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September 2006

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Friday 29 September 2006

Business services lead new job growth
The number of paid jobs in the Netherlands rose 1.1% in the second quarter of this year, compared with the year earlier period, national statistics office CBS said. The rise was the equivalent of 83,000 jobs.

Few arrests in border drugs control
A massive police stop-and-search operation on the Dutch-German border resulted in five arrests and 25 cautions. Some 200 police officers were involved in checking 680 cars for drugs and weapons. They seized 500 grammes of soft drugs and four guns.

Investigation into hospital fire death
An investigation has begun into the fire at a hospital in Almelo which resulted in a 69-year-old patient burning to death on an operating table. Surgical staff say they were unable to free the woman, who was not under general anesthetic and had been strapped to the operating table, when the fire broke out.

Police look at teen murder links
Police investigating the murder of 15-year-old Melanie Spijbers are looking at connections between the man who has confessed to her killing and other unsolved cases. The step-father of a friend of Melanie, who has served time in a psychiatric prison for rape, has confessed to her killing.

Probo Koala export ‘unethical’
The ship Probo Koala broke EU rules when it took its cargo of toxic waste from Amsterdam to Ivory Coast, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said yesterday. Dimas was in Estonia, where the ship has been confined to port. The export was ‘unethical and criminal’, Dimas said.

John de Mol to buy back Endemol?
Media tycoon John de Mol is considering putting in a bid to buy back Endemol, the television company which he helped found, according to Reuters. De Mol told the news agency that he had been approached by Italian company Mediaset about a joint bid.

DSM to launch new diet product
Chemical company DSM is to launch a new type of diet product which can be added to dairy foods to reduce the desire to eat, the Telegraaf website reports. DSM’s head of innovation Rob van Leen told news agencies that DSM was in talks with dairy cooperative Campina about the product.

D-day looms for asylum decisions
Almost all the 26,000 asylum-seekers who arrived in the Netherlands before April 2001 have now had a decision on their application to remain in the country, said today’s Volkskrant, quoting sources in The Hague.

Marines rife with sexual harassment
The Dutch armed forces are riddled with unacceptable behaviour, ranging from simple bad language to physical violence and sexual abuse, according to a report commissioned by the defence ministry.

MPs demand language test for all toddlers
The cabinet has agreed to look into the idea of making children take a Dutch language test before their third birthday. Those who fail the test would be sent to pre-school language classes, a majority of MPs agreed.

Headaches cost too much
Headaches cost Dutch society € 3.1 bn a year, but this figure could be halved if more people sought treatment, says the Dutch association for headache sufferers. At least 2.5 million people suffer from headaches and migraines but 60% have not consulted a doctor.

Thursday 28 September 2006

Rich benefit more from public services
The better-off benefit more from public services than the poor but the gap is closing, according to figures from think tank SCP. In 2003, the bottom 40% used up 32% of public services while the top 40% consumed 38%. In 1997, the poor used 21%, the rich 46%.

Prime minister hits back at critics
The most vulnerable members of society will benefit the most from the Dutch economic recovery, said prime minister Jan Pieter Balkenende on Thursday during the second day of the general parliamentary debate on the budget.

Newspaper group PCM declares war
Newspaper group PCM has ‘declared war’ on the newspaper market. ‘It is time to stop being nice to each other. We want to expand our market leadership,’ said chairman Ton aan de Stegge at a broadcasting conference yesterday.

EU rules against Dutch ‘golden shares’
The Dutch government’s golden share in former state-own postal monopolies KPN and TNT which give it an effective veto, is illegal, the European Court of Justice ruled today. The shares are an unjustified restriction as they are likely to deter investors from other member states from investing in KPN and TNT, the court said.

Manifesto finances under CPB fire
The financial calculations used by the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Labour (PvdA) in their election manifestos are full of holes, say sources at the government’s CPB economic policy think-tank in today's Volkskrant.

Bus lanes to beat the lorry jams
Allowing lorries to use bus lanes on Holland’s busy commuter roads would help reduce traffic jams, says employers’ organisation VNO-NCW and truckers’ lobby group TLN. The transport sector says congestion will have cost the economy €740 mln this year.

First Dutch ban on animals in circuses
Winschoten in the north east of the country has become the first town in the Netherlands to ban circuses with wild animals. The ban was initiated by the right-wing Christian group ChristenUnie.

Rape suspect to be extradited from Brazil
A 25-year-old man wanted in connection with a string of sex attacks is to be extradited back to the Netherlands from Brazil. Johan S. has been in custody in Brazil since June and has said he will not fight his extradition.

Women professors in minority
Just under 10% of the professors appointed in the Netherlands last year were women, reports today’s Volkskrant. Only Belgium, Germany and Malta have a smaller percentage in Europe with Romania (29.1%), Latvia (26.5%) and Turkey (25.5%) topping the list.

Economy up 2.8% in Q2
The Dutch economy grew 2.8% in the second quarter of 2006 compared to the same year-earlier period, according to figures published today by the government statistics office CBS. The improvement was better than the 1.4% forecast by the CBS last month. The growth was driven by higher production in the industrial, construction and healthcare sectors.

Nuclear power decision after election
A decision on whether a new nuclear power plant should be built in the Netherlands is unlikely to be made until a new cabinet is installed following the election on 22 November.

Wednesday 27 September 2006

CDA and PvdA dump potential MPs
The Christian Democratic party (CDA) and Labour (PvdA) have both dumped Turkish-born candidates who refuse to acknowledge the Turkish massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 from their lists of potential MPs.

Randstad’s future under scrutiny
Former prime minister Wim Kok is to head a special commission set up to advise the government on the future organisational structure of the Randstad, reports the Telegraaf today. The Randstad is the urban conglomeration which includes the four main Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) and is the country’s economic motor.

Gloves off as election campaign gets going
The leaders of the three main Dutch political parties used today’s traditional parliamentary debate on the budget to kick off their election campaigns, with the vote still some eight weeks away.

