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Dijsselbloem signals 'cautious' budget as Russian boycott casts shadow over recovery

Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has described next year’s budget as “cautious” after the government reached a deal with three opposition parties on Wednesday.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem says global uncertainty has limited the government's options.The full terms of the budget will be officially revealed when Parliament reconvenes on Prinsjesdag, September 16, but the key measures have already been leaked to newspapers.

They include around €1 billion in tax cuts, an extra €375 million for defence and a €114 increase in the cost of the basic healthcare package.

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Not so homely: Zwarte Piet campaigners see red over Hema's plan to drop blackface sweets

Photo by Hindrik S via Compfight cc

Department store chain Hema is to stop stocking chocolates and goodies depicting St Nicholas’s blackface assistant Zwarte Piet from next year.

Hema says it has changed the packaging for its Sinterklaas goodies to reflect the ongoing debate about Zwarte Piet.Het Parool quoted an email from sales director Rob Heesen to a customer in which Heesen is said to have indicated that the controversial character is being taken off the shelves.

The decision angered some campaigners who saw it as incompatible with Hema’s status as the longstanding port of call for Dutch household goods.

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Defence ministry under pressure over camouflage paint link to cancer

The Dutch defence ministry is facing questions about what it knew about the exposure of workers on military bases to the toxic chemical chromium trioxide.

Defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said in June that there were 'no indications' of systematic exposure.Around 100 former staff are suing the government after they developed cancer and auto-immune illnesses. Chromium trioxide is a highly carcinogenic compound that was used in camouflage paint for tanks and airplanes.

“If this was a company a criminal investigation would have begun a long time ago,” Rob Bedaux, a personal injury lawyer representing the workers, told De Volkskrant. “But when it’s the health of their own workers the government waves it away.”

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Dutch government spends €461,000 on land for security fence at king's Greek villa (fence not included)

The Dutch government has admitted spending nearly half a million euros buying up land around King Willem-Alexander’s holiday complex in Greece so it can put up a security fence.

King Willem-Alexander bought the complex in Greece to quell unrest about his previous holiday home in Mozambique.Documents obtained by RTL Nieuws revealed that a neighbour sold the land for €461,000 after justice and security minister Ivo Opstelten decided it should be obtained regardless of cost.

The price was 13 times the estimated market value of the lease, which was €35,414 for two plots totalling 1,410 square metres.

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Gaza demonstrators arrested outside Dutch defence ministry

Thirty-five protesters have been arrested outside the Dutch defence ministry for taking part in an unauthorised Gaza demonstration.

Gaza demonstrations have provoked unrest in The Hague.The group blocked the tram line outside the ministry building in The Hague on Wednesday morning to protest against the Netherlands’ sales of arms to Israel and the Israeli bombing of civilians in Gaza.

They chanted slogans such as “Free Palestine” and “Timmermans, blood on your hands”, referring to foreign affairs minster Frans Timmermans. When they refused to leave police led them away one by one.

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Van der Laan aims to take 'negroid steretype' out of Zwarte Piet

Zwarte Piet is being given a makeover for this year’s welcoming parade in Amsterdam in response to a court ruling that the character is harmful to minority ethnic groups.

Van der Laan is hoping for a more inclusive Zwarte Piet in November.City mayor Eberhard van der Laan acknowledged that "black Pete", St Nicholas’s traditional assistant needed to lose his “negroid stereotyping”. “The intention is to come up with a Sinterklaas festival for everyone,” he said.

The mayor is appealing against the court judgment six weeks ago that forced him to review the licence for last November’s parade.

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Dutch government pulls out recovery team from 'dangerous' MH17 crash site

The Dutch government has suspended its mission to repatriate the bodies of the victims of the MH17 air disaster because of fighting near the crash zone in eastern Ukraine.

The process of repatriating victims' remains from Ukraine has been suspended indefinitely.Prime minister Mark Rutte told a press conference in The Hague that the site was “too dangerous” for investigators to do their work. “We are stopping for now, but we are not giving up,” he said.

The decision was taken in consultation with Australia, Malaysia and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Relatives of the 298 victims were also informed ahead of the official announcement.

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Steep rise in number of graduates struggling to pay off student loans

Students in the Netherlands are struggling to pay off their debts because of a shortage of graduate jobs.

Student debt is expected to increase further as the new funding rules come into force in the autumn.A survey by the state education service DUO found that the number of graduates unable to repay their debts had risen to 93,000, a 76 per cent increase in the last five years.

Analysts warned that student debt risked becoming an economic burden similar to the huge national mortgage debt that was built up in the decade before the 2008 banking crisis. Total student debt currently stands at €8 billion.

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Palestinian minister: 'Israel should be prosecuted in The Hague for war crimes'

Palestine’s foreign affairs minister has called for Israel’s government to be tried in The Hague following a month of fighting in Gaza that has left more than 1900 people dead.

The ICC building in The Hague. The Palestinian administration aims to become a full member so it can launch proceedings against Israel.During a visit to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, Riyad al-Maliki accused the Israeli army of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. His comments came just hours after Israel withdrew its forces and called a 72-hour truce.

During the 28 days of hostilities 63 Israeli soldiers died, as well as three Israeli civilians and a Thai migrant worker who arrived in the country a month ago. The UN estimates that 450,000 people in Gaza – a quarter of the population – have been displaced.

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Dutch FA hopes to introduce video referees this season

The Dutch Football Association (KNVB) is to ask FIFA for permission to use video referees on a trial basis for the first time in a European professional league.

Helping hand: Dutch referees could be supported by video technology if the KNVB's plan is approved by FIFA.The plan would see replays used in reserve team matches before the end of the year. If the experiment succeeds the KNVB hopes to extend the measure to the semi-finals and final of the Dutch Cup.

A more contentious proposal would allow teams to refer contentious decisions on the pitch to the video referee. Managers would be restricted to one “challenge” in each half, similar to the system used in tennis.

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