VVD suggests softer line towards dictators, second rift with Labour

VVD suggests softer line towards dictators, second rift with Labour

Suggestions by VVD parliamentary party leader Halbe Zijlstra that the Netherlands work more closely with dictators have been slammed by his coalition ally Diederik Samsom as ‘short sighted and counter productive’.Zijlstra said in an interview with the Volkskrant on Saturday that the rulers on the edge of Europe should no longer be approached with a wagging finger.‘Rather than say ‘you do not work according to our standards’, we should look to cooperate with the regime, because it is in our security interests,’ he said. ‘But you should also push for gradual change.’The speedy overthrow of ‘stable regimes’ leads to chaos and an extra source of refugees, he said.[banner]Labour leader Samsom told a party meeting in Zwolle this approach could not be ‘part of foreign policy in a government which includes the PvdA.’‘The trouble in the Middle East and elsewhere is partly due to the fact the west has kept some of the most brutal regimes afloat,’ he said.‘The most important argument used by terrorists to mobilise supporters against the west it that we have done business, and continue to do so, with the most cruel dictators.’RefugeesThis is the second time in a week the VVD has gone public with strategy which is opposed by their coalition partner. A week ago another VVD parliamentarian published a paper calling for Europe’s borders to be closed to refugees.GroenLinks leader Bram van Ojik said he wanted to know what the implications of Zijlstra’s comments are for the coalition. ‘The VVD has put human rights in the bin alongside asylum rights,’ he said.D66 parliamentarian Sjoerd Sjoerdsma pointed out that the coalition agreement states that ‘we will promote human rights in bilateral alliances’. ‘Does the VVD still support this?’ he asked.  More >

Lelystad to grow into budget airline hub

VVD suggests softer line towards dictators, second rift with Labour The cabinet has agreed to the expansion of Lelystad airport by the Schiphol airport group, broadcaster Nos said on Saturday.The decision will be announced next week and clears the way for Schiphol’s €90m plans to develop Lelystad as an airport for charter and budget airlines. Schiphol itself will concentrate on high-earning intercontinental flights and transit passengers, Nos said.Eventually, Lelystad will be able to absorb 45,000 take-offs and landings a year.[banner]However, airlines and holiday companies are not keen on the move and it is likely that only new entrants to the market will operate from Schiphol, Nos says. Holiday firms are also opposed to the move.'Our customers don't live there,' a spokesman for holiday firm Arke said. 'We've done research and Schiphol is an attractive airport because of all the facilities. Lelystad is further away, takes longer to get to and is therefore unattractive.'The city council is enthusiastic and says the move will create 2,500 jobs.  More >

Buddha mummy ownership in dispute

Buddha mummy owner will return it if rightful village owner is found: NRC A Dutch private collector who owns a Buddha statue with a mummy inside it will return it to a Chinese village if it is proved to be stolen from there, the NRC reports.The collector told the paper the Buddha can be returned if the original community which owned it is traced but that he will not hand it over to a Chinese state museum.Questions about the 1,000 year old Buddha's ownership have arisen since it became the star item in a show at the Hungarian natural history museum in Budapest.[banner]Pictures of the Buddha were shown on a Chinese news programme, leading villagers in Yangchun to claim it had been stolen from their temple in 1995.However, the collector says he has photographic evidence it was already in the Netherlands at that time. He has since withdrawn the statue from the exhibition, fearing it could be stolen.CollectorThe NRC says the owner is currently researching the statue’s origins, including carrying out DNA tests. The owner, whose identity has been kept secret, claims to have bought it for 40,000 guilders (around €18,000).In a statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the owner said he bought it in 1996 from another collector who had acquired it in late 1994 or early 1995 from a Chinese artist friend.The statue’s secrets have gradually been uncovered over the past few years and cat scans were done in 2013 and 2014, revealing the skeleton. The Buddha has also been on display at the Drents Museum in Assen for some time.  More >

Tax office cleared to use police footage

Tax office can use police camera footage to check on company car drivers: court The tax office can continue to check car number plates recorded on police motorway cameras in their efforts to catch people who cheat on their company car allowance, the appeal court in Den Bosch said on Friday.While using police camera images is an infringement of personal privacy, this can be justified because it is the most efficient way of making the checks, the court said.The case was brought by a man who said his privacy had been infringed by the tax office action.People who drive fewer than 500 kilometres a year privately in their company cars do not have to pay tax on the catalogue value of the vehicle.[banner]The court said the tax office has to check a very large number of company car drivers and this should happen as efficiently as possible, justifying the use of cameras. In addition, other methods of checking up on drivers could be more privacy sensitive, the court said.Mobile phoneLast year, the courts also ruled that a company which enables people to pay for car parking by mobile phone must hand over client details to the tax office.In that ruling, the court also acknowledged that handing over the information conflicts with privacy legislation but said this is outweighed by the public interest and need to levy correct amounts of tax.Tax inspectors already use cars fitted with special scanners in an effort to track down people who use their company cars for private business. Festivals, out-of-town shopping centres, sports events and other popular destinations are targeted in particular.  More >