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Dutch report Dutch report
by Euro Reporter
2012-03-15 10:03:22
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Dutch Labour party threat to fiscal pact

Both of the frontrunners for the leadership of the Dutch Labour party have said they will vote down the eurozone fiscal pact in parliament if the Netherlands’ conservative government insists on cutting the budget deficit to the mandated level of 3 per cent this year. The Labour party is the swing vote in the Dutch Parliament on eurozone issues. If the Labour party follows through, the eurozone budget pact would be defeated in the Netherlands, which was one of the countries that pushed hardest for strict deficit enforcement measures in the agreement.

A defeat would have little legal effect on the agreement, which takes effect as long as 12 of the 17 euro countries have approved it, but would send a clear signal that Europe-wide budget discipline will prove difficult to enforce even in the wealthy northern countries that have demanded it. In debates on Tuesday between Diederik Samsom and Ronald Plasterk, the top two candidates to lead Labour, both said they would vote against the eurozone budget pact if it led the government to cut the Netherlands’ 2013 budget deficit from the expected 4.5 per cent to 3 per cent. The governing Liberals are conducting three weeks of negotiations with their coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom, to reach agreement on the cuts.

Because the Party for Freedom votes against all eurozone rescue measures and agreements, the government depends on the support of Labour, the second-largest party in parliament, to pass such measures. Mr Samsom, favoured to win the leadership contest on Friday, called the push to slash the deficit to 3 per cent “bald budget discipline” that lacked an economic rationale and would hurt the Dutch economy, which slipped into recession at the end of 2011. He said the European Commission should grant the Dutch terms similar to those they granted Spain, which has received extra time to bring its deficit down in the face of a shrinking economy.


Dutch back NATO missile defence

Though ballistic missiles don't pose an immediate threat to NATO allies, a defence shield would ensure the alliance is protected, a Dutch official said. Pieter-Henk Schroor, an official from the Dutch Ministry of Defence, said the Netherlands was committed to playing a role in the NATO missile defence system. His government says more than 30 countries have, or are in the process of acquiring, ballistic missiles.

"They do not pose an immediate threat but in the long run it could become a threat and in order to be prepared for that, we think it is important that NATO develops ballistic missile defence capability and that the Netherlands participates in contributing to that capability," he said in a statement.

He explained that the Netherlands would work to upgrade air-defence frigates that would make up a long-range radar system. Once upgraded, the system would be able to track missile threats more than 600 miles away. Russia has sought assurance that plans for a missile defence shield in Europe won't upset the strategic balance of power in the region. The United States said it would be implemented to deter a threat from Iran.


The Dutch Euthanize Their Elderly, and Other Scary GOP Lies About Europe

The American right sure seems to like stories about foreign countries killing their citizens. Most recently, leading GOP candidate Rick Santorum claimed that 10 per cent of the Netherlands' deaths were from euthanasia, 5 percent forced, and that "elderly people in the Netherlands don't go to the hospital" or, if they do, wear bracelets saying "do not euthanize me," all of which is false. The furore was only just beginning to die down when, Monday, a video of Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart began to circulate. Asked about Santorum's bizarre claims, Stewart, astonishingly, held her ground. "Rick is strong pro-life," she repeated. Ignoring the shakiness of Santorum's statements seems like an odd strategy. Many Americans have already stepped forward to denounce the "bogus statistics," as the Washington Post calls them, and the Dutch seem to be somewhere between bewilderment and outrage. What's behind the Santorum campaign's bizarre insistence that the Dutch are icing their elderly at such an appalling rate? Well, it's part of a pattern.

This isn't the first time that Republican politicians have scared voters with stories of seemingly civilized Europe ushering its citizens off to their deaths. Back during the health care debate in 2009, Republican senator Chuck Grassley suggested the British National Health Service would have refused to treat Senator Ted Kennedy, instead letting his brain tumour run its course. British paper The Guardian noted, too, at the time, that the what it called the "right-leaning" Conservatives for Patients' Rights group claimed on its website that "anyone over 59 in Britain is ineligible for treatment for heart disease." The trend reached peak absurdity when Investor's Business Daily issued an editorial backing Republican opposition to Obamacare while including the sentence "People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." The problem with this, of course, was that Stephen Hawking is himself British, and responded by telling The Guardian that he "wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS."

Politicking by demonizing a foreign "other" is as old as time. What's fascinating about these claims--aside from the fact that they're nonsense--is that they target some of America's closest allies, not to mention it’s most stable and developed. And, with Republicans so concerned about Islamic terrorism, you'd think they'd actually admire Europe, where governments can seem an awful lot like the GOP on the issue. Has the right really forgotten the British protection of Salman Rushdie, or the Dutch soul-searching after the murder of Theo van Gogh? Furthermore, the last European nation designated an "other" by the American right was France for its opposition to the Iraq war (remember "freedom fries"?). So while we're at it, let's recall that both the U.K. and the Netherlands actually came with us to Iraq. My point here isn't that one should refrain from criticizing one's allies. As a practical matter, such an argument might have some merit, but it's most definitely not the argument being made here. Honesty has its own merits.

But the random demonization of Britain and the Netherlands isn't honest. It's not even criticism: criticism is usually directed at the people under discussion, and Republicans aren't addressing their remarks to the foreigners. They're addressing them to American voters. This is, simply, fear-mongering. Even in the early twentieth century, historian Tony Judt suggests in his book Postwar, Spanish grandmothers "were chastening wayward children with the threat of Napoleon." In the early twenty-first century, the American right is chastening wayward independents with the threat of Dutch doctors and British bureaucrats. Napoleon was in a sarcophagus when being used as a bogeyman, and thus wasn't in much of a position to object. Dutch doctors, however, are alive and unimpressed. As Americans should be, frankly. If politicians want to rely on bedtime scare-stories, it behoves them to get their bogeymen straight, instead of switching them around depending on whether they're talking foreign or domestic policy. Monsters aren't scary if it looks like the authority figures are making them up as they go along. At least the Spanish grandmothers were consistent.

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