Nederland in the News

Train Trein
The Netherlands has been making news over the past few days, for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately. Although to watch some of the international news programs, you wouldn’t know it. For example, there was a train crash on Saturday, in which one woman died and 117 were injured, but it didn’t get a mention on BBC’s The Hub news program, which we watch nightly. It’s not that they don’t cover similar stories, since the plane crash that happened that day elsewhere was covered quite extensively.

It seems that the crash was the result of one of the drivers missing possibly missing a red light. However, the driver may not face prosecution, because the signal safety was out of date. It, and most of the other signals across the country, lack the updated security, which would cause the train to halt and avoid running into another train. They have been attempting to update the security of the signals since the 1980s, but the original plan was put on hold, because of a different EU system. However, the EU system was prohibitively expensive and never put in place. Since 2006, they’ve been installing an improved version of the system they started with in the ’80s, but only 1,264 signals have been refitted. Out of 6,000. The transport minister said in November of last year that she is not planning on rolling out the upgrade across the country. I wonder if that plan will change now.

Milling About
However, it is not likely to change any time soon, since the other bit of news is that our government has fallen apart. Geert Wilders, leader of the PPV, who made up an unofficial part of the majority coalition, decided to take his toys and go home (he pulled out of the budget negotiations), causing the coalition to collapse. Prime Minister Rutte (VVD) handed in his cabinet’s resignation yesterday to Queen Beatrix. There was a debate today as to when the election should be held, with some groups preferring to hold it within the next few months, but it seems as if it is going to be put off until the beginning of September. We will be left with a caretaker government in which the current figures carry on, but cannot make any major laws or changes.

The collapse hasn’t come as any real shock, since the VVD and CDA were unable to form a more stable coalition, ultimately having to depend upon an unofficial majority through the support of Wilders and his PPV party. The problem is that Wilders is a eurosceptic and heavily opposed to what he calls the “Islamisation” of the Netherlands and Europe in general. His party’s support has dropped recently as the party itself seems to be falling apart. He’s not well-liked by many here, and he was always viewed as the straw that would probably break the coalition’s back eventually.

So now comes the juggling to see which parties will take the lead in the election, which may well depend on when the election is held. If it were to be held sooner, certain parties would be more likely to come out on top, whereas with a longer delay, other parties might be able to take the lead. As for now, there’s still talk that an agreement over the austerity plan will be reached before the deadline of April 30, when it is supposed to go to the European Commission in Brussels. I guess we’ll see.

Here are some English-language stories with more details:
Train crash
Government collapse

I thought this was an interesting opinion piece (in Dutch) about Wilders having laid the ground work to make a move to the US.

8 thoughts on “Nederland in the News

  1. The train incident is horrible. All the more because it could have been avoided. I’m sure your transport ministry is now under a lot of pressure to fast track the improvements.

  2. Yes, such terrible news about the train accident… But the collapse of the government is, in my opinion, not so bad news. It was coming, everyone knew that, andthe sooner Wilders and his party disappear from the political arena, the better. There are rumours of him relocating to the US. Good riddens.

  3. Our rail networks are overcrowded and the discussion about upgrading the security system has indeed been going on forever. When the government decided the rail company had to privatise, I think a lot of problems arose. All that seem to happen are talks, talks and some more talks. It’s a damned miracle no more deadly accidents have happened with trains, considering the numerous (near-)collisions.

    The collapse was inevitable to be honest, but some seriously bad timing. The economy needs some major overhaul, but nearly all the governments in the past have been putting off. Now we’ll be spending the next few months busy with elections. Sigh.

    I’m happy that PVV is losing ground, then again I’ve never been a fan. Wilders is a hot air balloon, all show and hot air, but nothing concrete to change anything.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if one day he announced he can’t stand where this country is headed for and has decided to emigrate.

  4. Yeah there was some pretty grim news all round. Incidentally I did see the train crash on the regular BBC One news. The government collapsing is a major bummer. I hated this government with a passion, so in that respect I am glad it will be gone, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Some big financial decisions have to be taken asap, and now asap is ‘after summer’ which is not asap at all. It’s not good for the economy or the stability of the country. It pisses me off that I can’t really be happy that this right wing government is now gone. Thank you Blondie (Wilders) for leaving us all in a big fat mess

  5. I have been watching the government events – well, what we can see of them in the UK, with their self-only-interest predominant as usual under this government.

    I think maybe there are many of us suspecting austerity packages, for all their rationalism, are not the answer. We eagerly want to see someone ‘buck the trend’, and, what’s more, make it work.

    I think some of us secretly suspect the economic shambles has become a sham in itself, something that will not be cleared for quite a few generations to come. A sham in that no one has a way out as yet, so it is becoming the norm rather than the abnorm.
    Sort of thing.

  6. Excellent post, Alison.
    I was wondering myself what would happen with the updating of the security system on the railways now that it’s obvious that it can cause a disaster of a considerable magnitude. The country doesn’t seem to be in a state to spend money on sth like this, but considering that thousands of people use the train everyday… I don’t want to think what could’ve happened during a weekday, for example.
    As to the fall of the Rutte administration – it is probably a necessary evil? The current situation is far from ideal but if it means that Wilders is out of the equation, I’m happy. Of course it can only mean that he’s gone home only to regroup and come back… We have a saying in Spanish that literally translated means, “weeds never die, or they always come back” 🙂

  7. Thanks for the updates on both these stories. The crash was frightening and the state of the railroad worrisome. Government chaos is never pleasant, but the thought of Geert Wilders heading to the US causes me (an American) intense dread. Nee, nee, nee!

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