Press review Thursday 20 May 2010

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With just three weeks to go before the Dutch parliamentary elections, political parties in The Hague are awaiting the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis’ publication of its findings on whether the figures in their election manifestos add up.

So far the calculations are favourable for the conservative VVD and the Christian Democrats. According to De Telegraaf, the VVD’s plans result in a extra 400,000 jobs, while the Christian Democrats will create 320,000. It’s all slightly embarrassing for the Labour Party which is only set to produce an extra 200,000 jobs. Of course all these jobs will have to be found in the private sector as massive cuts are promised in the civil service.

Labour MP Diederik Samsom argues in De Telegraaf that the two right-wing parties can only achieve their goals by introducing harsh measures against low-income families. He says Labour’s plans will leave families better off. In response, the Christian Democrats and VVD say: it is no wonder that Labour is unable to create many jobs because they will have to make huge cuts to fill the hole in their proposed budget.

In the polls, the VVD are ahead with 37 seats as the positive effect of hauling Amsterdam’s popular mayor Job Cohen to The Hague to lead the Labour Party wears off. Trouw writes that, for the first time, VVD leader Mark Rutte is openly speculating about having a VVD prime minister. Whether he will be the man to take that position is unclear. Prominent VVD member and European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has also said she is available.

Meanwhile, it is looking less likely that the Christian Democrats will be supplying the next PM. Yesterday’s polls predicted Jan Peter Balkenende’s party at a low with just 21 seats. With just one Cabinet meeting to go, he will have fewer opportunities to use his position as prime minister to demonstrate his statesmanship.

All the candidates will have to brush up on their debating skills, as the first confrontation between party leaders takes place tomorrow on the radio. A televised debate will follow on Sunday with the leaders of the four largest parties.

Cost of migration is “shocking” Staying with politics, Sunday’s debate will include Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party. It will be interesting to see whether his anti-Islam views will dominate the debate. Trouw reports that, while all had just about gone quiet around the Freedom Party, Geert Wilders has now published a study into how much non-Western immigrants cost. The research was carried out at the request of the Freedom Party after Integration Minister Eberhard van de Laan refused to calculate the cost of immigration last year.

Geert Wilders calls the outcome of the study “shocking”. Nyfer research agency puts the cost of immigration at 7.2 billion euros per year. “The fact that mass immigration is a financial disaster as well, confirms the need to take the measures the Freedom Party wants to see,” says Mr Wilders.

The party wants an immigration stop for people from non-Western backgrounds because of their “backward religion” quotes the paper. It also wants benefits withheld from people who have lived in the Netherlands less than ten years. Mr Wilders wants to say “farewell to unemployed foreigners”.

When the Freedom Party published the agency’s preliminary findings, Nyfer complained that its figures had been taken out of context. Trouw writes that high numbers of refugees do receive benefits and they pay less tax, because when members of this group are employed they have lower paid jobs. Non-Western immigrants only contribute positively to the treasury between the ages of 30 and 54 compared to the ages of 25 and 65 for Dutch nationals. Added to this, non-Western immigrants are over-represented in crime figures which also makes them more expensive as a group. Looks like we are in for a interesting confrontation in the campaign’s political debates.

The euro is limping along A 50 eurocent coin the size of a dinner plate is all but covering the entire front page of The common European currency was a nice dream, but we are about to wake up, the paper says. And it's all because of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's assessment that the euro is in danger after the costly bailout granted to near-bankrupt Greece. Ms Merkel fears that if the euro fails, the European Union fails.

AD chimes in on its front page, accusing the Germans of panic-mongering. "Politicians should keep their mouths shut now to avoid unrest," Dutch economics professor Sylvester Eijffinger complains. Germany's hurried unilateral ban on currency speculation is only worsening matters, he says. But Dutch Labour MP Paul Tang agrees with Ms Merkel: "Speculation is gambling, and we can do without that now."

But says it's already too late, reminding us that the euro countries can never emulate the United States' dollar economy. Europe has little job mobility because of its internal language barriers, and the stabilising effect of federal money, the paper reminds us.

Germany putting its own interest first spells the end of solidarity between the eurozone countries, predicts. The euro currency would then be no more than a revived Deutschmark used regionally in northern Europe. Ms Merkel is taking considerable risks by going it alone, the paper warns in its editorial.

Chemotherapy bomb new weapon against cancer De Volkskrant leads with a story about a new cancer treatment: the chemotherapy bomb which is being developed by researchers of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. The idea is that little thermo-sensitive fat balls filled with chemotherapy drugs are 'detonated' in the tumour. This is done by heating the growth to 42 degrees Celsius.

“Within a couple of minutes the little fat balls exude the drugs,” explains Gerben Koning, head of Tumour Manipulation and Targeting TMT “This is very important, because in order to kill the tumour cells you need to reach the highest possible concentrations of drugs as quickly as possible.”

As the chemotherapy bomb only targets the affected tissue, there are supposed to be fewer side effects and the chance of survival is a lot higher. In the coming years the effect of the chemotherapy bomb on human beings will be researched further.

Dutch journalist hurt in Thai clampdown The Netherlands was slightly shaken by the news yesterday that one of its own correspondents was hit by a bullet as Thai soldiers cleared the streets of Bangkok of Red Shirt demonstrators. De Volkskrant reports that Michel Maas was shot in the ribs as he was being interviewed by telephone for Dutch public radio. Red Shirt demonstrators put him on the back of someone’s moped and he was rushed to hospital. “I was unbelievably lucky. The bullet did not hit anything important,” says Mr Maas.

Others were less lucky. Many of the papers carry a photograph of a lifeless body lying on the road, while soldiers nearby continue to shoot. No-one is laughing today in the ‘land of smiles’.



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