Dutch aid minister unveils new strategy: prevention through investment has priority

The Netherlands is allocating an extra €290m a year for emergency aid and the protection of refugees in areas close to their homes, aid minister Sigrid Kaag has told MPs. In addition, a further €130m a year will go into education for refugee children and to help countries where refugees are able to build up new lives, Kaag said in her briefing. The strategy, the minister said, sees 'development aid as an integral part of foreign policy, focused on combating the causes of poverty, migration, terror and climate change.' The aid will be concentrated on a number of focus regions: The Sahel, the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. 'Greater efforts to boost stability, reduce poverty and promote economic growth that benefits everyone are also an investment in combating irregular migration and the human suffering that accompanies it,’ Kaag said. The strategy also includes a proactive trade and investment agenda, designed to help ensure that significantly more small and medium-sized enterprises, including startups, become active internationally, the minister said. ‘A greater focus on prevention is desperately needed,’ Kaag said. ‘Greater efforts now will mean less human suffering in the future, and it will save billions in emergency aid, reception in the region of origin and reconstruction. That’s better for the world and better for the Netherlands.’ Read the summary, in English  More >

Amsterdam mayor job still up for grabs

Applications for the job of mayor of Amsterdam are to be reopened because not enough suitable candidates have come forward, the committee in charge of appointing the mayor has said. In total, 29 people had applied for the job, including nine women, but only four of the candidates had worked full time in a public function. The committee has now decided to reopen applications until June 2, in the hope of attracting more suitable candidates to choose from. The official job description called for a mayor with lots of management experience,  a sense of humour and someone who is able to express their vision clearly. They must also be open to society, keen to bridge the gap between politicians and the man in the street, and a quick thinker. Mayors are not chosen by direct vote in the Netherlands. The council draws up a shortlist based on open applications and then the king’s commissioner in Noord Holland will interview the candidates. The full council then debates the commissioner’s findings and picks its front-runner. if all goes according to plan, the new mayor will then be formally appointed by the king, and sworn in. The committee now hopes to have this process completed before the summer break.   More >

Heineken delivery service under fire

Amsterdam-based brewer Heineken has launched a scheme to reach the part of the market other beers don’t and this has hit a sour note at Amsterdam city council as well as in the catering trade, which calls the move unfair competition. The brewing giant is launching a delivery service of six-packs of beer plus snacks and crisps 'to your home, in the park on on a boat', via a special app and says no minimum order is necessary. But the head of the Dutch alcohol institute STAP says the 'beer courier' goes against the government's aim to limit alcohol consumption. Stap director Wim van Dalen told the Parool said: ‘The biggest problem is that this service is coming about just when alcohol is already available practically everywhere.’ Outgoing alderman Eric van der Burg told the Parool that Heineken's plan will increase the risk of alcohol abuse and over-consumption. The catering lobby group Horeca Nederland is also furious about the plan, and says Heineken is breaking the law because cafes and restaurants are not allowed to deliver alcohol to customers.  More >

Wilders 'fewer Moroccan' appeal case delay

The judges in Geert Wilders 'fewer Moroccans' appeal court trial are to be replaced after Wilders' legal team successfully applied to have them removed. This means the appeal, which started on Thursday and should have run for 11 days, will now be delayed while new judges are appointed and brought up to speed. Wilders had wanted to delay the trial so his legal team could carry out more research into the decision not to prosecute D66 leader Alexander Pechtold for comments he made about Russians. Wilders claims there are parallels between the two cases. The court refused the request, leading Wilders' legal team to challenge their impartiality. A special chamber of judges ruled on Friday that that decision not to give Wilders more time to look into the Pechtold decision was not properly justified and ordered the judges to be removed. Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops wants to use the Pechtold case to show that the public prosecution department is biased about whom it chooses to prosecute. The public prosecution department said earlier this year it would not take action against the D66 leader for saying he had never met a Russian 'who corrects his mistakes himself' even though several complaints were made against him. 2014 The 'fewer Moroccans' case dates back to 2014 when Wilders asked a roomful of supporters if they wanted to have ‘more or fewer’ Moroccans in the country. When the crowd shouted back: ‘Fewer, fewer,’ Wilders responded: ‘We’ll take care of that.’ In December 2016, Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans. A panel of three judges said Wilders’s comments were ‘demeaning and insulting to the Moroccan population’. However, the court decided not to fine or sentence Wilders on the basis that a criminal conviction was sufficient punishment in itself.  More >

