Most Dutch morning newspapers pick up where they left off yesterday: there’s more commotion over Wilders’ “anti-Polish” website and light at the end of the tunnel for embattled Dutch Railways. And: tethers for juvenile delinquents, countdown to carnival and three-year-old gets fined for peeing in public.
For a third day running, Geert Wilders and his controversial website - which invites people to post complaints about Central and Eastern Europeans – eclipse all other stories in the leading Dutch newspapers.
[media:factfile]Most of the front pages say it with flowers. “Let their tulips wilt” headlines Trouw above a report from Poland, where the government has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission and where people are fed up with “Dutch xenophobia”.
Some in Poland are now calling for a boycott of Dutch products. Apparently, the outcry is so widespread and so intense that a special logo has been designed in Poland. It shows a black tulip in a red and white stop sign, with the caption “The tulip is fake”.
Trouw explains the symbolism: “the tulip stands for Holland Promotion and a black tulip is the blackest possible pr for the Netherlands.” Other papers, too, express concern about the reputation of the Netherlands and about possible economic and political repercussions.
“Businesses damaged by website”, is the banner headline of de Volkskrant. The paper displays the tulip logo in a graphic that shows the considerable scale of Dutch exports to Eastern Europe, with Poland the key trading partner.
National reputation dented
“For centuries, the Netherlands and Dutch society used to be seen in our countries as a shining light for freedom and tolerance,” write ten worried Central and Eastern European Ambassadors in an open letter to “Dutch society and its political leaders”. The letter is printed in full on the NRC Handelsblad front page. In it, the diplomats call on Dutch politicians to distance themselves from the website.
The AD notes that conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte has so far refused, on the grounds that the Dutch government has nothing to do with the website, even though it was created by the Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, the cabinet’s key political ally in parliament.
Even De Telegraaf - mouthpiece of the more Rutte-minded section of the electorate - has a veteran conservative leader say that the prime minister “could have emphasized a bit more that East Europeans are hard-working people who do the chores for which no Dutchmen can be found.” He feels the “whole hullabaloo about the website is yet another media hype” from which only one man benefits: Geert Wilders.
For his part, the anti-immigrant Freedom Party leader notes with glee that, in just a few days, his party’s website has drawn 40,000 - mostly anonymous - complaint about Central and Eastern Europeans. The complaints range from “they’re stealing our jobs” to more crime, more alcohol abuse, more noise and more danger on the motorways. “We’ve hit bullseye,” boasts Wilders.
Meanwhile, an Eskimo in an AD cartoon would like to report that two Poles are in the process of melting, but he’s told that Wilders’ website is not the right place to register the impact of climate change on the North and South Pole…
Signalling an end to railway chaos
On a more serious note, De Telegraaf runs a scoop, bringing some good news at last for train passengers, who were left out in the cold last week when the whole network collapsed during a brief spell of winter weather.
The paper has got hold of a leaked report by a parliamentary commission, which is convinced that “trains can run both faster and safer” if a new safety system is introduced.
The commission has also found that the European Rail Traffic Management System, as it’s called, is not as expensive as both Dutch Railways (NS) and rail network operator ProRail would like us to believe.
Besides, the new system would render old-fashioned signaling obsolete, as it would “have trains communicate directly with the tracks and make them stop automatically in case of danger.” The report will be presented to parliament on Thursday.
Anklets for juvenile delinquents
The AD leads with a story on ankle monitors for juvenile delinquents. This summer, the Dutch youth authorities will start strapping electronic devices, known as tethers, to the ankles of young repeat offenders who’ve been convicted for serious crimes. This will allow them to monitor these youngsters day and night and thus keep them on the straight and narrow.
“It’s quite an invasive scheme,” a senior official admits, but it will help them keep their promises of good behaviour once they’re out of prison and the tethers will only be used for adolescents over 15 years of age.
Countdown to carnival: Hello, Sailor!
Two festive front-page photographs clearly indicate it’s that time of year again. Well almost, because the final countdown to carnival is well under way. The big parade, slated for Monday in most southern Dutch towns and cities, follows a weekend of singing, boozing, dancing and flirting.
And dressing up of course. Sailor costumes are this year’s trend, reports De Telegraaf, not because they’re comfortable or easy to wear, but because you can use them for other events too - like “Loveboat”, a mass concert by Holland’s top singers later this year. And “re-usability comes in handy in times of crisis”, notes the paper.
Toddler fined for peeing
Carnival revelers be warned: emptying your bladder in public could cost you dearly. It’s what a three-year-old boy from Amsterdam found out on his way to the crèche. Because the toddler was unable to hold it in any longer, his mother let him pee in the street.
Just then, De Telegraaf reports, a police officer rode by on a motorbike and happily slapped a hefty 120-euro fine on the boy. “What a sad way for the police to fill their coffers,” a bystander was heard to say.