Language is Dutch, but elegance is not: what is the Dutch identity?

Some 83% of the Dutch agree there is such a thing as the Dutch identity, the government's socio-cultural think-tank SCP said on Wednesday, at the publication of a wide-ranging report on what makes the Dutch tick. The report, two years in the making, involved surveying some 5,000 people to find out what they consider makes the Dutch Nederlanders. Asked what unifies the Dutch, language emerged as the most important element, followed by freedom, Kings Day, Remembrance Day, Liberation Day and Sinterklaas. Democracy, freedom of speech and equality between men and women also appeared in that ranking. There was also little difference in the choices between men and women, the young and old and people with different educational levels, the SCP said. 'A lot has been written about the Dutch and their identity in the last few years, but we actually asked them what they think,' SCP director Kim Putters said. 'And it would appear that despite some heated discussions, there is a lot of unity.' 'The SCP is telling us what we already know,' ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Seegers said on Twitter. 'We are not separate individuals who happen to share a piece of land. We are a community which shares language, history, monarchy, freedom and the rule of law. It is a land to be cherished and have its values defended.' Top 20 items considered by the Dutch to be typically Dutch: 1 The Dutch language 2 Kings Day 3 Sinterklaas 4 Cycling 5 Elfstedentocht 6 Dutch flag 7 Deltaworks flood defences 8 Windmills 9 Anne Frank's diary 10 Dykes And the least Dutch things: 1 Buddhism 2 Ramadan 3 Eid al-Fitr (celebration to mark the end of Ramadan) 4 Headscarves 5 Censorship 6 Islam 7 Corruption 8 Laziness 9 Ayaan Hirsi Ali 10 Elegance The SCP said the Dutch can be divided into two types, those who attach great importance to symbols and customs, and those who put more value on civil liberties like the right to demonstrate. However, about 80% of the Dutch cannot be put entirely in either group, Putters said.  More >

Slavery generated 5% of Dutch GDP

At its height in the 1770s, slavery generated over 10% of the gross domestic product of Holland, the richest of the seven Dutch provinces which made up the republic, according to social history researchers. The income from the tobacco trade, sugar processing and shipbuilding was boosted by the use of slave labour used to grow crops on plantations, Pepijn Brandon and Ulbe Bosma of the International Institute for Social History say. Other professions, such as notaries and bankers, also benefited from slavery. As a whole, slavery generated some 5.2% of the Netherlands' GDP. Although 5% may not seem much, just 6.2% of Dutch GDP is currently generated by Rotterdam port, one of the biggest ports in the world, Brandon said. In total, some 19% of the goods traded by the Dutch in the 1770s were grown by slaves. This, Brandon said, is the equivalent of 120,000 years of work. 'When you consider the working population of the Netherlands then was about one million, then you can see what an enormous proportion we are talking about.' Earlier this week it emerged that Amsterdam is likely to be the first Dutch city to formally apologise for its role in the slave trade after a majority of councillors backed the move. Seven parties holding 31 of the 45 council seats voted on Monday to offer the city's apologies at next year's Keti Koti, the annual commemoration of slavery, on July 1.  More >

Counterfeit Avastin turns up in Holland

Four boxes containing bottles of counterfeit cancer drugs have been found at a Dutch pharmaceutical wholesale company, broadcaster RTL said on Wednesday. The drug, in Bulgarian packaging, was said to be Avastin, which is is used to treat colon cancer and costs some €1,224 a bottle. Health inspectors say that the labeling was forged and they are trying to find out exactly what is in the bottles and how they came to be at the wholesalers. The wholesale company has not been named. The drug was identified using a new scanning system to check for counterfeit medicines as part of efforts to improve drug safety. All medicines are now given a unique identifier which allows their origins to be traced. According to RTL no suspect bottles have been found at other wholesalers or at pharmacies but they could still be in circulation. 'It is unllikely that the forgers just made a few boxes,' Bastiaan Venhuis of public health institute RIVM said. The Dutch authorities have alerted health inspectors in other European countries about the find. Scandal Inspectors told RTL that counterfeit medicine, often expensive cancer drugs, is found every year and on occasion those drugs do turn up in pharmacies and with patients. 'The number is not high, but every case is one too many,' a spokesman said. In 2012 there was another scandal involving counterfeit Avastin and fake packs were still being found as late as 2017. That counterfeit was found to have no active ingredient, and it also caused side effects in patients.  More >

