The Dutch news in 2006 - Part II

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.


10 July 2006
Balkenende III gets green light

PM Jan Peter Balkenende

Jan Peter Balkenende's minority coalition government receives the backing of Parliament. Left-wing opposition parties were, however, critical of Balkenende's record to date. Femke Halsema, leader of the green-left GroenLinks, emphasised this was Balkenende's third government in four years. She and other party leaders warned the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD coalition government it could lose the support of parliament if it tried to introduce controversial legislation. But Democrat D66 did not follow through on a threat to introduce a motion of no confidence in the government. The Prime Minister promised in a short speech that his Cabinet, which commands only 71 of the chamber's 150 seats, would act prudently in relation to 'irreversible decisions'.

10 July 2006
MPs approve modified integration law 
It seems likely that a controversial integration law will come into effect on 1 January as originally planned. MPs in the Dutch Parliament approved a modified version of the legislation. Opposition parties, Labour PvdA, Socialist SP, green-left GroenLinks, Democrat D66 and ChristenUnie would have preferred to delay the vote until after the summer to await advice from the Council of State. The Council has been asked whether forcing naturalised residents to take an integration course is discriminatory. The law states that newcomers and certain groups of 'old-comers' must pass an integration exam on the Dutch language and culture. Candidates can face sanctions if they do not pass the test within a certain period of time. Many people will have to pay for the cost of the course and exam themselves.

14 July 2006
Legionella traced to Post building by CS 

The source of the Legionella outbreak in Amsterdam which eventually left two elderly people dead and more than 30 others ill is most likely a cooling tower at the old Post building beside Central Station. The Post CS building on the Oosterdokskade is the temporary home for the Stedelijk Museum. The cooling tower next to it was shut down earlier this week as a precaution.

19 July 2006
Student Taida gets permission to return

Kosovar Taida Pasic is returning to study law in the Netherlands less than three months after Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk forced her to leave the country. The immigration service IND has given a positive recommendation in response to an application by the University of Leide. Pasic, who wants to study law, lodged an application at the beginning of July for permission to come to the Netherlands. The application was processed within a few weeks as is the case with other students.

21 July 2006
Dutch evacuees set to arrive from war-torn Lebanon

Nearly 700 Dutch people living in Lebanon have been repatriated or have left the country of their own accord, a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry says. Two planeloads of Dutch evacuees from Lebanon were scheduled to arrive in the Netherlands. The first group arrived in a KLM 747 chartered by the ministry that landed at Schiphol at 2pm. It consisted of 48 Dutch, 118 Belgians and five Australians. A DC10 operated by the Dutch air force was scheduled to land in Eindhoven later that night night with another
160 evacuees on board. 

26 July 2006
Dutch firms seek expats close to home 

Companies based in the Netherlands favour expat applicants from neighbouring Belgium and Germany, a new survey has confirmed. The survey — carried out by online recruiting specialist StepStone — revealed 47 percent of HR managers in the Netherlands look for expat workers from Belgium, while 43 percent also recruit Germans. Expats from the UK are also popular with Dutch-based companies: 34 percent of HR managers recruiting abroad have hired or considered people from Britain. The next most popular expat countries are the US and France (both 25 percent). 

27 July 2006
Two Dutch die in Afghan helicopter crash 

The Netherlands has suffered its first casualties in Afghanistan days before its military mission officially becomes active. The Russian-made civilian Mi-8 helicopter, operated by a logistics firm, Tryco, crashed between in the eastern province of Paktia. It is believed 16 people were on board. The passengers included a lieutenant colonel of the Dutch Air Force and a sergeant. The pair were attached to the Dutch command staff in the Afghan capital Kabul.


3 August 2006
Citizenship denied to 'Dutch' children

Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk has turned down a request to grant citizenship to a group of children of Dutch mothers. But Parliament is still to debate Verdonk's proposal to further restrict dual citizenship. The issue relates to children born before 1985 to a Dutch mother and a foreign father. Until that time children from a mixed marriage were automatically granted Dutch citizenship only if the father was Dutch. Mothers in such relationships could not transfer their nationality on to their children even though their offspring often felt Dutch. They faced difficulties when trying to visit their families in the Netherlands or come here to live.

9 August 2006
Groningen rocked by 'record' earthquake

Gas drilling in Groningen

An earthquake shakes the north of the Netherlands. Measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale, it was equal in strength to the strongest earthquake on record in the northern Netherlands. This took place in Alkmaar five years ago. The latest quake in Groningen took place at around 7am and was registered by all seismic stations in the country. It was centred on the town of Middelstum which lies in the middle of the gas fields in the province. The town has experienced several earthquakes in recent years.

