“Utter nonsense,” says the Queen, and the press are in an uproar. Two sporting giants are felled. There’s even more doom and gloom on the housing market. And a government minister gets embroiled in a very Dutch sex scandal. Welcome to today’s Dutch dailies.
Beatrix’s headscarf comment ruffles feathers
Earlier this week it looked like the row over Queen Beatrix wearing a headscarf on her official visit to Oman and the United Arab Emirates had blown over. But an unguarded royal remark has made it front-page news today.
Queen Beatrix has ruffled a few feathers by dismissing the suggestion that the headscarf is a symbol of the oppression of women as “utter nonsense”. The papers reckon her comment is born of frustration at repeated attacks by anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders.
NRC Handelsblad tells us he described the sight of the Queen in a headscarf as “a sad and sorry spectacle”.
Trouw reports that “the Queen has hit a nerve with her headscarf remark” and notes that “never before has she become so openly involved in a political discussion”. All of the papers remind us that, as head of state, she should steer clear of such shenanigans.
Comment: the Queen should rise above
De Volkskrant seems to be torn in two. On the one hand, it’s delighted at the Queen’s outspokenness: “It’s good that Beatrix hit back at Wilders, and that she found the right words.” But on the other hand, it warns “she shouldn’t acquire a taste for it. Her independent, irreproachable position largely depends on the extent to which she succeeds in not becoming directly involved in politics”.
This last sentiment is echoed by AD, which reckons that “the Queen should not let herself be provoked” and comments “now she has left herself unnecessarily vulnerable”.
De Telegraaf takes a different tack and slams Geert Wilders in no uncertain terms: “It is only fitting that a head of state should respect the traditions and conventions of other countries [...] It’s outrageous that a major political party in this country assumes that our head of state should stoop to offending against the customs and religions of others.”
The most concise comment comes from Trouw’s cartoonist, who depicts the Queen with the offending garment tied around her mouth like a gag, alongside the comment “here’s one headscarf Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party will tolerate ...”
Not-so-jolly hockey sticks
Given the national obsession with football, it’s easy to forget that the Dutch can match the best in the world on the hockey field too. So the news that the national coach has axed two of his star players only six months before the Olympics has – as AD puts it – “sent a shockwave through the world of hockey”.
Admittedly, Taeke Taekema and Teun de Nooijer are not exactly household names, but de Volkskrant explains the significance of their being sidelined. “It’s as if Rinus Michels had said to Johan Cruyff in 1974 that he wouldn’t be playing at the World Cup in Germany.”
The paper wonders whether the coach’s decision is “a masterstroke or a brutal beheading”. De Telegraaf is more forthright, with its headline “icons on the scrapheap”. The paper gives the coach – who goes by the unfortunate name of Paul van Ass – a chance to defend his radical move: “If you remove two giant trees from the forest, the smaller trees, shrubs and plants will get more sunshine.”
We’ll just have to wait and see how much sunshine there is to go around after the Dutch have done battle for Olympic glory without the likes of De Nooijer, who De Telegraaf describes simply as “the Netherlands’ greatest ever hockey player”.
Housing market sinks further into doldrums
All today’s papers give major coverage to the sorry state of the Dutch housing market. Trouw notes that “the situation on the housing market deteriorated considerably in the last three months of 2011”, with prices dropping even more rapidly than earlier in the year. AD reports a 4.1 percent fall in value last year and predicts a further 5 percent drop in the year ahead.
De Telegraaf is alarmed by the “gaping chasm between asking price and selling price” and “the consumer’s total lack of confidence” in the market. It talks to an expert who warns “dreamers who think they can still get the original asking price would be better taking their house off the market”.
It’s not doom and gloom everywhere though. De Volkskrant takes a look at the northern city of Groningen, which it describes as “a bubble of optimism” and a place where “houses are still sold fairly quickly”. Alas, “just a few kilometres down the road, all that changes”.
A very Dutch sex scandal
Normally the Dutch press aren’t all that hot for gossip. But today De Telegraaf makes and exception for Henk Bleker, Minister for Agriculture and Foreign Trade, with front-page paparazzi snaps of him and his 26-year-old girlfriend. Mr Bleker himself is pushing 60.
You can forget sizzling sex scenes on luxury yachts, however. A quick paddle and a stroll along the beach is as steamy as it gets. They’re not even holding hands for goodness sake!
Undaunted, AD tells us that “Bleker’s relationship is a hot topic” prompting “sniggers, shrugs and surprise”. One indignant Twitter commentator even has a go at satire: “What kind of government is this? Not only do I have to look out for my own health and make sure my money’s safe, now I have to lock up my daughter too!”