Road pricing is part of climate deal

The government is due to publish its revised plans to combat climate change on Friday, but a number of measures have already been leaked to the media ahead of the formal presentation. The original proposals were published last December after nine months of talks and covered mobility, electricity, industry, agriculture and the built environment. The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions by 49% in 2030, compared with 1990. But the plans presented last year drew widespread criticism and environment minister Eric Wiebes later said the agreement is ‘not definitive’ but an ‘important first step’. In particular, he pledged, the cabinet would closely at the impact of the measures on income after it emerged 80% of the cost would be passed on to consumers. The revised plans do include a taxation shift from ordinary citizens to industry in an effort to share the cost more equitably, broadcaster NOS said. In particular, in the new plans, gas bills will go up but the cost of electricity will come down, as the government seeks to discourage the use of gas in private homes. The four coalition parties have also agreed to carry out research into introducing some form of road pricing, after the VVD had a change of heart. More money will also be spent on making agriculture more sustainable and there will be less in the way of subsidies for electric cars. The original plan envisaged a subsidy of €6,000 for people who bought an electric car from 2021, but this no longer features, NOS said. In addition, companies will have to pay a tax on their carbon dioxide emissions. The original plans were slammed for letting industry largely off the hook.  More >

New inburgering process emphasises work

The civic integration system for newcomers from outside the EU is to be overhauled, by increasing the focus on work and participation in society, social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has told MPs. In particular, refugees will be able to start their integration process while still living in refugee centres, Koolmees said. 'Combined, the different subject should be seen in light of integration into society, in which the newcomer is made ready to participate as quickly as possible, most desirably via paid work,' Koolmees said. The minister said he is also looking into the legal situation facing new arrivals from Turkey who are currently exempt from the integration programme. Koolmees told MPs he is 'hopeful' this may be changed. The current inburgering system is based on self-help and last year Koolmees admitted the ‘do it yourself’ approach has failed. In the new system, the loans have been scrapped and local authorities are being given responsibility for integrating new migrants and refugees. Council officials will have to devise an individual integration plan (PIP) for everyone required to take the exams but, apart from refugees, newcomers will be able to chose their own language schools and lesson times, a social affairs ministry spokesman told Newcomers will also be responsible for picking up the bill although they will be able to borrow money to pay for the courses. The government is raising the level of language required for newcomers on the grounds that it improves their chances of finding work. From 2021 most migrants will have to pass a language test at B1 level in order to complete the integration procedure. Some new arrivals under the age of 28 will be expected to obtain a formal Dutch school leaving certificate, while there will be a more limited programme for people who cannot cope with the higher language standard in the B1 stream. Exams New arrivals will also have to pass one test on their knowledge of Dutch society (KNM), plus tests on work and participation (MAP, formerly orientation on the Dutch labour market) and sign the participation declaration after a short course (PVT). People with jobs will not have to take the section on work, the social affairs ministry said. Officials have not yet decided if people with a high standard of Dutch (NT1 or NT2) can skip the other 'inburgering' courses if they are applying to become Dutch, as is currently the case in some situations. 'The impact of the new law on other laws on residency and naturalisation still has to be worked out,' the spokesman said. The new plans have now been put out to consultation and are unlikely to come into effect before 2021.  More >

VVD, Forum back F1 grid girls motion

MPs from the ruling VVD and nationalist Forum voor Democratie have backed calls by Geert Wilders' PVV for 'grid girls' to be part of the Zandvoort Grand Prix next year. PVV parliamentarian Roy van Aalst put forward a motion to parliament on Tuesday describing the ban on grid girls - known as pit pussies in Dutch - as the work of 'jealous social justice warriors' and 'major nags' who see 'pretty girls as a problem'. The motion called on the government to write to the Formula 1 organisation to make it clear that grid girls are a part of Dutch motor racing tradition. MPs from Forum, the VVD and Denk voted in favour of the move, although Denk MPs said later they made a mistake and should not have supported the plan.  'Something went wrong with the voting for 155 different motions this afternoon,' a spokesman told broadcaster NOS. VVD MP Rudmer Heerema told broadcaster NOS that 'these sort of girls' give a boost to events like motor racing. Other VVD MPs were reluctant to talk about the vote, NOS said. The motion raised eyebrows on social media, with commenters asking if scantily clad grid girls are part of the Dutch 'Christian Jewish tradition'. #politiek & #pitspoezen sure — Judith Osborn (@judith_osborn) June 25, 2019 Others pointed out that the PVV MP did not know what he was talking about, given that it was the Formula 1 organisation itself which banned grid girls in 2018.  At the time the organisation said using models on the starting grid did not 'resonate' with the brand values.  More >

