‘Dijsselbloem is sidelining the democratic process’

‘Dijsselbloem is sidelining the democratic process’

The Netherlands may be proud to have one of its own mingle with the high and mighty but the fact is that Jeroen Dijsselbloem is side lining the democratic process, write David Hollanders and Merijn Oudenampsen.Writer Milan Kundera distinguished two kinds of provincialism. The kind manifested by big countries ignores outside influences and favours its own. Small countries, however, show their provincialism by showing a great appreciation for what happens outside their borders. That outside world remains alien and unattainable, however, which is why small nations tend to embrace their influential figures as symbols of pride and stability.Kundera was referring to writers but the same is true for politicians.The re-election of Jeroen Dijsselbloem as chairman of the Eurogroup led to proud reactions in this country’s press. ‘He has the patience of an ox’ the Volkskrant proclaimed. The journalist, barely able to contain his enthusiasm, went on to describe the ‘dominance of Holland’. The piece was accompanied by a picture of a cool looking Dijsselbloem towering over his colleagues.With Kundera’s words in mind such a reaction is not an unexpected one. But it’s obstructing a proper reflection on what is actually happening.Private creditorsIn 2010 it wasn’t Greece that was saved but the private creditors- from Deutsche bank to ING. The troika operated like a collection agency. It took over Greek debt and has been trying to land the country with the bill ever since. The state comes armed with a weapon that banks don’t have at their disposal: the threat to destroy the Greek banking system by the European Central Bank.As everybody knows and the IMF have since admitted, the Greek debt cannot be paid back. However, the loss is not borne by the original creditors but by the European citizens. This effectively pits the Greek taxpayer and the non-Greek taxpayer against each other.The fact that Dijsselbloem is part of this set-up is not really something to be proud of. If we look at his plans for the rest of Europe more questions arise. His agenda for Europe is set out in the letter he wrote to support his candidature and is a personal election programme of sorts.CompetitivenessIn his letter Dijsselbloem proposes further integration and centralisation of European economic policy in which ‘competitiveness’ is key. Part of the programme is the flexibilisation of labour markets, deregulation of product markets and pension and social security reforms.Dijsselbloem wants a European framework of ‘national competitiveness councils’ managed by Brussels which will supervise these reforms and tell national governments what they can and cannot do. This is a programme with a clear political bias and one that, in a functioning democracy, should be put to the national vote.What Dijsselbloem is proposing is diametrically opposed to anything his Labour party stands for and should be cause for action among its members. But this is more than an internal party matter. Whether left or right wing, all citizens should be concerned. Where is the democratic mandate for what Dijsselbloem is proposing? He is part of the Eurogroup as a minister in a government which has pledged to reduce the powers transferred to Brussels. And yet here he is, making a case for a far-reaching convergence of economic policies and handing over more national powers to Brussels.More influenceWe are being told that the Dijsselbloem’s position will give us more influence in Brussels but the reverse seems to be true.The Eurogroup is accountable to who exactly? It’s an informal club with a foggy organisational structure. It minutes are not accessible to the public. As Max van Weezel rightly noted in Vrij Nederland, national parliaments can ask questions in advance about what their ministers will propose in Brussels but they have no way of knowing what is being decided in the back rooms. Parliaments are being side lined, a state of affairs which the Dutch Council of State warned against in 2013 when it said the strong increase of informal European coordination could have a detrimental effect on the democratic process.To ignore this because our minister is rubbing shoulders with the great and the good is provincialism of the worst kind and one that no country should display.David Hollanders teaches finance at Tilburg University. Merijn Oudenampsen is a sociologist and political scientist.This article was published earlier in the Volkskrant  More >

10 great things to do August 3 - 9

10 great things to do this week – August 3 – 9 From watching films outdoors and checking out a huge market of hand-crafted items to admiring Matisse cutouts and steaming through the countryside, here's our pick of the week's best things to do.Catch Matisse while you still canPhoto: Stedelijk CollectionDon't miss the biggest collection ever exhibited in the Netherlands of the work of the French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954), which has two weeks to run. In his paintings and cut-outs Matisse sought the most perfect possible union between shape and colour. He depicted Eastern nudes, colourful fabrics, carpets, potted plants and idyllic landscapes. Using its permanent collection, the Stedelijk also provides surprising combinations with the work of his contemporaries, teachers and followers, such as Monet, Van Gogh, Kirchner, Mondrian and Cézanne. At the heart of the exhibition is Matisse’s most popular work: The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952-1953, photo).Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam until August 16. www.stedelijk.nlTake...  More >

