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A naturalised expat's view of Dutch life and politics

Extremists are attacking freedom of speech. If we look to them to defend it, it's a lost cause

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

Dutch blogger Nicola Chadwick gives a naturalised expat's view on life and politics in the Netherlands.

Just about everyone reacted with shock to the killing of 10 cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo and two policemen in Paris on Wednesday. On Thursday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed 18,000 demonstrators in Dam Square and the rest of the nation: “We are standing here because hate and violence should never win over respect and tolerance.” Amsterdam’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, told Amsterdammers: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but victory over fear.” More people turned out in cities up and down the Netherlands than in other European cities. Perhaps because ten years after the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, the horrific events in the French capital struck a chord.

Yet when I stood in Dam Square on Wednesday evening with just 200 people in silence, I wondered where everybody was. Many of those who turned out then were French nationals. I was interviewed by Newsweek on the Dam, which just goes to show how few people were there. The only well-known Dutch person I could see was publicist Pieter Hilhorst.

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Read more: Extremists are attacking freedom of speech. If we look to them to defend it, it's a lost cause

Rutte II's emergency face-saving surgery kept the health bill alive, but at what cost to the coalition?

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

Dutch blogger Nicola Chadwick gives a naturalised expat's view on life and politics in the Netherlands.

What we witnessed in Dutch politics this week was a political pantomime as the shaky VVD-Labour cabinet clung to office. A power play between three Labour senators and a disgruntled Health Minister. And a cliffhanger as the public was made to wait three days - not for a solution: that was dealt with fairly quickly - but a sleight-of-hand to save the faces of the main actors in this schouwspel.

Political commentators and politicians alike in The Hague were taken completely unawares when a new health bill failed to make it through the Upper House late on Tuesday evening. But in a chat show former Labour MP Myrthe Hilkens said the three Labour (PvdA) dissidents had warned repeatedly that they would not support the bill. Nevertheless, health minister Edith Schippers fully expected that not only would the two coalition parties vote for her healthcare overhaul, but so would the constructive opposition of D66, Christian Union and SGP. 

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Read more: Rutte II's emergency face-saving surgery kept the health bill alive, but at what cost to the...

As Saint Nicholas is sent back to Spain, racism rears its ugly head once more

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

Dutch blogger Nicola Chadwick gives a naturalised expat's view on life and politics in the Netherlands.

Dutch politics reached an all-time low recently when the Freedom Party (PVV) proposed in parliament that all mosques should be closed. MP Michiel de Graaff also suggested that the Dutch population was being replaced via ‘Muslim wombs’. It seems the anti-Islam party feels it can take what it deems to be freedom of speech a step further in the light of its high standings in the polls and the negative shadow cast over Islam by IS violence in Syria and Iraq.

In parliament, MPs enjoy immunity, which means they can say what they like in the Lower House, but have to watch their words outside it. Back in 2012, PVV leader Geert Wilders was acquitted of insulting religious and ethnic groups and inciting hatred and discrimination. Now he has finally been questioned by police for urging his followers to chant “Fewer, fewer, fewer Moroccans” back in March on local election night. The incident triggered a tsunami of complaints about racism. Add a comment

Read more: As Saint Nicholas is sent back to Spain, racism rears its ugly head once more