Océ growth disappoints
Photocopy and printer group Océ has reported disappointing growth at its digital document systems division (DDS) which accounts for 70% of group turnover.

WK to look again at educational books
Publishing group Wolters Kluwer is considering selling off all or part of its educational acrivities. Speaking at a presentation of the company’s strategy review, chairman Nancy McKinstry said now was a ‘desirable’ moment to re-examine the division, which operates in seven countries. Wolters’ school books include the famous Bos atlas series.

Dutch economy back in top 10
The Netherlands is back in the top 10 most competitive economies in the world, according to the latest ranking from the World Economic Forum.

Islamic hospital for Rotterdam?
Hospital manager turned entrepreneur Paul Sturkenboom has launched plans to set up an Islamic hospital in Rotterdam. The hospital would serve halal food and treat men and women separately. It would offer a full range of treatment and meet all Dutch legal requirements, said Sturkenboom.

Warm September
This month is the warmest September for 300 years, says weather bureau KNMI. Temperatures are set to remain above average until mid October.

Women's hockey title kicks off
The Dutch women’s hockey team won their opening game in the world championship in Madrid on Wednesday beating India 3-2. Holland’s next match is against England on Friday. The Dutch women’s team is one of the favourites to take the title.

Disability benefit up for new claimants
People who start claiming disability benefit (WAO) this year will get 75% of their last earned salary rather than 70%, the cabinet has agreed. The change will benefit some 5,000 people.

MPs oppose jailing refugee children
A majority of MPs has backed a ban on putting the children of failed asylum seekers in jail pending their deportation. Immigration minister Rita Verdonk said parents were ultimately responsible for their children but that she was doing all she could to make sure families were housed in more liberal detention centres.

Minister not to act now on hedge funds
Economic affairs minister Joop Wijn has urged the next cabinet to reduce the level at which shareholders have to declare the size of their stake in a Dutch company from 5% to 3%. He also says private equity groups and hedge funds which build up such stakes should be required by law to declare their intentions.

Tuesday 26 September 2006

FNV threatens Stork shareholders with lawsuit
Trade union FNV is threatening to take legal action against Stork shareholders Centaurus and Paulson & Co which want to split up the engineering company. The union is already planning a strike on October 12, the day shareholders meet to discuss the split. The FNV has bought one share in Stork so it can attend the meeting.

Crucell gets Ebolo vaccine trial permit
Biotech firm Crucell reports that it has been given US permission to test its vaccine against the deadly disease Ebola on human volunteers. Ebola is largely confined to Africa where 1,200 people have died. However, the US wants a vaccine because it fears the virus may be used by terrorists.

TPG losing clients as post war hots up
TPG is losing a number of important clients as the battle for control of the Dutch postal market heats up, various papers reported today.

Shortage of teachers with degrees looms
The academic level of Dutch teachers is falling rapidly and only 26% of young high- school teachers have university degrees, according to a report published on Tuesday by the government’s main social policy advisor SCP.

Greenpeace blockades Probo Koala
Greenpeace activists have blockaded the Probo Koala tanker in the port of Paldinski in Estland since Monday afternoon. Seven people in Ivory Coast died after the ship dumped toxic waste there in August.

Holland to pay for asbestos ship clean-up
Environment state secretary Pieter van Geel said the Dutch are prepared to pay for the costs of removing thousands of kilos of asbestos from the ship Otapan and will reclaim the costs later from the Turkish owner Simsekler, reports today’s Volkskrant.

Bomb jokers should be made to pay
People who make jokes about having bombs should have to pay the entire cost of the ensuing security operation, says Dutch anti-terrorism coordinator Tjibbe Joustra in today’s AD. The fines currently handed out do not reflect the cost of, for example, evacuating an entire airport pier, Joustra said.

Amsterdam metro cost soars
Metro costs soar The cost of Amsterdam’s north-south metro line has gone up again, this time by €83 mln which raises the total estimate to €1.8 bn. Completion date is now 2013. The state is paying €1.1bn towards the new route, the rest must come from the council.

TV show Nova wins Emmy
Dutch current affairs programme Nova has won an international Emmy for a feature on the Taliban made by reporter Tom Kleijn and camera man Joris Hentenaar. The award was presented in New York on Monday evening and was a great honour said Kleijn.

Fundamentalist Christians reject MP hopeful
The mayor of Soest, Arie Noordergraaf, has been thrown off the orthodix Christian SGP party’s list of potential MPs after saying he believed women could become mayors and aldermen. The SGP, which has two MPs in the current parliament, bans women from having official functions.

Fatal traffic accidents cut
The number of fatal traffic accidents in the Netherlands has fallen by 25% since 2000, says European road safety organisation ETSC. In 2005, 750 people were killed in accidents on Holland’s roads, down from 993 in 2000. France cut its accident rate the most at 35%.

Health reforms up to next cabinet
It would be irresponsible to scrap the no-claim bonus from Dutch healthcare insurance next year health minister Hans Hoogervoorst told MPs today.

Monday 25 September 2006

TPG loses Sandd court case over letters
Post company TPG has lost its court case against newcomer Sandd which it has accused of breaking into its monopoly on delivering mail under 50 grammes.

Speculation dogs Ahold and Delhaize
Dutch supermarket giant Ahold would be prepared to move its headquarters to Belgium and approve a Belgian CEO if it forms an alliance with Belgian counterpart Delhaize, the Financieele Dagblad reports this morning.

Rotterdam hit by transport strike
Rotterdam commuters had to do without public transport this morning as bus, tram and metro staff staged a 24 hour strike. Transport workers are striking for a better pay and conditions package ahead of privatisation

Money for middle incomes
South Rotterdam is to get an extra €1 bn investment from the city council, three local districts and five housing corporations. The aim is to keep middle-income families in the area. The cash will be used to renovate3,000 homes and job creation schemes.

