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Netherlands falls prey to economic crisis

(Der Spiegel) Michel Scheepens is familiar with risk. The 41-year-old oversees the energy market for the Dutch bank ING, and it’s his job to determine whether his employer should finance such projects as a wind farm in Cyprus or a gas-fired power plant in Turkey. Until now, it was always other people’s money that was involved.

For some time, however, Scheepens has been experiencing what a poor investment feels like on a personal level. Six years ago, the father of three bought half of a duplex for his family in the commuter town of Nieuw-Vennep, near the North Sea coast. The red brick building cost €430,000 ($552,000), but the bank generously offered him a loan of €500,000, so that there was enough money left over for renovations, along with notary and community fees. Scheepens had intended to resell the house after a few years, as is common in the Netherlands. But then prices tumbled following the Lehman bankruptcy. If the family were to sell the house today, it would have to pay the lender €60,000. His house is “onder water,” as Scheepens says.