The Dutch news in June 2006
2 June 2006
Pasic wants to study law in Leiden
Kosovar schoolgirl Taïda Pasic wants to study law at Leiden University and a charitable foundation is offering financial support to make this possible. Starting the degree course in September is dependent on her passing her VWO school certificate exams undertaken at the Dutch Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The 18-year-old native of Kosovo would also require a student visa from the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) to allow her to return to the Netherlands. This will bring her back in contact with Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk who devoted a lot of energy to force Pasic to leave the Netherlands in April.
2 June 2006
EU unveils proposal for biometric short-stay visas
The European Commission (EC) unveiled plans on Friday for the introduction of new secure visas for non-EU nationals visiting and travelling in the European Union. Participating member states will upgrade their short-stay visas with a biometric chip containing details of the holder’s fingerprint. In time iris and facial scans may be added to the chip. The moves “will reinforce internal security and facilitate legitimate travelling to the EU,” the EC said in a statement. Sure to anger privacy advocates, the EC said its proposal on biometric visas “creates the legal obligation to collect fingerprints from visa applicants.” The issue will be discussed further with the European Parliament and EU governments. The EC plan also gives the option to EU states to set up joint offices in consulates outside the EU to process visa applications. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said these ‘common application centres abroad’ will streamline the procedure and cut time by which applicants receive their travel passes to go to the EU.
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 Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague confirmed a report in newspaper ‘NRC Handelsblad’ about his decision. 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 Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs had hoped that Estonia, like its neighbour Finland, would be able to accept a relationship between two men. According to a report by the US Embassy in the capital Tallinn there have been nine cases of threats made to non-white embassy staff, mostly by Neo-Nazis or skinheads.
6 June 2006
One in 10 Dutch people are racist: poll
One in 10 Dutch people are racist. They feel superior to immigrants and believe Dutch people should not mix with other nationalities, according to a new survey. A quarter of the Dutch public is very negative about immigrants in general, consultancy Motivaction said. It questioned 1020 people for the survey. Ten percent of the respondents openly supported racist ideals, including the idea that Dutch people are more intelligent than immigrants. Half of the people questioned expressed an aversion to Muslims and expressed fear about this group’s influence on Dutch society. Some 43 percent said Islam is not for peace and almost two thirds said the religion is incompatible with modern society in Europe.
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. Wilders, who has received dead threats for his criticism of radical Islam, said on Wednesday he was angry with the Queen and Balkenende. In an extraordinary outburst, he accused them of “dhimmi behaviour”. The term dhimmi refers to a free non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with Islamic law. It is used frequently by opponents of Islam as a derogatory reference to people seen as too soft on Muslims.
8 June 2006
Hoogervorst threatens total restaurant smoking ban
Minister of health Hans Hoogervorst told parliament on Thursday that he will consider imposing a total ban on smoking in the hotel and catering sector if owners do not move quickly to establish non-smoking areas in their establishments. The hotel and catering sector had already agreed to the gradual introduction of non-smoking areas for customers, the minister said. The phased plan began last year and was scheduled to end on 1 January 2009. But hotels and catering establishments were not keeping to the agreement, according to which some 25 per cent of them would already have smoke-free zones for customers, the minister said. Only 11 per cent of cafés presently had smoke-free zones, and only 20 per cent of restaurants did, he said.
9 June 2006
Big Dutch cities critical of Verdonk’s citizenship plans
The Netherlands’ four big cities have criticised minister of integration Rita Verdonk’s plan to force all immigrants to do a language test, no matter how long they have lived here. The cities – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague – levelled their criticism of the minister in a letter to her and to the Dutch parliament that was also signed by Tilburg and the association of Dutch city councils. Parliament will be discussing the minister’s plans. A new law proposed by the minister will require that all immigrants do a language test, whether they are recent arrivals or long established. The city councils were not against ideas for naturalising immigrants better, but they predicted that Verdonk’s plans would be beset by organisational, technical and financial problems. They also said that they were being limited in their own naturalisation programmes.
9 June 2006
Forced marriages ‘occur frequently’, says report
Forced marriage occurs frequently in the Netherlands, an advisory commission told minister of immigration Rita Verdonk. ‘Forced marriage is a serious breach of the personal integrity of the victim,’ the commission said in a report. Forced marriage was not an isolated phenomenon but part of a broader pattern that included domestic violence, honour-related violence and the abandonment of women in the country of origin. Victims of forced marriage should be assigned a case manager whose task it is to ensure that they receive the appropriate assistance, the report said. An overview of the assistance being given to victims of forced marriage should also be available through a secure electronic network, so that the activities of different help organisations can be better coordinated.
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 rise in the number of millionaires compared with 2003. Yet the Netherlands is still behind the worldwide average increase of 6.7 percent to 8.7 million. The study defined wealthy individuals as people worth capital of at least USD 1 million, exclusive of their home and other expensive items. For the first time in three years the increase in the number of millionaires in the US in 2005 was less than the year before — 6.9 percent compared with 9.7 percent in 2004. The US still has the most millionaires, 2.9 million.
20 June 2006
20,000 sign petition on integration legislation
Almost 21,500 people have signed a petition against the controversial integration legislation drawn up by Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. Campaign coordinator Mustafa Ayranci said on Tuesday that opponents of the bill believe it is discriminatory and they want parliament to remove the mandatory requirement to undertake an integration course and exam in the Dutch language and culture.