Villagers first for houses
The local authority association VNG is looking at ways to stop outsiders buying up village houses and pushing prices up beyond the reach of locals, the Volkskrant reports.

Arrest in murdered teenager case
A 41-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the murder of 15-year-old Melanie Sijbers whose body was found in woods near her home in Geldrop on Friday. The Telegraaf reports that the man is the stepfather of Melanie’s friend and gave himself up to police.

Households deeper in debt
Dutch bank account holders were a total of €7.4 bn in debt in the first six months of this year, according to national statistics office CBS. The average overdraft was €2,650, up €150 on the same period in 2005. .

New firms reach a record
Some 40,000 new firms were launched in the Netherlands last year which is an all-time record, says national statistics office CBS. The biggest growth was in business services, followed by construction. On average, five new consultancies started every day.

Princess Maxima pregnant again
Princess Maxima, wife of crown prince Willem-Alexander, is pregnant with her third child, the state information service RVD announced this morning. The baby is due mid-April and will be fourth in line to the throne.

Asbestos-laden ship returns to Holland
A ship carrying 54,000 kilos of asbestos is on its way back to the Netherlands after several Mediterranean countries refused to dismantle the vessel, the environment ministry said. The Otapan is currently in Greek waters but is returning to Holland because it would be irresponsible to let the ship continue sailing once the autumn storms start.

Marianne Vos is new cycling world champ
She is only 19 and has just begun a degree course in biomedical science, but Marianne Vos from Brabant took the world road-race cycling title in Salzburg on Saturday, adding to her national and European titles.

Friday 22 September 2006

Former ministers to fill the gaps in cabinet
Former ministers Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Pieter Winsemius have been drafted in to take over the justice and planning ministries following the resignations of Piet Hein Donner and Sybilla Dekker over the Schiphol fire report.

Dutch frigate to join UN Lebanon mission
The Netherlands is to send one ship to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. Defence minister Henk Kamp said on Friday afternoon that a frigate and a support vessel would take turns in joining the mission which will require a total of 150 troops.

Protests over stateless child in jail
School children in Amsterdam have begun a campaign to get their eight-year-old classmate Hui and his mother Xui Chen released from prison in Zeist where they are awaiting deportation to China, local tv station AT5 reports.

Bad potato harvest
Holland’s potato harvest is likely to be down 25% this year, adding 20 cents to the kilo price, says farming organisation LTO. The heat in July and heavy rain in August has also damaged quality, the LTO says.

Impasse continues for embassy children
Foreign minister Ben Bot has turned down an invitation from his Syrian counterpart to discuss the fate of two children who fled to the Dutch embassy in June. Ammar and Sara, who were kidnapped by their Syrian father in 2004, say they want to return to the Netherlands.

Bus bosses earn more than ministers
Four of the five member management team at Amsterdam’s public transport company GVB earn more than a government minister’s salary of €158,000, according to council figures. The GVB, recently under fire for bad safety standards, is being prepared for privatisation.

Does God exist?
One in six Dutch clergymen say they do not know if God exists or do not believe in him at all, according to research carried out to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Christian broadcaster IKON. Researchers polled 800 ministers.

Cabinet will miss Donner and Dekker
Justice and planning ministers Piet Hein Donner and Sybilla Dekker, who resigned following yesterday’s critical report on the Schiphol fire, will be missed, said cabinet colleagues going into their weekly Friday afternoon meeting, reported the Telegraaf website.

State says farewell to KPN
The Dutch government is to sell its remaining 8%in former state-owned phone company KPN. The move marks the end of a 17-year privatisation process. The treasury hopes to raise €1.7 bn from the sale of the final 167 million shares. KPN will buy back 80 million shares itself.

PM talks to Putin about Sakhalin permit
The Telegraaf website reports that prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende raised the issue of Shell’s permit to extract oil and gas from the Sakhalin fields with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday evening.

NYSE-Euronext to separate watchdogs
Euronext and the New York Stock Exchange will set up separate supervisory trusts should the two groups merge, according to a filing placed on the SEC website. Shareholders have been concerned that tougher US financial regulations would apply to Euronext-listed firms if the merger goes ahead.

Thursday 21 September 2006

Millions of euros left in Brussels
The Dutch government has failed to collect some €310 mln set aside by Brussels to help develop backward regions, EU accounts show. EU budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaité told ANP news that the Dutch cash accounted for 55% of the total amount EU members have failed to claim.

Reoffending rate goes up
Some 19% of people released from psychiatric prisons (TBS - see Alphabet Soup) between 1999 and 2003 committed serious crimes within two years their release. The rate for reoffending was 12% in the preceding five-year period, according to justice ministry figures.

Far-right weapon haul
Police have found a number of weapons and explosives in the house of a far-right extremist in Rotterdam. The discovery was made following the arrest of a man and a woman, both skinheads, for threatening a passerby with a gun and a knife.

Energy saving boosts productivity
Energy saving measures in offices not only cut bills but reduce absenteeism, according to an economic affairs ministry report. Proper heating, lighting and ventilation boost productivity by 10% to 15% and reduce the number of days people take off sick.

Election promises badly financed
Senior finance ministry officials say the election promises made by the big three parties - Christian Democrats (CDA), Liberals (VVD) and Labour (PvdA), are based on unsound financial foundations, RTL Nieuws reported today. The comments are contained in a leaked report.

Unemployment down to 5.3%
The Dutch unemployment figure hit a three year low, at 5.3% in the period June to August, statistics office CBS said today. In total, 400,000 people are officially jobless, 90,000 fewer than a year ago when the unemployment rate stood at 6.5%. Only the over-45s have not benefitted, the CBS said.

Emergency debate after disturbances
Amsterdam’s mayor Job Cohen and police chiefs are meeting this afternoon to discuss last night’s disturbances in the east of the city.

