PM under fire over royals, wasting money

Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende is under fire from MPs over three politically sensitive issues – failing to defend princess Máxima for comments she made about the Dutch identity, a 36% increase in the budget for the royal family and wasting money on the cabinet’s 100-day tour of the country.

In reply to the first criticism, Balkenende told MPs princess Máxima’s remarks had been taken out of context by the press. The princess did not say that the Dutch identity did not exist, but had made the observation that the Dutch identity is not a fixed concept, he said.
The prime minister also pointed the finger at Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam party PVV, accusing him of igniting the row over her speech by calling it ‘politically correct tittle-tattle’.
And while he regretted the row over the speech he categorically dismissed suggestions from opposition VVD MP Willbrod van Beek that the cabinet had allowed a member of the royal family to become the subject of an unpleasant public debate.
Balkenende was also criticised on the issue of the royal budget. But MPs seemed satisfied with the prime minister’s explanation that the 36% rise to €113m next year is because of one-off costs such as the renovation of the palace on the Dam square in Amsterdam.
The prime minister also faced tough questioning from opposition parties, and to some extent MPs from the Labour government coalition partner – over the cost of the cabinet’s 100 day tour through the country when it first came to power.
Balkenende dismissed accusations that he had ‘squandered money’ and defended the event as an ‘genuine attempt to communicate with people,’ reports ANP news service.
Several publicity projects organised this summer such as the €700,000 Schokland Agreement organised by the development minister Bert Koenders and the Child Summit initiative of Andre Rouvoet, minister for family affairs, should have been put out to tender under EU rules.
Both ministers claimed that there had not been time to organise this. The prime minister accepted that such events must be better financially organised in the future.

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