Buy-to-let mortgages in the Netherlands

Buy-to-let mortgages in the Netherlands (third party content) In some countries buying property to rent out is a popular investment. So what is the situation in the Netherlands? Henk van Seijen of financial advisory group Finsens has the low-down.Expats often come to us asking whether it would be possible for them to purchase a apartment to rent out. This is because apartments and residences in the large Dutch cities are considered an interesting investment. In addition to rental income, the properties also go up in value. Obviously these properties may be purchased with private cash. But recently, taking out a mortgage has become an option.On behalf of the expat community, we have investigated the requirements. Expats must have spent at least three years living and working in the Netherlands. Their minimum gross income should be €45,000 per year and they must have EU nationality.Another significant detail is that private cash is required at all times. The bank will expect buyers to invest roughly 40% of the purchase price from their...  More >

Gay weddings: getting hitched in Holland

‘Gay wedding tourism would be good for everyone’ More can be done to make Amsterdam and the Netherlands the gay capital of the world, write D66 politicians Jan Paternotte and Sjoerd Sjoerdsma. They believe we should give gay couples from all over the world the right to get married here.Amsterdam is getting ready for its twentieth Gay Pride canal parade. The capital's waterways will once again be a showcase for freedom and tolerance. Not only is it the best party in the world, it is also a celebration of the city’s great historical tradition of allowing people to be themselves, whoever they are and whomever they love.We should be proud of a city that was the first to welcome marriage between same-sex partners. This Gay Pride marks yet another step in the emancipation of gays which started in Amsterdam. But more can be done to make Amsterdam and the Netherlands the gay capital of the world: give gay couples from all over the globe the opportunity of tying the knot in the Netherlands.There’s plenty to celebrate. In many countries...  More >

How to plan a cycling city

How to plan a cycling city: university summer school course is a big draw Amsterdam is known the world over for its bikes and its cycling population. Esther O’Toole visits a unique summer course at the University of Amsterdam that seeks to give students insight into the world of Dutch cycling.The University of Amsterdam has been running summer courses for nearly 20 years. However, this is the first time that they have run a Planning the Cycling City course, which looks at the history, policy, infrastructure, planning, and culture of urban cycling in the Netherlands.Amsterdam is the world’s cycling capital, so you would think that it would be obvious that folks from abroad should want to look into the reasons behind the thriving ‘on yer bike’ lifestyle of the Dutch.For the Dutch though, for whom cycling is as natural as breathing, that interest is not so immediately apparent.As Mirjam Schieveld, the programme director at the Graduate School of Social Sciences summer programmes office, explains: ‘For us it’s a lot like being fish in...  More >

'Dutch potatoes are the best'

‘Dutch potatoes are the best I have ever eaten’ Paola Montino, 39, gave up everything in Italy three years ago and moved to Amsterdam on the off-chance to make a new start. She bought a house, found a job as a customer service rep for a pharmaceuticals company and loves her new life.How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved to the Netherlands in April 2012 together with my boyfriend. We were both working in Italy, but we were not really satisfied with our lives. We had low salaries, a static environment and we did not see how things would ever get better… at least, this was what we felt!So, within two months, we quit our jobs, we left our place and, after choosing the destination on a map, we came to Amsterdam.  We bought an apartment without even knowing if we would find a job… really exciting indeed! We saw more than 50 places in two weeks and at the end we found ‘home’! Of course, we were able to do it financially, but it was a risk anyway.How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I...  More >