Ministers resign over Schiphol fire report
Justice minister Piet Hein Donner and planning minister Sybilla Dekker resigned this afternoon, following the publication of a highly criticial report into the fire at Schiphol detention centre last October which killed 11 people.

Airport privatisation now highly unlikely
It now seems highly unlikely that the sale of a minority stake in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport will take place in the remaining two months of this cabinet period.

Wednesday 20 September 2006

The Budget: ministry by ministry
Education * Total expenditure cut by €200 mln to €29 bn * Knowledge and innovation to get €210 mln * Extra cash (€103 mln in 2009) to reduce school drop-out rate to under 10%

Poison ship investigation spreads
Environment minister Pieter van Geel is again under fire from MPs for allowing the tanker Probo Koala to leave Dutch waters carrying toxic waste which was later dumped in Ivory Coast, killing at least seven people.

Health premiums set to rise
Health insurance premiums are set to rise by at least €109 next year to some €1,134 per adult, calculates the government’s CPB policy unit.

Clinic for teenage drunks
Health officials in Delft are setting up a special clinic for children with alcohol problems. The number of under-16s being treated in hospital for alcohol poisoning has gone up 16-fold since the end of the 1990s.

Labour pledge on asylum
If Labour wins the next election, it will immediately give residency to thousands of long-term asylum seekers who are still waiting for a final decision on their request to stay, party leader Wouter Bos told the AD. ‘I think it is really dreadful to deport small children to a country that they have never seen and where they do not speak the language,’ Bos said.

Minister acts on Sakhalin licence
Foreign minister Ben Bot is to ask the Russian authorities to explain why they have withdrawn Shell’s licence to extract gas and oil from the Sakhalin fields. The decision ‘gave cause for concern’ and undermined trust in Russia, Bot said in the Financieele Dagblad.

Ahold in demand on Delhaize rumour
Supermarket group Ahold and its Belgian counterpart Delhaize are in talks on a possible alliance, the Financieele Dagblad reports today on its front page.

Divided reactions to ‘good news’ budget
The government’s two main advisory bodies, the Central Planning Bureau (CPB) and the Council of State, have criticised yesterday’s budget announcement, claiming in today’s Financieele Dagblad that the 0.2% budget surplus conceals ‘a significant worsening of the budget balance’.

Tuesday 19 September 2006

Budget reactions along party lines
The budget shows how much the government has achieved, said Maxime Verhagen, leader of the Christian Democrats (CDA). ‘We have the lowest unemployment rate in Europe and we lead the way in terms of economic growth,’ Verhagen said. ‘We have a budget surplus, while all around countries are wrestling with deficits.’

Government pledges better times next year
The Netherlands is set to achieve a budget surplus of 0.2% in 2007 while the economy will grow 3%, showing that years of tough economic policies have paid off, said finance minister Gerrit Zalm at today’s budget presentation.

MPs call for debate on poison ship
Environment minister Peter van Geel misinformed parliament about the cargo carried by the ship Probo Koala which dumped 400 tonnes of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast in August after leaving Amsterdam, according to a report by the public prosecution department.

Part time entrepreneurs
Some 143,000 people are running their own company on a part-time basis. This is a 25% increase on three years ago, says the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. It expects one third of these entrepeneurs to go on to work full time on their companies.

Budget a ‘solid bridge’, says Queen
The budget for 2007 presented today is ‘balanced’ and forms a ‘solid bridge’ on which to build the future, said Queen Beatrix this afternoon in her 27th speech from the throne.

Hard measures have worked, says PM
The cabinet is striving to prepare the country for the future, said prime minister Jan Peter Balkendende this afternoon in his budget day address to the nation.

Main points of the budget
■ Economy forecast to grow 3% in 2007 ■ Budget surplus to reach 0.2% ■ Collective spending to reach €215 bn

Delhaize quiet on Ahold rumours
Belgian supermarket group Delhaize has refused to comment on rumours that it is in talks with Dutch food giant Ahold about a possible split up or merger, the Financieele Dagblad reports today. Ahold is under pressure from two hedge funds to split up the company. Analysts say a merger is unlikely but suggest Delhaize may be a possible buyer for Ahold’s US supermarkets.

Organon stops male contraceptive alliance
Akzo Nobel subsidiary Organon and Schering have abandonned their joint project to develop a new contraceptive for men. Organon said that the new method, consisting of an annual implant and quarterly injections,would probably not lead to a large take-up rate.

Shell faces delay on Sakhalin project
Shell is adopting a wait and see approach now that the Russian authorities have temporarily withdrawn its environmental licence to extract oil and gas from the Sakhalin peninsula.

FNV trade union sets 2.5% pay rise target
The country’s biggest trade union federation FNV is demanding a minimum 2.5% salary rise for all workers next year with bonuses and extra one-off payments in more profitable sectors.

Monday 18 September 2006

Pro Darfur demonstration in The Hague
Hundreds of demonstrators wearing blue helmets marched along the embassies of China, Russia and the Sudan in The Hague on Monday demanding that Sudan allow the stationing of UN troops to protect the people of the Darfur region of Sudan.

All eyes on today's pre-election budget
(Special edition of DutchNews.nl available by email at 1900) The government will present its annual budget for 2007 in The Hague this afternoon, just nine weeks before the general election. Many observers believe it is inevitable that the parties currently in power will use the occasion to win votes.

Builders cartel fines reduced
The competition authority NMa has almost halved the fines (from just under €100 mln to €53 mln) it handed out to 10 building companies in 2003 because the companies cooperated with its investigation.

Briefs: strike in Rotterdam
Public transport came to a standstill in Rotterdam this morning as the result of a strike by the city’s tram and bus drivers. According to the free newspaper Spits! several hundred strikers marched to the city hall. As well as better pay and conditions, they want the council to guarantee their jobs, the paper quote one striker as saying.

