Dutch Press Review Friday 22 June 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.

The financial future looks – even – bleaker and there are fears of second-class health insurance. To make matters worse, there’s war in the Labour Party... and on the streets of Haelen.[media:factfile]

The guarantee state
If you thought the economic situation couldn’t get any worse, think again. The Dutch audit office has produced a report saying the financial risks run by the government are growing ever greater. In the last four years alone, nrc.next tells us, 'explicit' government guarantees have almost doubled to an enormous 465 billion euros – 77 percent of GDP.

These include the government’s scheme for guaranteeing Dutch mortgages up to a certain value, and its pledge to honour loans to Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Nrc.next quotes one official as saying that the Netherlands has changed “from a welfare state into a guarantee state”.

Spiralling European debt has, it seems, resulted in the Dutch state becoming increasingly less able to cover its financial risks. The audit office goes on to say that the 465 billion figure is just the explicit part of the story.

The state’s 'implicit' financial risks – for example the risk it would run if the whole financial system was in danger of collapse, as was the case in 2008 - are much more difficult to calculate, nrc.next explains.

The report in de Volkskrant is not so reticent and puts a figure on it. The government guarantees the Dutch financial sector to the tune of 2,200 billion euros, we are told. The audit office is recommending that the government make regular risk assessments and pass the information on to MPs.

In response to the report, Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager assures us that he is continuously analysing the financial risks run by the government. Oh well, that’s all right then.

Survival of the fittest
Still on money, but on a more human scale, Trouw warns that “Health insurers have their eyes on profitable, healthy customers”. New research commissioned by patients’ groups show that it pays health insurance companies to select their customers.

The arithmetic is simple: on average, a highly educated person or student brings insurers about 140 euros profit a year, on the other hand, chronically sick people can end up costing insurers thousands of euros annually. Around one-third of the population belong to this latter group.

Insurance companies are already offering special policies tailored to the needs of certain groups, such as students or highly qualified people. Both groups are statistically healthier than less well-educated people.

Patients groups are warning that the government is lowering the levels of compensation it gives health insurers with large numbers of costly customers. Ministers say this will force the health companies to buy in cheaper care but, says Trouw, critics fear the move will simply push insurers into selecting the people they are willing to cover.

War or fighting spirit in Labour?
The Labour Party has presented its draft list of candidates to contest the 12 September election, and it’s quite a shake-up, reports de Volkskrant. Some sitting MPs have been demoted down the list, lessening their chances of returning to parliament.

The Labour leadership is, naturally enough, putting a positive spin on the list which should become definitive once approved by the party’s congress on 30 June. The new candidates are “social and activist” and the accent has been placed on "international and cultural" aspects, de Volkskrant tells us. The new candidates are being encouraged to employ their “fighting spirit” to push Labour up in the opinion polls.

According to De Telegraaf, though, this fighting spirit is being channelled elsewhere: “War in Labour over list” reads its headline. The paper says the revamped candidate list has ruined the mood in the party, with both sitting MPs and new candidates “spewing bile” at the choices made by the leadership.

AD broadly agrees and its headline sums up its take on the situation: “Gossip and backbiting about candidate list splits Labour”. It says that new party leader Diederik Samsom is being accused of treating those dropped down or off the list with contempt, while the leadership as a whole is coming under attack from those outside the magic circle.

My home is my castle
In what looks like a report about another kind of war, the front page of De Telegraaf is dominated by three enormous photographs. In one, a man hurls what looks like firebombs out of an upstairs window of a house. In another picture, a policeman trains a gun on the man while fellow officers flee for cover.

In uncharacteristic understatement, De Telegraaf explains that the situation “escalated” when council workers arrived to remove the protective fence the man had constructed round his house in Haelen in the south of the Netherlands. He and his family had decided to build the defences because they felt threatened by two residents of a nearby mobile-homes camp.

A legal battle ensued between the family and the council, and a judge eventually ruled that the fence should be removed. When council workers tried to demolish the fence yesterday, the man defended his property “like a medieval castle lord”, using a bow and arrow and Molotov cocktails.

Only after officers forced their way into the house, De Telegraaf explains, did the man beat his retreat. He was finally arrested around midnight.