Coal power plant closure moved to 2024

The date for the closure of the two oldest coal-fired electricity plants in the Netherlands has been moved up by six years to 2024, economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes has said, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Saturday. The remaining three coal-fired power plants must be shuttered or be converted to other fuels by the original date in 2030, Wiebes, who has climate in his portfolio, added. RWE, owner of two of the coal-fired plants, said it was taken completely by surprise at the move and is considering taking legal steps. Wiebes has acted quickly in forbidding the use of coal for electricity generation and backs the use of biomass as a fuel. The two oldest coal-fired plants are the Hemweg-8 in Amsterdam owed by Nuon and RWE’s Amercentrale in Geertruidenberg, Noord-Brabant province. Nuon said earlier it is prepared to close the Hemweg plant by 2024 if a good social plan for workers is in place.  More >

MH17 investors to publish new report

The team investigating the downing of flight MH217 in 2014 will publish an interim report on Thursday as well as a renewed call for public assistance in tracking down the likely perpetrators, according to broadcaster NOS. However, the interim report will not make any new claims about possible suspects, nor will it give any information about the result of earlier calls for public help, NOS said. All 298 people on board flight MH17 were killed when it was struck by a missile on July 17, 2014, and crashed into fields in eastern Ukraine. Two-thirds of the passengers on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were Dutch. The JIT’s preliminary investigations concluded in 2016 that the plane was shot down from Ukrainian farmland by a BUK missile ‘controlled by pro-Russian fighters’. That conclusion has been disputed by Russia, which claims that Ukrainian fighters were responsible. The case will be brought in the Dutch courts after Russia blocked an attempt to take it to a United Nations tribunal. The head of the investigation team, Fred Westerbeke, said last October Dutch prosecutors may be ready to start the trial of those accused of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 within months. Westerbeke told Novaja Gazeta a number of suspects were in the frame but Dutch law prevented him from naming names. ‘We will disclose everything when this investigation is over, and we will give the names at the trial,’ he said.  More >

Child, taken from foster home, is safe

The five-year-old girl who was snatched from her foster family by her biological mother on Sunday evening is no longer officially missing, police said on Friday. Deimante Zasytyteis now living with her mother and other family members in Lithuania and the girl is not in physical danger, police said. The girl was taken from the foster family’s home in Maastricht and driven away in a silver car at around 10.20pm on Sunday.  Social workers and the public prosecution department are now trying to get in contact with the family and decide what steps to take next. In total 288 children in the Netherlands were reported kidnapped and taken abroad by a parent last year, according to new official figures published this week. Most children were taken to Poland and Germany, followed by Belgium, the UK, Turkey and Morocco. In 70% of cases, the child was taken by their mother.    More >

Douglas: new dress code after media storm

Perfume seller Douglas which had been criticised on social media for moving a sales assistant who started wearing a headscarf out of the public eye, has changed its dress code, RTL Nieuws reported on Friday. The commotion arose when a Douglas shop in Leeuwarden told one of its sales staff, who had decided to start wearing a scarf, to work elsewhere in the shop. ‘Our sales staff is not allowed to wear clothing which expresses political, philosophical or religious convictions,’ Douglas Nederland said earlier in a statement, defending its policy on the grounds of 'neutrality'. However, some commentators on social media called for a boycott and many said Douglas is inconsistent because its advertising targets Muslims around the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. Douglas has announced it will 'adapt its dress code' and said it was never its intention to cause hurt to people. The European Court of Justice ruled last year that companies can stop staff from wearing headscarves as long as this is based on company rules stating that 'visible signs denoting political, philosophical and religious convictions' are not allowed.  More >