Dutch woman just escape Japan

Two goals from Lieke Martens put the Dutch women's football team into the quarter finals of the World Cup, as they beat Japan 2-1 on Tuesday evening. The winning goal came from a controversial second half penalty after Japanese player Saki Kumagai was judged to have committed a handball in the penalty area. Sherida Spitse agreed to let Martens take the shot. 'I asked if I could take it,' Martens said after the game. 'I was feeling good during the match and luckily Sherida let me have a go.' Struggling 'We were really struggling in the second half,' Dutch coach Sarina Wiegmann told the Fifa website after the game. 'A lot of that had to with Japan's qualities. There was no pressure on the ball. That shows how good a team Japan is. I can start seeing things we did badly, but it was definitely Japan playing well too.' Oranje, who have never proceeded so far in a women's World Cup, will meet Italy in the quarter finals on Saturday, June 29. 🧡 | Één omhelzing van je zus zegt meer dan duizend woorden... 🙌⚽️#FIFAWWC | #DareToShine | #OnzeJacht | #NEDJPN | #NED — Emma Coolen, FIFA (@FIFAWWC_NED) June 25, 2019   More >

Police seize 2.5 tonnes of crystal meth

Police in Rotterdam have found 2.5 tonnes of the drug methamphetamine in a secret room at a warehouse, in what is thought to be the biggest seizure of its kind in Europe. The drug, worth hundreds of millions of euros on the street, was discovered last week during a search of the warehouse, when police officers noticed a room was smaller than it should have been. They found a fake wall across the length of the building and the drug, in black packaging, hidden behind it. The investigation also led to the discovery of 17,500 litres of chemicals used to wash cocaine and make synthetic drugs at a lock-up in Utrecht, police said in a statement. Last year police said that Dutch drugs gangs are moving increasingly into crystal meth production. The drug, which is highly addictive is not big in the Netherlands and the Rotterdam haul was probably destined for export, police said. So far four meth labs have been dismantled in the Netherlands this year.  More >

More reports about poisonous caterpillars

It is an annual summer problem in the Netherlands, but the number of complaints about the Oak Processionary moth caterpillars have soared this year, according to the specialist centre at Wageningen University which monitors the insects. The caterpillar sheds poisonous hairs which may cause skin irritation and breathing problems. They crawl in procession over the bark of oak trees forming a moving carpet of hairs. In some places the number of trees infected with the caterpillars has gone up three-fold, the centre said. The caterpillar, which was not native to the Netherlands until the 1980s, has been moving through northern Europe, possibly as a result of global warming. The centre's experts believe local authorities should be far more structured in their approach to dealing with the pest. 'It should be coordinated on a national scale,' biologist Arnold van Vliet told website 'This is not a problem which is going to go away and it will have an economic impact on campsites and in recreational areas. There may also be food safety concerns because their hairs end up in grain. But the ministries have not made it a priority.'  More >

Tropical temperatures return on Saturday

Tuesday night was the warmest June night on record, with the temperature dropping to no lower than 19.5C at the De Bilt weather station near Utrecht, weather bureaus said on Wednesday. Local records were also broken in Eindhoven, where the night temperature just dipped under 23C, as well as in Maastricht, Arcen and Deelen. After two tropically hot days, Wednesday shows wide variations in temperature. On the coast it will be no warmer than 19C but the south east, the temperature could hit 31C, the KNMI weather bureau said. Thursday will be again sunny, with temperatures ranging from 17C on the coast to the high 20s inland. It will be similar on Friday and again baking hot, with temperatures in the mid 30s, over the weekend. There may be some showers early next week but it will remain warm with sunny spells, the KNMI said.  More >