What would you call a political party whose representatives in the national legislature repudiate party leadership and the party name? Which can’t find any way to pay around €200,000 in debts? You’d call it a dead political party, for sure. And this is the case with the Dutch party LPF, whose eight members in the Tweede Kamer announced Tuesday afternoon that they had repudiated their party membership. “LPF” stands for Lijst Pim Fortuyn, so anyone wondering what became of the legacy of that Dutch politician, himself assassinated in May, 2002, just before a general election, can know that it has all come to this rather sorry end. (more…)
You’ll be glad to know that the Dutch government approved last Friday an extension to the deployment of that country’s around 1300 troops in Iraq, who otherwise would have packed up and left next month. You may recall that there were increasing doubts about whether having troops there was really such a good thing, especially after the first Dutch soldier was killed last month (coverage of that was itself covered, of course, here in EuroSavant). But now in fact what’s been approved is not the usual six-month extension but one of eight months, until March of 2005 – designed to have Dutch troops in place to help provide security for those Iraqi elections scheduled for next January, plus a safety margin of a number of weeks beyond.
What has made all the difference has been that United Nations Security Council resolution on the transfer of sovereignty back to Iraq that was passed unanimously last week, as an analysis in the NRC Handelsblad by René Moerland and Floris van Straaten makes clear (From Dilemma to Necessity – free registration required). (more…)
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…)
Those 1,260 Dutch soldiers now serving in Iraq – are they allowed to shoot if necessary, or not? Surprisingly, especially at this late point (after all, Dutch troops were sent to help out the Coalition forces there late last July), there has seemed to be some confusion on this point for a while now, which finally prompted the predominant house of the Dutch legislature – the Tweede Kamer – actually to interrupt its pre-Spring vacation yesterday to stage a debate on the matter, starring several of the key ministers involved.
That debate, and the affair generally, is covered well both in Het Parool (Troops in Iraq May Shoot) and the NRC Handelsblad (lead article: Chamber Swallows Ministers’ Explanation). Fortunately, it is still true (knock-on-wood) that there have yet been no Dutch casualties in Iraq. On the other hand, there has indeed been one case of those Dutch forces inflicting a casualty (and you truly get the impression that creating victims, for the Dutch, causes just as much shock and horror as becoming them themselves). That was back on 27 December of last year, when sergeant-majoor Erik O. shot an Iraqi looter in the back and killed him – so this was no ordinary trooper, as sergeant-majoor (just as the American sergeant-major) is the highest Dutch army enlisted rank. Sergeant-majoor “O.” was shipped back to the Netherlands and incarcerated there on 1 January – put at freedom a week later, though still under charges. (more…)
The US military may be present in Iraq on the open-ended plan, with no fixed terminal date, but that is hardly true of most of the other Coalition forces – including the Dutch battalion stationed in southern Iraq, whose deployment the Dutch Parliament (specifically, the dominant lower house, or Tweede Kamer) approved for only one year, until next July. As you can well imagine, that upcoming deadline for withdrawal evidently weighed heavily on Colin Powell’s mind on Monday as he met the new Dutch foreign minister, dr. B.R. (for “Bernard Rudolf”) Bot, for their first ever tête-à-tête “getting-to-know-you” lunch. (They had met once before in December at the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. Bot is the new Dutch foreign minister in the first place because Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the previous one, was snatched up to become NATO Secretary General as of the beginning of December; his selection was covered on €S here.)
It’s a little early to be making definitive decisions about whether those Dutch troops are going to stick around for another murderous Iraqi summer (not to mention those murderous Iraqi insurgents – but there hasn’t yet been a Dutch casualty, knock-on-wood). That’s the opening message Bot is said to have delivered to Powell. That may also be why the meeting received relatively little attention in the Dutch press, basically getting it only from the top and the bottom, i.e. from the somewhat-tony NRC Handelsblad (Powell to Bot: Keep Army in Iraq) and from the popular-but-not-quite-gutter-press De Telegraaf (Powell to Bot: Stay Longer in Iraq). Ooooh, those headline similarities are spooky – but oh-so-commanding! (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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
It’s a Saturday, and American troops are camped south of Baghdad, at the airport. Down south, British troops continue to besiege Basra. By this point, the BBC World Service has discontinued its continuous war coverage in order to broadcast Saturday Sportsworld. And that’s a good thing, too; after a week’s break for Euro 2004 national team qualification, there’s a full schedule of English football matches scheduled for today and tomorrow. Just today, Manchester United win 4-0 over Liverpool to go even at the top of the Premiership standings with Arsenal, who draw 1-1 at Aston Villa.
But in the Dutch papers today, it’s all about epidemics. (more…)