The Dutch news in 2006

22nd December 2006, Comments 0 comments

Political flashpoints: the collapse of the government, the November elections and Parliament's vote of no confidence against Rita Verdonk. But there were joyous homecomings, terrorist convictions and a robust economic revival. This is the Dutch news of 2006. Aaron Gray-Block reports.


2 January 2006
Dutch less gloomy, but not ecstatic about 2006  
The New Year starts with pessimissm as four out of 10 Dutch people expect a deterioration of their financial situation, according to research bureau Trendbox. "But this is 15 percent less gloominess than the expectations regarding 2004 and 2005," Trendbox said. The bureau questioned 500 people in December about their expectations for the coming year.

6 January 2006

Frans van Anraat

Saddam's chemical supplier faces genocide appeal 
The Public Prosecutor's Office (OM) lodges an appeal against the December acquittal of businessman Frans Van Anraat of complicity in genocide by Saddam Hussein. The trial court jailed Van Anraat in December for 15 years for complicity in war crimes in relation to poison gas attacks carried out by Saddam's forces in Iraq and Iran. The OM wants an appeal court to rule whether Van Anraat was an accomplice to genocide by providing some of the chemical compounds used to manufacture the gas. Van Anraat is also appealing against his conviction and sentence.

9 January 2006
Mother arrested after bodies of four babies are found 
A woman and her partner were arrested in December after DNA testing confirmed they were the parents of four dead babies. The body of a newborn baby was discovered in the home of the woman's mother in Haarlem on 21 December. It has now emerged that the bodies of three other "tiny" babies were found following searches in the garden of the suspects' home in Beverwijk, north-west of Amsterdam.

16 January 2006
Jelle beats champion Barney in all-Dutch darts final 
Dutchman Jelle Klaasen makes history when he beats fellow countryman Raymond van Barneveld in the final of the Darts World Championship in the UK. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende both convey their congratulations to the 21-year-old relative newcomer from Alphen in Brabant. Klaasen beat titleholder Van Barneveld, known as 'Barney', 7-5 in the final at Frimley Green in Surrey. Van Barneveld, 38, has won the title four times.

18 January 2006

The Dutch put Australia on the map

Australia celebrates Dutch ties  
Australia, the land first put on the map by Dutch explorers, has opened a year of celebrations to mark the 400-year history between the two countries. Australian Ambassador Stephen Brady outlined the jubilee events for the year during a press launch in the 'Des Indes' hotel in The Hague. The countries have been linked since the Dutch East Indies vessel 'Duyfken' sailed from the port of Batavia (now the Indonesian capital Jakarta) four centuries ago to map out the unknown territory south of the Dutch Indies.

18 January 2006
Spooks to spy on Lonsdale youth 

The Dutch intelligence service (AIVD) will be on alert for right-wing extremists trying to radicalise native Dutch teens, Interior Minister Johan Remkes says. The minister gave this commitment in a letter sent to parliament in response to a supplementary report by the AIVD into the 'Lonsdale youth'. Groups of white, native Dutch youths who dress in clothes made by Lonsdale have been associated with racist incidents and anti-social behaviour.

19 January 2006
Dutch murder rate at 15-year low  

There were 201 murders committed nationwide in 2005, the lowest figure for 15 years, according to Elsevier magazine's annual Murder List. Amsterdam is once again the murder capital of the Netherlands with 32 people killed, followed by Rotterdam (26) and The Hague with 15. Worth noting is that Utrecht — the fourth-largest city — scores so low. Just two murders were committed there in 2005. In the 1990s, there was an average of 250 killings each year in the Netherlands. With 283 murders, 1997 was the worst annual total.

19 January 2006
Dutch MPs approve hi-tech test for would-be migrants 

Migrants who want to come to the Netherlands will from March be obliged to take an inburgering (integration) test in the country they are applying from. A Parliament majority now supports the plan of Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. It is hoped the compulsory test will force migrants to be better prepared for life in Dutch society before they arrive. Candidates must take the exam (in Dutch) at an embassy or consulate. It will test their knowledge of the language and culture and be taken over the phone, verbally, using a PC with speech recognition software.

