More giant factory farms in the Netherlands, activists call for a ban

The number of very large factory farms in the Netherlands has gone up 76% over the past seven years and there are now 801 'mega' farm complexes, according to a report by Wageningen University researchers on behalf of animal rights foundation Wakker Dier. In particular there has been a very sharp rise in the number of very large dairy farms with over 250 cows since milk quotas were lifted, Wakker Dier said. Some 439 of the mega factory farms are predominantly dairy. Most of the giant farms are found in Noord-Brabant, where the total rose almost 70% in seven years to 211. Wakker Dier defines a mega factory farm as one in which large numbers of animals live in one or more barns - in total at least 7,500 pigs, 120,000 laying hens, 220,000 broiler chickens, 2,500 veal calves or 1,500 goats. In total, 75 million animals living in the Netherlands are living on giant factory farms. The organisation wants the government to step in. 'By focusing continually on lower costs, animal welfare is being squeezed,' chairman Anne Hilhorst said. 'And there is barely any room in mega barns for straw or natural behaviour.'  More >

More Dutch among Sri Lanka bomb victims

The death toll in the Easter Sunday bombings on Sri Lanka has risen to 310, and two more Dutch nationals have been added to the casualty list, the Dutch foreign ministry said on Tuesday. A woman of 48 and a 12-year-old girl also died in the blasts. Both are dual nationals who live abroad the ministry said. They too were at the Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo, where the first Dutch victim was killed. More details emerged about her in Tuesday's Telegraaf. The paper, which named her as Monique, said she was on the island for the opening ceremony of a children's wing at a hospital which she and her American husband had financed. The hospital is in the southern city of Ratnatpura, some 80 miles from Colombo. Monique and her family had lived in Bangkok for more than 10 years, the Telegraaf said. Some 40 people have been arrested since the blasts and officials are now looking into whether a local Islamist group and chief suspect National Thowheeth Jama’ath  received 'international support' to carry out the attacks. The Dutch foreign affairs ministry has sharpened its travel advice for the island, recommending that people avoid the areas where the attacks took place and obey the curfew, and warning of tight security checks at the airport. Horrified by the terrible attacks on this Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. Our thoughts are with the victims, including one Dutch national at this moment. The Netherlands has passed its heartfelt condolences to the Sri Lankan people. We stand with you. — Stef Blok (@ministerBlok) April 21, 2019 Dutch holiday companies said there is no reason to cut short the holidays of people already on organised tours of the island. However, the ANWB decided to cancel two trips which had been set to take place in the coming days, the NRC reported. More on the investigation  More >

Small firms want shorter payment terms

Small firms' association MKB Nederland is urging junior economic affairs minister Mona Keijzer to cut the maximum amount of time big firms have to pay their bills from 60 to 30 days. The organisation argues that many small firms are hard hit by delayed payments because big companies wait too long before clearing invoices. The 60 day limit was introduced in July 2017 and the average payment term experienced by small firms has since stretched to 40 days. 'The law states that big firms can set payment terms of 60 days towards small firms and this has, in effect, become the new standard,' MKB-Nederland chairman Jacco Vonhof told the Financieele Dagblad. 'We warned that this would happen when the deadline was introduced.'   More >

Amstelveen in dialogue with Indian expats

Amstelveen city council has set up a 'dialogue' with Indian expats to improve the relationship between locals and new arrivals, the Financieele Dagblad said on Tuesday. Around one-fifth of the 90,000 people who live in Amstelveen are not Dutch nationals and the Indian community has doubled to some 5,000 people in five years, the paper said. This has not only made the city more 'colourful', with Indian shops, dance and festivals, but has also created challenges in terms of housing and education, the paper said. The FD quotes local photographer Eric Grooters, who says the current situation is a 'mega problem' and that Amstelveen 'has turned into Mumbai on the Amstel'. Grooters, who first protested about the number of Indians living in the city last year, describes the international workforce as a 'tsunami of expats', making it impossible for local youngsters to find a place to live. Similar complaints have been made by the Socialist party in Amsterdam. International character City alderman Floor Gordon told the paper she is proud of Amstelveen's international character but admits there are problems with education and housing which need dealing with. The council has set aside €500,000 a year to invest in newcomers classes to help children settle into the Dutch system and councillors have also voted to invest in subsidising international education. Amstelveen also has a new international school with space for 600 children, the FD points out. More than 20 different organisations took part in the first round-table talks and the groups are now looking into setting up an umbrella group, Gordon told the paper. 'I understand that there is pressure on the housing market, and that people have to get used to each other,' she said. 'The council is moving with the times and I would prefer not to make the problem bigger than it really is.' Are you an Indian national in Amstelveen? Would you like to share your experiences? Email  More >

Where do MPs live and does anyone check?

