Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

- In Europa Zu Hause [DE]
- L'Europe Chez Soi [FR]
- At Home in Europe [EN]
- In Europa Thuis [NL]

Monday, March 20, 2006

EU roaming charges: Reduction overdue!

After the abolition of most of the excessive international money-transfer charges that banks used to impose upon their clients in the EuroZone, even after the introduction of the euro, a new consumer-friendly breakthrough in Europe is announcing itself: reduction of the heavy extra charges that GSM companies impose upon their clients when they are using a GSM-network abroad.

The Financial Times of March 19, 2006:
European telecoms companies are divided over their response to threatened legal action that would force them to cut the cost of international mobile telephone use.
The disagreement comes as the European Commission prepares to publish details next week of proposed legislation to cut lucrative international “roaming” charges paid by mobile phone owners.
International roaming is the add-on charge customers pay to use another company’s network and analysts estimate it accounts for 10-15 per cent of mobile operators’ profits.
Apart from holiday-makers, mainly during summer, this roaming add-on charge is particularly onerous for inhabitants of smaller countries - they will be more often out of reach of their home company. In my case, being a client of Belgacom, I only need to travel a 100 Kms to the North or to the South, to incur double or triple charges, not only for my own calls, but also for the calls I receive from inncocent people, like my garagist, my doctor or my daughter.
To make things still worse: Belgacom is integrated into the Vodafone system of national networks, which is the only one that covers nearly all of Europe. Vodafone sister-companies give me a slight rebate, but I am still paying much too much, for, technically, the automatic exchange between national Vodafone networks costs not more than the exchange of information within a national network.

The good news is, that there are apparently some important networks in Europe, who are ready to accept an agreement with the European Commission to scale down their extra roaming charges, and the bad news is, that there are others, wo do not. This may mean, that roaming regulations have to be imposed by European regulation. And that is going to take some more time.

Some more consumer action on this and on other non-exploited issues that have come within our reach within the EU, is really overdue!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dutch anti-islamic hysteria: The Cross and the Mosque

My colleague Frans Groenendijk from the Dutch city of Utrecht, woke up from his resounding defeat at the city council elections of March 8, to justify his growing obsession with (political) Islam. What happened? An Amsterdam borough council considered the possibility of replacing a 2nd World War commemoration monument in the form of a white cross, with a less prominent Christian symbol.
The hypersensitive majority of the Dutch press saw here at first another bowing to invading islamism, and the usual public outrage of 1 day followed. The next day, it became clear, that the local Muslims had nothing to do with it. The second day, everybody concerned, agreed, that the monument would stand in its former shape. At the request of the Turkish Mosque, first of all!

But, somehow, Groenendijk missed the follow-up to this hoax, so that, today (March 17), he dramatically declares in his first post on his English blog:
Will people wake up now?
And next, he misses completely the point, as he mentions an incident with Moroccan youth of three years ago, that since then, by the vigilance of the local councillors and the local immigrant organisations, has led to an unique common commemoration ceremony by jews and muslims together, last year, and a lasting friendly relationship between local communities.

I replied as follows to the post:

This post shows again, how ignorant and biased you are:
1. The incident with the Moroccan youngsters happened in May 2003. By talking with the perpetrators and showing that Moroccan soldiers fought and died for Holland against the Nazis in 1940, the Amsterdam "Baarsjes" city council managed to have an impressive and worthy war commemoration in May 2004 and 2005. With full and active participation of the Moroccan inhabitants of the neighbourhood.
2. The cross is a Christian symbol, that has survived secularisation, as it got the meaning "death" and "mourning" for everybody, also for non-believers. Among the Jews and Resistance Members commemorated at this specific Amsterdam location, were few Christians. Amsterdam anti-Nazi resistance was mainly Communist and Socialist. Their children and grandchildren (and I happen to be one of them) are not attached to a cross as a commemoration symbol. We only want a monument that honours the struggle of our kinsfolk against fascism and racism. There is no question, that anybody, least of all the local Muslims, would have used the cross as a pretext to do away with the Monument. The necessary renovation of the Monument has been considered as a welcome opportunity to give it another shape, without cross, or with a less prominent cross.
3. You do not mention, that since this affair appeared first in the press, at the request of the organisation of the Turkish Mosque that is being built at the location, everybody has agreed, that the monument will return to it former place and in its old shape, white cross and all.
4. So, please, next time, be better informed, before you start to tell anti-islamic horror stories to an international public.
For Dutch readers, here the complete Amsterdam city press release of March 13, 2006 about the monument hoax:

