The Netherlands Reconsiders

Friday, November 14th, 2003

A young Italian soldier on guard duty in the night, standing before the pile of rubble that used to be the headquarters of the carabinieri in Nasariya, Iraq, before the suicide truck-bombing early Wednesday that killed eighteen of his comrades, despairingly grips his head. That picture dominated the front pages of most Italian newspapers yesterday (at least according to the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad). The Dutch have soldiers on duty in southern Iraq too, not very far at all from where the Italians were stationed and operating under the same British command. It’s understandable that they are starting to think again about what they have let themselves get into.

The lower house of the Dutch parliament (the Tweede Kamer) certainly is, as we will see. And as for newspapers, at least the NRC is also pondering the question. So far things still seem safe for the Dutch soldiers there, it reports in an article entitled Bullet-Proof Vest and Helmet Back On. (But it’s actually unlikely that those vests are bullet-proof, or even the helmets for that matter; I deal with this question, in the context of my own experiences in the American army, in this article.) (more…)

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Freedom to Gyrate Violated in Egypt

Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

You thought the failure of the WTO talks in Cancún in September was foreboding! Now the rising tide of world protectionism has reached a thousands-year-old cultural practice, reports the NRC Handelsblad (Belly-Dance Under Fire in Egypt, featuring an appealing photo of one sharply-sculpted practitioner in mid-shimmy. Yes, let’s drive traffic to the NRC’s site; first-time visitors will have to register though, in Dutch. E-mail me if you can’t figure it out.) Egypt is set to ban foreign belly-dancers from its territory. (more…)

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Balkenende Tries to Make Poland See Reason

Wednesday, October 29th, 2003

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…)

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Looking Towards 2040

Thursday, October 23rd, 2003

One big piece of current news in the Netherlands is the release of a comprehensive report from the Centraal Planbureau (CPB) on “The Future of Europe.” That “Central Plan Bureau,” despite its name, does not occupy itself with any sort of economic planning – i.e. in the socialist sense (as in the old Soviet Gosplan) of presuming to choreograph the national economy by calculating how that economy should work to achieve given national objectives, and then issuing instructions to economic actors about what they are to do. Rather, it is roughly the equivalent, say, of America’s National Bureau of Economic Research, except that the CPB is not private but rather publicly-funded, organizationally being part of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. Nonetheless, the CPB claims that it is quite objective and independent in the research it performs and conclusions it draws, even if it is formally part of the government.

Back in 1992 the CPB produced, and released to the public, its “Scanning the Future” report, a long-term study of the future of Europe and of the Netherlands based upon a general-equilibrium economic model it had developed, called “Worldscan.” “Scanning the Future” was built around four different long-term scenarios of how the future might look, depending on what assumptions you adopted. Like that earlier report, the just-released “Four Futures of Europe” – written in English – is also constructed around four long-term scenarios. (more…)

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Flood of Brussels Complaints in Dutch Press

Saturday, October 18th, 2003

If the Dutch on-line press is any indication, opinion in the Netherlands over the results of the just-completed European summit in Brussels (which was supposed to make progress towards a final European Constitution) is no higher than in France (covered in the following entry). Indeed, these articles offer some key updates to developments. (more…)

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Holland Takes Aim at Stability Pact Violators

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

Today is “Holland Day”! (To read why, see my previous post for today, below.) And this time I have a fairly serious subject to treat, namely the seeming determination on the part of highest Dutch government officials that the Stability and Growth Pact (hereafter just “Stability Pact”), which was added to European law in 1997 and whose key provision is that governments are not allowed to run budget deficits of more than 3% of their GDP, be enforced. When governments violate this rule, they’re supposed to be fined millions of euros by the European Commission; Germany and France are about to violate it for the third year in a row (Italy is also apparently a violator), and, as we’ll see, the Dutch together with some of their friends within the EU want to see those fines applied, even if it happens to be the two most influential countries against which that would happen, the very “motor” of EU development. (more…)

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Dutch Are Unimpressed by Bush Speech

Thursday, September 11th, 2003

I’d like to follow up Tuesday’s treatment of the French press’ reaction to President Bush’s speech of last Sunday evening on Iraq and Afghanistan with a look at the Dutch press. Remember that the Dutch were rather more supportive of America’s drive for war with Iraq last spring than were the French/Germans/Belgians. Plus, the Dutch are already there on occupation, with a battalion-plus down south in the British sector, and have been since July. So did Bush’s address fall on more sympathetic ears in Holland? Nah – although at least there were fewer adjectives like “infantile” trotted out.

