The Dutch news in 2005 - Part I

16th December 2005, Comments 0 comments

The shock of the Indian Ocean tsunami, heavy snow in March, Theo van Gogh's murderer breaks his silence, George Bush comes to town, and the Dutch public reject the draft EU Constitution. Some of the main events of the first six months of 2005.


5 January 2005
Dutch public remembers tsunami victims in silence 

The Netherlands joins with countries across Europe to observe a three-minute silence from noon in remembrance of the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Public transport and work in offices across the Netherlands came to a temporary standstill and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende orders the national flag be flown at half-mast at government buildings. A special commemorative ceremony is held in the Binnenhof, the Dutch Parliament building complex in The Hague.

6 January 2005 
EUR 112m raised in Dutch tsunami appeal  
Just over EUR 112 million is donated to a special televised Indian Ocean tsunami appeal in the Netherlands. Prior to the broadcast, the Dutch public had contributed EUR 64 million to Giro 555, a special bank account shared by a range of Dutch relief agencies, including the Dutch Red Cross, UNICEF and Doctors without Borders. By 25 January, donations increase to more than EUR 160 million.

10 January 2005
Artworks, silverware stolen in EUR 10m museum theft

Stolen ... a Jan van Goyen painting dating to 1632

Staff discover that thieves stole paintings and silverware valued at EUR 10 million from the Westfries Museum in Hoorn overnight, in what is been described as a disaster for one of the oldest Dutch museums. No security personnel were on duty at the time of the theft and police suspect the thieves tampered with the museum's advanced burglar alarm to gain undetected entry to the building.

17 January 2005
Woman arrested after killing bag snatcher 

Police in the east of Amsterdam detain a 43-year-old female motorist after she kills a suspected bag thief. The 19-year-old Moroccan victim is killed after the woman's car crushes him against a tree as he tries to escape on a scooter with an 18-year-old accomplice. The public prosecutor suspects the woman of manslaughter, but Amsterdam Court later orders her release. Amid tension between the immigrant and native Dutch communities, family and friends of the deceased victim, Ali el B., stage a march from the scene of the tragedy to a local mosque on 21 January.

18 January 2005
Hirsi Ali vows to continue fight against radical Islam

MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali returns to work in the Dutch Parliament, declaring under intense media scrutiny that she intends to continue her fight against Islamic extremism despite repeated death threats. Hirsi Ali went into hiding some two months ago after the brutal murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh amid fears terrorists were planning her death. The public prosecutor revealed on 12 January that a document seized from a suspected terrorist indicated Hirsi Ali's murder was planned for midnight on New Year's Eve when fireworks would muffle the sounds of shooting.

27 January 2005
Men sentenced for rape and animal porn horror

A Dutch court in Lelystad imposes sentences ranging from five to 10 years on four people found guilty of kidnapping three North African asylum seekers and forcing them to take part in animal pornography. The sentencing of a fourth suspect is held over pending a psychiatric evaluation. The prosecutor claimed the victims were raped and forced to have sex with animals, claiming also they escaped being killed in a so-called "snuff" film. One of the victims eventually escaped from the shed in the northeastern village of Kraggenburg and raised the alarm in April 2004.


4 February
Dutch government unveils new integration exam

Does a car have two or four wheels? Is it OK to sunbathe topless on the North Sea beaches along the Dutch coast? Amusement is generated by some of the questions in the example of the new integration exam unveiled by Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk. The exam is intended for immigrants, who will have to take it in their home country prior to coming to the Netherlands, to test their ability to speak Dutch and to gauge their understanding of Dutch culture. A video accompanies the exam material to give candidates insight into life in the Netherlands. It includes images of women sunbathing topless on the beach and of gay marriage — two examples of accepted behaviour in the Netherlands.