Kruis komt terug op oude plek

13 maart 2006
Het kruismonument 'Aan hen die vielen' komt terug op de oude plek aan de Baarsjesweg, heeft het Dagelijks Bestuur besloten. Een nieuw vijfde monument in De Baarsjes krijgt een nieuwe plek. De Baarsjes reageert hiermee op de vele verdrietige en boze reacties uit het hele land over het verlies van het kruis.
Monument komt terug
Het kruismonument komt terug als de plek aan de Baarsjesweg in 2008 verbouwd is tot een nieuw plein. Tot het zover is, staat het kruismonument vanaf half maart op het Columbusplein, bij de adoptieschool. Waar het nieuwe extra monument komt, besluit het stadsdeel over anderhalf jaar, na consultatie van bewoners. Het nieuwe vijfde monument voorziet in het gemis aan een symbool, waarin alle herdenkers, ook de nieuwe, zich herkennen kunnen.
Herdenkers gezamenlijk actief
De gemeenschappelijke herdenking is twee jaar geleden begonnen, na de stilteverstoring op 4 mei 2003. Het probleem heeft de verschillende bewonersgroepen, moskeeën en synagoge bij elkaar gebracht, waardoor meer dan tien organisaties actief zijn in het locale 4/5mei comité en waardoor het aantal actief zichtbare herdenkers in De Baarsjes verhoogd is van vijftig naar ruim driehonderd. Scheidend stadsdeelvoorzitter Henk van Waveren: ''De motieven van ons comité 4/5 mei in De Baarsjes zijn volstrekt legitiem. De zoektocht naar een verbindend symbool hoort bij de nieuwe gemeenschappelijke herdenking.
Gemeenschappelijkheid is een kostbare verworvenheid.
Herdenken moet ook in de toekomst levend blijven. Daarnaast houden wij onze klassieke monumenten in stand. Als stadsdeel gaan wij in de toekomst voor vijf monumenten zorgen, in plaats van voor vier.'
4 mei kranslegging
Alle vier huidige monumenten - aan de Baarsjesweg, Postjesweg, Witte de Withstraat en in de kapel Nieuw Vredenburgh krijgen traditioneel op 4 mei kransen en dat blijft zo. Het hele jaar door worden ze verzorgd, schoongemaakt en zo nodig hersteld. Ook dat blijft zo.

Why so much ado about something as ephemeral as this?
Because it has become a trend among Dutch people to show themselves off as victims of an Islamic invasion. A friend of mine, living in the US, met a Dutch national in Dallas, who told everybody, that a majority of radical Islamists was taking over the big Dutch cities. If you did not believe him, you were a "Dhimmi". There exist some interesting psychopathological explanations for this national attitude, but I will not dwell on them now.

The usual reaction of people woken up so rudely, as happens here, from their comforting victim-dreams, is to scold the messenger. That will be me. So I may expect some victimhood for myself here, too.
We, the Dutch, we'll never escape victimhood, neither way....

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

UK Education Reform

Wednesday, the UK Parliament is to vote on the Government's proposals for a vast education overhaul. Like Philip Stephens in the Financial Times (13 March) does, I am not to dwell on interesting but superficial and annoying considerations on consequences for Labour, Blair, or the Conservatives.
I have questions, questions questions.
Questions on what all this would mean for the necessary boost in quality of British education.Questions on equality of chances and of access to education.Questions on what is meant by 'diversity' to be introduced - Is it a consecration of social class differences in education?And, how does introduction of market-driven concurrence, privatisation and further elimination of democratically elected local authorities from the school-boards, fit into the historical trend that seems to indicate, that marginalised communities and categories from within the population are more and more left alone? (Look here, on my French Blog).
Or is it a modernisation, that accounts for 'diversities' that were inexistent, when generally obligatory school attendance at Government financed schools was introduced?From what I saw in publications about this subject in the press, I get an impression, that the British ways are more cautious, than the Dutch school reforms of recent years.
In Holland, the organisation of education and the management of privatised, or independent entities, that are burdened with an enormous and growing bureaucracy, lies at the centre of Government measures. The Dutch try to solve the problems, generated by that growing bureaucracy, by reorganising educational institutions into ever bigger regional mergers, so as to produce economy of scale on the top levels. The educational problems that are generated by that oversizing are not being met.
Is the British approach more cautious? Does it better meet the Lisbon benchmarks?
I crave for your comments.
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