A plan to tackle the euro crisis gives Brussels far more power and the papers don’t like it. There’s yet more economic gloom despite figures suddenly showing growth and housing corporations are in financial trouble… but, amid all the misery, there’s still the aah factor.
Far more Brussels
“About us, without us” is De Telegraaf’s take on a plan to be presented to European Union leaders at the euro crisis summit on Friday. The paper says the plan would see the Netherlands out of the game for crucial EU deliberations.
Reviewed Dutch dailies
“The euro crisis is threatening to see the Netherlands squeezed against its will into the Brussels straitjacket,” fumes the paper. The European Commission could decide to raise the pensionable age, alter [the very generous] Dutch mortgage relief rules or re-introduce the idea of toll roads, warns De Telegraaf.
De Volkskrant agrees that Van Rompuy’s plan would mean “far more Brussels”, with member states losing “a good deal of control over their budgets and banks”. A centralised European body would supervise banks, it tells us, and government debt would eventually be financed by collective ‘eurobonds’.
The paper explains the plan is “a subtle compromise between the conflicting interests” of Germany and France. It says it would allow both Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande to claim victories of one sort or another if they adopted it.
Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager, however, says he will not be “pushed by the mess [around the euro] into a banking union”. De Volkskrant explains that, although he is in favour of a united banking system in Europe, he believes that strict conditions should be met before the step is taken.
He points out that tax payers can’t be expected to bail out foreign banks before the supervision of financial institutions is better organised across the board in Europe.
Growth but background recession
Official figures show that the economy grew by 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2012 – rather than shrinking by 0.2 as had been forecast. However, says nrc.next, the painful negative truth is hiding behind the positive figures.
Such a big difference between the forecast and the actual figures is rare, the paper tells us, and came as a complete surprise when they were published yesterday. It says caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte would normally be able to make political capital out of the positive figures in the campaign leading up to the 12 September election.
The paper warns, however, that in reality the figures lose almost all their significance when qualifying factors are taken into account. One of the reasons for growth is the fact that the government has not been able to realise as many spending savings as had been hoped. This unpalatable fact may be prove more difficult for the prime minister to sell during the campaign, thinks nrc.next.
Trouw agrees that “the cork should remain on the champagne bottle” for the present. The growth reported in the first three months of 2012 is apparently down to increased exports to “super neighbour” Germany – and increased spending on healthcare by the government. This, concludes the paper, is no sound basis for economic growth.
“Stable growth has to come from consumers and companies [spending],” an expert tells the paper. Trouw ominously points out that there was a sharp decrease in business investments in the Netherlands in the first quarter of 2012.
Housing corporations in trouble
AD has something of a scoop on its front page, but we’re still in rather depressing economic territory. In an interview, the head of the CFV housing corporations watchdog tells the paper that six of the institutions - whose remit is to provide people with affordable rented accommodation - are in major financial trouble.
This is partly to blame on the corporations’ speculations on the derivatives market. In its attempt to make big money, the largest of the corporations, Vestia, is reported to have lost a staggering two billion euros in its dealings on the derivatives market.
And yet, says the paper, the CFV warned the corporations of the dangers of the speculation in a report ten years ago. “At the time, the CFV pushed for the rules to be tightened, but the corporations put politicians under major pressure to prevent this from happening,” Jan van der Moolen tells AD. “Their tactics worked. That’s why we’re paying a heavy price now.”
The aah factor
Economic woes are happily forgotten in favour of the aah factor in a section of De Telegraaf’s front page today. “Lost” reads the headline above a photograph of two seal pups looking big-eyed at the camera. They are in a field, being stared at by a group of cows.
The ten-day-old seals were washed ashore on Ameland, one of the islands off the northern coast of the Netherlands, by a flood tide on Sunday night. They appear to have then swam a further kilometre inshore in a deep ditch till they could go no further.
The woman who found the seals says they were probably parted from their mother a few days ago. “When I saw them, they were hugging each other because they were cold,” she says. De Telegraaf reassures us with the fact that the pups are now being housed in a “seal crèche”.