Employers back performance-related pay
Holland’s employers plan to put more emphasis on performance-related pay and one-off bonuses, rather than structural rises, the Financieele Dagblad reports. Employers organisation VNO-NCW says automatic incremental increases should account for just 50% of a pay rise.

Briefs: no mobile bike ban
The government has no plans to introduce a ban on using mobile phones while cycling, the AD reports today. The paper says research shows phoning while cycling causes very few bike accidents.

Briefs: less beer drinking
The average Dutch person drank 78 litres of beer last year, nearly 10% less than 10 years ago, says the national statistics office CBS. Wine drinking was up 28% to 21 liters a year over the same period.

Health insurance no-claim set to go
The Christian Democrats (CDA) have added their voice to demands that the controversial no-claims bonus on health insurance be scrapped because it costs too much and unfairly hits people with chronic health problems.

Briefs: summer goes on and on
Saturday was the 50th official summer day (temperature over 25 degrees) this year, says meterology office KNMI. The average number of summer days a year is 22 days. The last time it was over 50 was in 1947 when it was summer for 64 days.

Dutch dilemma on Israeli wall
Foreign minister Ben Bot is in a dilemma over the involvement of a Dutch-registered firm, Lima Holding, in the construction of a wall separating the West Bank in Jordan and Israel, said the Financieele Dagblad on Saturday.

Spending on services has doubled
The share of household spending on telephone and internet bill has doubled over the last 10 years to over €40 in every €1,000, the government’s statistics office CBS said on Monday. The CBS said total spending on services has risen 80% since 1995 to almost €133bn while expenditure on goods was 50% down at €113bn in 2005.

Friday 15 September 2006

Briefs: school lunchbreak chaos
Lunchtime at primary schools is in chaos since new tax rules for supervisors were introduced, the Volkskrant reports. Parents are now paying up to €350 a year so that their child can stay at school during the break because of the clampdown on ‘illegal’ workers such as benefit claimants.

Briefs: business backs status quo
Some 40% of Holland’s business leaders would prefer to see the current Christian Democrat/Liberal (CDA/VVD) coalition continue in office after the November election, according to an Intomart poll. A cabinet formed by Labour (PvdA), the hot favourites to win, and the CDA was only backed by 9%. A Labour/Socialist coalition had twice as much support

Briefs: PKK deportation denied
The Dutch appeal court has refused to sanction the deportation of Nuriye Kesbir, a senior official with the Kurdish workers party PKK, to Turkey, on the grounds that there were insufficient guarantees she would not be tortured.

Briefs: Rembrandt is rich
This year’s celebrations to mark Rembrandt’s 400th birthday are set to be the most successful cultural event held in Holland, say the organisers. In the first eight months of this year, 1.5 million tickets for a Rembrandt-related exhibition or show have been sold.

Briefs: hospital staff shortage
Staff shortageThe quality of healthcare will be seriously degraded as the result of a ‘dramatic’ structural shortage of staff in the coming decennia, according to the public healthcare council (RVZ). The RVZ says the extra 700,000 workers required will be impossible to find.

Corporate election help spurned
An offer by five of Holland’s leading companies to help political parties keep in touch with voters ahead of the November election has been spurned by at least Labour (PvdA) and the Socialists.

Tougher rules urged on food health claims
The government must come up with ‘crystal clear‘ rules to cover health claims on food labels so that consumers really know where they stand, the food safety authority

Neerlands Glorie misses biscuit buy
NPM Capital’s Neerlands Glorie investment fund has failed in its efforts to buy the Verkade biscuit group. The UK’s Premier Foods says it has received a higher offer from US investment fund Blackstone.

Afghan role is mission impossible: army chief
Efforts to eliminate the Taliban in Afghanistan is proving to be a waste of time and effort, according to the most senior Dutch military leader in the country.

Thursday 14 September 2006

Hysteria over minister's Sharia quote
The controversy over justice minister Piet Hein Donner’s remark that Sharia law could, theoretically speaking, be implemented in Holland if two-thirds of the population so desired, continued today with MPs calling for a ban on anti-democratic parties.

State gambles on online casino success
The government is to set up and run its own online gambling site to see if it can lure punters away from illegal internet casinos. Some 300,000 Dutch gamblers are estimated to dabble on illegal websites.

Air France - KLM to grow in China
Air France - KLM is looking into a possible freight alliance with China Southern Airlines, CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta told news agency Reuters in Singapore. The Franco-Dutch airline is also planning to increase the number of passenger flights to China by 15%.

DSM opens new plant in China
Specialty chemicals group DSM is opening yet another new factory in China with an investment of some tens of millions of dollars. The factory will come on line in 2007 and will primarily produce packaging materials for the Asia Pacific region.

Post groups in court over letters
Post groups TPG and Sandd faced each other in court today in a row that centres over the definition of a letter. TPG still has a monopoly on letters weighing under 50 grammes and claims that Sandd is getting round the law by delivering letters from mail order company Otto alongside a catalogue.

Briefs: Knowledge economy a flop
Efforts to turn the Netherlands into a knowledge-based economy have failed so far, according to the latest knowledge economy (kenniseconomie) monitor. ‘There has been too much talk and not enough action,’ the monitor, set up in 2003, concludes.

Briefs: Teenagers don't listen
Less than a quarter (23%) of Dutch teenagers realise that they are the target group government campaigns are trying to reach to promote safe sex and responsible drinking. But eight out of 10 youngsters polled by Motivaction thought the government was right to run such campaigns.

Briefs: Arnhem police under investigation
An investigation has begun into the regional Gelderland-Midden (Arnhem) police force following allegations of intimidation, bullying and corruption.

Briefs: Smacking ban in Holland
The government is to ban the deliberate smacking of children in an effort to cut child abuse and reduce violence in society as a whole. ‘I cannot see another way of solving these problems,’ justice minister Piet Hein Donner told MPs last night.

