‘Coalition partners lean so far they almost tipped the balance’

‘Coalition partners lean so far they almost tipped the balance’

The coalition partners had agreed to disagree when Labour leader Diederik Samsom told a party conference his party would be leaning as far as it could to the left. At the same time, comments by VVD parliamentary leader Halbe Zijlstra showed the Dutch liberals are leaning as far as possible to the right. In doing so they almost tipped the balance, writes commentator Nicola Chadwick.The position of the current cabinet became extremely precarious this week as the two parties took 10 days to reach agreement about what to do with failed asylum seekers.So far the authorities have consistently failed to remove this group from the country in spite of all the tough talk. Many are unable to leave the country, as their own country will not have them or they cannot prove where they come from and others are still going though asylum procedures.A recent Council of Europe ruling stipulated that this group of people living in a judicial no man’s land should have access to basic amenities. Only the problem is that the two coalition partners disagreed on what the ruling meant exactly. For Labour it was clear: people should at least be given a bed, a bath and bread. The VVD feared such generosity would only attract more asylum seekers to the Netherlands.So it is not surprising that the solution is unsatisfactory. Bed and board will be provided, but only for those who cooperate with deportation – and that is to be realised within a matter of weeks. Criticism has come from municipalities and international organisations alike. Not least from UN human rights rapporteur Philip Aston, who called the agreement 'illegal' and 'a violation of human rights'.The VVD’s hardline was set out recently by Zijlstra, when he suggested Europe should be closed to non-European refugees. However if crossing the Mediterranean at the mercy of ruthless traffickers in unseaworthy vessels hasn’t put hundreds of thousands of refugees off, the outcome of this latest dilemma is hardly going to make a difference.The tragic drowning of an estimated 800 refugees in the Mediterranean showed all too poignantly the dangers refugees fleeing war-torn countries are willing to face.Titanic tragedyMonday’s tragedy is the largest number of refugees ever to drown from a single boat. And in all, the human equivalent of two Titanics has been lost at sea since the Arab Spring destablised the Middle East and North Africa. In an interview in the Volkskrant last month, Zijlstra said the VVD should be more willing to talk to dictators, thus putting stability before freedom and democracy.The endless discussions brought this cabinet the closest it has ever been to break-up. What to do with people who are rejected by the asylum procedure has dogged Rutte’s second cabinet since it came into office in 2012.First, the two argued over a new general pardon for children who had become rooted into Dutch society, but had missed the initial amnesty in 2007. Then the criminalisation of illegal immigrants brought criticism on Labour. Eventually, this measure was withdrawn. The prison-cell suicide of Russian asylum seeker, Aleksandr Dolmatov, who should never have been in detention, seriously damaged former junior justice minister Fred Teeven. Just over a week ago, a group of failed asylum seekers #wearehere were evicted from the so-called refugee garage. They are protesting against the bed and board system as they say it gives them no prospect of a futureMafia bossThe VVD came out of the provincial elections with fewer losses than expected. But to keep the support of right-wingers they have to play tough on immigration. Zijlstra even compared failed asylum seekers to top criminal Willem Holleeder. 'If Willem Holleeder listened to judges like these people, he would never have served a prison sentence,' he said.That being said, quite often it is the Dutch immigration service that does not listen to judges, thus prolonging procedures before individuals are eventually granted asylum.Municipalities faced with the problem of people living on the streets as a result of the Netherlands’ failed asylum policies are far more pragmatic. Utrecht offers far more than a place to sleep, wash and eat. It recognises the need to give people perspective with daytime facilities and training courses. Even VVD mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen wants basic provisions to remain in place.The reason the talks took so long was because the two parties disagree fundamentally on this issue. Each had to make its mark on the new legislation, which makes this a political compromise, not a practical solution.It’s a shameful situation, two parties thinking more about their prospects in the next election rather than a serious solution. It damages The Hague’s image as the seat of international justice and the Netherlands’ reputation as a leader on human rights issues.Now European ministers have agreed to increase funds for the EU Frontex operation, in an attempt to prevent the Mediterranean from turning into a watery graveyard. However, there is no deal on how to accommodate them once they set foot on European soil. Asylum and the refugee crisis is set to become a hot potato this summer, which could tip the balance of more than just the Dutch government.Nicola Chadwick is a freelance translator/journalist/editor who regularly blogs on Dutch current affairs and politics  More >