14 August 2006
Rush on sun holidays as rain comes down in buckets

Travel agencies have reported a rush of bookings for last-minute sun holidays as torrential downpours continued to soak the Netherlands. Large travel agencies reported bookings were 20 to 25 percent up on the same period last year.

25 August 2006
Dutch release 12 'terror jet' passengers

Dutch justice officials have released the 12 passengers arrested when the cabin crew of an American plane bound for India thought they were acting suspiciously. The Northwest Airlines flight to Mumbai, with 149 passengers, was escorted back to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport by two Dutch F-16 fighter jets. The 12 Indian men were taken into custody and questioned by prosecution officials. The men were released from the detention centre at the airport later in the evening.

25 August 2006
Integration plan hits new equality snag

Green-left party GroenLinks has called on Immigration and Naturalisation Minister Rita Verdonk to respond to a report the country's highest administrative court has shot down one of the main planks of her integration legislation. The Council of State has advised the minister that holders of a Dutch passport, regardless of their employment status, cannot be compelled to follow an integration course.

30 August 2006
Artificial grass in cancer scare

Playing football on artificial grass may be a cancer risk, it was reported. Testing ordered by Arnhem City Council revealed clouds of toxic gasses and particles above the new artificial grass field in the eastern Dutch city. This has led to concerns other fields are not safe either. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has begun an in-depth investigation.


1 September 2006
Dutch F-16 crashes in Afghanistan

A Dutch fighter pilot died when his F-16 fighter jet crashed in southern Afghanistan. The Dutch Defence Ministry said his plane, based in Kabul, was flying at a "great height" at the time of the accident, making it unlikely it was shot down. The plane came down in a barren area of Ghazni Province, north of Uruzgan, where 1,400 Dutch troops are based. The wreckage and the pilot's body were found by an American rescue team.

5 September 2006
Wage increases higher than anticipated

Wages in the Netherlands are increasing more than anticipated with average increases running at 3.8 percent rather than the 2 percent forecast. The increase is up to 3.6 percent for operational staff and up to 4.1 percent for people at managerial level, according to the Beloningsindex 2006, the wages index published annually by ADP Nederland and Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

7 September 2006
MPs seek debate on CIA prisons

Dutch MPs have called for a special debate with Foreign Minister Ben Bot following President George W. Bush's admission the CIA operates secret overseas jails. Labour PvdA, the Socialist SP, green-left GroenLinks and Democrat D66, all opposition parties, expressed disappointment at the "little political reaction" from Minister Bot. He will face questions about the controversial issue during a debate in Parliament.

11 September 2006
Hate is not the answer, says Dutch PM

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende attends a ceremony in The Hague to mark the 5th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. "Hate is not the answer. Openness is," Balkenende told a gathering in the garden of the US embassy. The prime minister based his short speech on the story of a young New Yorker whose sister was killed in the attacks on the towers of the World Trade Centre. "I must teach my children not to hate like others do," Paul wrote in a digital archive about 9/11.

20 September 2006
BUDGET: the main points

Here are the main points of the 2007 Budget outlined by Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm on Tuesday:

Gerrit Zalm

  • A budget surplus equal to 0.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • National debt to decline below 50 percent of GDP
  • Purchasing power up by an average of 1 percent
  • Premiums for Unemployment Insurance (WW) down an average of EUR 200 per year
  • Reduction in tax rates, saving an average EUR 115 per family
  • Company tax down to 25.5 percent
  • Children's allowance up by EUR 35 per year
  • Childcare made cheaper / compulsory employer contribution introduced
  • Subsidy to limit increase in healthcare premiums
  • Measures to limit staff shortages in nursing homes
  • Better supervision of inmates on temporary release from TBS behavioural modification clinics for convicted criminals / more TBS places
  • Measures to make volunteer work more attractive
  • Extra money for expensive medicines
  • General salary tax deduction (Arbeidskorting) up by EUR 20 per year
  • Supplementary combination deduction (Aanvullende Combinatiekorting) up by EUR 80 per year
  • Extra money for debt relief assistance
  • Hundreds of extra police
  • Measures to improve public safety and the environment in the major cities
  • More money for anti-terrorism
  • Measures to cut child welfare waiting lists

21 September 2006
Official failings led to deaths in Schiphol fire: report

There would have been fewer or no fatalities during the fire at the Schiphol detention centre if government officials had adhered to fire safety regulations, official investigative report states.

