Dutch buck European trend - PVV out of European parliament

The Netherlands has bucked the trend in most of Europe by electing fewer Eurosceptics to the European parliament in this week's elections, according to preliminary results based on 98% of the votes. The votes for the Netherlands give the social democratic PvdA six of the 26 Dutch seats in the European parliament. In second place is the ruling right-wing Liberal party of prime minister Mark Rutte with 4, a rise of one. This is one more than the NOS exit poll taken during Thursday's vote forecast, but in line with the GeenStijl poll, which was based on the results of over 700 polling stations. The huge swing to the PvdA, against the trend in Europe as a whole, is said by pundits to be down to the pulling power of Frans Timmermans, currently one of the European Commission's deputies and in the running to take over from Jean Claude Juncker as the Social Democrats grouping's candidate for the top job. New Dutch nationalist party Forum voor Democratie enters the European parliament for the first time with three seats. This is well below the four or five seats which opinion polls had suggested, based on the party's strong performance in the March provincial elections. With green parties doing well in the rest of Europe, the main Dutch green party GroenLinks, added one seat to take three. GroenLinks campaign leader Bas Eickhout said in a reaction that it would now be impossible for the big political groupings in the European parliament to ignore the green vote. It was a disappointing night for Geert Wilders' anti European and anti-immigration party PVV whose support plunged from four seats in 2015 to zero this year. Wilders is a close ally of Marine le Pen, whose party emerged in the exit polls as the biggest in France, and had been hoping to add weight to the anti-EU grouping he and Le Pen formed last year, but which is now dominated by Italy's Matteo Salvini. The Dutch Socialist party, which is also Eurosceptic, was similarly expunged from Brussels and lost both its seats. The results in full (subject to final confirmation): PvdA  - Social Democrats - 6 (3) D66  - Liberal Democrats - 2 (4) PVV - far-right - 0 (4) CDA - Christian Democrat - 4 (5) VVD - right-wing Liberal - 4 (3) GroenLinks - green -  3 (2) Socialists - 0 (2) SGP/CU - orthodox Protestant - 2 (2) PvdD - pro animal - 1 (1) 50PLUS - pensioners - 1 (0) FvD 3 - nationalist - 3 (0)  More >

No WA renegotiation says Dutch PM

Britain's withdrawal agreement from the European Union is not up for renegotiation now Theresa May has stood down, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said at his weekly news conference. Asked if he thought that the agreement could be looked at again, Rutte said the problem facing Britain is not Theresa May, whom he described as courageous and trustworthy. 'The problem,' he said, 'is the situation in which she had to work... the UK not wanting to stay as a member of the customs union, not wanting to stay a member of the internal market. 'All those red lines made it almost impossible to come to something which could get a majority in the house of commons,' the Dutch PM, who was a close ally of May during the negotiations, said. In Britain there is speculation that EU leaders will now rethink the agreement with May out of the way. Spoiler: yes they can https://t.co/zNkqUeNtsX — Christoph Schmidt (@trouwschmidt) May 25, 2019   More >

NS warns travellers about Tuesday's strike

Dutch railway company NS is recommending travellers avoid the train on Tuesday when a nationwide transport strike is set to hit. There will be either very limited services or no trains at all, NS said on Friday. 'We don't know how many people are going to strike, so we cannot say which trains will be operating and which won't,' a spokesman said. The 24-hour strike may also have a knock-on effect on Wednesday. Dutch train drivers and public transport workers in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague will go on strike on May 28 in a campaign to have the state pension age frozen at 66 and to ensure pensions rise in line with inflation. The FNV trade union federation wants the cabinet to commit to keeping the state pension age at 66. It is being gradually increased in three-month increments and will hit 67 years and three months by 2024. The engineering and construction workers unions will also stage an all-out strike on May 29 and the FNV has called on other sectors to join the campaign.  More >

