Press Review Thursday 23 July 2009

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

It's a mixed bag in the papers again today, with a wide range of often minor stories gracing the various front pages. says ING bank spent over one billion euros of public subsidy on rescuing its Dutch pension fund. And this when the government consistently refused to bail out pension funds, as it did banks and insurers hit by the economic crisis, despite calls to do so from the opposition.


"I presume that, during the bailout talks, ING told [Finance Minister] Wouter Bos: 'We've not just invested in rotten American mortgages, but we've also got a shaky pension fund'," a financial expert tells the paper. ING, meanwhile, objects to the word 'rescue' with regard to the pension fund injection, saying the payment did not affect the bank's capital in accountancy terms. Whatever that means.


A spokesman for the VEB shareholders' association thinks the payment went against the spirit of the government bailout. "The capital injection was to save the bank. Over one billion euros for the pension fund is quite an amount. I don't remember, for example, ING broaching the matter at its shareholder meeting," he says.


No jobs for home-grown imams
The Protestant daily Trouw reports that home-grown Dutch imams will not be able to get jobs in mosques in the Netherlands any time soon. The government has made it clear that it wants an end to the practice of importing imams from abroad who do not speak Dutch, are not acquainted with modern Dutch culture and sometimes even push a radical Islamic agenda. Three prestigious educational institutions now offer courses to qualify as an imam in the Netherlands.


The problem is that many mosques simply do not have the funds to employ expensive Dutch graduates. The idea is also unpopular with the older generation of worshippers who still wield most power in the mosques. "Dutch is the language of the future," says one insider, "but the conservatism of the first generation is a problem."


"Knowledge of Arabic and the Qur'an: you can't learn all that in four or five years," counters an imam working in Amsterdam. Others believe a modern Dutch form of Islam has to be established before imams can be trained here. One expert agrees: "Dutch Islam needs its own theology [...] so that the new imam doesn't need to work from 13th-century sources. Dutch imams have to be able to draw on a kind of Dutch Islam."


Top Dutch NATO official was 'security risk'
The mass-circulation De Telegraaf has what looks like a real scoop on its front page. "Top Dutch official thrown out of NATO", screams the headline. We go on to read that, as long ago as this spring, the top official was ejected from the NATO office in the United States by the Dutch secret service, the AIVD, because "he could be blackmailed". Despite being backed by his immediate superior, the man's security clearance was revoked, he had to leave the US and lost his job.


The official denies the AIVD's claim that there was a risk he would "sell" sensitive information to "subversive elements" and is taking the matter to court. He has now decided to go public and to use De Telegraaf to put his case. His lawyer is accusing the AIVD of "gross negligence" and tells the paper: "There was no listening to both sides. He wasn't allowed to defend himself."


Shopkeepers thrown on the street
The AD reports that shops are being closed at short notice by landlords who want to do renovation work. Legislation designed to speed up construction projects means that many small-scale shopkeepers are being forced to pack up and leave without being given adequate time, alternative premises or compensation.


Retail trade organisations are calling for the law to be changed to give the shopkeepers protection. They say the law should not allow rental contracts to be ended just so that renovation work can be carried out. One organisation spokesman complains that, as the law stands, "shopkeepers interests are just not being taken into account."


Farewell bash boycott
Finally, de Volkskrant covers a row in the provincial government of North Holland. Labour members have decided to boycott the farewell party being thrown for outgoing assembly finance chief Ton Hooijmakers. He presided over the loss of 78 million euros which was invested in the failed Icelandic bank Icesave, and was forced to quit because of the debacle.


He is now being given a 10,000-euro farewell bash at Amsterdam's new Hermitage Museum. "I don't think this sort of lavish do is suitable," says one Labour member in defence of the boycott. Some of us may find his comment a little understated.