Briefs: Deportation for criminals
Integration minister Rita Verdonk wants to make it easier to deport immigrants who commit even petty crimes, according to media reports. Under the stricter regulations, which the cabinet is expected to agree to on Friday, immigrants would forfeit their residence permits as soon as they are found guilty of a crime.

China helps Dutch economy grow
Although China’s fast economic expansion is generally seen as a threat for Europe, a report by the Central Planning Bureau (CPB) concludes that 23,000 Dutch jobs are based on trade with China and another 3,000 jobs have been created as the result of Chinese investment in the Netherlands.

Briefs: Studying abroad
Some 63% of the Dutch students who spend time at a foreign university are female, says international education body Nuffic. And the number of students studying abroad is up 8% since 1999. The UK, Spain and France are the most popular destinations.

Wednesday 13 September 2006

Dutch out of hockey World Cup
Holland was put out of the hockey World Cup in Germany on Wednesday night after poule leaders Germany and South Korea played to a goalless draw.

US-Dutch relations ‘dented’ by CIA prisons
Holland’s relationship with the US has been dented by the confirmation that secret CIA prisons were used to detain terrorist suspects, foreign minister Ben Bot (photo) said today. .

Road builders fined over price cartel
The European Commission has fined 14 Dutch civil engineering groups and oil giant Shell a total of €266.7 mln for illegal price-fixing on road building contracts.

Journalist shows holes in military security
Dutch defence minister Henk Kamp (photo) was widely criticised by MPs on Wednesday following the revelation that a journalist from the free newspaper Metro had entered a marine base in Amsterdam without any difficulty and taken a seat in an armoured car.

Dutch trade surplus falls
The Dutch trade surplus fell to €1.7 bn in July, down from €3.4 bn in the preceding month and from €2 bn in July 2005, the national statistics office CBS said. Trade with EU countries has risen more sharply than non-EU trade, with imports from within the EU up 18% year on year.

Briefs: Car trouble
The Dutch have problems with their cars once every four years on average, says road rescue service Route Mobiel. Starter motors cause problems in 20% of cases, followed by empty batteries (16.5%) and flat tyres (8.5%). Forgotten keys account for 3.6% of call-outs.

Briefs: cheap car trick
Computer crime experts have warned internet shoppers not to make hefty downpayments on what seem like great deals on second-hand cars.The scam is the latest trick from Nigerian fraudsters and dozens of Dutch people have already been duped, experts from Ultrascan told the Telegraaf.

Briefs: crime reports lost
A computer breakdown means that 1,235 crime reports made by internet have been wiped off police computers, according to website nu.nl. The reports were made between September 8 and 11. Amsterdam and Rotterdam were the only places not affected.

Briefs: Voluntary work, not a job
A majority of MPs think that people who do a lot of voluntary work should be able to claim unemployment benefit for up to two years without having to apply for jobs. The social security ministry backs a six-month break.

Sport: D day at hockey World Cup
Despite beating India 6-1 in their crucial final pool match at the hockey World Cup, the Dutch team has to wait until tonight to find out if it has qualified for the next round. Holland, South Korea and Germany are all on 10 points, so the outcome of tonight’s South Korean-Germany match is crucial.

Briefs: Sport coach blacklist
The Dutch sports umbrella organisation NOSNSF is drawing up a blacklist of pedofile coaches so that sports associations can prevent convicted child abusers from working with young people. The list will remain confidential.

Tuesday 12 September 2006

Briefs: last chance at hockey World Cup
A 4-3 win over England on Monday night has boosted Holland’s chances of staying in the hockey World Cup slightly, but the Dutch, who started as favourites, still need to win against India tonight to have any hope of staying in the competition. South Korea leads Holland’s pool with 10 points while Germany is on seven.

Briefs: terrorist suspect protests
Soumaya S, the young woman arrested in connection with the discovery of weapons in The Hague last week, has been moved to the high security prison in Vught - the only woman to be imprisoned there, the Volkskrant reports. Her lawyer claims Soumaya is being kept in isolation and allowed to shower just twice a week. She has made a formal protest.

Briefs: Halal mortgages
Finance minister Gerrit Zalm is not in favour of changing the law to allow mortgage tax relief on so-called halal mortgages, says the Volkskrant. The interest paid on mortgages in Holland is still fully tax-deductible, but under Islamic law, levying interest on loans is not allowed. Local councillors in The Hague had asked the minister to look at ways to stimulate Muslims to buy their own homes.

Briefs: More hard to fill jobs
Holland’s medium-sized and small firms say they have 48,000 hard-to-fill vacancies, four times the number a year ago. In total, the sector has 93,000 vacant jobs. Their organisation MKB says it is concerned that wage costs will soar as employers compete for scarce labour.

Dutch students go for art not science
The Netherlands still lags behind in Western Europe when it comes to science students, according to the report Education at a Glance published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) today.

Death toll from poison ship rises to six
The number of people killed by toxic oil waste, dumped in Ivory Coast after it was found to be ‘too expensive’ to deal with in Amsterdam, has now risen to six, the Ivory Coast authorities said on Monday.

Turnaround on green power
Dutch economic affairs minister Joop Wijn has bowed to political pressure and agreed to partially reinstate the subsidy for renewable power producers (MEP). Wijn proposes allocating €270 mln for new small-scale renewable production projects.

Laurus CFO resigns two weeks after CEO
Kenaad Tewarie, the financial director of troubled supermarket group Laurus has resigned, just two weeks after chairman Harry Bruijniks left after a difference of opinion over strategy. In a short statement, Laurus said the board had decided to ‘step into the future with new finanancial management’.

Monday 11 September 2006

Briefs: students to study worldwide
Dutch students will soon be able to study anywhere in the world and still get a student loan, the government announced today. At the moment, students can only get financial help if they study within the EU. Some 50% of Dutch students say they would like to study abroad, but only 25% actually do.

Flexible contracts on the increase
One in 12 Dutch workers has a flexible job contract, the national statistics office CBS said today. That means they either have a temporary contract, work for an agency or work on a call-out basis. The number of people on flexible contracts went up 40,000 last year.

