How the world’s media saw the Netherlands in 2013

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There has been plenty of coverage of Dutch stories over the last year in the international press. ALICE BURKE takes a look at some reporting on the Netherlands from outside the country last year.
It has been a year of highlights for the lowlands; the coronation of King Willem Alexander, the announcement that after a year in economic recession, we had finally emerged on the other side, and a stunning summer with temperatures peaking at 31 degrees Celsius in mid-July. We also had some not so positive moments, with relations with Russia becoming increasingly strained as the year progressed, a progression that stood out as being even more disappointing considering that 2013 had been pitched as a “year of friendship” to strengthen bilateral relations between the countries.  It was a year where the UN took us to task on the issue of Zwarte Piet, a move that does not seem to have had any impact on the traditional festivities so far. We also bid farewell to Prince Friso, who passed away in August following a skiing accident in February of 2012. Let’s take a look at the year, and find out how the world’s media saw us at various points throughout 2013.
January’s main news story from the Netherlands was the same the world over: the announcement of the abdication of Queen Beatrix. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s (VVD) quote that the Queen had “applied herself heart and soul for the Dutch society” was a particular favourite of broadsheets from London to New York.
In February, the world saw wave after wave of revelations pertaining to horsemeat masquerading as beef in supermarkets and wholesalers internationally. The Guardian reported on allegations that a Breda warehouse was potentially at the centre of the distribution ring of the infamous horsemeat. The company involved, Draap Trading, “is a Cypriot-registered company, run from the Antwerp area of Belgium, and owned by an offshore vehicle based in the British Virgin Islands. Draap spelled backwards is the Dutch word for horse,” explained the Guardian, showing that sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte made international headlines for very different reasons than usual in March, with Vanity Fair proclaiming him to be the world’s 3rd best-dressed world leader. “The Dutch prime minister’s crinkly eyed smile and lush, impressive-on-a-20-year-old hairline appear all the more ruggedly handsome aside his delicate frameless glasses. His classic, understated style suggests his tailor must be as good as his optometrist,” they wrote of Prime Minister Rutte.
April saw the coronation of the King, and also a sharp-tongued opinion piece in The New York Times, entitled “Ditch the King. Hire an Actor.”  Arnon Grunberg wrote “And wouldn’t it be nice if, from now on, auditions were held for the roles of king and queen? One could probably find candidates who have far more acting ability than the current royal family and who would also be willing to perform for a fraction of the salary.”
Earthquakes in Groningen made the news across the water in June, with The Telegraph reporting on tremors caused by the extraction of gas from shale rocks in the region.  The report was dark in its predictions: “Last year, the Dutch state made 12 billion British pounds in government revenues from the Groningen gas fields and if the cash flow was switched off the country would quickly go bankrupt.”
Immigration once again raised its head in August, with The Economist reporting that, “worries about workers from eastern Europe are changing Dutch politics”. The article discussed the lack of Dutch workers employed at power stations in Eemshaven and showed us once again how our politicians can never resist a good dyke metaphor, referencing an article by Lodewijk Asscher (PvdA), vice prime minister, where he said “the dykes are on the point of breaking.” Buried in the piece is a mention of a study carried out by the Ministry of Social Affairs, which pointed out that “most east European immigrants take jobs that no Dutch worker would accept, such as picking vegetables in greenhouses.”
Overall, a year of mixed news. We will never escape the prominence of the immigration issue it would seem, and the monarchy remains a topic of heated debate, as the monarchy always does in any country. We saw St. Jude the storm batter the north of the country and take a life in Amsterdam, and we’ll surely see a December of discussions regarding how big the freeze will be for the winter. But we can all agree on one thing; the hope that 2014 bring more good news than bad for the Netherlands.
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