Housing is a right, not a commodity: Amsterdam signs global declaration

Amsterdam has signed up to a global declaration to the United Nations which states that 'housing must first and foremost be considered as a right, not a commodity' in order for cities to survive. The initiative, launched by Barcelona's outspoken mayor Ada Colau, says that segregation and real estate speculation are two of the issues which must be tackled to ensure cities meet the human rights needs of their inhabitants. To achieve this, local authorities need more powers and funding to better regulate the real estate market, improve public housing stock and develop 'urban planning schemes that combine adequate housing and quality neighbourhoods that are both inclusive and sustainable'. The declaration, signed by the cities of Paris, New York, Strasbourg, Montevideo and Madrid among others, was presented on Monday at a local government forum involving the United Nation's special rapporteur on adequate housing and the high commissioner for human rights. During the presentation, at which Amsterdam was not represented, the cities stressed the importance of not leaving the housing issue to market rules alone. Making money The city council said in a statement the most important message to the UN is that society in popular major cities is under threat. 'The right of residents to affordable housing is in danger because of speculation, investors and mass tourism, which is all about making as much profit as possible,' the statement said. Speaking to the Parool newspaper, Amsterdam's housing alderman Laurens Ivens said: 'We see that in all these cities, all sorts of groups want to make money from housing, which is less and less used to live in.' Ivens referred to recent figures from ING which suggest one in six houses in Amsterdam is bought up by investors. 'They are snapping up homes right in front of Amsterdammers,' he said. Other research, by the University of Amsterdam, suggests more than 10% of the homes in Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam, Groningen and Maastricht are owned by private investors.  More >

Terrorism not ruled out in stabbing

The Syrian man arrested in The Hague for stabbing three people on May 5 has been charged with three counts of attempted murder and a terrorist motive has not been ruled out, the public prosecution department said on Monday. The investigation has turned up a Facebook message in which the 31-year-old stated that 'unbelievers will suffer' and the prosecution department admitted in late May that it had been tipped off about Malek F's threats in March. Police are still trying to contact the tip giver. F, who was shot by police during his arrest, is known to have a history of mentally disturbed behaviour and The Telegraaf reported that he had been involved in an incident in February where he threw furniture and possessions out of the window of his flat in the city centre. Now the public prosecutor says the man should be sent to a secure psychiatric unit for observation, to assess the nature of his psychiatric issues. He has twice spend time in a psychiatric hospital in The Hague. F is due to appear in court on Monday for a procedural hearing. The case will be heard at the high security courthouse at Schiphol airport, as is usual in cases where terrorism may be involved, the public prosecutor said.  More >

Russian trolls have little impact in Dutch

Russian-based professional trolls sent more than 900 tweets in Dutch over two years – but they had almost no impact on public debate, according to an investigation by NRC. The newspaper said it had studied more than 200,000 tweets sent from the Internet Research Agency in St Petersburg, the 'troll factory' said to have influenced the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as US president. In the Netherlands, troll accounts were mainly active in discussions about Islam and immigration. The co-ordinated bombings carried out by Islamist terrorists at Brussels Airport in March 2006 sparked a series of tweets in Dutch using English hashtags such as #IslamIsTheProblem and #IslamKills. Six of the accounts sent an identical tweet 'Pfff dit vindt ik verschrikkelijk', containing the same grammatical error (a so-called 'dt-fout' in the verb form), over the space of several hours. Troll accounts focused their attention on the Netherlands, mainly by retweeting comments by alt-right cheerleaders such as journalist Wierd Duk and conspiracy theorist Joost Niemöller. One account, going by the name of @Ten_gop, retweeted 32 messages by PVV leader Geert Wilders in four months. Ironically, the fake accounts had more success in the Netherlands with tweets in English. More than 6,000 Dutch troll accounts shared 30,000 English-language messages with a total of 9.5 million followers. Fake followers In a separate development, some of the Netherlands' highest-profile politicians saw their follower count slashed after Twitter removed millions of fake accounts from its system. Geert Wilders lost around 15% of his nearly 1 million followers following the clear-out. The two MPs from the Denk party, Tunahan Kuzu and Farid Azarkan, had their numbers slashed by 34% and 39% respectively from a much smaller base. Twitter said around 6 per cent of all accounts had been culled in the operation, designed to improve the website's credibility.  More >

