The Dutch news in February 2004

27th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

In the second edition of a new Expatica feature, here is the news of February in an easily-accessible, summarised format.

2 February
German court abandons Dutch war criminal's trial

Herbertus Bikker

A court in the German city Hagen abandons the trial of aging Dutch war criminal, Herbertus Bikker, 89, ruling that he is not fit enough to participate. Bikker is charged with the shooting murder of a resistance volunteer, Jan Houtman, in the Netherlands in November 1944. Convicted of war crimes in the Netherlands in 1949, Bikker escaped from jail in 1952 and fled to Germany. He was tracked down in 1996.

2 February
Beating death leads to 8 years jail

Khalid L. is sentenced on appeal in Den Bosch Court to eight years jail and TBS psychiatric treatment for beating Rene Steegmans to death in Venlo on 22 October 2002. Roermond Court sentenced the 19-year-old to the same jail term last year, ruling him culpably liable for the death of the 22-year-old student.

4 February
Dutch scrap EU expat driving licence registration

Ruled in July 2003 to be in breach of European Union law, the Netherlands has adjusted regulations to ensure that EU expats no longer have to register their driving licence with Dutch municipalities when they move to the Netherlands.

5 February
Medicine prices to fall 40pc

Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst reaches a deal with pharmacists and manufacturers securing a 40 percent reduction in the price of medicines on which patents have expired. It signals an end to a long-running dispute. It was also arranged that insurers and pharmacists will reduce by 6.82 percent the "mate's bonuses" paid to pharmacists who sell their products.

5 February
Margarita loses witness testimony request

The controversial royal couple

A court in The Hague rules that neither Prince Bernhard nor the father or brother of Princess Margarita have to give testimony under oath. Princess Margarita and her husband Edwin de Roy van Zuydewijn claim they were the victim of a smear campaign and their privacy was violated. Despite the legal setback, the couple presses ahead with legal action aimed at possibly suing the Dutch State and the royal family. Queen Beatrix is Princess Margarita's aunt.

9 February  
Royal denies out-of-wedlock children, treason

Prince Bernhard, 92, hits out at various writers and publications, claiming that he is a frequent target of "mean and unfounded accusations". The husband of former Dutch queen, Princess Juliana, denies he fathered children out of wedlock, allegations he betrayed the fight against Germany in World War II and that his mother had a colourful lifestyle. The authors and journalists dismiss his denials, but a survey reveals that 75 percent of the Dutch population reacted positively to Prince Bernhard's statement.

9 February
2,500 rally against deportation plans

An asylum seeker who sewed his eyes and mouth shut is among 2,500 people who protest in The Hague against the government's plans to deport 26,000 refugees. Protestors, including children and asylum seekers, form a symbolic circle around the Lower House of Parliament, De Tweede Kamer. The protest ends peacefully.

9 February
MPs back asylum amnesty, deportations

Despite criticism from opposition MPs, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk wins Parliamentary backing to allow 2,300 asylum seekers to stay in the Netherlands, but deport 26,000 others. MPs from government parties the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 indicate they will back the embattled minister and the legislation is officially voted into force on 17 February.

11 February
EC gives green light to Air France-KLM merger

The European Commission gives Dutch flag carrier KLM and Air France the green light to merge and the US anti-trust authorities are also reportedly set to approve the creation of Europe's largest airline. EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti demands that the new airline relinquishes 94 take-off and landing slots per day to its rivals and both carriers accept the condition. Air France chief Jean-Cyril Spinetta says the share swap deal will take place in March and the takeover will be finalised in April or May.

11 February
Apaches get extra protection for Afghan mission

Dutch MPs back sending six adapted Apache combat helicopters to the ISAF stabilisation force in Afghanistan for security and reconnaissance tasks. The helicopters will remain in the Central Asian nation for six months. Defence Minister Henk Kamp said the Apaches will be fitted out with the newest form of "flares" to use as a decoy against heat-seeking missiles.

