It has finally happened, but you knew it was only a matter of time: the first Dutch soldier has fallen in Iraq, just yesterday (Monday). And the timing was significant, if only as a reflection of the breakdown of what public order there was in much of that country over the past few weeks. It might be even more significant when you consider that a decision is coming due as to whether to extend the deployment of Dutch troops in Iraq after the 17 July end of their current mandate there. Doubts about doing that were starting to surface in the Dutch legislature, even before this latest, fatal incident. (more…)
The Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad has an interesting section covering tech developments called Internet and PC, in its on-line edition too, and the subject of weblogs written by Dutch politicians was recently treated there, in an article entitled Blogging for the People by Reinoud den Haan. The star Dutch political blogger, whose on-line work has already attracted some attention due to his leading role in several current controversies (such as the French & German violation of the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact), is of course Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm. (Edward, are you out there?) Den Haan’s article does not disappoint: we learn quite a lot about Zalm’s blogging habits, such as that he regularly sits down to write an entry, with “iron discipline,” on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays, and even then he has to be careful, as he finds his weblog to be verslavend, that is, “addictive.” But probably the most surprising thing is that, when he prepares his latest contribution on that regular schedule, he does so at his kitchen table and with pen-and-paper – i.e. not with a laptop, or indeed with any sort of keyboard whatsoever! (“That’s faster,” he explains. “I’m still in the department of those who type with two fingers.”) (more…)
It looks like I’ve gotten my comeuppance for my recent preoccupation on these pages with next summer’s European Cup football championship – and with clam penises (yes, sad but true). Edward over at “A Fistful of Euros” has scooped me on the prospect that has now arisen that the even the Netherlands government’s budget deficit might slip above the Stability Pact’s 3% limit – this when it is the Dutch finance minister Gerrit Zalm (apparently known in internal EU circles as Il Duro, or “the hard-assed one” in Italian) who is raising the biggest stink about Germany and France not meeting that obligation for three years in a row now. He scooped me when I’m the one who lives in Holland!
Fortunately, our division of labor still holds – I can take a look into the Dutch on-line press to see what is being written locally about this predicament. (Frans Groenendijk, in comments to Edward’s post, already examines what Zalm has written on the subject in his own (i.e. Zalm’s) weblog. Frans has one, too.)
Coverage in the NRC Handelsblad is extensive, while in some of the other, more down-market papers it is missing entirely – this is a complicated financial affair that risks making Dutch eyes glaze over in boredom, I guess. For those interested nonetheless, a good place is to start is in their lead article. (more…)
While suicide-bombs explode in Iraq, the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) over the draft EU Constitution goes on. Even though right now there is no actual meeting of government officials occurring, at whatever level, the daunting task still looms of somehow arriving at a Constitution all member-states can agree upon. One can strongly assume that the Italian Foreign Ministry is very busy now in gathering information and making bilateral contacts about how the IGC impassed can be broken. Meanwhile, the draft Constitution is also a topic of discussion as officials from other groups of EU member-states meet.
The Netherlands’ very own premier Jan Peter Balkenende is now on a swing through Eastern Europe, and on Monday he was in Warsaw, meeting with both the Polish president and premier, reports the NRC Handelsblad (Poland Remains Contrary over the EU’s Future). (more…)
Open the envelope, and the winner is . . . Jaap de Hoop Scheffer for next Secretary-General of NATO! And so the Netherlands contributes its third Secretary-General in the history of the Atlantic Alliance, the first two (as only NATO trivia-buffs will know) having been Dirk Stikker and Joseph Luns. Me, I’m slightly disappointed since I was looking forward to seeing the Norwegian Defense Minister, Kristin Krohn Devold, named instead as NATO’s first female Secretary-General. The New York Times Magazine, in a hagiographical article about her that it published back on August 24, virtually promised that this would happen. (That article has by now retreated behind the NYT’s paid archives-access gate; if you think you might like to pay to see it, the link is here.)
No, its Jaap de Hoop Scheffer instead – and surely it’s time here for a survey of the Dutch press to find out how the thinking-class in Holland is reacting to one of its own being picked out for such a crucial international position. What sort of a politician is he? What qualities will he bring to NATO? What is Holland losing by having him (temporarily) plucked away from its political scene? After all, he is currently the Dutch Foreign Affairs minister; and he used to be head of the CDA, the right-wing, somewhat Christian-oriented (“Christian lite,” anybody? – as opposed to the more “hard-core” Christian parties EuroSavant has briefly discussed before) political party which is now the Netherlands’ largest and whose current leader, Jan-Peter Balkenende (the man who replaced De Hoop Scheffer), is prime minister. (more…)
Today is Holland Day at EuroSavant! The good reason for that is that yesterday was Prinsjesdag, or the third Tuesday in September, which is when every year the Dutch Queen Beatrix rides an elaborate, old-fashioned coach to the Binnenhof in the Hague, the Dutch house of parliament, to read out a speech which the current government provides her with, which lays out that government’s program for the year. It probably comes as no surprise to you that this year’s government program has already provoked much wailing and gnashing of teeth: €10 billion to be saved this fiscal year, €7 billion the next, and so cut-backs in all sorts of government programs and services held dear by Dutch society.
Given that good reason to make today “Holland Day,” though, I’m going to ignore it – too boring, and too specific to Dutch conditions. If you don’t live here, why would you want to know about that? In fact, you’ve already discovered everything you would want and need to know in my two sentences above.
No, if it’s to be “Holland Day,” let’s devote our attention to something a bit more interesting, to a phenomenon out of Dutch society that does pique the interest even of those who are not native Hollanders: bordellos. Does it come as a surprise to you that, recently, even the municipal authorities of Rotterdam have gotten themselves in to the business of setting up a bawdy house? (more…)
Now that we’ve been on the subject in recent days of the support in various countries for the deployment of their troops on occupation duty in Iraq (Hungary and Poland already discussed), this article from the Reformatorisch Dagblad is timely. “Most of the Dutch are for military support in Iraq,” it proclaims in its headline. The particulars (from a survey of one thousand respondents undertaken by the Amsterdam-based TNS NIPO research organization): 60% of those polled supported the Dutch cabinet’s decision to send troops to Iraq, while “almost one-third” want no Dutch military presence in Iraq. Such support comes mainly from the right-wing of the Dutch political spectrum (from CDA and VVD members – and those are the two main parties making up the present governing coalition). Tellingly, 48% of those surveyed considered the actual danger that there will be Dutch killed or wounded to be small; 45% thought that the risk was substantial. Unfortunately, there’s no indication in the article of any attempt to get closer to the “cut-and-run” question that has been the central theme of recent €S coverage: i.e. what degree of Dutch casualties would cause you to start to advocate the unilateral withdrawal from Iraq of the Dutch troops there?
“There are Dutch troops in Iraq?” you may ask. Yes indeed: currently around 1,100 of them deployed in the south, under British command. But it seems that they are slated to pass under Polish command once the Poles and their allies deploy and take over their assigned sector at the beginning of next month. This article here (in English, but from the on-line Agenzia Giornalistica Italia) speaks of both Italy and the Netherlands balking at having to place their troops under Polish command. I don’t find anything yet from the Dutch press to substantiate this unseemly allied squabble, but I will keep on the look-out and let you know of anything that comes up.