Press Review Tuesday 8 September 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

An opinion piece in today’s de Volkskrant ridicules the Cabinet and Integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan for taking the same approach to the leader of the populist Freedom Party Geert Wilders as past ministers and cabinets did with Pim Fortuyn and anyone else who brought up the issue of immigration. That is, let’s just ignore them.

Journalist Martin Summers starts out with a comment made by former Amsterdam councillor Rob Oudkerk that 65 percent of pupils in Amsterdam’s elementary schools were of non-Dutch origin. “My mouth fell open. Sixty-five percent! I had never heard that figure. The entire city was changing colour at an astounding pace. Why was that not news…?” 

Mr Summers assumes that the reason is “not to play into the hands of the extreme right…Exactly the same reason why Van der Laan does not want to respond to Wilders’ questions in parliament and investigate what the costs are of immigration.” Although Mr Summers can understand why politicians do not want to give Geert Wilders more ammunition, he says the argument is not about Wilders and is not a new one.

My country was full in 1979
Mr Summers writes that an expert in housing wrote ten years ago that the government systematically underestimated the number of immigrants “so that public support would not continue to erode”. Summers also points to professor of history Paul Gerbrands, who wrote “My country is full” in 2003.

“The citation came from the 1979 (annual) Queen’s Speech; the queen would never again be able to utter such words. Since (the extreme right-wing leader) Hans Janmaat appeared on the scene in the 1980s it was no longer acceptable to speak about overpopulation.”

Summers points to Paul Gerbrands, who founded ‘The Club of Ten Million’, which advocated limiting population growth. “He pointed out that there were also left-wing reasons to be against overpopulation…It didn’t help. Gerbrands, who had always voted for Labour or the Democrats, was classified as an extreme right-winger.”

In 2000, Mr Gerbrands calculated that immigration cost the country 5.7 billion euros per year. “Not a bad shot, three years later Statistics Netherlands estimated that immigration cost 50 billion euros in ten years, and also concluded that immigration cost a lot, with few results.” Mr Gerbrands stopped his activities in 2003 because he had no argument capable of fighting the extreme right-wing label.

“The Democrats, GreenLeft and Labour find the Freedom Party’s questions about the costs of immigration ‘absurd’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘impossible’. They do not think the cabinet should answer them. A strange display by the Cabinet, seen that the basic rules of democracy is that it cannot exist without openness.”

“So go ahead Mr Van der Laan. Do the study. Then we’ll continue our fight with Wilders, but at the table.”

The Netherlands founded New Amsterdam/New York 400 years ago
The free newspaper Metro reports on festivities celebrating the fact that the Dutch East India Company (VOC) sent a ship commanded by the English Captain Henry Hudson to find the shortest route to Asia.

“Although the river (Hudson) did not turn out to be the gate to Asia, it was an excellent location for a trading post. On and near the island Manna Hatta, today’s Manhattan, the colony New Netherlands and the trading post New Amsterdam were founded…The trading posts turned into permanent settlements, from Albany and New York in the north, Delaware in the south and Connecticut in the east.”

Metro writes that N400 Week begins today when a fleet of Dutch ships will enter New York harbour and fire a 21-gun salute. The ships include a replica of the Halve Maen, which was commanded by Captain Hudson. Tomorrow the New Amsterdam Pavilion will open. The pavilion is a gift from the Netherlands to New York. There will also be exhibitions throughout the city, with Johannes Vermeer’s Het Melkmeisje will be exhibited in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima will attend the festivities.

The Netherlands bought the island from its indigenous inhabitants in 1626 for 60 guilders in trinkets. Peter Stuyvesant was appointed the colony’s governor. In 1664, the English seized the trading post and changed its name to New York. The Netherlands officially ceded its claims to New Amsterdam/New York in 1674 in exchange for the colony of Surinam in South America.

Police seize “provocative” T-shirts over dahlia pageant
Trouw reports that police in the southern town of Galder seized 15 T-shirts with the provocative logo “It’s better to have Mexican fever than pageant fever.” The logo was a cynical allusion to the world’s largest annual dahlia pageant, which took place in Zutphen on Sunday.

A number of concerned citizens, including Zutphen Mayor Leny Poppe-de Looff informed police about plans by a group of men to wear the T-shirts at the flower pageant, which was attended by 60,000 people. Police then “informally” confiscated the T-shirts in order to prevent serious incidents. Police emphasised that no charges were filed since no laws had been violated, and that the T-shirts will probably be returned to their owners.