12 February 2004
Improving Dutch economy fell 0.8pc in 2003

The Dutch economy contracted 0.8 percent in 2003, the first 12-month decline since 1982, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reveals. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 0.3 percent in the last quarter of 2003 compared with the third quarter, coming on top of a stabilisation of GDP in the third quarter as the Dutch economy climbed out of a nine-month recession. On a yearly comparative basis, fourth quarter GDP was 0.5 percent lower than the same period in 2002.

12 February
Traffic jams increase 4pc

The number of traffic jams slightly increased last year due to a 1.9 percent rise in the number of cars on the nation's roads, the Transport Ministry said. There were 34,225 traffic jams last year, a rise of 4 percent compared with 2002. The total length of the traffic jams was 108,402km, compared with a 2001-peak of 115,000km.

13 February
More rules on new EU workers

The Cabinet announces that employers will only be able to recruit workers from the 10 states joining the EU this year if no Dutch person can be found for the position. This reverses the stance that the coalition of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende adopted in January, under which workers from the new EU member states would no longer need a work permit. Social Affairs State Secretary Mark Rutte thinks fewer than 22,000 people will move to the Netherlands every year as a result of the EU expansion.

13 February
French photographer wins Word Press Photo

French photographer Jean-Marc Bouju wins the World Press Photo competition. The international jury of the World Press Photo, which is run from Amsterdam, chose a colour image by Bouju that shows an Iraqi man comforting his 4-year-old-son at a POW centre near Najaf, Iraq. The picture was taken on 31 March 2003 and can be viewed at

13 February
Hells Angels gang members found shot dead

Three members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club De Nomads are found shot dead in the southern town of Echt. Police rule out a gang war and reveal they are searching for a fourth man seen with the victims on 11 February, the night they disappeared. Gang members later clash with Dutch and German camera crews and burn confiscated videotapes, prompting police inquiries.

16 February
Building fraud 'worse than thought'

The prosecution launches an inquiry after documents are uncovered at a construction company indicating that building sector fraud is much worse than previously thought. Construction companies that voluntarily hand in their shadow book keeping accounts to competition watchdog NMa are told they face fines, but will escape prosecution. Former government minister Annemarie Jorritsma, a part owner of building company Jorritsma Bouw, denies any allegations of wrongdoing in the scandal.

17 February
Nine years for Raaijmakers killing

A court imposes a nine-year sentence and compulsory TBS hospitalisation on the 18-year-old man who stabbed and killed Bart Raaijmakers, 18, in Tilburg in July 2003. Three co-defendants were sentenced to 12, eight and seven-year terms. The robbery which got out of hand caused an outcry in Tilburg because two of the attackers were Antilleans, leading to calls to crackdown on "ethnic crime". The lawyers of the four convicted men lodge appeals.

17 February
Toilet paper an 'unneeded expense'

The Emmaus retirement home in the town of Boxtel announces it will no longer buy toilet paper for its elderly residents. In future, family members will have to buy the toilet rolls themselves. Battling a shortage of funds because the AWBZ healthcare insurance scheme is earning less cash, the retirement home said it made the decision to ensure the continuation of responsible care. Two day's later the home is inundated with donated toilet rolls from the public and businesses, but residents are said to be less than amused by all the fuss.

18 February
Psychic 'misled actress to chanceless cancer death'


The public prosecution starts investigating the role psychic medium Jomanda allegedly played in the death of Dutch actress Sylvia Millecam. Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, Millecam never believed she was suffering from the disease and died in August 2001. The Health Inspectorate claims that Jomanda and alternative therapists "misled" Millecam to a "chanceless" death by saying she did not have breast cancer. Jomanda denies the allegations, saying she advised Millecam to see a regular doctor.