21 September 2006
Ministers Donner and Dekker resign over fire report

Ministers Piet Hein Donner (Justice) and Sybilla Dekker (Housing, Planning and the Environment) resign following the damning report into the Schiphol detention centre fire. They are later replaced by former government ministers Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Pieter Winsemius. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende says the Christian Democrat CDA's Hirsch Ballin will take over the justice portfolio, while the Liberal VVD's Winsemius will take over the portfolios vacated by Dekker.

25 September 2006
Princess Maxima pregnant with couple's 3rd child

Princess Maxima

Princess Maxima is pregnant with her third child, the government information service RVD announces. "The birth of the third child of the Prince of Orange and Princess Maxima is expected in the second half of April 2007," the RVD says. Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima said they were "thankful and pleased" with the pregnancy. The new baby is fourth in line to the Dutch throne.

29 September 2006
IND meets deadline over 26,000 asylum seekers
Almost all of the 26,000 asylum seekers who entered the Netherlands prior to April 2001 and were still waiting for a definitive assessment on their request for a residence permit have now had their dossier processed by the immigration service IND. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk had been set a deadline of 1 October to decide the fate of the asylum seekers, 3,000 of whom have been allowed to stay.


3 October 2006
Faith healer escapes trial over popular actress' death


The public prosecution office (OM) decides against taking faith healer Jomanda and four alternative therapists to trial for the death of actress Sylvia Millecam. The OM says is unclear whether the five suspects damaged the health of Millecam, either by intent or negligence. Millecam discovered a lump in her breast in September 1999. She sought healthcare from alternative doctors and therapists, including the psychic Jomanda, who told Millecam she did not have breast cancer. This is one of the reasons why Millecam opted against chemotherapy. She eventually died from in August 2001 at the age of 45. 

8 October 2006
Turkish urged to vote amid row over Armenian killings

Members of the Turkish immigrant community are urged to vote at the November elections despite the fact the Labour PvdA and Christian Democrat CDA had dumped Turkish candidates in a dispute over the Armenian mass murders. The request was made at a meeting organised by the Turkish lobby group (IOT) in response to the dumping of the CDA and PvdA candidates, who had denied genocide took place in the Ottoman empire in WWI.

11 October 2006
MPs demand ban on drinking water profits

The three largest parties in the Dutch Parliament (CDA, PvdA and VVD) are calling for a ban on the dividends paid to shareholders of waterworks companies. The demand comes after research conducted by newspaper 'De Volkskrant' indicated that drinking water is unnecessarily expensive. A large number of consumers are forced to pay extra for their drinking water because waterworks companies have to pay dividends to shareholders. Customers of non-profit driven waterworks companies pay less. 

16 October 2006
Turkish youths turning to radical Islam: terror report

The continued radicalisation of especially young Muslims remains concerning, the national anti-terrorism co-ordination office NCTb says. It also says a rising number of Turkish youths are finding their way into networks of radical Muslims prepared to use violence against western society. "Frustration over the position of Muslims in the Netherlands and anger over the events in conflict regions give food to the feeling that 'something' must be done," the NCTb says.

18 October 2006
Dutch MPs back JSF jet despite warning on costs

The three left-wing opposition parties fail to prevent the Cabinet committing to the next development stage of the JSF fighter jet. A Parliament majority of the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD, populist LPF and the two smaller Christian parties approved the next stage. The contract will be signed in mid-November in Washington. That means Dutch industry will remain involved in the project. A report from the auditor's office earlier this month warned of great financial risks due to involvement in the JSF project.

23 October 2006
Alexander and Maxima visit Australia

Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima arrive in the Australian capital Canberra. Their visit signifies the climax and conclusion of the celebration of the 400-year anniversary of relations between Australia and the Netherlands. The couple will then pay an official visit to New Zealand.  

26 October 2006
MPs want quicker trains

A parliamentary majority wants train speeds to be increased up to 160kmh on several routes. This would be achieved by a EUR 70 million investment in safety and security systems plus extra track and other railway infrastructure. Currently, speeds of up to 140kmh can be achieved, but within two years there must be new, faster curves constructed on several routes. The Christian Democrat CDA and Labour PvdA have backed the plan from Dutch rail NS.


8 November 2006
Prosecution in dramatic bid to ban Hells Angels

The public prosecution is moving to ban the motorcycle club Hells Angels, demanding in court the dismantling of the club's seven chapters. The chapters are accused of forgery, handling stolen property, embezzlement and attempted fraud. The prosecution said the Hells Angels were "undesirable" in society. But a spokesman for the Amsterdam chapter, lawyer Vincent Kraal, said the prosecution had little chance of getting the entire organisation banned.