29 January 2006
Holleeder arrested in extortion investigation 

Willem Holleeder

Willem Holleeder, one of the men who kidnapped beer magnate Freddy Heineken in 1983, is arrested on suspicion of extorting money from real estate agents. Police also arrest 10 other suspects. Holleeder is suspected of assault, making threats and extorting money from property tycoons, including his former associate Willem Endstra. Endstra was shot dead outside his office in Amsterdam in May 2004.


3 February 2006
D66 leader Boris Dittrich quits over Afghan vote

Boris Dittrich announces his resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrat D66 party. Dittrich admits he had made tactical mistakes and said this had to have consequences. "As political leader I have to be accountable and I expect that from others," he said. Alexander Pechtold later defeats Lousewies van der Laan to become the new D66 leader.

3 February 2006
Wilders gets death threats over Mohammed caricatures

Independent Dutch MP Geert Wilders receives 40 death threats by email within two days for reproducing the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on his website.

8 February 2006
New EU workers 'good for economy'

The European Commission urges EU member states to open up their labour markets to workers from Central Europe. It said Britain, Ireland and Sweden had reported increased domestic growth without higher unemployment after letting in new workers from the states which joined the EU in May 2004. However, most of the older EU member states have restricted access to their labour markets and many are considering extending the timeframe of restrictions.

14 February 2006
'Pizza boy' gets three years for Jihad recruiting in jail

A court in Rotterdam imposed a three-year sentence on Tuesday on a Moroccan-Dutch man for trying to recruit fellow prisoners for a Muslim holy war. Bilal L., 21, was serving a 10-month jail sentence for threatening MP Geert Wilders when he asked fellow prisoners to supply weapons and explosives.

17 February 2006
Holloways sue Dutch teen over Natalee's disappearance

The family of US teenager Natalee Holloway has filed a lawsuit against the Dutch teenager who was questioned extensively about her disappearance on Aruba in May. Documents filed with the Supreme Court of the State of New York accuse Joran van der Sloot, 18, of "malicious, wanton and willful disregard of the rights, safety and well-being" of Natalee Holloway. A court in New York later throws out the suit.

28 February 2006
'I behaved improperly,' repentant princess admits

Princess Margarita concedes it was 'improper' of her to record a conversation she had with her aunt, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Through her lawyer, Margarita admits that she had let other people, including her now ex-husband Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn, hear the tape. The princess also rejected a claim by her ex-husband that she had a DNA sample taken for an investigation into the hereditary line of the Dutch royals, the House of Orange.


3 March 2006
Suitcase loss costs KLM EUR 200,000

Airline KLM is fined EUR 200,000 for losing a passenger's suitcase and damaging his credibility more than seven years ago. Dr José Tiongco was travelling with KLM as an envoy of the Philippine authorities in November 1998. He was scheduled to give a lecture at a conference held by the World Health Organisation in Kazakhstan. He flew from Amsterdam to Frankfurt with KLM but his suitcase did not follow him. This meant he had give his lecture in jeans, t-shirt and sneakers — something that damaged his credibility, the judge agrees.

8 March 2006

Wouter Bos

Labour, Socialists big winners in local elections

The Dutch left celebrates as Labour PvdA regains ground lost in 2002. The PvdA wins 1,988 seats, 670 more than its disastrous showing in the 2002 municipal elections. This puts Labour ahead of the Christian Democrat CDA of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende as the party with the most councillors. The Socialist SP also had reason to celebrate as it more than doubled its number of councillors to 333. The coalition government parties — the CDA, the Liberals (VVD) and the Democrats D66 — suffer significant losses.  

10 March 2006
Sentences of up to 15 years in Hofstad trial

Nine out of 14 accused men are convicted by a court in Amsterdam of membership of a Muslim terrorist organisation known as the Hofstad group. The court declares Mohammed Bouyeri was the leader and initiator of the Hofstad terrorist group. The group's goal was not to plot terror attacks but to incite hatred and threaten people, the court finds. Bouyeri did not get a sentence as he is already serving life for the murder of film director Theo van Gogh in November 2004. Jason W. and Ismail A. are sentenced to 15 and 13 years respectively. They were involved in a 10-hour siege at a home in The Hague after five members of a police arrest team were wounded by a hand grenade.

