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Dutch report Dutch report
by Euro Reporter
2011-05-24 10:06:05
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Trial of anti-Islamic Dutch MP continue'

An appeals court in Amsterdam has decided to continue the hate-speech trial of anti-Islamic Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders.  The appeals judge presiding over the trial rejected Wilders' calls to drop the case on Monday and rebuffed his claims that an earlier court decision was biased. In a hearing broadcast online by Dutch public television, Judge Marcel van Oosten ruled that "the request is denied," stating that "the trial must go on."

In 2009, an Amsterdam court ordered the prosecution of the Freedom Party leader for "incitement to hatred and discrimination." He is accused of inciting hatred of Islam and insulting Muslims. The People's Party for Freedom leader argues that his comparison of Islam and Nazism and his demand for a ban on the Holy Qur'an are both part of a legitimate public debate. On April 1, Wilders asked for a public debate on the “real nature and character” of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), saying that such a debate could encourage Muslims to leave the religion of Islam.

The right-wing politician likened the Holy Qur'an to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.  Wilders faces five counts of giving offence to Muslims and people of non-Western immigrant origin, particularly Moroccans. In 2008, the xenophobic politician released a short film called Fitna that accused Islam of encouraging violence. The movie sparked angry protests in many Muslim countries across the globe. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described the movie as “offensively anti-Islamic.” The European Parliament also banned the screening of the film, saying it provokes hatred. The Freedom Party is the third-largest political party in the Netherlands.


Surprise choice for Dutch central bank chief

Klaas Knot, deputy treasurer-general and director for the financial markets in the Dutch ministry of finance, has been announced as the next president of De Nederlandsche Bank. Current president, Nout Wellink, will leave the central bank when his term expires at the beginning of July. Knot "was my first choice and also the central bank's first choice", said finance minister Jan Kees de Jager.

"The finance minister was looking for a person to combine vast monetary policy knowledge with the ability to implement the change process that has been started at the central bank," a spokesperson for the minister told CentralBanking.com. "That combination was present in Klaas Knot." The central bank was fiercely criticised during the financial crisis, and major changes have been promised to better monitor the financial system in the Netherlands. The failure of lender Dirk Scheringa Beheer (DSB), along with the near-collapse in 2008 of another Dutch bank, ABN Amro, scarred the central bank's reputation. Wellink even faced a motion of no confidence in parliament's lower house.

De Jager has called for a culture change within the central bank, pointing out that its operational failures were found, in part, to be responsible for the collapse of DSB. Amenability to change was therefore a key attribute for the central bank's next governor. This is thought by some to have given Knot, as the candidate who did not work at the central bank during the crisis, an advantage. Knot's appointment will still come as a surprise to some. Lex Hoogduin, an executive director responsible for the key stability and markets portfolios at the central bank, had been painted as the favourite to succeed Wellink.


Court settlement in Dutch nuclear dispute

German utility RWE AG (RWE.XE) said Tuesday it is nearing a possible out-of-court settlement over its contested co-ownership of the Netherland's only nuclear power plant, allowing it to finally take a stake in the Borssele reactor, albeit smaller than initially planned. A RWE spokeswoman said the Essen-based company and Dutch utility Delta had signed a letter of intent, adding that details of the agreement are now being discussed.

Under the deal, RWE would take a 30% stake in the power plant instead of the initially planned 50%. Delta would own 70% in the Borssele plant, she added. The legal dispute is related to RWE's EUR7.3 billion takeover of Dutch energy provider Essent in late 2009. Part of RWE's Essent acquisition was a 50% stake in the Borssele reactor. But competitor Delta had challenged this element of the takeover in court, arguing that Essent's stake in the Borssele plant must remain in public ownership.

As a result, Essent's stake in Borssele is still owned by its former shareholders, a group of Dutch provinces and municipalities. The final purchase price RWE paid for Essent was around EUR1 billion lower than the initial offer due to the carve out of the disputed reactor. Taking a 30% stake in Borssele should reduce the additional costs that RWE will have to pay for the plant's co-ownership to around EUR600 million.

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