Are Dutch police normally given to kneeing people in the groin, and how many faces does Prime Minister Mark Rutte have? How can Dutch kids become good citizens, and how can a cyclist who is sent hurtling through a window remain unhurt?
Reviewed Dutch dailies
Picking up on the furore over a YouTube film clip showing “a Rotterdam policewoman kicking a drunken man on Sunday”, AD announces that the national ombudsman is launching an immediate “major inquiry into police violence”.
Alex Brenninkmeijer will investigate whether police officers are increasingly exceeding their powers and employing heavy-handed tactics. The ombudsman, says AD, receives hundreds of complaints about the police each year, many of them detailing violence. He’s reported to be “appalled” by the latest YouTube video.
“This case is so shocking,” he tells the paper, “that I’d rather not wait for the police investigation.” The officer in question has been named as the suspect in a criminal investigation, but has not been suspended from her police work. She says she only kicked the man after he had “behaved aggressively” to her.
Trouw runs a piece which could explain why police officers increasingly turn to the use of force. It concludes that the Dutch have a problem accepting authority. This leads, says the paper, to the aggression faced by teachers, social workers, probation officials, police officers and others.
A report is being presented to the government today entitled “Those in Authority”. One of the authors tells Trouw that the Dutch prefer not to talk about authority and that the concept gets blurred by the use of euphemisms by a government intent on being “customer friendly”.
In other countries, authority is part of the social debate but in the Netherlands “we secret it away and find other words for it”, he explains. “Here, someone in authority is called a customer manager.”
Moving together apart
The papers all report Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s visit to Berlin for talks with Angela Merkel on the euro crisis. Mr Rutte stressed the two leaders were “moving together” to find a solution to the problems.
However, nrc.next says a gap has slowly been emerging over the past few weeks between the two, with Mr Rutte increasingly worried by Mrs Merkel’s proposal for ‘political union’ in Europe. The paper says it looks as if the two leaders had agreed beforehand to cover only minor points during their joint press conference so as not to have to deal with their differences.
“Rutte has two European faces” is de Volkskrant’s take on the situation. It explains that a growing number of Dutch MPs think Mr Rutte shows one face at home on the domestic political front and another when he’s playing the European statesman in Brussels.
In Europe, he works enthusiastically on saving the euro, while giving away all sorts of Dutch powers. Sometimes, it looks like he’s a real Europhile, says the paper. Meanwhile, at home in The Hague, he looks annoyed when phrases such as ‘European integration’ or ‘the transfer of power’ are mentioned. “I’m no Europhile,” he quickly says.
Some MPs are convinced that the prime minister has donned his domestic eurosceptic face to woo the voters in the forthcoming election. De Volkskrant, however, believes that Mr Rutte is in a real state of confusion about what he wants from Europe. While he is for more European control over member state’s budget deficits, he’s against the loss of national sovereignty such control entails.
Dutch last in school citizenship rankings
“School students fail citizenship test” reads Trouw’s front-page headline today. Apparently, Dutch school children are not in command of the knowledge and skills they require to become good citizens. Youngsters from 38 countries were tested on their citizenship skills, and the Dutch came in last.
The 14-year-olds were asked questions on topics including the workings of democracy, their interest in politics and its importance, and on minority rights. The test was carried out by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, an institution known for its reports comparing the performance of children from different countries in mathematics and reading.
An expert says that citizenship studies should be given a higher priority in schools. At the moment, it is not treated as a separate subject on the school timetable. Trouw says the schools inspectorate has been warning for a number of years that the subject is not being adequately covered.
Looking through the papers, and looking at what takes place on Dutch roads, one is often amazed that more cycling accidents aren’t reported in the press. Bucking the trend, a number of this morning’s papers report a spectacular cycling accident which took place in Haarlem on Tuesday evening.
“Unexpected visit” is the headline chosen by De Telegraaf for the story. A 66-year-old man was taking a spin on his racing bike round the historic city. He was forced to swerve off the cycle path, hit a raised section of the road and was catapulted into the air, says the paper.
The man was sent smashing through the window of a nearby house and ended up on the living-room settee. The wonder is, De Telegraaf tells us, that he was unhurt except for a few scratches.