How to bank in the Netherlands

How to bank in the Netherlands, with full service and support in English Have you just arrived in the Netherlands? You will notice that a lot is different here: the language, the food, but also the way of banking. We would like to help you find your way around financially. Welcome to the Netherlands.First things first: a Dutch bank accountThe first thing you need in the Netherlands is a current account with a debit card and credit card. Your employer will use this to pay your salary. And you will need it to shop and to pay your rent, for example. Opening a current account is easy and you can do so at ABN AMRO even before you receive your Dutch citizen service number (BSN).Once your account has been opened, you will receive a complete package to manage the account: a debit card, a credit card and tools for online banking. And did you know that in the Netherlands you can do all your banking online from your computer, tablet or smartphone? Our Mobile Banking app can be also set to run in English, German and Spanish.We offer you more than just an...  More >

10 things you need to know about Van Gogh

On July 29, it is 125 years since master painter Vincent van Gogh shot himself in France. Here’s a list of facts about Van Gogh which you can drop into the conversation and become an instant expert.1 Van Gogh was a post impressionist Van Gogh is ranked among the post impressionists. Typical of the period, roughly between 1885 and 1905, were a bold use of colour and dark contour lines, both of which are evident in his work, especially in his French paintings. Other post impressionists include Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne and George Seurat.2 He did sell a painting Contrary to popular belief Van Gogh did sell work in his lifetime. It was ‘La Vigne Rouge’ (1888) which was shown in an exhibition of Les XX in Brussels and sold for 400 francs to Belgian artist Anna Boch (of Villeroy & Boch fame). The painting, of a vineyard near Arles, ended up in a collection in Russia which was seized by Stalin in 1918. It is now in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The red and yellow leaves of...  More >

Boosting the Beach Body Index

Boosting the Beach Body Index Summer’s here and the Dutch are heading for the beach. It’s a time when it becomes very obvious indeed that physical health, self-confidence, a positive self-image as well as charisma and attractiveness really do matter, writes the SCP's Kim Putters.We tend to underestimate the importance of this sort of ‘personal capital’ for the rest of the year. In the discussions about (in)equality we immediately trot out income policy or education but very often health and a pleasant demeanour that are the crucial life and career determinants. So here’s a thought for a summer’s day.Health and beauty are not equally divided among the population, as you cannot have failed to notice as you watch the world go by from your deck chair. This has partly to do with age. Older people are or perceive themselves to be less healthy than young people, for instance when it comes to mounting the stairs, or during work.But when we look at self-confidence and self-image the reverse is usually...  More >

10 great things to do this week – July 27-August 2

10 great things to do this week – July 27-August 2 From a tiny superhero and iron men to floating flowers and vintage cars, here’s our pick of the week’s best things to do.Check out the competitions Sneek Week is a week of races on the lake of the Frisian town of Sneek. There are competitions for boats and catamarans in all classes, including Falcons, Rainbows and Ynglings. Among the races is the final of the championship for the typical Frisian sailing boats known as skütjes.Elsewhere in the town the entertainment includes street theatre, live music in cafes and outdoors, parades and a sand sculpture festival.Sneek, July 31 to August 9. www.sneekweek.nlHie over to HaydnThe French string quartet Zaïde was formed five years ago and the young women won first prize at the Haydn Competition in Vienna in 2012. They play Haydn's first string quartet at this concert, but also works by Mendelssohn and Debussy.Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, July 28. www.concertgebouw.nlDiscover where your style comes from A major retrospective...  More >

Amsterdam gets ready for Gay Pride 2015

Amsterdam gets ready to celebrate Gay Pride Some 350,000 people are expected in Amsterdam over the coming week to celebrate Gay Pride. Brandon Hartley looks back at the event's history and what you can expect during the week long 2015 editionThe annual celebration of gay, lesbian, and transgender culture first took place in Amsterdam in 1996. Since then, it’s become one of the city’s most popular summertime jubilees.In its early days, the annual extravaganza was a bit smaller and a little wilder than it is now. Organisers have made efforts to tone down the amount of nudity in recent years during popular events like the colossal canal parade in order to make the celebration more family-friendly and accessible for a wider audience.Gay Pride was originally launched to help strengthen the city’s gay friendly image while also drawing attention to important issues that impact citizens in the Netherlands and other nations around the world.Today it features an extensive programme of events ranging from parties to film...  More >