21 June 2006
Spooks banned from spying on journalists
The Dutch intelligence service (AIVD) has been ordered to stop eavesdropping on telephone calls made by two newspaper journalists who have written about leaking of files to crime bosses. A court in The Hague made the ruling on Tuesday after ‘Telegraaf’ journalists Joost de Haas and Bart Mos complained they have been monitored by the AIVD since January. They claim their phone calls have been tapped and they have been followed. The AIVD refused to confirm whether it has been eavesdropping on the pair. The reporters wrote at the beginning of the year that police files about crime boss Mink Kok had fallen into the hands of the drugs mafia. Copies of these top secret documents were handed to the journalists. De Haas and Mos contacted the AIVD before filing the story which included information from the secret files.
22 June 2006
Economic turn-around being ignored: PM
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has chided the opposition parties for not appreciating the Dutch economy is growing faster than the EU average. “Colleagues in Europe ask me: ‘what is going on in the Netherlands, you are out in front [economically] again?’ I hear appreciation from our European colleagues, while all you get is moaning here in parliament,” Balkenende told MPs during a debate about the government’s performance in the last 12 months.
22 June 2006
Councils told off for sheltering asylum seekers
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has accused local authorities that provide emergency shelter to rejected asylum seekers of ‘administrative disobedience’. Verdonk made the accusation during a debate in parliament on Wednesday evening. She is to raise the matter again with the association of local authorities (VNG) as she feels councils must stick to agreements on the issue and must cooperate in the execution of the law. When asylum seekers find themselves on the street, councils must work with her to send them back to their own countries, Verdonk said. Councils that instead offer these people shelter are providing them with “false hope”. Parliament was debating a call by councils for a generous pardon scheme for the 26,000 ‘old’ asylum seekers who arrived in the Netherlands prior to April 2001.
23 June 2006
Crime levels down in 2005
Crime in the Netherlands fell for the first time for years, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) has said in its report on 2005. The number of cases compared with 2004 fell by 3 percent to 264,200. Aside from the drop in the number of investigations, the number of reports of crime and surveys confirm crime is down. But the OM said there are two notifiable expectations to the trend: violent crime and youth criminality continued to rise last year. The report “cautiously” concludes that investment in crime reduction methods in recent years are beginning to work. In particular the tough approach to recidivist criminals has contributed to safety in the community, the OM said.
26 June 2006
Man confesses to attack on masterpiece
A 69-year-old man has confessed to the latest attempt to destroy a famous painting in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. A police spokesperson declined to identity the man or comment on his motive for the attack. The man was spotted at about 5.30pm on Sunday as he sprayed a chemical substance at the ‘Celebration of the peace of Munster’ (1648) by Bartholomeus van der Helst. The painting is one of the main attractions at the museum. Museum patrons saw the incident and alerted security officers who apprehended the man. The museum was closed as a precaution. The painting was removed from show immediately and brought to the restoration department. No time frame was given for the restoration work. But the Rijksmuseum said the damage was limited to the painting’s coat of varnish. It is not clear what kind of substance was used in the attack.
27 June 2006
Hirsi Ali exonerates Verdonk for passport gaffe
Ayaan Hirsi Ali has released a statement that totally exonerates Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk for suggesting her Dutch naturalisation was invalid. Justice ministry officials attached the statement to copies of a letter being sent to parliament to confirm Hirsi Ali is a Dutch citizen. Verdonk said she agreed it was all Hirsi Ali’s fault. Verdonk provoked a storm of protest both in the Netherlands and internationally in mid-May when she gave the Somali-born critic of Islam six weeks to explain why her Dutch passport should not be withdraw. Hirsi Ali’s self-confessed crime was that she had given a false name to get asylum in the Netherlands in 1992. Her real name was Ayaan Hirsi Magan, not Ali – which is her grandfather’s name.
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. Amsterdam is now on a par with the Zambian capital Lusaka and is cheaper than Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. But before you go and open the champagne bottle, 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. Mercer’s survey covers 144 cities across six continents and measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.
29 June 2006
Dutch coalition falls after resignation of D66 ministers
The Dutch coalition government collapsed on Thursday evening after one of the most bizarre days in the country’s political history. Christian Democrat Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende finally conceded the coalition was finished after both Cabinet ministers and the one junior minister of D66, the smallest coalition party, resigned. Balkenende is expected to tender his government’s resignation to Queen Beatrix. Hours earlier, Balkenende had announced that his ministers had decided a rejected motion of no confidence in Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk of the Liberal Party (VVD) had no consequences for the government. Balkenende said the Cabinet, including the two D66 ministers, was unanimous in its decision. One of the D66 ministers, Alexander Pechtold, earlier this month beat Van der Laan in the election to be the new leader of D66’s parliamentary party.
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 on Friday 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 Democrats and their government allies, the Liberal Party (VVD), are keen to continue in office as a minority government. They would require the support of one or more of the opposition parties. The most obvious candidate is the populist LPF, the party responsible for the implosion of Balkenende’s first coalition after 87 days in 2002. Opinion polls suggest the LPF will be wiped out in the next election. Balkenende’s second coalition government collapsed after three years on Thursday after junior partner 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.
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11 July 2006
[Copyright Expatica + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news