Balkenende government falls over Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It seems that this morning Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende is visiting the Queen to signal the resignation of the cabinet. The smallest of the three parties in the centre-right government, D66 with six seats, has signaled that it would not continue to support the coalition if Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk retains her portfolio. The cabinet refused, so now they have to resign.

The main coalition partners, the CDA and the VVD (Christian Democrats and Liberals), blame D66 for taking umbrage at a minister who was just doing her job. D66 complains that it did not intend to force a crisis on the government, it just wanted Verdonk to resign.

At the centre of this is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ms Verdonk is something of a controversial character in her own right, but her handling of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s immigration status appears to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. According to Trouw, Ayaan Hirsi Ali finds it “sad” that the cabinet fell over her immigration status.

It’s not clear whether there will be an election forthwith. It seems that Balkenende may be able to form a minority government with just the two main coalition partners, although the lifespan of such a government might be short. Otherwise, Dutch law calls for elections within three months. Polls suggest the centre-right parties do not have the support to come back into government, but it’s close enough that the election campaign might make a difference.

Update: Guy has a much more extensive post on the subject at A Few Euros More, which I didn’t see when I posted this.

Hirsi Ali’s shadow brings down Dutch cabinet

The Dutch government has handed in its resignation after coalition partner D66 withdrew its support. Lousewies van der Laan, chairwoman of D66, had asked for the resignation of VVD minister Rita Verdonk because of her handling of the Hirsi Ali naturalisation case. The initial vote of censure* by Femke Halsema (GroenLinks-GreenLeft) that inspired Van der Laan’s resignation plea received no majority in the Dutch Lower Chamber and Rita Verdonk refused to quit on her own. D66 cabinet members Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, Alexander Pechtold and Medy van der Laan consequently resigned and, by doing so, pulled the plug on the whole cabinet.
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Romania edges towards the door

Romania’s PM Tariceanu announced yesterday that he wants to withdraw Romania’s troops from Iraq.

Right now here are about 900 Romanian soldiers there — one full battalion, with the catchy name of “The Red Scorpions”. They’re deployed in the Al-Nasyria area. They don’t do combat operations. There’s an intelligence team and some de-miners. 900 non-combat soldiers may not sound like a lot, but they made Romania the fifth largest member of the coalition (after the US, Britain, South Korea and Italy).

Why were they there? Well, Romania places a high value on the security relationship with the US. (A cynic might suggest that they’re keeping up the payments on their national security insurance policy.) The numbers involved are not large, Romanian casualties have been very light (one death in three years, to a roadside bomb), so up until now it hasn’t seemed like a very expensive investment on Romania’s part.

The withdrawal isn’t a done deal, BTW. PM Tariceanu must ask the Defense Council for permission; unlike a US President, he isn’t Commander in Chief of the armed forces. And President Basescu (who until recently was saying that the troops should stay “until democracy is established”) may yet weigh in.

From a little distance, I have the impression of a government edging cautiously towards the door, floating a trial balloon and waiting to see how everyone else reacts.

Note that the new government of Italy is sharply cutting Italy’s military commitment to Iraq; the troop count there has dropped from 2,700 to 1,600, and Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema says all troops will be out by early 2007. That would leave the Poles (900 troops) and the Danes (550) as the only European countries other than Britain with significant numbers of troops in Iraq. (Hereby somewhat arbitrarily defined as more than 200 men. There are a dozen or so countries with 20 or 50 or 100 there.)

European countries that had significant troop levels in Iraq, but then left:

Spain — 1,300, left April 2004 (Zapatero government)
Hungary — 300, December 2004
Netherlands — 1,300, left March 2005
Ukraine — 1,600, left December 2005 (Yushchenko government)
Bulgaria — 460, left May 2006

So, there were nine (counting Britain); five have left, one looks getting ready to go, that would leave three.

No further comment, just taking note.

It’s Probably OK Until July 9

You can get away with this sort of thing while everyone is glued to their TV sets, watching 22 men chase a round thing, but eventually someone outside the country is likely to notice…

For four weeks now Lithuania has been without a government, ever since President Valdas Adamkus dismissed the ministers of the populist Labour Party Darbo partija, putting an end to the coalition formed by Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas. Valdas Vasiliauskas doubts whether the attempts to elect a successor will be successful. “This week Lithuania hopes to find a new candidate for the post of prime minister. This way it would know what the path out of the crisis looks like after the first path led to a dead-end. There are many options, but they all have one problem: they’re not capable of obtaining a majority. New elections would be the best solution, but this proposal probably won’t get enough votes either.”

From the estimable folks at Eurotopics.

When Families Kill

Guilty verdict.

Denmark – Jyllands-Posten

Honour killing trial in Denmark

The newspaper comments on the sentence passed by a court in Denmark in the trial of a so-called “honour killing”. This is the first time in the history of northern Europe that an entire family has been found guilty. The jury considered it proven that the father had ordered the murder of his 18-year-old daughter after she married the man of her own choosing, and that subsequently all nine defendants had together planned and committed the murder. “In this way, the family will be seen not as a family of honour, but as a group of cowards who talk about honour and shame while trying to deny any involvement in the deed that was supposed to save the family’s honour. The sentence is a clear message that we won’t accept parallel societies with their own rules… The case also serves as a warning to a society that ignores people in need because of a misguided political correctness and the fear of dealing with the crazy rules of foreign societies regarding honour and shame.”

From the estimable folks at Eurotopics.

SWIFT and European privacy law

Henry Farrell has a good piece up at Crooked Timber on the issues involved in the SWIFT data disclosure controversy. His case is that SWIFT did not, in fact do due diligence under Belgian law when it decided to give its records to the CIA. There is a precedent concerning US efforts to gain access to airline passenger data to the effect that whether or not a legitimate national security reason existed for the disclosure, it was not up to SWIFT to decide on behalf of Europeans.

It’s a good explanation of the issues at stake in Europe, and well worth the read.

The Grenada Mosque

Observed, with thoughts on imams’ roles in European societies, at The Reality-Based Community.

The view is to die for: over the valley to the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada behind. The idea of the mosque, more a spiritual caravanserai and place for refreshment than an arena for strenuous communal effort like a synagogue or a church, is one of Islam’s better inventions.

We’re Ghana miss you

They clearly deserved a lot better than going down 3-0 today.

Too bad Essien was not on the field : the lack of skilled shooters on Ghana’s part (and an horrendous call by an otherwise pretty good referee) doomed what could have been a tremendous upset.

Here’s hoping Spain or France send this cocky, overrated Brazilian team back home next Saturday.