Dutch PM makes urgent appeal for support on Ukraine referendum

Ministers press ahead with controversial internet tap plan

Prime minister Mark Rutte on Friday made an urgent appeal to opposition parties to support his efforts to reach a compromise over the Ukraine referendum result. The rejection of the EU’s proposed accession treaty with the former Soviet state was non-binding, but Rutte has promised to ‘do justice’ to the outcome. ‘This is bigger than the Netherlands,’ Rutte said at his weekly press conference after Friday’s cabinet meeting. The treaty will help create a stable country on the eastern edge of Europe, he said. The Netherlands is the only EU country which has not yet ratified the treaty. The prime minister said he is trying to find a solution which ‘does justice to’ the no vote but which will allow the Netherlands to sign the treaty. By not signing, the Dutch position could threaten the stability of Europe, he said. ‘I am standing here with empty hands,’ the prime minister said. ‘The nation’s interest is best served by a stable Europe.’ Parliament has asked the cabinet to provide a response before November 1.  More >

Ministers press on with phone tap plan

Ministers press ahead with controversial internet tap plan The cabinet is pressing ahead with controversial legislation to give the security service much wider powers to tap phones and internet traffic, despite opposition from the Council of State. The Council of State, which is the government’s most senior advisory body, said that the legislation should not be submitted to parliament in its present form. Currently the security services are only allowed to tap into satellite communications and specific internet connections and ministers argue that they must have wider access to internet traffic to monitor terrorists more effectively. The new legislation will, for example, make it possible to tap all the communications between the Netherlands and another country and to collect all local traffic conducted via a particular app. Ministers plan to set up a special committee to make sure that the security services are not breaking the law and which must give the green light to taps before they are put in place. The Council of State, however, has objections to the approval process and says the three year limit for keeping information obtained via taps is too long. Criticism British privacy watchdog Privacy International has already described the proposals as among the most far-reaching in the world and says they will provide a poor example for companies without strong democratic traditions. ‘We would strongly urge the Dutch government not to expand surveillance beyond what is necessary and reasonable in a democratic society,’ the organisation said last year.  More >

Fifa stops 15-year-old playing for Ajax

Ministers press ahead with controversial internet tap plan The independent Court of Arbitration for Sport has stopped a 15-year-old American boy from joining Ajax’ youth training programme because it believes the boy's family moved to Europe so he could play, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. The tribunal’s verdict has not yet been published but current affairs show Nieuwsuur says it was given the information as part of its research into youth transfers. Under Fifa rules, non-EU players below the age of 18 are not allowed to move to a European club, unless their parents have been relocated by their employers. John Kenneth Hilton moved to the Netherlands two years ago. His parents told the tribunal that they were convinced their four children’s education would be ‘enriched’ by a spell abroad. However, both Fifa and the tribunal said they were not convinced the move was unconnected to football. For example, the boy played indoor football for a club with links to Ajax and had been ‘on show’ to all the major European clubs since 2010, Nieuwsuur said. ‘I can really follow the panel’s reasoning when they say there is a clear link between the move and football,’ sports lawyer Louis Everard told Nieuwsuur. Ajax told Nieuwsuur that it had played no role in the family’s move and that there had only been contact between them and the club once they had moved to the Netherlands.  More >

Wilders won't attend incitement trial

Ministers press ahead with controversial internet tap plan Geert Wilders' trial for inciting hatred and discrimination starts on Monday but the PVV leader said on Friday he will not attend the hearings. In the Netherlands, it is not compulsory to appear in court personally, but Wilders was at all the previous procedural hearings relating to the case, and generated a great deal of media coverage. In a letter in the AD, Wilders says the trial is a political process and that he will carry on the debate in the appropriate place - parliament. It is, Wilders said, his right and his duty to talk about problems in the Netherlands. 'And the Netherlands has an enormous Moroccan problem,' he said. 'If talking about it is a criminal offence, then the Netherlands is no longer a free country but a dictatorship.' Political assessment Wilder's lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops had submitted a motion calling for the trial to stop, arguing that it would effectively be a political assessment of Wilders and the PVV. However, judges said earlier this month that while there are political aspects to the case, it is up to the courts to decide where the boundaries of free speech and political campaigning lie. Wilders is on trial for his role in a party rally in March 2014, where he led supporters in a chant for ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’ Moroccans in the Netherlands.  More >

Ryanair backs Lelystad airport plans

Ministers press ahead with controversial internet tap plan Budget airline Ryanair is prepared to buy up 'all the slots' at Lelystad airport, 'if the price is right', commercial director David O'Brien has told the Telegraaf. The government wants to turn Lelystad into a commercial airport for holiday traffic and charter airlines to relieve pressure on Schiphol. If the plan goes ahead, it will open to commercial airlines in 2018. Ryanair could bring 'two million passengers to Lelystad', O'Brien told the paper.  The Irish airline currently operates one service to Dublin from Schiphol but to dozens of destinations from Eindhoven. Schiphol director Jos Nijhuis told the Telegraaf he is pleased Ryanair is interested in Lelystad but that it will take years before capacity there is maximised.  More >