Dutch Press Review Friday 18 May 2012

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Today’s news is all about the Netherlands’ 2013 austerity budget ushering in yet more cutbacks. The trial of Ratko Mladic is also big news while the Dutch soccer squad hits Switzerland.[media:factfile]

All but one of today’s papers lead with analyses of the 2013 budget deal done by the government - just after it fell – with the support of three opposition parties. The Spring Accord comprises a raft of reforms and cutbacks, and is designed to reduce the 2013 budget deficit to three percent of GDP, the limit set by the European Union.

The outgoing minority government of conservative VVD and Christian Democrats, managed to clinch the deal in less than two days with support from the Green Left, D66 democrats and the Christian Union party. Details of the cuts package emerged on Wednesday but, as yesterday was a public holiday in the Netherlands, the papers are only now responding to the news.

Extra cuts package criticised
“Hard workers hit” screams the headline in De Telegraaf, dubbing the responsible political parties an “opportunistic coalition”. The paper complains that working people will bear the brunt of the “drastic measures” contained in the savings package. Although the deal earmarks four billion euros for alleviating hardship amongst particular groups within society, there is “more than 12.2 billion euros of pain left”, fumes the paper.

“Everyone will feel the pain of the cuts” agrees AD. It reports that both young and old will see major losses in disposable income, with working and retired people being especially hard hit. The paper says unions and groups representing the elderly are up in arms about the measures. It goes on to warn that people receiving pensions above 10,000 euros a year will suffer a loss of purchasing power far higher than other people on similar incomes.

Nrc.next joins in the chorus, reporting that the Spring Accord is “under fire” and that critics say the cuts will slow economic growth and will lead to an unnecessary increase in unemployment. The paper notes that local councils will be forced to bank funds with the government, thus losing out on high interest payments.

A prominent member of the VVD party sees the accord as “an outstandingly good result” for Green Left negotiators. He points out that there will be higher taxes on the use of fossil fuels, people earning over 150,000 euros a year will pay 16 percent extra income tax, while VAT on solar panels will be reduced to 6 percent.

The cuts and the election
De Volkskrant focuses on the political fallout of the deal made by the outgoing minority government with three opposition parties to keep the 2013 budget deficit within the EU limit. “Spring Accord slices new chasm through politics” is its headline.

The paper believes the forthcoming election – on 12 September – will see a whole new balance of power in Dutch politics. It says the election will be fought on the accord. Who is for or against reform - for or against sound national finances - for or against Europe?

It explains the only point the five parties which drew up the Spring Accord have in common is the desire to keep government finances under control. The deal is a mixture of compromises but each party has something in the package they can sell to their voters during the election. The paper thinks they will have to do everything they can to keep up the euphoria which greeted their decisiveness in clinching the cross-party deal. The question is whether they will be able to resist the “storm of protest” from the other opposition parties during the campaign.

Trouw agrees that the Spring Accord is going to dominate the election, but thinks the result will be a rather confusing campaign: despite defending the cuts package as a whole, the parties involved won’t spare each other when it comes to electioneering aimed at their own “market of voters”.

The court as classroom
Nrc.next is one of the papers reporting that the war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic - taking place in The Hague - has been suspended indefinitely after the prosecution’s opening speeches. Prosecutors have admitted that they failed to hand over evidence to the defence in time. The court will announce “as soon as possible” the date on which the trial will resume.

Meanwhile, de Volkskrant reports that Mladic’s lawyers say they will need “at least six months” to study the evidence, rumoured to comprise over one million pages.

De Volkskrant also runs a separate piece detailing the difficult relationship between the trial judge, Dutch lawyer Alphons Orie, and the defendant. The paper maintains that people condemned to each other’s company for long periods of time – such as the trial judge and the defendant – soon display fixed patterns of behaviour. It says The Hague courtroom often feels like a classroom, with the judge taking the role of the teacher and Mladic that of a recalcitrant and rebellious pupil who has concentration problems.

The teacher has resigned himself to the fact that this boy is a pain in the neck and so doesn’t get worked up when regularly having to tell him off. “Mr Mladic, concentrate on what is going on in the courtroom”, Judge Orie is quoted as saying. The paper says the judge, just like a seasoned teacher, has resigned himself to the fact that this “pupil” can torment him by, for example, once again proclaiming to the court that he is “seriously ill”.

Orange in Lausanne
Finally, a couple of papers run front-page reports that the Dutch national football squad has decamped to Lausanne in Switzerland to train for Euro 2012. Neither paper wastes the opportunity to feature snaps of our boys in orange.

“The young ones, European Champions! – Now the grown-ups!” is the headline in AD. It reports that the Dutch under-17s returned from Ljubljana with the European youth trophy on the same day that the senior Dutch squad left for Lausanne. The paper says players’ families are welcome in Lausanne for the first few days of training and features photos of some of the soccer stars with their wives and children.

De Telegraaf runs just one family snapshot - of Dirk Kuyt holding his young son on his way into the hotel. It also finds space for a photo of a bare-chested Wesley Sneijder, gazing from his “luxury” hotel balcony over Lake Geneva, and for a shot of Klass-Jan Huntelaar sporting the black eye he got during a friendly match in the United States.