16 March 2006
Netherlands begins milestone vaccination

Dutch veterinaries start vaccinating poultry most at risk from the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus in the first precautionary programme of its kind since 1992. The European Union has adhered to a 'no-vaccination' policy throughout the 1990s, but gave way to demands from the Netherlands and France — Europe's largest poultry producers — three weeks ago for the right to start anti-bird flu vaccinations. Vaccination is seen as an alternative to locking up free-range and open-air poultry. Veerman ordered all commercial poultry be confined indoors from 20 February to prevent them coming into contact with wild birds infected by H5N1. The birds are later allowed outside on 27 April. 

20 March 2006
Feyenoord's Kalou fails to go Dutch

The chance that Ivory Coast footballer Salomon Kalou will play for Holland in the World Cup fades as his application for fast-track naturalisation is rejected.  
20 March 2006
More women, younger people in expat workforce

Research shows more women and younger people are joining the expatriate workforce, and 21 percent of transferees leave during assignments. The 11th annual Global Relocation Trends Survey produced by GMAC Global Relocation Services and the National Trade Council, shows that 47 percent of the participating companies reported an increase in the size of their current expatriate population over 2005.

23 March 2006
Dutch navy hit by more rape, drugs claims

The clamour for a wide-ranging investigation grows amid allegations at least two female sailors were raped on a frigate where drug use was rife. It also emerges that four sailors serving on the naval supply ship 'Amsterdam' were sent home by the commanding officer for organising an initiation ritual mimicking the photographs of naked Iraqi detainees being abused  by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The incident took place last summer while the supply ship was operating in the Arabian Sea as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.   

24 March 2006
Row over number of foreign students

Immigration service IND cites 10 percent increase in study visa applications to counter claims foreign students are being put off the Netherlands. Some 6,500 foreigners applied for a temporary stay visa (MVV) for study purposes in 2005, whereas 5,924 applications were lodged the year before. Student organisation ISO had earlier said it had received numerous complaints about the expense and laborious nature of the IND's procedures. ISO said the number of students coming to the Netherlands had dropped by a third as a result. 

30 March 2006
Queen Beatrix begins State visit to Maxima's Argentina

Queen is accompanied by Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima in a visit to Maxima's homeland. First stop is a human rights exhibition. The Queen refers to the crimes of the military regime (1976-1983) in an after-dinner speech.


11 April 2006
Amsterdam slips in latest quality of life ranking

Amsterdam 13th in city rankings

While deemed the 3rd best capital city for 'quality of living' in the EU, the Dutch capital has nevertheless slipped a place from 12th to 13th in worldwide rankings, the latest survey by HR consulting firm Mercer reveals. Some 215 cities are covered by Mercer's 2006 quality of living survey, which is intended to help governments and multinationals in sending employees on international assignments. Each city's rating is based on an evaluation of 39 criteria, including political, social, economic and environmental factors, personal safety and health, education, transport and other public services.

13 April 2006
Dutch suspend deportations of Iranian gays, Christians

Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk has bowed to pressure from Parliament and agreed not to deport Iranian gay people and Christian converts for the time being. The Mmnister told MPs she would extend a previous moratorium on the expulsions. She took the decision when it became clear a majority of MPs doubt whether the rejected asylum seekers would be safe in Iran.

27 April 2006
Complaints lessen as IND cuts into permit backlog 

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) succeeded last year in clearing a large part of its backlog of unprocessed residence applications, the National Ombudsman reveals in his 2005 report. The number of complaints received about the IND declined last year and it improved its contactability, Ombudsman Alex Brenninkmeijer says. And highlighting the report on its website, the IND notes it was no longer the "leading supplier" of complaints. This position is held by the benefits payment agency (UWV).