18 February
Budget battle looms over extra cuts

After the macroeconomic think tank Central Planning Bureau (CPB) warns that the budget might hit 3.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this year, division opens up within the government coalition about additional saving measures. The Liberal VVD is in favour of more cuts to prevent breaching the eurozone Stability Pact, while the Christian Democrat CDA and Democrat D66 raise concerns in Parliament that the nation may not be able to endure additional savings on top of the deep budget cuts already agreed. VVD Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said he will re-examine the figures.

19 February
Prosecutor transferred due to unsolved murder plot

Top Amsterdam prosecutor Koos Plooy is transferred from organised crime division to another function within the prosecution office (OM) due to ongoing fears about criminals plotting his murder. Plooy has been under police protection since August 2003. Conflict has opened up within the prosecution office because OM chief Joan de Wijkerslooth has refused to make a deal with a criminal that could lead to charges against a Yugoslav crime boss suspected of being behind the murder plot.

19 February 
Minister survives UWV financial scandal

Social Affairs Minister Aart Jan de Geus is rebuked, but escapes with a warning over a financial scandal in the government's social security bureau UWV. De Geus demanded on 15 February the resignation of UWV chief Tjibbe Joustra and deputy chairman Pieter Cloo after renovations to the bureau's Amsterdam office exceeded budget estimates. The minister appointed the Defence Ministry's chief public servant as a temporary four-week UWV chief, but both Joustra and Cloo dismiss criticism and refuse to resign.

20 February 
Albert Heijn removes salmonella chicken

Supermarket chain Albert Heijn (AH) will remove its "salmonella-free chickens" from retail shelves after tests find the presence of the dangerous bacteria on pre-inspected chicken products. AH said it wishes to determine why chickens are still infected with salmonella despite the checks. Supplier Plukon Poultry reacts with disbelief to the test results, but it is not yet known if government subsidies designed to stimulate the salmonella-free chicken industry are at threat.

23 February
Teacher killer's dad jailed for attempted murder

The father of the 16-year-old student who confessed to shooting and killing a teacher in The Hague on 13 January is sentenced in Rotterdam Court to eight years jail on an unrelated charge of attempted murder. Eyup D., 38, is found guilty of shooting a man on the Schansweg in Rotterdam in October 2003. The victim suffered three bullet wounds, but escaped and later alerted police.

24 February
AIVD faces inquiries over security failures

Pim Fortuyn

After several security failures, such as the Mabel Wisse Smit affair and the murder of politician Pim Fortuyn, a commission will investigate whether the secret service AIVD is doing its job properly. Interior Minister Johan Remkes will launch the commission's inquiry next month and is expected to inform Parliament of much of the commission's findings in the summer. Confidential matters will be reported to a special intelligence services commission.

25 February
Royals win battle against gossip magazine

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima win their legal battle against gossip magazine Prive as Amsterdam Court rules that publishing photos of their Wassenaar mansion is "unlawful". Repeat publications of the photos of the mansion's interior will carry a EUR 25,000 fine. The royal couple said its privacy was infringed when the weekly magazine published the photos last year. Princess Maxima was pregnant at the time with the nation's December-born future queen, Princess Amalia.

26 February
'Angry' snowstorms lead to massive traffic jams

Despite a warning from the national police force KLPD for motorists to stay at home, snow and strong winds lead to the second worst day of Dutch traffic jams ever. According to official figures, the combined length of the traffic jams at 8am extend to 760km. Trains also encounter problems and delays are reported at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Blizzard-like conditions around Amsterdam are described as being "bad and angry".

26 February
Controversy continues over military orders

A confidential letter written by prosecution chief Joan de Wijkerslooth indicates that Dutch peacekeeping soldiers may not even fire warning shots in Iraq. The statement reignites the conflict over the December arrest, but subsequent release of a marine in January for the death of a suspected Iraqi looter. Various Cabinet ministers, including Defence Minister Henk Kamp — who visits the 1,150 troops stationed in Iraq on 25 and 26 February — confirm that troops are allowed to use violence. The prosecutor's office (OM) also qualifies its statement, saying that troops may only use force in certain situations.

1 March 2004

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[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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