10 ways to survive King's Day

10 ways to survive King’s Day – avoid cute kids with buckets of water If you are in the Netherlands at the moment, you cannot fail to have noticed it - the taped off bits of pavement with the word bezet, the orange stuff piling up in shop windows and the fact you probably have a day off on Monday. Yes, King’s Day is upon us.Here at DutchNews.nl opinion about King’s Day is divided. Some of us have been collecting our clutter to sell for months, some of us have a 24-hour feest ahead of us and some of us are even leaving the country to get away from it all. All you need is a plan. Here’s ours.1. If you are a party animal, you need to know that the best parties all take place the night before King’s Day and run until breakfast. This means you will not be up and about before mid-afternoon and will miss almost the whole thing.2. If you are a bargain hunter, you need to get up early. If you are a real bargain hunter, you need to get out of the big cities and head for a small town where they won’t expect you to pay €15 for an old pair of shoes...  More >

'Libraries need to be made relevant'

‘Libraries need to be closed or made relevant again’ All entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal sees are empty libraries. The money spent on them could be put to better use, she writes.The Netherlands is keeping afloat lots of institutions which used to be relevant but now hardly have any added value. Take the public libraries.Every time I pass a library I see empty spaces with endless book cases. Every once in a while a lone student is sitting at a table pouring over his school books or his laptop. Lending books has clearly become a marginal activity. It makes sense.With the wealth of information and stories available online, printed books are no longer viable. Some libraries are trying to generate a little money by organising cultural evenings, reading groups and workshops at €12,50 a pop, coffee and tea included, but they are fighting a losing battle.€600m a yearA city like Amsterdam has as many as 26 libraries. There’s over a thousand nationwide. These libraries cost some €600m a year, €65m of which is covered by...  More >

'Landing at Schiphol, I'm glad to be home'

‘Whenever I land at Schiphol, I relax and think I am so glad to be back home’ Entrepreneur Deborah Carter is a British Canadian dual national and has lived in the Netherlands on and off for 12 years. She fell in love with Amsterdam because of its people and says the Dutch are the most loyal friends you could ever have.How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for The New York Times in Manhattan and gradually came to the conclusion that there’s more to life than work, cocktails and ceaseless social climbing. I was looking for a kinder, gentler way of life (along with more than 10 vacation days per year) surrounded by culture, the arts and endless travel possibilities.I wanted to spend one year working in Europe before ‘settling down’ back in Canada where I come from. I had been to Amsterdam several times for vacation and loved the city and its vibe. While still in NYC, I started emailing people in Amsterdam for advice on where to look for jobs in digital media. I wrote to a woman who had just set up an Internet research company. We exchanged...  More >

Start-ups are not the problem

‘Big companies could do more to put Dutch start-ups on the map’ Big companies don't have the guts to work with ambitious newcomers, nor do enough venture capitalists to invest in start-ups, writes entrepreneur Roebyem Anders.According to start-up Delta director Sigris Johannisse Dutch start-ups are thinking small. They have to develop an attitude or else they will never find a big investor to turn them into world players.I beg to diiffer. It’s the big companies who could do more to put start-ups on the map. Dutch start-ups are bursting with ambition to go international. What is lacking are big companies with enough guts to work with these ambitious newcomers. As long as they shy away, the big venture capitalists won’t be interested either.BackwaterIn the past ten years, the Netherlands has changed from an entrepreneurial backwater into a place where ideas and entrepreneurship are thriving. There have been marked improvements in the infrastructure to help small businesses. The figures support this: in 2014, 75 Dutch start-ups raked...  More >