26 April 2006
Dutch report cites lack of entrepreneurship

The business climate in the Netherlands scores average to good when compared with the situation in the 19 other industrialised countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a new report has found. But the report published by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) identifies a lack of entrepreneurship as a "sticking point" in the Netherlands. The Netherlands scores well in terms of secondary indicators such as the functioning of government and infrastructure. The country does less well when it comes to driving economic growth. The report cites a lack of innovation and entrepreneurship as the main restraints in this regard.

28 April 2006
Threatened MP ordered out of secure home 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Liberal VVD MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali is ordered to vacate the high-security home she is renting in The Hague within four months. An appeal court sides with her neighbours who complained her presence put their own safety at risk and caused disruption to their lives.  Somali-born Hirsi Ali is known as a critic of aspects of Islam and she went into hiding in November 2004 when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered. They had finished work shortly before his murder on Submission, a short film about the ill-treatment of women under Islam. 


1 May 2006
EU citizen registration regulation comes into force 

Citizens of other EU states, plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland who are moving to the Netherlands from 1 May onward must register with the immigration service IND. The regulation applies to citizens of these countries who wish to stay in the Netherlands for more than three months. "They will no longer have to request proof of lawful residency and in addition, they will no longer be issued with a residence permit," the IND said. EU and EEA citizens who register with the IND will receive a sticker in their passports as proof.

11 May 2006
Thousands 'unfairly' ticketed under ID law 

Police have issued 80,000 fines since the start of 2005 to people for failing to carry proper ID. But an investigation published by newspaper 'De Volkskrant' indicates police often acted wrongly. The public prosecution office (OM) thinks police officers are often too quick to hand out a ticket to a person without ID, but whose identity is known. Often the cases relate to 'acquaintances' of the police, such as homeless people or beggars. Others involve people who later come to the police station with a valid ID. The ID law, which came into force in January 2005, states a fine is not necessary in such cases.

11 May 2006
Dutch economic growth highest in 5 years 

The Dutch economy performed strongly in the first quarter of 2006, with gross domestic product (GDP) up by 2.9 percent on the year before. This was the highest growth rate in over five years, the national statistics office CBS says.

17 May 2006
MPs order Verdonk to reconsider Hirsi Ali's status  

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is compelled to reconsider whether Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Dutch citizen as a parliamentary majority backs two motions on the issue. One calls on Verdonk to reconsider within six weeks whether Hirsi Ali is a Dutch citizen. The second instructs the minister to grant Hirsi Ali accelerated naturalisation if she finds she is not a Dutch citizen. Verdonk had been called to the Parliament to defend her decision to send Hirsi Ali a letter to say her naturalisation in 1997 was invalid. This flows from the use of a false name and date of birth by Somali-born Hirsi Ali to get asylum five years earlier.

19 May 2006
PM withdraws preference for VVD as coalition partner 
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has withdrawn his preference to continue ruling with the Liberal VVD if his Christian Democrats CDA retain power after the 2007 election. But Balkenende said he wanted the next coalition to implement the "same type of policy" as the current government. "The policy of healthy government finances, strengthening the structure of the economy, increasing participation in the labour market and new solidarity — this type of policy absolutely must be continued".

22 May 2006
Ahold execs escape with discount sentences   

Cees van der Hoeven

Amsterdam Court imposes suspended sentences on former CEO Cees van der Hoeven of Dutch retail giant Ahold. His former right-hand man, CFO Michiel Meurs, received a similar sentence. The public prosecution office had sought 14-month custodial sentences against Van der Hoeven and Meurs on charges of fraud.

24 May 2006
Jail time cut in rape, animal porn case 

An appeals court in Arnhem imposed sentences of seven years on the two main defendants in the Kraggenburger rape and animal porn case. Belgian P.M. and E van C., a resident of the Dutch town of Almere, were jailed for 14 and 10 years by the trial court in Lelystad for kidnapping three African refugees in Brussels. The women were subjected to rape and sexual assault in a shed in the Dutch town of Kraggenburger in April 2004. The women were beaten and forced to have sex with Rottweiler dogs for the purposes of a pornographic video.

