Europe
10:37 am
Sun July 20, 2014

Plane Crash Is A 'Powerful Tragedy' For The Netherlands

Originally published on Sun July 20, 2014 12:08 pm

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Nearly 200 of the crash victims were Dutch citizens. For reaction from the Netherlands, I spoke last night with Willem Schouten, an editor with De Telegraaf.

Willem Schouten, thanks for joining us.

WILLEM SCHOUTEN: Yes, hello.

RATH: So this must be a huge blow for the Netherlands to lose so many people. It's a small country. How are people reacting?

SCHOUTEN: It is a huge blow. Yeah. There's 17 million people here, but it seems that this tragedy - every body is somehow affected by it. Everybody has somebody that they know or, for me, it was a restaurateur in Rotterdam, the city that I live in, that I knew and I went to have dinner with a couple of times - a very nice lady and a wonderful cook. And she died on the way to the country that she was from. It seems like a collective thing, like everybody has this experience. And this makes it a very powerful tragedy for our country.

RATH: The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, he's got one last chance to show he's serious about helping rescuers recover the bodies of the victims. How do you think the government of the Netherlands might respond if this drags out?

SCHOUTEN: Well, we don't really have a lot of options. What Rutte said today was actually remarkable 'cause the first few days, he was very tentative in his reactions and was trying to lure the Russians into helping. We don't have any military or political power. Usually we try to negotiate with other bigger powers than us. Right now, what he said this afternoon here local time was actually remarkable. It was some strong words, and he was demanding. And this is a new sound for our government. And, well, we're not sure what's going to happen. And we, as a paper, think it's the right way to go about it 'cause it seems that the only thing that the Russians understand is force.

RATH: And beyond the media, the angry headlines, that sort of thing, what about the people? Are they holding vigils? How are they dealing with this?

SCHOUTEN: See, the mood in the country as a whole is not of anger. It's more of tragedy. The mood in the media and in the public arena is more of anger - turning more to anger. But the people are just sad. They're holding vigils tonight. There were the first vigils for people from Utrecht. I guess we're going to see lots of those things in the coming days. People are grieving, and they want to show the grief in a public way I guess.

RATH: Do you think this would make them more likely to support sanctions against Russia?

SCHOUTEN: Oh, definitely. We just had - last year, we had a friendship year with the Russians. There was a lot of big things going on about that 'cause Putin has, of course, been controversial for a longer time. But we've always had a good relationship with the Russians. And it seems this is the last straw so to speak. I think even though we have some economic relationships that are important, I think the sanctions are going to be tough from us, and we're going to try and get the European Union to go along with them 'cause if we're the only country, it wouldn't really matter, would it?

RATH: And do you have a sense of what people expect the government to do?

SCHOUTEN: Well, they expect them to get their - our countrymen back home as soon as possible to their loved ones so they can say goodbye in a decent way. And it seems to be a very hard thing to do. It shouldn't be a hard thing. The least you could do is to let people come home as soon as possible. And it's turning out to be a hard thing, and that's the biggest outrage of all I guess.

RATH: Willem Schouten of De Telegraaf. Thank you.

SCHOUTEN: No problem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.