7 February
Terror arrests 'prevented' attacks, court refuses bail 

Public prosecutor Koos Plooy tells Rotterdam Court during a procedural hearing he is convinced that the arrest of 12 terrorist suspects — all of whom have been refused bail — thwarted one or more attacks in the Netherlands. He says the security service AIVD, police and prosecution department all have evidence against the suspects, dubbed the Hofstadgroep (Main City Group). The 12 suspects are charged with membership of a criminal and terrorist organisation. They are accused of plotting to kill MPs Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen and the city's Social Affairs Alderman, Moroccan-born Ahmed Aboutaleb. The prosecution also link the group to Mohammed B., the man accused of killing filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

10 February 
UK expat ends hunger strike in murder conviction appeal

British expat Kevin Sweeney calls off a hunger strike he launched in a Dutch jail in July 2004. Sweeney had earlier told Expatica he was prepared to fast to death in his bid to be given an opportunity to prepare a new appeal against his conviction for murdering his wife. He claimed he was being denied access to the file of the case and a computer he needed to prepare the appeal. Lawyer Sabine Zanker, of the European legal rights charity Fair Trials Abroad, announces months of negotiation with the authorities had finally paid off and an agreement had finally been reached with the Dutch Ministry of Justice to allow Sweeney to prepare his case.

11 February
Cohen: depolarise debate over Islam  

Job Cohen

Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen says the debate about Muslims and extremism should be conducted "in a more balanced way" in the Netherlands to avoid further polarisation between the Muslim community and the rest of society. He suggests the debate's aggression — in part being driven by the emergence of a real right-wing in the Netherlands — posed the danger of alienating the majority of Muslims who had integrated and "done well" in the Netherlands. "There is a need for a depolarisation of the debate," he says during the questions and answers programme Amsterdam Forum on Radio Netherlands.

15 February
Princess stresses positive side to integration process

Princess Maxima

Both the Dutch government and immigrants must respond more positively to integration, Argentinean-born Princess Maxima suggests. Speaking on television show Nova in her first in-depth interview, Princess Maxima says the Dutch government must recognise that there is more to gain from the richness of cultural differences. "So much goes wrong as regards ignorance and misunderstandings. Simply, we must want to see the richness of integration," she states. But she also says new arrivals need to be more open towards the process of integration, asserting further that immigrants should not remain on the sidelines and instead accept their responsibility.

18 February
Man 'wore slain mother's skin as clothing'

A computer expert who had killed his mother, 76, earlier in the month, skinned her and took to the streets in the dead of night wearing her bloodied flesh. Ronald Z., 42, roams the streets in his grisly "outfit" for about 90 minutes until he is arrested by police, newspaper De Telegraaf reports. Passers-by had thought the man was wearing a strange carnival fancy dress costume as he walked around with the skin draped over his shoulders. He was also seen directing traffic.

23 February
Dutch to vote on EU Constitution in June  

The Dutch public will vote on the European Union Constitution on 1 June, the government confirms. It is believed that the government wants the referendum to be held before a European Union budgetary summit in mid-June, newspaper De Volkskrant reports. On a per capita basis, the Netherlands donates more money to the EU budget than any other member state. The Dutch government is therefore concerned about a negative impact on the referendum if the budget ratio remains the same or worsens. The Hague is in favour of the introduction of the new EU constitution and will urge the public to vote yes "with conviction".

25 February
Angry expat parents battle school authority

A group of expat parents in Hilversum decide to take legal action to prevent the relocation the International Department of the Violen School in Hilversum. They have rejected the new location on a number of grounds — safety concerns — and have accused the city council of breaking promises. Hilversum City Council and the Hilversum Primary Education Foundation — which has had authority over the school since 1 January 2005 — will be summoned to court to explain the planned move. The parents are angry because they say they were promised the "north location" of the international school would be given another location in Hilversum North. But the campus is now being moved to a new location in Hilversum South. The dispute is resolved after talks.


2 March 2005
Record snow, record cold - in Spring!

Snow grounds flights at Schiphol

Spring starts with record snowfalls and freezing temperatures as 50cm of snow is recorded in Friesland and minus 20.7 degrees Celsius is recorded in Marknesse, Flevoland, on 4 March. Widespread traffic problems are reported, culminating in two deaths in a devastating series of chain collisions on the A15 involving more than 80 vehicles. Problems were also reported with train travel and at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. But with much of the Netherlands covered in thick snow for a week, the nation was also turned into a winter paradise as snowball fights, sled rides and cross-country skiing became the rage.  Snowmen (and women) start popping up right across the country.