How to deal with your aging parents

How to deal with your aging parents when you live abroad Scarcely a day goes by in the Netherlands without a news story focusing on care of the elderly. New legislation introduced at the beginning of this year has limited access to residential care and put a much greater emphasis on the role of family and friends in helping people remain living in their own homes.Expat and social worker Ana McGinley, whose own parents live 15,000 kilometres from her home in Haarlem, has some advice about how to cope when your own close relatives are so far away.They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it is difficult to deny the poignancy of saying goodbye to aging parents. Relationships with family members are crucial in the preservation of self-identity in expat adults and children – especially when the culture of the host country is unfamiliar or confronting. Being able to ‘be yourself’ with the people who know you is a wonderful comfort often available in the company of family members.Our relationships with family members...  More >

'Top women's database not the answer'

‘More women at the top? A database alone is not going to do the job’ Education minister Jet Bussemaker is right to want more women in top jobs, but a database is not the way to achieve this, write executive search entrepreneurs Carien van der Laan and Monique de Vos.Full marks to education minister Jet Bussemaker’s wish to increase the presence of women in the boardrooms of this country. Aware of the issues surrounding the appointment of women in top executive functions, she is anxious to speed up the process. But setting up a database of ‘board-ready women’ is not the best way to go about it.The minister’s goal – to increase the number of female board members (executive and non-executive) to 30% by 2016 – is a requirement of the Administration and Supervision Act. At the current rate of female appointments, this goal will not be met. Many of the 4,900 employers who must comply with the requirement argue that ‘there are no women’.200To prove them wrong, employers' association VNO-NCW chairman Hans de Boer and Bussemaker agreed...  More >

'Circle parties make it hard to converse'

‘Sitting in a circle at Dutch parties makes it hard to start conversations’ Rick Lightstone is PR director at the ABC bookstore in Amsterdam and has been in the Netherlands for 28 years. If he had to leave, he would cycle down the Amstel into the sunset.How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my wife on a kibbutz in Israel. She is Dutch and wanted to live in Holland. We were in Vancouver for a few years and after moving back and forth a bit, we ended up here.How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? That's a tricky one. I’m a Dutchified Canadian.How long do you plan to stay? For ever, permanently.Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I went to Dutch language schools for a while. At home we speak primarily English and my kids have grown up to be completely bilingual.What's your favourite Dutch food? I’m not going to say Indonesian. Does it count as Dutch?  I guess bitterballen. Every time we host an author at the ABC they freak out about stroopwaffels but I don't really get them.What...  More >

Stop Uber and companies like them

‘Uber and its like are not hip and innovative’ We shouldn’t hail Uber as a model of innovative entrepreneurship. WalMart should be a warning to us all, writes Daan Brouwer.There are quite a few politicians and economists who are in favour of total entrepreneurial freedom for businesses, investors and speculators. Eager to point out the pros, any harmful long-term cons this might have for a majority of citizens are overlooked.Advocates are outnumbering objectors, that much is clear from the current trend towards low wages, the scrapping of rules and regulations, the paring down of redundancy rights, the side-lining of unions and the holes that are appearing in the social safety net for the unemployed, the sick and others who, for some reason or another, depend on benefits.All this is primarily in aid of allowing these companies, and their exceedingly rich owners, to pay fewer taxes.Cheap taxis‘Businesses’ like Uber fit this bill perfectly. Uber uses cheap fare prices to tempt the public into using their taxis....  More >

Bureaucratic maze stifles small businesses

Bureaucratic maze stifles small businesses The social insurance system is confusing and expensive for small firms, says entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal.Unemployment is down slightly, but with over 633,000 people out of work we are still nudging our old 1980s record. Add to this the enormous number of self-employed and entrepreneurs who, while not unemployed, are struggling to make ends meet and you realise that we are facing a very big problem. The economy is recovering but this is not reflected in the employment figures.Government policy has concentrated too much on protecting existing jobs and too little on stimulating growth. It has gone too far in its protection of workers: redundancy pay, social insurance rules, bureaucratic procedures and collective labour agreements cover all businesses, whether they employ a thousand workers or ten.ResponsibleIn both cases, employers remain responsible for a sick worker for a period of two years. That not only means they have to set in motion a re-integration process and...  More >