Child found in reservoir dies in hospital

Police badge and radio. A four-year-old boy has died after being rescued from a reservoir in Noord-Holland. The child was resuscitated at the scene but later died in hospital. The incident happened at the Toolenburgerplas in Hoofddorp on Sunday afternoon, while the popular bathing spot was packed with visitors. Police said it was unclear how the child had ended up in the water. The warm, sunny weather has brought an increase in people getting into trouble in water. Later on Sunday the body of a 59-year-old man who went missing while swimming was recovered from the IJmeer. Police also resumed a search on Monday morning for a woman who went missing while free diving in Laco Strandbad in Nuenen, near Eindhoven. A sonar boat is being used to try to find the woman, who failed to resurface while snorkelling in a part of the lake where the water is up to 15 metres deep. The resort has been closed to visitors on Monday.  More >

Murder suspect had received stalking order

A 31-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the death of his ex-girlfriend less than two weeks after he was served with an anti-stalking order banning her from contacting her. Police confirmed on Friday that Sam G. was the former boyfriend of 24-year-old Laura Korsman, who was found dead on July 12 in her student flat in Utrecht. G. had spent three days in custody earlier this month after she reported him to police for stalking. Laura was given an emergency alarm to contact police if G. pestered her further, according to reports. Friends and acquaintances said she had been terrified of G. since ending their three-year relationship several weeks earlier. Neighbours said he had repeatedly tried to contact Laura in recent weeks, spent hours sitting in the snack bar beneath her flat, and once tried to gain entry to her flat by pretending he had forgotten his keys. The owner of the snack bar said he had noticed bruises on her wrists and saw her wearing sunglasses to conceal a black eye. 'She had clearly been struck, but she didn't say much about it. I didn't ask about it in detail. It's not my business.' Former DJ The couple met in Utrecht's nightlife scene, where G. used to work as a DJ. AD reported that he had not worked for two years since being kidnapped and tortured by members of a local gang. 'Ever since the kidnapping he's behaved strangely and very distantly. It was as if he lived in a different world,' a friend told the newspaper. On Friday two of Laura's friends laid a sunflower outside the housing complex where she lived. They had been due to take her to her work placement at the UMC hospital in Utrecht on Thursday evening because Laura was afraid to go out on her bike alone. 'That's how threatened she felt,' a friend told RTV Utrecht.  More >

Shipping firm Vroon sells UK subsidiary

Family-owned shipping company Rederij Vroon has sold its MPI Offshore division in order to reduce its substantial debt. Vroon, which has been restructuring its operations since 2016, sold most of MPI to Dutch maritime service group Van Oord and a smaller part to Belgian dredging company Jan de Nul, the Financieele Dagblad said on Monday. UK-based MPI specialises in wind turbine installation at offshore wind farms. Van Oord acquired most of the company plus two MPI vessels, their crews and existing contracts. Hundreds of jobs will be transferred  to Van Oord, the FD said. A third MPI ship's crew and contracts will be taken over by the Belgian company.  Both transactions are subject to approval of authorities and are expected to be completed in August. The sale will yield Vroon tens of millions of euros. Recovery plan In April Vroon agreed with creditors over the restructuring of its debts. The crisis in the oil and gas industry led to Vroon posting a loss of €170m in 2016, followed by further red ink last year. Vroon agreed to divest some of its subsidiaries in an effort to reduce debt. Founded in 1890, Vroon originally exported agricultural products to England, France and Belgium while importing coal into the Netherlands. However, after World War II the company switched its focus from trading commodities to owning and managing vessels. Vroon now operates and manages a diverse fleet of approximately 200 vessels. The Vroon family has prospered over the years from its shipping activities. In 2017, pater familias Piet Vroon was ranked 29 in the Quote list of the 500 richest people in the Netherlands, with an estimated fortune of €900m.  More >

Blokker shuts Gouda warehouse to cut costs

Discount domestic goods chain Blokker has said it will consolidate its distribution operations in Geldermalsen as it looks to cut costs. The Amsterdam-based family-owned company, which is under restructuring, will shut its smaller distribution centre in Gouda and move its e-commerce activities to an expanded Geldermalsen facility. Blokker said the omnichannel approach will make its operations more efficient. The move will mean shorter delivery times for both internet customers and its own stores. The integration is expected to be completed by the summer of 2019. The 49 Blokker employees in Gouda will be offered jobs in Geldermalsen, which is 60km away. Blokker has been undergoing a shift in focus since last year. It is selling off its other stores chains including Xenos and Intertoys in order to concentrate on its core business. Hundreds of stores will be closed and 2,000 people are set to lose their jobs. Blokker Holding posted losses of €344m in 2017, widening from a loss of €180m the previous year. The restructuring itself ‘weighed heavily on results’ the company said.  More >