(For those of you who don’t feel like “going below the fold” to “More…”, tomorrow my ambition is to get reactions to the stabbing of the deceased Swedish foreign minister and euro advocate (that is, the common currency) Anna Lindh from my “Sweden-surrogate” – i.e. the Danish press. There might very well be something there to write about, or there might not: latest reports indicate that her attacker was merely your random lunatic, with no particular axe to grind (unfortunate choice of metaphor?) concerning the referendum on adopting the euro that will (or is supposed to) occur in Sweden on Sunday.) (more…)

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Get Your Grass in Amsterdam – Legally!

Monday, September 1st, 2003

Hi! I’m back, and I’m enjoying Labor Day (a public holiday) here in the USA. Don’t go accusing me of “holiday arbitrage” – i.e. of heading to the States to celebrate their version of labor’s holiday after having first celebrated Europe’s version. You see, 1 May is not really a holiday in the Netherlands, not because of any less dedication on the part of the Dutch to the working man (indeed, one of the major political parties is the Partij van de Arbeid, or “Party of Work”) but because of the previous day, 30 April, which is a major holiday in Holland, namely the Queen’s birthday.

Still, there’s always time for a homesick glance back to the country of residence even from across the ocean, via the Internet, naturally. And today, 1 September, is itself a date of some note, at least according to the NRC Handelsblad: From today, in the Netherlands marijuana can be legally purchased by prescription for medicinal purposes. (more…)

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Dutch Ministry of Defense Discovers It’s Hot in Iraq

Tuesday, August 12th, 2003

That battalion of marines that makes up the core of the 1,164 Dutch troops on occupation duty in southern Iraq will be going home earlier than originally planned – after four months, rather than after six. The NRC Handelsblad, along with several of its competitors in the Dutch press yesterday revealed this latest decision from the Ministry of Defense. The reason? It turns out it can get awful hot in Iraq, with temperatures climbing to 45 or even 50 degrees Centigrade (that’s 113 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit);as a result it would be “not responsible,” according to the Ministry, to make the marines stay there for the full six months. (more…)

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Belgium Backs Off

Monday, June 23rd, 2003

There goes another one of my favorite weblog-entry subjects! The Belgian government is now in the process of modifying its infamous “genocide law” (formally known as “law of universal competence” – the law that used to allow criminal complaints from anyone, from anywhere, against anyone, from anywhere, whom they could charge with crimes against humanity) so that it more-or-less conforms to the sort of legislation most other countries have for the prosecution against those sorts of serious crimes. Crucially, with the changes that are now being added either the accuser or the accused must be of Belgian nationality or must have at least lived in Belgium for three years. (EuroSavant recently had the occasion to discuss this law, and the displeasure it was prompting among American officials, here.) (more…)

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“Law of Universal Incompetence”?

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

Remember that “genocide law” in Belgium (formally known in English as the “law of universal competence,” and which EuroSavant first commented upon a few weeks ago here)? The one that allows anyone, from anywhere, to take to court in Belgium anyone, from anywhere, whom they wish to accuse of committing violations of human rights and/or of the laws of war? It has by no means gone away; indeed, lately Belgian-American tensions have risen to new highs. (more…)

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Slovakia Votes “Yes” to EU Accession

Sunday, May 18th, 2003

One of EuroSavant’s reader services, as regular visitors to this site will have noticed from past entries, is tracking the series of referenda by which EU candidate countries will (presumably) approve their entry into EU membership on 1 May 2004. Earlier this month Lithuanians voted in favor. This weekend it was the turn of Slovakia, and according to most press reports the important question was not whether “Yes” votes would prevail, but whether there would be enough votes cast, whether “Yes” or “No,” to attain at least the level of 50% participation which would make the referendum valid. It seems that that did indeed come to pass: according to the president of the Slovak electoral commission, Julius Fodor, 52.15% of eligible votes were cast, of which 92.46% were in favor of EU accession. (more…)

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Bush to Sleep in French Bed After All

Saturday, April 26th, 2003

A quick note for those of you who picked up my reference to the recent report in the New York Times that, as a sign of his current displeasure with France, President Bush would spend his nights at a hotel just over the border in Switzerland when he attends the G8 summit in France at the beginning of June. Now the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad writes that Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer, reacting to that NYT report, has stated that the President will certainly stay overnight in France. (more…)

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You Think You Got Problems?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2003

Talk about a media “Iraq Withdrawal Syndrome”: The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad yesterday topped its front page with an article about how the Dutch Parliament (the Tweede Kamer) now finds the establishment of a central registration office of vital importance for the tracking of the various underground cables, waterpipes, and other conduits winding, snaking, and tangling their way underneath Dutch cities. (more…)

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