No extra Dutch cash for EU to plug Brexit gap, Hoekstra warns

Labour remains the biggest party by far in Leeuwarden

Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra has insisted the Netherlands will not make up the shortfall in the European Union's budget when the United Kingdom leaves the bloc next year. Hoekstra was responding to calls by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for the remaining 27 members to raise their contributions to 1% of GDP. The immediate cost of Brexit to the EU is estimated at €12 billion a year, but Hoekstra told business news channel RTL Z: 'It cannot be right that those who experience the greatest damage from Brexit are the ones who end up paying the bill.' Hoekstra said the Netherlands was in the 'front line' of any Brexit impact because of the potential consequences of new trade tariffs on industries such as fishing and aviation. The minister called on the EU to make up for the funding gap through efficiency savings. Responding to Juncker's comment that EU budget contributions are equivalent to a cup of coffee per day per citizen, Hoekstra said: 'It's an attractive comparison, but I always ask if it's a cheap cup of coffee or an expensive one.'  More >

'End of the line' for cheap flights

Labour remains the biggest party by far in Leeuwarden The age of cheap flights in the Netherlands may be nearing its end as Schiphol airport approaches its capacity of 500,000 aircraft movements a year, former environment minister Hans Alders has warned. Speaking at the New Year reception for the Dutch airline association, the Labour party politician who now serves as chairman of Schiphol's regional committee said there needed to be a better balance between the economy and sustainability. Lelystad Airport, which is due to relieve Schiphol by taking over some holiday flights, is not yet ready for use and its opening may be delayed for a longer period due to parliamentary pressure. Alders suggested Schiphol would have to be more selective about which flights would get landing rights, the Telegraaf reported. 'Therefore cheap flights have had their day,' he said. Intercontinental links need to be given priority at Schiphol, Alders added, because they made the Netherlands attractive to international companies.   More >

Wiebes: Groningen gas plans will take time

Labour remains the biggest party by far in Leeuwarden Economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes has told parliament it will take time to draw up a new compensation scheme for people in Groningen whose homes have been damaged by earthquakes caused by gas drilling. Wiebes said any plans to cut gas production in the northern province would depend on negotiations with multiple parties. 'It's a considerable operation involving 200 industrial users, three countries with export deals and electricity stations. We can't do it all at once.' His statement was more equivocal than prime minister Mark Rutte's pledge last Friday to have a new compensation plan operating within weeks. The NAM, the company that operates gas drilling in Groningen, has paid out more than €1 billion in compensation but stopped processing claims last April in a dispute over whether the company or householders should be responsible for proving the cause of damage. On a visit to the village of Zeerijp, where a quake measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale struck last Monday, Wiebes admitted that the government had been slow to respond to locals' concerns in the past. 'We've been talking for far too long and need to cut to the chase,' he said. 'Even I'm getting impatient.' Rutte said the seven months of coalition negotiations after the general election in March were the main reason for the delay. 'We wanted to take the NAM out of the process because people were unhappy about having to take their claims to the powerful NAM.' Debate Wiebes told a debate in parliament on Tuesday that he wanted all householders, including those who have received payouts from the NAM, to be covered by the new procedure. 'I'll be very disappointed if I can't arrange that for them,' he said. He said new rules would be drawn up in the foreseeable future but refused to name a specific date. 'We need to reach an agreement with the regional authorities and community organisations. I think that is an orderly way to go about things.' The independent supervisory body SodM is expected to add to the pressure on the government to reduce gas production faster when it publishes its official advice on Thursday. The four-party coalition agreement reached last October set a target of a 7.5% cut from 21.6 billion cubic metres to 20 billion by 2021. Belgium However, further reduction would come at a price to the Dutch treasury, which has already seen its income from the Slochteren gas field reduced from €13 billion in 2013 to less than €2 billion last year. Belgium's main gas importer Synergrid has also pointed out that the NAM is under contract to supply it until 2030. Currently 1.6 million Belgian homes and businesses are heated by Groningen gas. 'No supplies of Dutch gas would leave us in the cold in the winter,' secretary-general Bérénice Crabs told Nieuwsuur. 'I'd urge them to think about that.'  More >

US ambassador admits no-go mistakes

Labour remains the biggest party by far in Leeuwarden The new US ambassador to the Netherlands has told the Telegraaf that he had made mistakes in talking about no-go zones and politicians being set on fire. Piet Hoekstra, who took up office last week and earlier refused to comment when pressed on the issue by Dutch reporters, told the Telegraaf at the weekend that his comments were 'just wrong'. Hoekstra has been under fire in the Netherlands for making the comments in a speech in 2015, then calling the reporting of his comments fake news. 'The statement about politicians being burned was imprecise,' the paper quotes Hoekstra as saying. 'And the no-go zones, that could be an exaggeration of what happens here.' Asked where the information had come from, Hoekstra said he could not remember. 'I have tried to find the statement back about politicians being set on fire in the Netherlands. When I look back, I am shocked that I said it. 'There are of course situations in European countries which look like it, but that has never been the case in the Netherlands. It was a wrong statement. It was plain wrong.' Warm welcome Hoekstra also told the Telegraaf that he had not seen the footage in which he made the comments when he described the claim he had said them as fake news. The ambassador went on to say that he had been welcomed warmly in the Netherlands and that he did not think the difficult start would damage his role. " I have had 25 years of experience in promoting Dutch American interests,' he said. 'People know who I am and a comment from 2015 is not at the top of their list.'  More >

SGP contests local election in Amsterdam

Labour remains the biggest party by far in Leeuwarden The fundamentalist Protestant party SGP is taking part in the local elections in March in Amsterdam - with a woman heading the list of hopeful councillors. Paula Schot, who is 24, is only the second woman to lead an SGP list. A university graduate who works for a private business school while studying for a master's degree, Schot describes herself as a 'typically modern SGP woman.' The SGP believes in a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible and that the Netherlands should be governed ‘entirely on the basis of the ordinances of God’. This means that women and men should have separate roles and, until recently, that women should not play an active role in politics. The party was told by the Supreme Court in 2010 that it had to stop refusing to allow women to stand for parliament as MPs. That decision was later upheld in the European Court of Human Rights. Despite picking a woman, the SGP is unlikely to win a seat on Amsterdam city council - in the 2017 national elections the party picked up just 687 votes in Amsterdam and will need at least 6,000 to have a councillor at city hall. The CDA, with just one seat, is currently the only religious party with a toe-hold in the capital. Psychiatrist Meanwhile, one of the prospective councillors for BIJ1, the party set up by television presenter and campaigner Sylvana Simons, has pulled out of the March election in Amsterdam after coming under intense media scrutiny. Cailin Kuit had claimed to have worked as a psychiatrist but was unable to prove her statement and has now withdrawn. A second BIJ1 candidate, Bob Schoute, has also left the party list for personal reasons. The local elections take place on March 21.  More >