Dutch foreign minister under fire after 'crude' multicultural society comments

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok is under fire after making a string of controversial comments about immigrants and refugees as well as saying he is unaware of any successful multicultural societies. The comments were made by Blok at private meeting with Dutch nationals who work for international organisations. One of the participants has given television current affairs programme Zembla mobile phone footage of the event. The source, who wants to remain anonymous, told Zembla many of the participants were shocked by the minister's words. 'I have asked my ministry this and I will pose the question here as well,' Blok said. 'Give me an example of a multi-ethnic or a multi-cultural society, in which the original population still lives, and where there is a peaceful cohabitation. I don't know one.' When one member of the audience suggested Suriname, Blok described the former Dutch colony as a 'failed state'. 'And that is largely to do with the ethnic divisions,' he continued. Singapore, another example raised by the audience is 'a mini-country and highly selective in terms of immigration,' Blok said. 'It does not let in poor migrants. Well yes, to do the cleaning.' Immigration The minister also talked about xenophobia and migration. 'You very quickly reach the limits of what a society can take,' he said. 'So I would also say that I understand the people in Amsterdam West and in the Schilderswijk (a part of The Hague with a large immigrant population). If you live in Benoordenhout (a wealthy part of The Hague), it is great fun to go to the Turkish baker on Sunday. You don't have to deal with a number of side effects. But if you live right in the middle, you have an enormous amount of trouble.' The minister focused for part of his presentation on the situation of refugees in Europe. 'Walk along any street in Warsaw or Prague. There are no coloured people,' Blok said. These people are gone within a week, they get beaten to a pulp. They have no life there.' 'I don't think we are going to manage to force through an agreement at a central European level that every country will take the same number of refugees. Eastern Europeans will never agree,' the minister said. Blok told Zembla in reaction to the film that the meeting was aimed at stimulating participants to exchange views and experiences. 'My role in the Q&A session was partly to stimulate. I used examples in the closed meeting which could be unfortunate in public debate.' Reactions MPs from both the opposition and ruling coalition were quick to react to Blok’s comments. D66 MP Kees Verhoeven described them as ‘incomprehensible’ and has asked for an explanation. VVD parliamentarian Han ten Broek, said the comments were ‘crude’. Taak minister Buitenlandse Zaken is diplomatieke betrekkingen onderhouden. #D66 verwacht daarom uitleg van de minister over zijn onbegrijpelijke uitspraken en zijn pessimisme over de verdeling van vluchtelingen in Europa en de multiculturele samenleving.https://t.co/5mM3Eq3jV9 — Kees Verhoeven (@KeesVee) July 18, 2018 ‘No one will swear that Suriname is a model state or that migrants are always treated kindly in eastern Europe, but the minister could have made these points with a less crude choice of words.’ Labour MP and former foreign aid minister Lilianne Ploumen said the minister had been ‘extremely unprofessional’. She has filed parliamentary questions asking if the minister’s views on Suriname, Singapore and refugees are cabinet policy.  More >

Amsterdam holiday-let campaign 'working'

The battle by Amsterdam council against property owners illegally renting rooms to tourists appears to be paying off, city officials said on Wednesday. The number of closures of illegal hotels fell by 10% in the first half of the year, and this shows the crackdown 'appears to be paying off', the city said in a statement. In the first half of this year, officials handed out 71 fines to people who did not register the lets or who had illegally rented out their property. A further 77 fines were given to property owners who had illegally rented out their property to multiple occupants. The number of complaints made to the council hotline fell to 1,394 from 1,572 in the 2017 first half. ‘This decline is partly due to the fact that fewer buildings are being bought by investors hoping to cash in on illegal rentals to tourists,’  Laurens  Ivens, the alderman for housing, told the Telegraaf.  More >

Relegated FC Twente saved from bankruptcy

Enschede football team FC Twente, relegated to the first division at the end of last season, has staved off bankruptcy after the city council agreed to a rescue plan. After weeks of negotiations, city officials have now agreed to freeze interest and repayments of a loan made to the club over a two-season period. This gives the club  €4m in breathing space, the Telegraaf reported. In addition, some 30 of the club's sponsors have agreed to invest €10m in the club in return for shares and a say in the make-up of the supervisory board. 'This is an important agreement for the future of FC Twente,' director Erik Velderman said. 'And the great thing is, that it is being fully supported by the Twente region.' Enschede city council has already made €17m in loans to the club and is guarantor for a further €8.4m. Twente kick off their campaign to return to the Eredivisie on August 17 against Sparta of Rotterdam. Ultimatum Two seasons ago, Twente managed to head off efforts by the Dutch FA to relegate them for failing to get their finances in order and meet a fifth ultimatum. The club was also fined over €200,000 and banned from playing in Europe for three years because of the fall-out over a deal with investment company Doyan. In 2014 Doyen agreed to put €5m into the club in return for a percentage of the transfer fee for seven players. However, leaked documents showed the deal gave Doyen considerable say over Twente’s transfer policy, which the club had denied and which is banned by the KNVB.  More >

Dutch soften illegal gambling plan

Companies which illegally target the Dutch online gambling market may still be eligible for a licence when the government opens the sector up to competition, the Telegraaf reported on Wednesday. The paper said justice minister Sander Dekker has gone against parliament's wishes and opened the door to illegal operators. Online gambling is currently illegal in the Netherlands and the senate is due to finally discuss legislation which will introduce online casinos in the Netherlands after the summer recess. MPs had wanted to ban companies caught illegally attracting Dutch punters from applying for licences when the legal situation changes. However, there are concerns within the cabinet that popular illegal sites will remain popular once the ban is lifted and this has prompted the minister's action, the Telegraaf said.  More >

‘Excellent second quarter’ for ASML

ASML, the Veldhoven-based supplier of equipment to the world’s chipmakers, reported second-quarter net income of  €584m up from €466m in the year-earlier period. Sales surged 30% to €2.74bn, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. ASML chief Peter Volgens topman Peter Wennink termed the results ‘excellent’ as sales of its new EUV (extreme ultraviolet lithography) systems topped expectations. These latest-generation EUV machines make details on chips even smaller. The process is carried out in a vacuum using a plasma to produce EUV light via highly sophisticated mirrors instead of lenses to project the circuit patterns onto silicon wafers. Today’s silicon chips have features as small as 40 nanometers – less than a few hundred atoms across. EUV systems sell for more than €100m. Wennink said ASML is on course to sell 20 this year and is targeting 30 sales in 2019. ASML customers include Intel, Samsung and TSMC.  More >

NS works overtime to keep passengers cool

Dutch Rail NS has given top priority to the maintenance and repair of the system’s 5,000 onboard air conditioning units as the warm weather continues in the Netherlands, the Algemeen Dagblad reported on Wednesday. Technicians are stationed at four locations throughout the country to handle any problems that may arise with the warm weather. NS said that 95% of its trains are air conditioned. Older trains without cooling systems are deployed on shorter sprinter services. NS said neither conductors nor air conditioning service staff can set the temperature because this is handled automatically.   More >