Dutch parliament launches its own sexual intimidation investigation

Abolish time limits on prison sentences to stop criminals dodging justice, says MP

The Dutch parliament is launching its own investigation to find out if sexual intimidation is an issue for workers within the parliamentary complex. MPs on Thursday voted in favour of the probe, suggested by D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma. 'The government must set the right example,' Sjoerdsma said. Ministers will now draw up an action plan for the investigation which is likely to start after the summer.   More >

Foreign minister ignores headscarf critics

Foreign minister hits back at headscarf critics: ‘Should I not have gone?’ Foreign minister Sigrid Kaag has told the Telegraaf her decision to drape a headscarf over her hair while meeting the Iranian president on Wednesday was taken for 'business reasons'. Kaag drew criticism from populist circles after photographs of her with a headscarf were circulated by the Iranian presidency office. In particular, anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders said Kaag had 'betrayed all the women who want to stop wearing headscarves.' 'No female representative would be allowed in the country without some form of simple head covering,' Kaag told the paper. 'Does this mean that a female minister should not go? I had far more important things to talk about: Israeli security, Libya, Yemen and Syria.' Many young women in Iran have been protesting about the compulsory wearing of headscarves in recent months.   More >

No referendum over scrapping referendums

Abolish time limits on prison sentences to stop criminals dodging justice, says MP The coalition government is pressing ahead with its plans to scrap advisory referendums from the statute books and will not sanction a referendum on the plans, home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren told MPs on Tuesday evening. The minister came under particularly heavy fire during a second stormy debate on the issue because her party D66 had for a long time made referendums a central part of their policy. Opposition parties are furious that Ollongren has refused to allow a referendum on the plan even though her position has been upheld by the Council of State. However, a motion of no confidence in the minister, put forward by Forum voor Democratie leader Thierry Baudet, was only supported by the anti-Islam PVV and the pro-animal PvdD. MPs will vote on the decision to scrap referendums on Thursday, after which it will be referred to the upper house of parliament. There has only been one advisory referendum since the legislation was introduced several years ago – the 2016 vote on the EU’s treaty with Ukraine. Some 2.5 million people voted in the referendum, taking the turnout just over the 30% required for the result to have legal standing. One more referendum will take place – on giving new phone and internet tapping powers to the security services – at the same time as the local elections on March 21.  More >

Around 4,000 children still missing school

Abolish time limits on prison sentences to stop criminals dodging justice, says MP Around 4,000 children missed at least three months of school last year despite efforts by the government to tackle the causes of long-term absence. The number of so-called 'thuiszitters' was roughly the same in 2016/17 as in the previous academic year. Around 1700 children were not registered with a school at all. Education minister Arie Slob said the trend was 'not acceptable'. 'Children who don't go to school can fall behind in their education, but also miss out on making friends,' he said. Two years ago former children's ombudsman Marc Dullaert was given the job of enacting an agreement between the government, education authorities and municipalities to improve the system for reducing school absence. Dullaert said youth care and education services needed to work more closely together to identify children at risk of missing school. School absence is often linked to domestic problems such as an acrimonious divorce. The current government has extended Dullaert's term by six months. Slob said he also wanted to change the system for exempting children from school, which is currently the responsibility of family doctors. The minister said schools and local authorities should be involved in the process. 'That would help doctors making the decision because they don't always have a good picture of the available options to tailor the schooling for the pupil.'  More >

Turkey angered by Armenian genocide vote

Abolish time limits on prison sentences to stop criminals dodging justice, says MP Turkey has summoned the Netherlands' senior diplomat to account for the Dutch parliament's vote to recognise the Armenian genocide of 1915. A majority of MPs backed a campaign by Christian Union MP Joël Voordewind to acknowledge the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenian Christians by the Ottoman empire as an act of genocide. They also supported sending a minister to represent the Netherlands at the official commemoration in Armenia in April. The decision has put further strain on the already frayed relationship between the two countries. The Netherlands formally withdrew its ambassador from Ankara earlier this month, but has had no representation since last March, when a Turkish minister was denied permission to attend a gathering of supporters in Rotterdam and given a police escort out of the country. Turkey has ordered the acting ambassador to report to the ministry of foreign affairs to discuss what its government continues to describe as 'the Armenian question'. Voordewind said the Netherlands should take a stand as the home of the institutions of international law in The Hague. ‘We are acknowledging history,' he said. 'That is not the same thing as casting aspersions as Turkey has done towards the Netherlands.'  More >