7 March 2005
Emigration rate at 50-year high 

Some 49,000 people emigrated from the Netherlands last year, the highest figure since 1954, statistics bureau CBS says. Most people emigrate to Germany or Belgium. Work, joining a partner, tax benefits and cheaper housing were the main motivating factors. But social tension has also been blamed for the rising rate of emigration. There is also a clear link between emigration and poor economic growth in the Netherlands.

15 March 2005
Amsterdam slips to 12th in best city rankings  

Amsterdam slips down two positions to 12th in the rankings of the top 50 best cities to live in. The slip might be a result of the ongoing traffic problems in Amsterdam which were cited after last year's survey. The Mercer Human Resource Consulting 2005 quality of life survey once again listed Amsterdam as the only Dutch city in the top 50. "Nothing has changed about Amsterdam; it is just that other countries have moved up the rankings, 12th is a good position to be in," a senior researcher at Mercer, Slagin Parakatil, said. "What let Amsterdam down is its air pollution, although compared to other cities it is relatively low."

16 March 2005
Deal breaks deadlock over relocating expat school 

A last-minute deal between expat parents and Hilversum Council ends a drawn-out legal battle over the relocation of the international department of the Violen School. Angry parents were threatening to appeal against a court ruling that dismissed their objections to the new site and their demands for a delay of the relocation. But they have now signed a deal which they believe meets their concerns about health and safety relating to a GSM mobile phone mast and school facilities. Some parents did not suppose the protest of the relocation of the school.

17 March 2005
Angels get six years for killing club president 

The scene of the killing

Twelve members of the Hells Angels are sentenced to six years for the manslaughter of the president of the Nomads chapter of the motorbike club. Judges at the high-security Amsterdam-Osdorp courthouse ruled that the public prosecutor failed to prove all 14 accused members of the Limburg bikers club had murdered Paul de Vries, 54. The court also cleared all of the men of the murder of clubmates Cor Pijnenburg, 33, and Serge Wagener, 34. This is despite the fact that the judges accepted the pair were shot dead with De Vries as an argument in the Nomads clubhouse got out of hand in February 2004. The prosecution has appealed the ruling.

26 March 2005
Mabel gives birth to baby girl

Mabel and Friso

Princess Mabel, the wife of Prince Johan Frisco, gives birth to a baby girl shortly after 7pm, the Government Information Service (RVD) says. The baby weighs 3085g and is called Luana. She is the couple's first child and the fourth granddaughter of Queen Beatrix. Both mother and daughter are doing well. Prince Friso lost his rights to the Dutch throne after marrying Mabel in April last year. The couple previously admitted withholding information about Mabel's former relationship with drugs boss Klaas Bruinsma.


2 April 2005 
Cabinet survives crisis as D66 backs coalition accord  

Democrat D66's rank and file back the new coalition accord at a party congress in The Hague. The meeting was called after D66 lost a vote in the Senate over the introduction of direct mayoral elections. Licking its wounds, it demanded policy concessions from government partners Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD, resulting in the new coalition accord. Had D66 members rejected the accord, the Cabinet would almost certainly have collapsed.

6 April 2005
Muslim teen acquitted of planning Dutch attacks 
Rotterdam Court acquits 18-year-old terror suspect Samir A. of planning terror attacks on government buildings and other key installations due to a lack of evidence. The prosecution appeals the ruling. Unimpressed by media attention as he is freed from jail, the Dutchman of Moroccan origin punches a photographer and is briefly detained. He will hear next month if he is to be charged with assault.

