-age drinkers with 90 percent drinking before they reached 16.

Under-age drinking affects the development of the brain and damages various organs and can lead to alcoholism later in life. The researchers do not have statistics on whether teenagers are actually drinking less, but they think the change in parents' perceptions is encouraging. "Drinking often begins at home. That is why the parents attitude to drinking is important." Curiously, most parents think other parents do not do enough to prevent their children from drinking alcohol.

Royal couple's travel expenses cut Cuts, cuts and more cuts. It is all you ever hear about in Dutch politics nowadays. But Prince Willem Alexander and Princess Máxima probably did not expect to hear the announcement that their travel budget would be cut by half while they were walking down Happy Street at the Shanghai World Expo yesterday. Freesheet Spits pictures the royal couple smiling and waving to well wishers as they visit the 2010 Dutch Expo exhibit. Meanwhile, the paper warns that they may have to start using their airmiles after their travel expenses were reduced to just 305,000 euros a year.

NRC Handelsblad notes the poor timing of the announcement as the royal plane KBX has just been refurbished making it more expensive to use. At the moment all 17 members of the royal family are allowed to use the government plane for private trips. In future, only Queen Beatrix will be entitled to fly entirely for free.


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