Friday, April 30, 2010

Dutch newspapers about Queensday in the Netherlands

Today is Queen's Day, officially the celebration of the Dutch head of state's birthday. Hence all that orange everywhere, on buildings and on people: Queen Beatrix is head of the House of Orange. It actually takes place on the date of her late mother Queen Juliana's birthday. The festivities in some of the big cities might make you think it was actually in honour of the Dutch equivalent of Bacchus, the god of drinking.

The papers treat the national holiday in different ways this morning. Two of them have big front-page photographs of yesterday's unveiling by the queen of a memorial to the victims of the attack on the royal bus during last year's Queen's Day celebrations in Apeldoorn. None of the royal family were hurt but some of them did witness the horrible sight of the killer's car ploughing through the crowd of well-wishers. Seven people died.
On Queen's Day, people are allowed to set up stall and sell things on the street. This always proves an irresistible temptation for a nation famed for both its merchants and people intent on finding a bargain.
One woman is ready to charge for goes on a home-made cycling machine. The Ciclistas bike team are hoping to raise a whopping 22,500 euros to finance their participation in the Tour for Life in August. The cycle tour is taking place in northern Italy will raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières.
Another woman is getting her bric-a-brac ready to sell outside her house (she's also setting up a bar). She's guarding the space on the street jealously: "It's just for people who live here," she explains.
The Dutch get their children started on trade early in life and there's a picture of two kids getting ready to sell their old toys. It's a serious business: "I've completely untangled her hair," says eight-year-old Eleni, holding her old Barbie doll, "and given her two nice plaits".
One man is setting up an ingenious metal frame connected to an electric current over which you have to guide a large hoop without setting off an alarm. "I haven't worked out how to make money from it yet," he admits. "But, don't you worry, I'll get it sorted."
Also today's Queensday remind the Dutch that the queen is celebrating 30 years on the throne this Queen's Day, and treats us to two full-length official portraits of her majesty on its front page. "The Dutch honour anniversary sovereign" reads the loyal headline.
A survey shows that 69 percent of people are pleased with the way Queen Beatrix fulfils her role. (approval rate overall Royal family is 85%)  However, a growing number think the time is getting close when she should abdicate in favour of her son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander.
Some speculates this could take place in 2013, the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It tells us that both the popularity of the queen and that of her son have taken a beating following adverse publicity over the past year. The crown prince's wife, Máxima, however, remains even more popular than ever.
On an inside page, looks to the future and lets us hear from secondary school students in Amersfoort, a town right in the centre of the Netherlands. "Does the queen do anything besides opening things?" asks one 17-year-old. Another thinks that "the sovereign is really quite important as far as relations with other countries goes". However, no one precisely knows how.
They are all perplexed by the idea of ministerial responsibility for the monarch. "It's like my mother having to answer for me if I do something wrong. I mean, they're all adults, aren't they?" asks Charlotte. There appears to be general agreement that it is ridiculous in this day and age to have a hereditary head of state. However, Daan voices doubts about the alternative: "A president is probably more democratic, but wouldn't be better or cheaper".
Estimated as costing just under 40 million euros a year, the Dutch royal family is the second most expensive in Europe. "Far too much money," tuts Charlotte, "especially now, when so many things are being cut." However, another member of the class defends the expense on the grounds that the royals strengthen a feeling of national identity. "They play a ceremonial role," he argues.
One Dutch newspaper warns that the future Willem IV, as Prince Willem-Alexander is expected to become, will have to take care. And not just because of his falling popularity. The young people all agree it will not be long before the monarchy is scrapped. They give the institution "about 30 years".

Day Opening - April 30 - Queensday

Queensday, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
For Osman, see picture on the sidebar, its every day Queensday.))