Spyker buys Formula 1 team
Sports car maker Spyker has become the first Dutch company to run a Formula 1 racing team, with its purchase of Midland from Russian-born Canadian Alex Schnaider. Spyker is joining forces with Michiel Mol, founder of internet company Lost Boys, to buy Midland for some €84 mln.

Balkenende beats Bos
Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende (Christian Democrats) has pulled ahead of Labour (PvdA) leader Wouter Bos in the popularity stakes. In the latest Maurice de Hond poll, 53% chose Balkenende over Bos (40%). The two stood neck and neck just a month ago.

Radical Muslim preaches peace
Despite his reputation for radical anti-Western views, the message preached by controversial Pakistan Muslim leader Mohammed Anas Noorani Siddiqui in Amsterdam at the weekend was one of love and peace.

Unilever firm over pref conversion
Unilever has denied misleading investors over the conversion of preference shares in 2004 and said in a statement that it will defend itself in any further legal action.

Dutch PM: hate is not the answer
‘Hate is not the answer’ said Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende in a speech at the American embassy in The Hague this afternoon marking the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001

Friday 08 September 2006

New JSF jet fighter is taking off
More than 70 Dutch companies are currently involved in the development of the new JSF fighter jet, with contracts worth some $700 mln, engineering group Stork said on Friday.

Wegener in 'constructive talks' on future
Newspaper and publishing group Wegener is in ‘constructive talks’ about its future with minor shareholder Governance for Owners, the Financieele Dagblad reports today.

MPs furious at CIA admission
The Dutch parliament is to hold an emergency debate next week into revelations about secret CIA detention centres. MPs from all parties are furious at the way the US, which originally denied the existence of the centres, has 'bypassed' its alliance partners, the Volkskrant reports.

An inspector calls and again and again
The Dutch cabinet is to streamline the number of government inspectors to make sure that companies don't have to deal with more than two inspections a year, the Financieele Dagblad reports. The plan, in a confidential proposal leaked to the paper, is part of government efforts to cut down on red tape.

Briefs: citizenship test may be delayed
A controversial new law requiring 250,000 immigrants to take a language and Dutch general knowledge test cannot be introduced from January as planned, the local authority association VNG said today. Instead, there should be a realistic start date, the VNG said.

Briefs: teacher suspended over handshake
Handshake row A female teacher from the Vader Rijn school in Utrecht has been suspended for refusing to shake mens' hands. The school argues that the teacher should be setting an example and making sure pupils learn to shake hands in greeting. The case has been brought before the equal opportunities commission.

Briefs: death cap toadstool warning
‘Funghi’ hunters have been warned to watch out for the deadly death cap toadstool, which has emerged in record numbers following the warm and wet August. The olive-coloured death cap is particularly common on heaths and in dunes.

Briefs: small rise for pensioners
The Dutch state pension is to go up by 4 euros next year to 1,286 euros for a married couple. The rise is due to be officially announced during next week's budget.

Briefs: dangerous sex toys
Sex toys contain dangerous amounts of plastic softeners (phthalates) which have been linked to birth defects and cancers, according to research by Greenpeace Nederland. Seven out of eight sex aids tested contained the chemicals, including DEHP, which has been banned in children's toys.

Briefs: fewer fear terrorist attack
Fewer than half of the population (45%) are worried that a major terrorist attack will take place in the near future, compared with 55% a year ago, according to opinion pollster Maurice de Hond. The number of people who think the US brought the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center on themselves has gone up to 16%, compared with 7% a year ago.

Poison oil tanker was in Amsterdam
Toxic waste from the oil tanker Probo Koala, blamed for the death of three people in Ivory Coast, was too expensive to dispose of in Amsterdam, the Volkskrant newspaper reports this morning.

Minister firm on green power subsidies
Dutch economic affairs minister Joop Wijn on Thursday dismissed calls to reinstate the so-called MEP subsidy to stimulate the production of renewable energy. Wijn has come under fierce criticism from the environmental lobby, energy sector and the agricultural industry (which is heavily involved in wind power) since making the unexpected announcement to scrap subsidies three weeks ago.

Thursday 07 September 2006

Bad weather boosts inflation
The bad weather has driven the price of potatoes up by 50% this year, says national statistics office CBS. Fruit is an average of 13% more expensive while cut flowers are up 9% in price. The annual inflation rate is currently running at 1.4%.

Minister Bot welcomes Bush CIA admission
Dutch foreign minister Ben Bot has welcomed US president George Bush’s statement that secret CIA cells for terrorist suspects outside the US do exist.

Ahold beats forecasts, US sales up
Supermarket group Ahold beat analysts’ expectations with its second quarter earnings, led by strong performance at the Albert Heijn chain and US retail activities. The group’s second-quarter operating profit rose to €376 mln, up from €242 mln last year.

Free kidney health test for home use
The Kidney Foundation is today launching a campaign for a free home kit to test for early signs of kidney disease. One in 200 Dutch people have symptoms of kidney malfunctioning without being aware of it.

Terrorist link to guns found in Hague cellar
Two plastic bags containing a machine gun and a revolver have been found in the cellars of an apartment block in The Hague. According to the state prosecution service the weapons could belong to a terrorist network linked to Samir Azzouz. Azzouz, a Dutchman of Moroccan origin, has already twice been aquitted of terrorism offences by the Dutch courts because of a lack of evidence.

Briefs: Diamond heist, suspects released
Amsterdam police have released four people arrested in connection with armed raids on two diamond traders in the Zuid-Oost suburb of the city. The getaway car used by the gang was found burned out in Amstelveen. No diamonds have yet been recovered.

Schools fined for not teaching enough
Secondary schools which do not meet government standards of 1,040 hours of lessons a year face cuts in funding to pay back the lost hours, education minister Maria van Hoeven has announced. Half of secondary schools do not reach the required teaching time.

