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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

As the annual Black Pete debate flares up, two Turkish MPs expose a deeper fault line

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

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

Sinterklaasjournaal was a trending topic worldwide on Twitter last week following the debut of White Petes in Thursday’s edition of the annual children’s news show that tracks the progress of Saint Nicolas from Spain to the Netherlands. This year the whole country held its breath to see how Dutch public television would integrate the debate into its storyline. The daily bulletins were repeated in national news programmes. The storyline continued with the national televised arrival of Sinterklaas. Thursday’s edition of Sinterklaasjournal attracted 850.000 viewers.

On Tuesday, the opening bulletin insisted the Sinterklaas festivity would be “old-fashioned fun” and four traditional Black Petes were shown. So at first there appeared to be no change to the appearance of Pete in spite of the court cases and public debate about his colour. In Trouw, children’s author Sjoerd Kuyper reacted furiously to the first bulletin for portraying the Petes as dumb, because they were seen drilling a hole in the hull of the boat. The pro-Black Pete campaigners were delighted, but anyone could have guessed that as the story developed, changes would be made. A ‘leaked’ interview between Saint Nick and the news programme’s presenter, Dieuwertje Blok, a week before the daily updates began implied that rainbow-coloured Petes were on their way to Holland, after the boat passed under a rainbow. Add a comment

Read more: As the annual Black Pete debate flares up, two Turkish MPs expose a deeper fault line

How social housing bosses drove a Maserati through the cosy Dutch political consensus

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

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

Public sector organisations – even those that have been liberalised – should be reliable, brimming with integrity: institutions that we should be able to trust, even with our lives. The release of a report on the housing corporations, the MH17 crash and even the death of Theo van Gogh may suggest otherwise. Or am I letting the conspiracy theories get to me?

The publication of last week’s “Far from Home” report on the social housing scandal damns almost everyone involved. It reveals manipulation, fraud, greed, self-enrichment by directors and the failure of government ministers and parliament alike to curb their excesses.  The liberalisation of the social housing sector in the 1990s was meant to make it possible for housing corporations to make money, which could then be channelled back into low-cost housing for people who could not afford to live in private sector apartments. At least, that was the theory.

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Read more: How social housing bosses drove a Maserati through the cosy Dutch political consensus

Court ruling on cannabis growers prompts fresh demands for legal supply chain

A court has ruled that two cannabis farmers who supplied coffeeshops in Groningen should not be punished because they effectively ran a legitimate business.

The court said there was a lack of clarity over how coffeeshops should buy in their supplies.The 49-year-old man and his 39-year-old female partner cultivated cannabis on two plantations in Bellingwolde and Bierum. The court heard they used approved biological techniques, paid their electricity bills and even had an arrangment with the tax office.

The prosecution service asked for work orders of 180 and 120 hours to be imposed on the couple, but the court decided they should not be penalised despite finding them guilty. Judges found that the plantations were run responsibly and had no links with the criminal fraternity.

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Read more: Court ruling on cannabis growers prompts fresh demands for legal supply chain

Changes afoot for the king and Zwarte Piet as Wilders stands his ground

By Nicola Chadwick (@amsternic)

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

Once again Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV), is to be tried for discrimination and incitement of hate for the chants of “Fewer, fewer, fewer Moroccans” that rang out on local election night last March. Perhaps they were designed to deflect attention from the fact that the party lost ground in the only two municipalities it contested – The Hague and Almere. Or the fact that it had made no progress in the past four years as it fielded no new candidates in other municipalities. Wilders knew he was overstepping the mark, because before getting the whole audience to chant, he said “I shouldn’t say this because people will file complaints with the police against me…”

At the moment it seems like the world is on fire when you read the news. Unrest in Ukraine, the rise of IS in Iraq and Syria, and the ebola outbreak in Africa. Nevertheless it’s domestic issues that are at the front of people’s minds. I’m surprised Wilders hasn’t been blamed for single-handedly recruiting more Dutch Muslims for IS than anyone else. The polarisation he has caused by constantly reminding Dutch people with a Moroccan background that they somehow do not belong in this country is partly behind the exit of a group of young disenchanted men to war zones in Syria and Iraq.

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Read more: Changes afoot for the king and Zwarte Piet as Wilders stands his ground

Abandoned IT projects cost Dutch government up to €5 billion a year

More than a third of major IT projects in the Netherlands never see the light of day, costing the government up to €5 billion a year, according to a highly critical report by a Parliamentary inquiry.

Liberal MP Ton Elias proposed setting up an independent panel of IT experts to keep major projects on track.A commission headed by Liberal (VVD) MP Ton Elias, called for an independent regulator to be set up so that IT specialists can monitor the progress of large-scale projects.

Projects often failed because those commissioning them lacked the technological knowledge, said Elias. “Things go wrong on every level and at every stage.

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Read more: Abandoned IT projects cost Dutch government up to €5 billion a year

Police staff suspended over inquiry into €500 million squad cars contract

Five police personnel have been suspended from duty as part of a long-running corruption investigation into contracts to buy police cars.

The inquiry focuses primarily on a contract to buy 13,000 police cars.The five include head of facility management, Rob T., as well as three members of the national police services centre and one member of the Amsterdam police division.

The inquriy focuses on contracts to buy 13,000 police cars at a cost of around half a billion euros, as well as other equipment including mobile phones and breathalysers.

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Read more: Police staff suspended over inquiry into €500 million squad cars contract

Defence ministry email accounts caught up in world's biggest data hack

Nearly 400 email addresses at the Dutch ministry of defence were compromised as part of a massive worldwide hack operation, the government has revealed.

A total of 1.3 million email addresses and 5600 Dutch-registered websites were compromised.Data was stolen from 1.3 million email accounts and 5600 websites with a .nl domain name in the attack, which was discovered by the US firm Hold Security.

Defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told Parliament that most of the 380 addresses at the defence ministry were not in use and hackers would not have been able to access sensitive information.

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Read more: Defence ministry email accounts caught up in world's biggest data hack

Lack of security for self-employed workers 'bad for Dutch economy'

Plans to make it easier for self-employed workers to insure themselves against sickness and unemployment have been drawn up by the employers’ organisation AWVN.

More than a million people in the Netherlands are listed as zzp (self-employed sole traders)There are concerns that the lack of security that goes with working independently could hold back the Dutch economy. “People who are unsure tend to keep a tight hold on the purse-strings, and that isn’t good for the economy or work opportunities,” AWVN director Harry van de Kraats told De Volkskrant.

Currently 1.2 million people are listed as zzp (self-employed sole traders) and one-third of the working population is not in a steady job. Dutch labour organisations are keen to ensure that the more flexible modern labour market does not compromise social security. Add a comment

Read more: Lack of security for self-employed workers 'bad for Dutch economy'