Illegal drugs tests commonplace: NOS

'Dozens' of chemical companies and port operators are illegally testing workers for drugs and alcohol usage, public broadcaster NOS found. Testing is only permitted if special legislation in place, as is the case with pilots, train drivers and skippers but the companies are breaking European rules on privacy because they feel safety is more important than people’s privacy, NOS said. ‘We are handling extremely hazardous substances. We are duty-bound to provide a safe working environment. People who are under the influence make mistakes and can cause very serious incidents,’ one anonymous source told the broadcaster. The source added that privacy is guaranteed to a certain extent by making the tests random and by announcing they are going to take place. The test results are not kept and anyone who is caught is banned from work for 24 hours and superiors are not immediately informed. The NOS findings have been confirmed by the Rotterdam organisation of port operators Deltalinqs, who said safety and privacy laws are not compatible and that the law should be changed to favour safety. Advice bureau Be Responsible, which helps companies deal with drugs on the work floor, said workers are ‘frequently’ found to be under the influence at work, citing a crane driver who was found to have drunk 10 beers and a truck driver who drank a bottle of Beerenburg a day. People who have been found to have a problem will be referred to addiction services, a spokesperson said. Manufacturer Dräger which makes cheek swab equipment to test for cocaine, thc, methamphetamines, benzodiazeines and opiates, said companies tell them the number of people who test positive is 5% to 8%. ‘It is becoming normal to take something. The tests are necessary to create a safe working environment,’ spokesperson Marlou Verspruij told the broadcaster. Privacy In a reaction Dutch privacy regulator Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens said it recognises the importance of safety but said there are other, less invasive ways, of finding out if a person is capable of doing a job. ‘Vigilant team leaders, colleagues, awareness of safety culture, an intensive human resources policy can all help. (..) But we draw the line on swabs and collecting medical data. Those can only happen under special circumstances and have to be done legally in a democratic process,’ a spokesman said. FNV union official said the companies, who are risking a fine, said high safety risks should be considered but that if in practice large groups of people are going to be submitted to testing who are not involved in handling dangerous substances the union is very much against. Employers’ organisation VNO-NCW wants to widen the net for testing because, it said, the risks to workers, surroundings and even the continuity of utilities could be in danger. Legal protection minister Sander Dekker has said he will take the matter up with unions and employers’ organisations.  More >

Hackers steal key info about home hunters

Hackers have made off with hundreds, possibly thousands, of identity card scans after breaking into the computer system of rental housing agency NederWoon. The information stolen by hackers was uploaded to the site between 2017 and 2019 by people looking for somewhere to live. The hackers now have their name, address, contact information and copies of their passport or ID card, which includes their personal identification number, or BSN. This is sufficient to allow the hackers to open bank accounts or take out loans by using other people's identity. The company told clients about the hack on Thursday, warning them to be on the look-out for phising emails. The company says it does not yet know how many people have been affected. Nederwoon has eight branches in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Utrecht. It organises rental contracts for some 25,000 properties, website Tweakers said. This is the second major hack of a housing agency this year. In March, thieves stole information about 49,000 people registered at the Altijd Wonen agency.  More >

Dutch company in biodiesel scandal: VK

Officials are investigating the role of a Dutch biodiesel company in a major fraud involving the alternative energy source, the Volkskrant said on Thursday. According to the Volkskrant, the Dutch arm of the investigation focuses on one company - Biodiesel Kampen - which makes the fuel out of old frying fat. While the company's name has not been released by officials, Kampen lost its sustainability certification on May 8 and has refused to answer questions, the Volkskrant said. According to documents sent to parliament by the transport ministry this week, the fraud dates back to 2015 and 2016. Government inspectors suspect that 59% of the biodiesel sold by the company in 2015 was wrongly certified as sustainable. That year the company was responsible for almost one third of the total Dutch biodiesel production, the paper said. Some 70% of Dutch biodiesel is made from old cooking fat. Earlier this month, four people were arrested and addresses raided in Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium in a joint Anglo-Dutch investigation into biodiesel fraud. All four have since been released. That investigation centres on British road fuel supplier Greenergy which owns two of Europe’s largest waste-to-biodiesel plants and will open a third in Amsterdam later this year. The investigation with the Dutch authorities concerns 'certain aspects of biodiesel trading at Greenergy and various third parties', Britain's Serious Fraud Office said.  More >

Michael van Gerwen again darts champ

Dutch darts player Michael van Gerwen has won his fifth PDC Premier League title, taking his run to four in a row. The man from Brabant beat home favourite Rob Cross 11-5 in front of a packed O2 stadium in London on Thursday evening. After the match, Van Gerwen said he was particularly happy with this title, given the difficult issues he had to deal with, which were unconnected with darts. He declined to say what problems he had been confronted with but did admit to 'not being in the best form of my life.' With five league titles to his name, Van Gerwen is one title away from equaling the record set by Phil Taylor, who dominated the sport in the 1990s and beginning of this century. Football player Robin van Persie was in the audience to witness Van Gerwen's win. .@Persie_Official ❤s the darts! 🎯 He's at the O2 tonight, with countryman Michael van Gerwen in amongst the action! 🇳🇱 Watch live on Sky Sports Action or follow: https://t.co/TFdeFbXzzZ pic.twitter.com/ymR5qkmyWJ — Sky Sports Darts (@SkySportsDarts) May 23, 2019   More >