9 November 2006
2,200 knowledge migrants in 6 months

A total of 2,200 non-EU citizens were issued with work permits under the Dutch 'knowledge migrants' scheme in the first six months of this year. Although the scheme has proven to be successful, it has compensated for only a small proportion of the skills shortfall, the Federation of European Employers said. For this reason, the Dutch parliament has now approved a 'talents scheme', which will permit those with a wider range of skills to enter the Netherlands for fixed periods, but with a possibility of extension or conversion into permanent status.

10 November 2006
Mass emigration slows Dutch population growth

In the first nine months of this year, almost 100,000 people left the Netherlands to settle elsewhere, 12,000 more than the same period last year. About half of the emigrants were Dutch natives, the national statistics office CBS says. If the trend continues, more than 130,000 people will have left the country by the end of this year. For the third successive year, the number of emigrants substantially outnumbers immigrants. The net effect means the Dutch population was reduced in the 2004-06 period by 75,000. In the preceding three years, there was a positive net migration of 75,000.

16 November 2006
Boy, 16, second victim of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease

A 16-year-old schoolboy from North Brabant died at the end of October from Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. He was infected with the human variant of mad cow disease. The male youth, of Bennebroek, was admitted to hospital in July. He is the second person to die from mad cow disease disease in a short period. A 26-year-old Utrecht woman died in 2005. The Creutzfeld-Jakob research centre in Rotterdam has indicated that probably two other Dutch nationals have been infected with the brain disease.

17 November 2006

Burka banned

Cabinet backs plan to ban burka

The Cabinet has backed a proposal from Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk to ban the wearing in public of burkas and other clothing that conceals the face. Parliament had requested the ban and Verdonk said that earlier doubts about the legality of the regulation have now been ruled out. Once legislation is enacted, the ban will be imposed in all public and semi-public places, such as streets and public transport.

17 November 2006
Defence minister denies abuse in Iraq

Defence Minister Henk Kamp has denied that Dutch soldiers did anything wrong in interrogating Iraqi prisoners. The minister was responding to allegations that Dutch military officers abused Iraqi prisoners in the province Al Muthanna in 2003. Kamp said military police investigated the case in 2003 and that inquiries did not reveal any crimes took place. But the coalition cabinet has formed an independent commission to re-investigate the matter.

22 November 2006
SP emerges victorious as voters flee centre ground

The ruling Christian Democrat CDA won 41 seats at the Dutch Parliament elections. Despite dropping three seats from the January 2003 election, the CDA held off a challenge from the opposition Labour PvdA, which could only win 32 seats, down from its current 42. It means the CDA is in the box seat to appoint the new prime minister, expected to be incumbent Jan Peter Balkenende. But the biggest winner was the Socialist SP, which won 26 seats compared with its current nine seats as voters fled the centre to the far-left and far-right. The Liberal VVD — currently in a coalition government with the CDA — fell back to 22 seats from its current 28.

24 November 2006
Dutch borders closed to Romanians, Bulgarians

The Netherlands will keep its borders closed to workers from Romania and Bulgaria when the two countries join the EU on 1 January. It means employers taking on Romanians and Bulgarians will still have to apply for a work permit on their behalf. The Dutch government wants to prevent cheap workers flooding the labour market. The measure will be reviewed after two years.

28 November 2006
Dutch Sinterklaas tradition at threat

Sinterklaas debate flares

The Sinterklaas tradition appears to be gradually fading in the multicultural Dutch society in the face of rising criticism to the saint's helpers, 'Zwarte Pieten' (Black Peters). A Sinterklaas was attacked by youths at several locations in recent days and public broadcasters have indicated they want to start a debate on the Black Peters. Debate about Zwarte Pieten has been intensifying in recent years, with some immigrant groups complaining about racist connotations, news service NIS reported on Tuesday.

30 November 2006
Amsterdam orders prostitution windows shut

Red light windows to close

A large amount of the window prostitution in Amsterdam's red light district will be shut down as the city council gets tougher on criminal activities. Amsterdam City Council said investigations had revealed about one-third of the prostitution sector is allegedly involved in money laundering. About 100 of the 350 prostitution windows in the Dutch capital's red-light district will be forced to close by the end of the year. The operators of the sex windows can still appeal, however, against the city council's decision to withdraw their permits. A total of 33 permits were revoked. 

30 November 2006
Hottest autumn in 300 years warmer than expected

The warmest autumn in 300 years was even warmer than expected. Meteorological bureau KNMI said the average temperature in September, October and November was 13.6 degrees Celsius. KNMI had earlier expected an average of 13.2 to 13.5 degrees. In 2005, the average temperature was 12 degrees. A spokesman said breaking the record by more than a degree is rare.

