Dutch civil servant to chair influential Eurogroup planning committee

Dutch civil servant to chair influential Eurogroup planning committee

Dutch senior civil servant Hans Vijlbrief is to be the new chairman of the working group that prepares all the meetings of the influential Eurogroup of European finance ministers. This means The Hague remains assured of a good flow of information when former Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem stands down as chairman on January 13, the Volkskrant reported on Friday. The paper says Vijlbrief’s only challenger, Finland’s Tuomas Saarenheimo, withdrew withdrawn his candidacy when it become clear Vijlbrief had more support. Vijlbrief’s appointment will be confirmed today and the decision will be endorsed by the ministers of finance at a Eurogroup meeting on January 22, the paper said. On Monday evening, European finance ministers voted Portugal’s Mario Centeno as new Eurogroup chairman to succeed Dijsselbloem.   More >

Russia denies NL fake news claim

Russian ambassador to the Netherlands denies fake news allegations Russia's ambassador to the Netherlands has told broadcaster NOS in an interview that his country is not spreading fake news in the Netherlands. In addition, accusations made by the new Dutch government are worsening relations between the two countries, ambassador Alexander Vasilievich Shulgin said. Home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren said last month the Russian security services are trying to influence public opinion in the Netherlands by spreading fake news. In particular, Russia has attempted to influence people’s ideas about the MH17 disaster, she said, referring to a website which was full of false information but had been made to look like an official Dutch operation. 'Russia is portrayed as a gigantic, pernicious octopus looming over the free world, poised to destroy fragile democracies,' the ambassador said. 'There is absolutely no evidence, no proof to confirm these allegations... we are denying any kind of interference, any kind of meddling.' Asked if the allegations harmed the relationship between the Netherlands and Russia, Shulgin said: 'The relations between our country and yours are not at their best. And in this context, any unsubstantiated or unchecked allegations are not useful at all. They are just stopping us resuming full fledged cooperation as it used to be.' Asked what he wanted from Ollongren, the ambassador said he could not make any comment about what she had told parliament because it is not his job to do so. Ollongren said in a reaction to the ambassador’s comments that she had not expected him to admit Russia was conducting covert operations in the west. ‘But I do think we should be aware that it is happening,’ she said.  More >

Hungary 'shameless' on refugees: Rutte

Dutch civil servant to chair influential Eurogroup planning committee Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has described his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán as ‘shameless’ for refusing to accept any refugees and attempting to buy off his obligations with a €35m fund, broadcaster NOS said on Thursday afternoon. Rutte was speaking ahead of a working dinner in Brussels to discussion migration issues. Rutte and other western European leaders want a fairer division of refugees across all EU members states, in line with earlier agreements. Poland and Hungary have both refused to cooperate and have accepted no refugees. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have also both only accepted a handful, NOS said. However, the four countries pledged earlier on Thursday to invest €35m in a fund to prevent potential African migrants leaving the continent for Europe. ‘I consider this to be a shameless story,’ Rutte said. ‘The four of them will put in €35m. Great. But the Netherlands is doing the same thing.’ The fund does not excuse the four countries from agreeing to take their fair share of refugees arriving via Italy and Greece, the Dutch prime minister said. According to website EUObserver, EU president Jean-Claude Juncker described the financial contribution as proof ‘that the Visegrad countries are fully aligned when it comes to solidarity with Italy and with others.’ Last week, the EU commission took the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the EU's top court for having refused to participate in the 2015 scheme that relocated asylum seekers from Greece and Italy.  More >

NL not on EU's tax haven list

Dutch civil servant to chair influential Eurogroup planning committee There was just one vote in it, but the European parliament on Wednesday voted not to include the Netherlands on an official list of tax havens. The vote on a motion proposed by Dutch labour parliamentarian Paul Tang was tied at 327 for and 327 against – a result which means in the European parliament that a motion is denied. Tang had also wanted to include Malta, Ireland and Luxembourg on the tax haven list. The vote was particularly notable among Christian Democrat MEPs with Dutch MEPs voting against the motion and Germans voting in favour, broadcaster NOS said. Tang told NOS after the vote that the fight for fair taxation would continue. ‘Everywhere I go, I hear criticism of tax pirates such as Ireland and the Netherlands,’ he said. CDA MEP Esther de Lange said the conflict is between the big and small European countries. ‘The big countries have a competitive edge compared with small countries because it is more attractive for foreign firms to base themselves in a larger market. ‘So when they criticise the Netherlands' attractiveness as a place to do business they are really talking to their own voters. This situation does not make the discussion or tackling the problem any easier,’ she said. Tang’s motion follows the publication last week of a list of 17 potential tax havens drawn up by the European Commission. That list did not include a single EU country. Research Researchers at the University of Amsterdam said this summer the Netherlands is the biggest conduit to offshore tax havens in the world, with almost a quarter of fiscal constructions having a Dutch link. Other research published by the NRC in July showed that multinational companies that register a headquarters operation in the Netherlands can receive very substantial discounts – up to 80% – on their corporate tax bills. Last year, the Netherlands ranked third in Oxfam’s annual list of the world’s top 15 tax avoidance centres. Bermuda and the Cayman Islands topped the list. The high score is due largely to the large scope of tax avoidance by multinational companies which operate through the Netherlands, Oxfam said. Other European countries making the list are Switzerland (4), Ireland (6), Luxembourg (7) and Cyprus (10).  More >

Dutch to fight German road toll plan

Dutch civil servant to chair influential Eurogroup planning committee The Netherlands is joining a lawsuit by Austria against German plans to introduce tolls for private cars on the country’s motorway network. Announcing the decision, transport minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen said the plan is discriminatory against non-German drivers. She points out that people with a car registered in Germany will get the toll money back via road taxes. ‘In other words, only the drivers of private cars with a foreign number plate will pay the toll in Germany,’ she said. Transport ministry figures show that the measure will cost Dutch drivers between €60m and €100m a year and will have a strong impact on people living in the border areas. Companies in the border areas will also be affected. The Dutch cabinet wants the European Court of Justice to give its views and has made a formal application to join up with the Austrian case. No ruling is expected before 2019 when the German toll plans will also come into force. According to website The Local, the German parliament passed a law establishing the toll in 2015 but the European Commission said the plans did discriminate against non-German drivers from other EU member states. Germany then agreed to make changes to those plans and they have now been approved by both German houses of parliament.  More >