13 April 2005
Mohammed B. breaks silence, OM probes conspiracy link 

Mohammed B., the suspected Islamic militant accused of murdering filmmaker Theo van Gogh breaks his silence in the high-security Amsterdam-Osdorp courthouse. He refutes claims his brother wanted to smuggle a document out of the penitentiary hospital in Scheveningen, but says little more. In other developments, the public prosecutor suggests that others had prior knowledge of B.'s plans to kill Van Gogh. B. is expected to give a more detailed statement when his trial starts on 11 July.

15 April 2005
Shock as policeman kills family 

Hilversum is stunned by the deaths of five members of a local family in a murder-suicide. A 46-year-old traffic officer with the national police force KLPD shot and killed his 42-year-old wife with his service pistol in the family home, before killing his three sons, aged eight, six and three. He then turned the gun on himself. The family was buried on 23 April at the cemetery Begraafplaats St. Barbara. Police say "a complex of factors" in the "private life" contributed to the tragedy.

21 April 2005
First confirmed Dutch case of degenerative CJD diagnosed 

A patient in a Dutch hospital has been diagnosed with Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human form of Mad Cow Disease. The Health Ministry said the patient is in the Mesos Medisch Centrum in Utrecht. The ministry said the patient was not a donor or recipient of blood or a human tissue donor and it is highly-likely the infection resulted from eating beef. This is the first time the brain-wasting condition has been detected in the Netherlands and the ministry has alerted EU authorities.

28 April 2005

Balkenende called for a yes vote

PM: opponents to EU Constitution are lying

Campaigners for a 'no' vote in the 1 June referendum on the adoption of the European Union Constitution are spreading falsehoods about the EU and its charter, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende claims. Balkenende's government initially decided against an active pro campaign unless opponents mounted a serious campaign for a no vote. But the prime minister has been stung into action following an opinion poll indicating 58 percent of the public intend to vote no.


3 May 2005
First Dutch vCJD patient dies 

The first person in the Netherlands diagnosed with the disease Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) dies in Utrecht hospital. The 26-year-old woman was diagnosed on 21 April with vCJD, the human form of Mad Cow Disease. Experts believe she could have contracted the disease 20 years ago by eating infected beef. The disease can also be transferred by transplants of nerve tissue, but this has been ruled out in the Utrecht woman's case.

4 May 2005
Dutch expect mass shortage of expats

The Netherlands expects a shortage of 120,000 skilled expats in the coming period despite the new entry procedure introduced last October by the government for highly-skilled expats. Meanwhile, in presenting its annual report, the IND says asylum seekers won 21 percent of appeals last year compared with 13 percent in 2003.

6 May 2005
Child porn on prosecutor's computer 
Child pornography was found on the computer former public prosecutor Joost Tonino put out with the rubbish last year, but an official investigation failed to reveal whether he downloaded the images deliberately. The photos could have been a "by-product" of legal visits to sex sites. But crime reporter Peter R. de Vries also raises concerns Tonino visited in the past newsgroups currently infamous for swapping child pornography.

8 May 2005
Bush urges hope, liberty during Dutch visit 

US President George Bush

US President George W. Bush leaves the Netherlands after a 17-hour visit highlighted by a commemorative service at the American military cemetery in Margraten. Both Bush and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende spoke at the ceremony and jointly thanked the soldiers who freed Europe from Nazi Germany 60 years ago. Bush flew into the Netherlands on 7 May, staying at the Hotel Château St Gerlach in Houthem. Some nine people were arrested during his visit as several small-scale protests were held across the country.

9 May 2005
Gay capital risks losing reputation after bashing

Expatica reports the bashing of a prominent American gay man has sparked international controversy and is threatening the 'pink' tourist industry in Amsterdam. Chris Crain, the chief editor of the influential gay magazine 'Washington Blade', was assaulted on Queen's Day in Amsterdam. He claims the people who assaulted him were Moroccans. The incident is hotly debated, but Amsterdam gay representatives say homosexuals have long felt increasingly unsafe in the Dutch capital.