30 May 2006
Dutch paedophiles set up political party

Pro-paedophile activists have established a new political party in the Netherlands to campaign for the legalisation of sex between adults and children. "Ten years ago we were 'on speaking terms' with society. But since [Belgian paedophile killer] Marc Dutroux there is no more discussion. All paedophiles are being put in the same box. We are being hushed up," Ad van den Berg, the co-founder of the new party said. The NVD will lobby for a reduction in the age of consent in the Netherlands from 16 to 12 and then phased out completely over time. "Forbidding makes children all the more curious," Van den Berg said.

31 May 2006
Rutte beats Verdonk in VVD leadership race

Education State Secretary Mark Rutte is elected the new political leader of the Liberal VVD. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, his main rival, congratulated him and promised her full support. Rutte will lead the party into the general election in 2007.


6 June 2006
Ambassador leaving 'homophobic' Estonia  

Dutch Ambassador Hans Glaubitz is leaving Estonia because his male partner, a black Cuban, has been the victim of homophobia and racism, the Foreign Ministry confirms. The ambassador's partner was subjected to verbal harassment and threats in the street and threats. These began after a local magazine wrote that the appointment of a gay ambassador with a black partner had to be seen as a Dutch provocation. The Foreign Ministry had hoped that Estonia, like its neighbour Finland, would be able to accept a relationship between two men.

7 June 2006
Wilders blasts Queen Beatrix over mosque visit 
Independent Conservative MP Geert Wilders has taken Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende to task following the monarch's visit to a mosque. Queen Beatrix removed her shoes on entering the Mobarak Mosque in The Hague on 3 June and refrained from shaking hands with Muslim men in accordance with their strict religious beliefs. The visit was to mark the 50th anniversary of the building of the mosque.

20 June 2006
Netherlands has 108,000 millionaires 
The number of millionaires in the Netherlands rose by 5.3 percent to 108,000 last year, according to a report by merchant bank Merrill Lynch and consultants Cap Gemini. This was stronger growth than the year before, when there was a 2.3 percent rise in the number of millionaires. Yet the Netherlands is still behind the worldwide average increase of 6.7 percent to 8.7 million. The US still has the most millionaires: 2.9 million.

28 June 2006
Amsterdam drops in cost of living survey 

The Dutch capital has dropped from 24th to 41st place in the later Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. But the bad news is that Amsterdam's fluctuation in rank was due to currency exchange rates and rising costs in other cities. "The euro has weakened against a number of currencies, for example the Canadian and US dollars, reducing the cost of living for expatriates in many European countries," Mercer spokeswoman Anna Krotova said. It means that expats moving from USD-based countries will benefit from the improved exchange rate when they move to Amsterdam.

29 June 2006
Dutch coalition falls after resignation of D66 ministers 

The Dutch coalition government collapses after one of the most bizarre days in the country's political history. Christian Democrat CDA Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende finally conceded the coalition was finished after both Cabinet ministers and the one state secretary from the Democrat D66, the smallest coalition party, resigned. Hours earlier, Balkenende had announced that his ministers had decided a rejected motion of no confidence in Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk of the Liberal VVD had no consequences for the government. Balkenende said the Cabinet, including the two D66 ministers, was unanimous in its decision.

30 June 2006
Dutch PM seeks approval to continue with rump Cabinet  

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is pushing for approval to continue with a minority government rather than a powerless caretaker administration. Balkenende said after a meeting of his fallen Cabinet that a government with clout was needed to formulate the 2007 Budget. The deployment of 1,400 troops to Afghanistan in August will also need strong guidance from The Hague, he said. His Christian Democrat CDA and their government allies, the Liberal VVD, are keen to continue in office as a minority government. Balkenende's second coalition government collapsed after three years on 29 June after junior partner Democrat D66 withdrew its support. D66 had demanded the resignation of Immigration Minster Rita Verdonk as the price of its continued support. The CDA and VVD refused to sacrifice the Liberal minister.

22 December 2006

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