Wednesday 06 September 2006

Briefs: economic growth hits 2.6%
The Dutch economy grew 2.6% in the first six months of this year, the Financieele Dagblad reports on its website. In 2005, the economy grew by 1.6%, according to figures from national statistics office CBS published today. Employment growth reached 0.9% in the first half of 2006.

Holland hot favourite in hockey world cup
The Dutch men’s hockey team is the bookies’ favourite to win the hockey World Cup, which kicks off in Germany this afternoon. The Dutch squad, ranked second to Australia by the World Hockey Federation, is unbeaten in its last 19 matches.

Central bank warns on private equity
The Dutch Central Bank (DNB) is warning financial institutions to be aware of private equity companies. ‘The increase in private equity financing in recent years has heightened the financial risks,’ the bank said in its regular financial stability overview.

Beat the jams, go to work on a bike
The Dutch Cyclists Association is working with transport minister Carla Peijs on a list of top ten cycle routes to encourage commuters to go to work on their bikes.

World Bank criticises Dutch red tape
The Dutch government spends too much – 11% of the national budget – on regulating businesses, according to a World Bank report published today. That is ‘far too much’ said World Bank economist Caralee McLiesh in an interview with today’s Financieele Dagblad newspaper.

Ministers under fire over Schiphol report
ustice minister Piet Hein Donner and planning minister Sybilla Dekker face tough questioning in parliament following a highly critical report into safety standards at the Schiphol deportation centre where a fire killed 11 people awaiting deportation last year.

Tuesday 05 September 2006

Education central to D66 manifesto
D66, the social democratic party which pulled out of the governing coalition, forcing an early election, has put spending on education and tax cuts at the centre of its manifesto. The party wants to cut the tax rate by 2% across all three tax bands to partly compensate voters for higher energy and healthcare costs.

Government criticised in airport fire report
The number of people who died when fire broke out in the cell complex at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport last October was unnecessarily high because of mistakes made before and during the incident by the government authorities, according to an interim report by the Safety Investigation Council.

Business briefs: Laurus worth even less
Troubled supermarket group Laurus is currently worth less as a whole than its separate retail divisions, the Financieele Dagblad reports on its website.

Briefs: Schiphol sell-off still blocked
Amsterdam council will continue to block the privatisation of Schiphol airport unless the government comes up with concessions, alderman Lodewijk Asscher said earlier today. Amsterdam, which owns nearly 22% of Schiphol, wants the airport to remain in state hands. Finance minister Gerrit Zalm has accused the city of working against the public interest.

Green Left to slash unemployment pay
Holland’s Green Left party (Groenlinks) want to cut back on the length of time the jobless can claim unemployment benefit from 38 to 12 months, according to its manifesto for the November election.

Tougher selection for students
University students are to face tougher selection procedures and new rules on switching courses, in a bid to stem the high drop out rate. Currently, one in three students drops out before completing his/her degree, costing the state some €100 mln a year. The government wants to cut that back to one in five.

Dutch believe in miracles and heaven
Almost half the Dutch believe in miracles and 50% believe in life after death, according to a new report into religious beliefs by the government’s social policy unit, the SCP. And while 40% believe in heaven, only 18% think that hell actually exists.

Labour wants €1bn a year to develop clean energy
The Dutch Labour party (PvdA) wants to allocate one billion euros annually to develop clean energy, according to De Telegraaf website. Speaking at the opening of the academic year at Wageningen University yesterday, party leader Wouter Bos said he wants the Netherlands to be the cleanest and most efficient energy system in Europe by 2020 with dependence on fossil fuel reduced by 50 percent.

Helicopter service Amsterdam-Brussels to start
Public transport company Connexxion has announced plans to start a helicopter service between Amsterdam and Brussels, according to today’s Financieele Dagblad newspaper. The helicopter service is due to take off in mid-2007 and will also pick up and drop passengers at The Hague and Rotterdam.

Socialist Party wins in popularity
With over two months before the election, the Socialists (SP) are target to take 23 seats, according to the latest Nipo poll. The SP has eight MPs. The biggest opposition party, Labour (PvdA) is down from 42 at 38 seats while the Christian Democrats are on target to loose nine of their 44 MPs.

Monday 04 September 2006

Dutch troops in secret move in Afghanistan
Over a hundred Dutch soldiers were secretly moved from their base in the Afghani province of Uruzgan to assist Canadian troops in Kandahar last week, according to newspaper Trouw. The transfer of Dutch troops to other parts of south Afghanistan led to a fierce parliamentary debate last week.

Energy firms accused of abusing monopoly
The traditional Dutch energy utilities such as Essent, Nuon and Eneco are making it difficult for newcomers to compete on the electricity market by keeping their power prices artificially low, according to today’s Het Financieele Dagblad.

Dutch tourist injured in Amman shooting
One man from Nijmegen was among several people injfred when an armed man opened fire on western tourists in the Jordanian capital Amman on Monday, Jordanian media reported. A British tourist was reportedly killed and at least five others injured.

News briefs; football hooligans
Football hooligans Prosecutors have called for three-year jail sentences for two football hooligans involved in an attack on supporters of The Hague club ADO. Some 70 Ajax (Amsterdam) fans attacked the ADO clubhouse in February, wielding knives, sticks and molotov cocktails.

Aegon asset fund to stay in Holland
The finance ministry has persuaded insurer Aegon not to shift its new €40 bn combined asset pool to Ireland, marking the first major victory in its campaign to keep institutional investment in the Netherlands, the Financieele Dagblad reported this morning.

Labour to cut red tape, boost spending
The Labour party (PvdA) has pledged to boost spending on healthcare, job creation and education by generating cuts totalling €12 bn, according to the party’s manifesto for the November general election. ‘It is an optimistic programme which believes in the power of our society,’ party leader Wouter Bos said at the manifesto’s presentation on Sunday.

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