30 November 2006
MPs vote to grant pardon to 26,000 asylum seekers

The new Dutch parliament approves a shock motion calling for a general amnesty for thousands of asylum seekers who entered the country before tougher immigration laws came into force in 2001. The motion by the Labor PvdA calls for 26,000 long-term asylum seekers to be given the right to stay.


1 December 2006
Samir A. militants jailed for plotting terror attacks 

A court in Amsterdam sentences Samir A. and three other Islamic militants to prison for planning terror attacks on politicians and the intelligence service AIVD. Samir A., 20, was jailed for eight years and three others — Nourrdin El F., Mohammed C. en Soumaya S. — received terms of between three and four years. Some of suspects were alleged to have links to the Hofstad group, whose leader was convicted of killing filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Two other defendants were acquitted of terror charges.

1 December 2006
Boy, 8, stabbed and killed at school

An eight-year-old child is stabbed and killed at a primary school in Hoogerheide in the province of Brabant. The culprit stabbed the boy four times in the neck and police later arrested a 22-year-old suspect. The attack took place at the primary school Klim-Op on the Matthias Wolffstraat in Hoogerheide.

4 December 2006
Dutchbat troops awarded Srebrenica citation

Defence Minister Henk Kamp issues citations to soldiers from the Dutchbat III unit that were involved in the fall of the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica. The badge serves as a symbol of recognition for the 850 soldiers who were at Srebrenica when the Serbian army overran the UN-declared safe haven in July 1995. The ceremony sparked protests and criticism from Srebrenica victims' families.

8 December 2006
Social worker charged over her role in Savanna's death

The social worker responsible for the family assistance in 2004 for the murdered Savanna and her mother will be taken to trial, the public prosecution office (OM) says. The three-year-old Savanna of Alphen aan den Rijn died in September 2004 after being physically abused by her mother. The OM alleges that the social worker did not investigate the situation enough and ignored signals of abuse.

11 December 2006
Socialists drop out of coalition Cabinet talks

The Socialist SP, the big winners from November's elections, drop out of talks to form a new coalition government. The facilitator of the talks, Rein Jan Hoekstra, said it had become clear in recent days that the differences between the Christian Democrat CDA and SP were "numerous, serious and on some points, fundamental". The informateur will now investigate other coalition possibilities, which could involve a coalition between the CDA, PvdA and the small ChristenUnie party.

12 December 2006
Schiphol fire suspect to go on trial in May

The trial of the suspected arsonist at the Schiphol East detention centre will be held in May 2007, Haarlem Court rules. The public prosecution office (OM) has also contracted an engineering bureau to carry out a technical investigation of the October 2005 blaze. A 24-year-old Libyan is accused of deliberating starting a fire in his cell. The resulting blaze caused the deaths of 11 prisoners at the immigration detention centre. The defendant says the fire started by accident.

12 December 2006
MPs postpone rights for new EU workers

The Dutch Parliament votes to postpone the entry of workers from the new EU member states until 1 March. The Cabinet had decided at the start of December that on 1 January it would open the border to workers from the eight Central and Eastern European countries. But MPs are concerned about illegal workers and poor workplace conditions.

13 December 2006
MPs pass no confidence motion against Verdonk

Rita Verdonk

The Cabinet is forced into crisis talks after the Dutch Parliament passes a motion of no confidence against Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. The vote came after Verdonk refused to extend a temporary suspension on the deportations of long-term asylum seekers. That suspension was part of a parliament motion passed at the end of November calling for a general amnesty for asylum seekers who had lodged a request for asylum before April 2001.

14 December 2006
Cabinet stays in place, ends expulsion of asylum seekers

The caretaker Cabinet will remain in place and end the expulsion of long-term asylum seekers, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende says. The Christian Democrat CDA leader also says Liberal VVD minister Rita Verdonk will hand over her immigration portfolio to Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin. VVD ministers were initially opposed to the solution, but the party agreed at the urgent request of Balkenende to remain in the cabinet in the interests of the nation.

19 December 2006
CDA stalwart to lead coalition cabinet talks 

Christian Democrat CDA stalwart Herman Wijffels has been appointed informateur to chair coalition formation talks between the CDA, Labour PvdA and ChristenUnie. The CDA, PvdA and ChristenUnie will enter into coalition talks in the New Year and the new government could be installed sometime in March.

22 December 2006
Sara and Ammar return home

The 'abducted' Dutch children Sara and Ammar return home to the Netherlands. The children have been staying at the Dutch embassy in Damascus since June after they escaped from their father who had taken them to Syria in 2004. The children were to returned to their Dutch mother in the Netherlands in time for Christmas following intense talks between Dutch and Syrian authorities.

22 December 2006

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Subject: Dutch news

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