Eleven years after Pim Fortuyn’s death – request for probation of his murderer sparks new controversy
In the beginning of October, the Council for Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles ruled that Volkert van der G., the man who is convicted of the murder on Pim Fortuyn, controversial leader of his own political party ‘Lijst Pim Fortuyn’, in May 2002, has the right to go on probation.
Due to his critical statements towards immigration and Islamic culture, Fortuyn was partially labeled as a right-wing populist, even though he repeatedly distanced himself from other far-right movements in Europe. He also held liberal views favouring a soft the drug policy, same-sex marriage and women’s rights.
In his trial, Van der G. had stated that he murdered Fortuyn to stop him from exploiting Muslims and continue targeting “the weak members of society”. In May 2014 Van der G. will have served two-thirds of his sentence and in the Netherlands this opens the possibility for an early release.
The Council has therefore decided that at this stage of the detention, rehabilitation of Van der G. should prevail over possible social unrest and risks. It was added that Van der G.’s occasional leave in February 2007 did not cause social upheaval. Secretary of Justice Fred Teeven has now to decide whether Van der G.’s request will be granted or not. Last year, Teeven said that Van der G. would not be released earlier, as long as this causes social unrest, “even though he is behaving himself exceptionally well”.
Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom (PVV), which was able to build upon some of Fortuyn’s more rightist ideas (and therefore profoundly changed the Dutch party landscape), wants Teeven to keep this promise.
The governing Liberal Party (VVD) also believes that probation of Van der G. should not be allowed. This was expressed by MPs, but earlier also by Prime Minister Mark Rutte who, during the election campaign in 2012, called it ‘unthinkable’ that Van der G. would ever go on probation. After the advice of the Council, Rutte did not want to comment on his earlier remarks and called it a decision of the Secretary.
Teeven stressed that the verdict of the Council does ‘explicitly not’ mean that Van der G. will be granted probation and that rehabilitation can also be prepared in prison.
Government open to negotiate budget proposals with opposition, but not required cuts
The coalition government of the liberal VVD and socialist PvdA does not have a majority in the upper chamber of Dutch parliament (Eerste Kamer), which is why they need the agreement of the opposition parties to pass next year’s budget. Only five of the nine opposition parties are still at the negotiating table.
For Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Minister of Finance and head negotiator for the government, the core differences with the opposition lie in the way the additional tax burden is to be spread across society and how to deal with more vulnerable groups, such as families. He is open to altering some of the proposals but not the overall savings of 6 billion euros that the Netherlands are obliged to have in their budget due to Eurozone rules.
Especially the proposal to reduce the inflation adjustment of pensions is not very popular among opposition parties and unlikely to be supported by a majority in the Eerste Kamer. Despite the differences, both Dijsselbloem as well as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte were optimistic that an agreement would soon be reached.
A further uncertainty is the decision of the left-wing green party GroenLinks to let their members decide on whether or not the result of the negotiations will be supported.
Dutch-Russian relations in troubled waters as crew of Greenpeace ship gets arrested
The Netherlands has begun an arbitration process against Russia to secure the release of 30 Greenpeace activists who have been charged with piracy. In Russia, piracy carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
According to Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, the detention by Russian officials of Greenpeace’s ‘Arctic Sunrise’ ship, which sails under a Dutch flag, and its crew is “unlawful”. Earlier, the Dutch Foreign Ministry already called the arrest “illegal”, because Russia should have first asked Dutch authorities for permission to board the ship.
Greenpeace denies that the crew of the ship committed crimes when trying to climb a Gazprom oil platform in the Barents Sea to protest Russian plans to drill in the Arctic. Greenpeace has welcomed the Dutch actions and hopes that other countries will follow.
In a response to the arbitration process, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that the Kremlin has asked the Netherlands several times to end “illegal and provocative actions” of the ‘Arctic Sunrise’, but without any success. Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the arrest by saying that the activists were not pirates but had breached international law. To Putin, the Arctic is an integral part of Russia for the past few centuries and will remain part of its territory.
If the Dutch government sees too little progress within the next two weeks, a procedure at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea will be started. In this procedure both the Netherlands and Russia will look for an arbitrator. The two arbitrators will then choose a third arbitrator, after which they will together look at the case. The ruling is binding.
US government shut-down also affects the Netherlands
Not only the Dutch long-term budget, but also the American one attracted great interest over the past week. The reason was the so-called “government shutdown”. As the budget had not been agreed on by a fixed deadline, all non-essential government services need to shut down.
Also in the Netherlands the effects of the government shutdown were visible. The American cemetery in Margraten for example, where 8302 American soldiers from WW II are buried, has been closed. The American embassy in The Hague has, however, kept its doors open up until now.
Another reason the Dutch are worried about the stalemate in the US concerns the devastating effects it may have on the world economy. However, until now the Dutch seem convinced that Democrats and Republicans won’t let things get that far.