Press Review Friday 15 April 2011

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

Corruption, cronyism and another public shooting incident dominate the drama in today’s dailies. The parents of the gunman who went on a shooting rampage at a shopping centre last Saturday cry out to the community, offering comfort. But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel – personified by ‘le prince soleil’, Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander.

Competition watchdog chief faces charges
The Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) is a national organisation established to stamp out corruption in business circles. Today’s papers are awash with an affair concerning its chief, Pieter Kalbfleisch, who, writes De Telegraaf on its front page, is one of the country’s most best known, glamorous high-society figures, together with his “charming wife”.

The Public Prosecutor has formally accused the Dutch competition regulator’s chief of perjury committed during an enquiry about alleged corruption in a case that goes back to 1996, involving a piece of land beside Schiphol Airport. Mr Kalbfleisch has been given leave of absence while the investigation is underway.

For years, the disadvantaged party has been appealing against a ruling which favoured a friend of Mr Kalbfleisch’s. The judge who presided over the case then was also a close friend and the “successful networker” had whispered more than a word or two in the judge’s ear to influence the outcome.

It took a court clerk to bring the case to light. “Not just any witness,” writes de Volkskrant, but “a respectable-looking woman who held an important position in the court in The Hague for 33 years”. On the eve of Mr Kalbfleisch’s imminent retirement in June, she has stamped his successful career with a different memory, tarnishing it with accusations of cronyism and clientelism.

A jilted lover from the past, she and the NMa chief had a two-year-long relationship, writes de Volkskrant. The lovers even spent a week at a holiday home of the friend for whom Mr Kalbfleisch arranged a favourable court decision in the so-called Chipshol case.

Their relationship cooled after Mr Kalbfleisch married his “charming Marleen”, as De Telegraaf describes her in the caption under a glamour photo of the society duo. In the weeks to come, questions will be raised about how rampant corruption is, given that the head of its highest monitoring body is now under scrutiny himself.

Paperboy part of gunman’s battle
To round up the week, yet another gunman drama is rocking the Netherlands and claiming front page coverage and screaming headlines in the Dutch papers.

Wednesday’s shooting incident in which a 29-year-old woman and a 48-year-old police officer were killed, took place in the northern village of Baflo. The 25-year old perpetrator is an asylum-seeker whose application for residency was rejected in 2010. He had a relationship with the woman who was shot.

Both de Volkskrant and De Telegraaf tell the tale through the eyes of two key witnesses, one of whom is a local paperboy. De Telegraaf describes how the murderer tried to kidnap the 15-year-old teenager, “who stood face to face with gunman”, after the police officer had been killed with his own weapon.

“He grabbed me by the shoulder just as I came around the corner… He pointed his gun at me and told me to come with him. But I managed to break free.” Quite an experience for a boy who had taken over the paper rounds from his brother that evening, writes de Volkskrant.

Killer’s mother pours out her grief
AD leads with an appeal from the parents of last Saturday’s killing-spree gunman via the mayor to victims to come and talk with them. “Maybe then, we can answer the ‘why-question’ going around in their heads,” says the mother of Tristan van der Vlis.

The father of one of the victims, Syrian poet Nadim Youssef, doesn’t point an accusing finger at the parents: “The crime was committed by their son, not by his mother or father.” Another victim who was injured but has survived echoed that sentiment, “The son was sick. The parents did everything they could to make their son feel happy. He even got a car from his father. You’ll do everything you can for your child.”

As many of today’s papers cover the plea from Tristan’s parents for reconciliation, left-leaning de Volkskrant discusses the wider symbolism of recent killings. Paul ter Heyne, a philosopher living in Spain, questions whether the killings are mere “incidents” and advocates they may be part of an emerging Dutch cultural identity, which is linked to individualism. In Spain, he claims, such killing sprees wouldn’t happen because of closer family and community ties. In the Netherlands, it’s time to focus more on the values we pass on while rearing our children.


Pupils should learn to shoot
Secondary schools have responded in no uncertain terms to a proposal by the national Dutch shooting association (KNSA) to launch an advertising campaign at secondary schools, reports Protestant Trouw. It seems that the shooting association is facing dwindling youth membership and sees huge potential among pupils reading technical subjects.

But according to spokesperson for the schools’ umbrella authority, Sebastian Dingemans, “we are appealing to schools not to co-operate. This is just asking for trouble. Children are impressionable and sensitive. It is not the task of schools to introduce them to weapons.”

Interesting timing – KNSA chairman Jeroen Duisterman unveiled the plans on Thursady – given last Saturday’s bloody rampage and Wednesday’s shooting incident in Baflo.

Sun at the end of the tunnel...
On the third day of a royal Dutch visit to Germany, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander has publicly made a plea in support of renewable energies, reports Trouw. During a speech at a factory in Dresden which manufactures solar panels, Solarwatt, the prince said that “events in Japan underscore the importance of the sun, wind and water in providing our future energy needs.”

Ironically, Economic Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen sent a letter to parliament on the same day confirming that the Japanese nuclear tragedy should have no bearing on the Netherlands’ nuclear expansion programme.

Willem-Alexander and his wife Máxima are accompanying Queen Beatrix on the Germany tour. The Queen also revealed her green sympathies during the Solarwatt visit.

She described how she has applied for permission to have solar panels installed on one of the buildings of her Huis Ten Bosch Palace, but has been unable to break through a bureaucratic mesh of regulations. “It makes me so angry!” she exclaims in De Telegraaf. “Surely we’re not complete idiots?”

Innovative scientific researchers and entrepreneurs from both Germany and the Netherlands are key stakeholders in making natural energy happen, says Prince Willem-Alexander in AD. “They can help us build a sunny future of sustainability and economic power.”