30 May 2005
Dutch PM urges 'ja' vote despite French 'non' result 

The Dutch government reacts with disappointment to the French 'no vote' against the EU Constitution, resolutely urging the nation's voters to vote 'yes' at its referendum on 1 June. "We must not let ourselves be influenced by the French," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende says. Dutch opponents to the constitution welcome the French result, with the Socialist SP stressing that it brought a Dutch 'no' victory a step closer. A majority of French voters (55 percent) voted against the proposed EU constitution in a referendum on 29 May. Dutch voters are also polled to vote no.


1 June 2005
Dutch 'no' vote wins easily in high-stakes referendum

The Dutch public resoundingly rejects the draft EU Constitution by voting 63 percent against and only 37 percent in favour in the nation's high-stakes referendum. An exit poll released moments after the polls closed indicate a 26 percent margin. Despite the fact the exit poll is provisional, it was immediately clear the Netherlands had become the second country after France to reject the constitution. Nine other countries have approved of the treaty.

6 June 2005
Dutch, Belgian leaders end diplomatic row 

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and his Belgian colleague Guy Verhofstadt agree to put an end to a diplomatic row sparked by 'unacceptable' criticism aimed at the Netherlands' leader. The diplomatic row was sparked after Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht described Balkenende in a newspaper interview as "a mix of Harry Potter and goody-goody rigid, old fashioned conservative attitudes; a man in whom I cannot detect any trace of charisma". De Gucht later apologises.

7 June 2005
Syrian awarded damages over terror arrest  
The Syrian man arrested last year during the Nijmegen Four Day Walk on suspicion of terrorism has been awarded EUR 10,000 in damages. The public prosecutor decided last November not to press charges against Gaffar H. and Arnhem Court awarded the 38-year-old man damages. He had been falsely suspected of planning a bomb attack during the popular walking event and was held in custody for six days. Due to the nature of the allegations against H., Arnhem Court decided to award him damages 20 times higher than the normal EUR 95 per night. It said H. suffered more damage than other people who have been arrested.

10 June 2005
Teen held over US woman's disappearance 

Natalee Holloway

A 17-year-old Dutch male is arrested in Oranjestad in Aruba on suspicion he was involved in the disappearance of 18-year-old US student Natalee Holloway. The suspect is the son of a Dutch judge who has worked on Aruba for many years. Two Surinamese brothers, aged 18 and 20, are also arrested. Over the next few months the authorities search in vain for any trace of Holloway, as her mother claims the investigation has been handled incompetently. The three suspects are released without charge, following several months in custody.

28 June 2005
Baby princess named Alexia  
Crown Prince Willem-Alexander registers the name of his second daughter as Alexia Juliana Marcella Laurentien in The Hague. Argentine-born Princess Maxima gave birth to the child on Sunday. As with the entry of the names of future Queen, Amalia, into the register 18 months ago, Prime Minister Jan Pete Balkenende and the vice-president of the Council of State Tjeenk Willink attended Tuesday's ceremony in the Oude Stadhuis. Hague Mayor Wim Deetman and Henk Kokken jointly received Willem-Alexander's declaration of his second daughter's names. Alexia Juliana is third in line to the Dutch throne after her sister Amalia and her father. 
28 June 2005
'Winnie de Poohma' video is released 

Video footage is released which shows the puma being hunted in the Veluwe seems blissfully unaware of the fuss it is causing. Trackers working for big cat centre Pantera videoed the suspected puma, dubbed Winnie de Poohma, from about 100 metres distance on 22 June as the animal rummage about on the edge of a field of corn in Loenen near Apeldoorn. The animal of prey is on view for two-and-a-half minutes in the video and shows little sign it knows Pantera has been trying to catch it alive to avoid police sharpshooters killing it.

29 June 2005
Four jailed for viaduct murder  
Four men receive sentences of up to six years for indiscriminately throwing the paving stone from a motorway bridge that killed a motorist. The 30-year-old woman from the Dutch town of Uden was killed in January this year when the stone crashed through the windscreen of her car and hit her in the face on the A4 motorway near Rijswijk. All four men are from Rijswijk. A sack of rubbish had earlier been thrown from another viaduct and hit a truck, but the driver was not hurt in the incident.

16 December 2005

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Dutch news in review

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