Some 30 Dutch MPs make maximum use of an extra allowance for parliamentarians who live 150 kilometres from The Hague, but there are no checks to make sure they are actually obeying the rules, the Volkskrant said on Tuesday. The money, over €24,000, is meant to pay for extra accommodation and expenses in The Hague, and is three times the amount paid to MPs who live close to the parliamentary complex. The allowance gets smaller, the nearer the MP lives to The Hague. However, no-one checks whether MPs actually live so far from parliament and the system is based on trust, the VK said. The paper highlights the case of Dion Graus, an MP for the anti-immigration PVV, who has been given over €100,000 in housing allowances in his 12 years in parliament. He officially lives with his mother in Heerlen, in Limburg province, but rents a flat in Voorburg near The Hague. Although neighbours report never seeing him in Heerlen, the MP told the paper that the Voorburg flat is a pied-à-terre and that he keeps to all the rules. He also told the VK he has to keep quiet about where he lives because of security issues. Allowances In addition to their housing allowance - which is paid automatically - and their salary of €109,000 a year, MPs also get an allowance of €4,900 to cover travel within the Netherlands and an allowance of €2,762 a year for job-related expenses. The accommodation allowance is worked out according to a complicated formula but totals €24,278 for an MP who lives 150 kilometres from the Hague and €7,961 for an MP who lives one kilometre from the Binnenhof parliamentary complex.  More >

Easter Monday hottest on record

Monday was the warmest second day of Easter since records began, weather forecaster Weerplaza reported. The temperature at the De Bilt weather station near Utrecht reached 24.8 degrees, just 0.2 degrees short of making it the first official summery day this year. Elsewhere in the country temperatures were higher still. The record for both Easter days is still headed by 2011 when the average temperature was 25 degrees. As Easter is a moveable feast, the chances of sunshine are much greater in April than in March. Of the hot days recorded for Easter since record keeping began in 1901, six occurred in April and one in March. A notable exception was Easter 1917 when temperatures in April dropped to a chilly 4.9 degrees. The KNMI weather bureau says temperatures will drop as the week progresses and there will be more chance of rain. Saturday, Kings Day, is set to be a mixed bag, with a high chance of rain and temperatures no higher than 15 degrees.   More >

Klaas Dijkhoff sets out his VVD stall

VVD parliamentarian Klaas Dijkhoff, who is widely tipped as the next party leader when Mark Rutte steps down, has set out his vision for the party's future. In a 'discussion document' published at the weekend, Dijkhoff said that the VVD is 'a Liberal and a right-wing party'. Dijkhoff currently leads the 33-strong group of VVD MPs in parliament. 'We are not moving to the left and we are not moving further to the right,' Dijkhoff said in the document, entitled 'Liberalism that works for people'. The party, Dijkhoff said, has listened too much to big companies. The man in the street should not only be protected against the government, but that the government should have a role when big firms threaten individual freedoms, he said. The document focuses on the need to ensure 'a broad middle class'. 'Their dreams and their worries should be the starting point for our political answers,' he said. 'A society without a stable middle class can never be stable... and it is the same middle class which, if we don't do the right thing, will be pressured by trends such as globalisation, migration, flexible working patterns and technology.' Education In particular, Dijkhoff called for the abolition of current freedom of education rules if they lead to the development of schools which 'service segregation and maintain a parallel society in which the dominant values conflict with our key values of freedom and equality'. Although seen by commentators to be directed at Islamic education, ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Seegers, was quick to describe the measure as 'out of proportion'. 'Dijkhoff wants to limit a freedom which schools and millions of people make use of and that is not necessary,' Seegers said. 'We have to tackle the abuse of freedom, and freedom is never without limits,' he said. But this is looking for problems with the wrong people.' State-funded faith schools are sanctioned in the Netherlands under freedom of education rules, if they have sufficient pupils and meet the proper standards.   More >

FC Twente set to return to the Eredivisie

Football club FC Twente is heading back to the Eredivisie after taking the first division title with a 0-0 draw against Young AZ at home on Monday. The goalless draw was enough to give the club enough points to seal the title after main competitor Sparta lost 2-0 to Young PSV.  With three matches left to play, Twente is eight points clear of Sparta, who have just two games to go. Some 30,000 supporters had packed into the Grolsche Veste stadium to watch the match and see their club return to the premier Dutch division. Twente were relegated last season. Earlier this month a majority of Enschedé city councilors backed a rescue plan for the troubled club, which involves writing off €5m of a €17m loan and scrapping repayments and interest on the remainder of the cash. Companies and private supporters have also stepped in to help the club. ABN Amro has written off €4.5m of its €5.5m loan and the wealthy Wessels family is investing ‘millions’ via an investment company, local broadcaster RTV Oost said.   More >

Five killed in early morning crashes

Four people were killed in a car crash on the A1 near Deventer around 6am on Monday morning. The car apparently drove into the supports of an overhead matrix board and burst into flames, broadcaster NOS said. ‘It is a very tragic accident,’ a police spokesman said. ‘We do not know why the car left the road and drove into the gantry.’ The police are also still trying to identify the victims. The motorway was closed for a time while police dealt with the accident but has now been largely reopened. Update #A1 bij Deventer: Één rijstrook vrijgegeven. Afrit Deventer blijft dicht voor afhandeling van het ongeval. Omrijden is niet meer nodig. — Rijkswaterstaat Verkeersinformatie (@RWSverkeersinfo) April 22, 2019 Elsewhere, a 19-year-old woman was killed and a 24-year-old injured in an accident on the A28 when the car they were driving in hit the safety barrier, tipped over and ended up in the verge. Again, no other vehicles were involved, police said.  More >

Narrow wins keep Ajax ahead in title race

PSV kept their hopes of retaining their Eredivisie title alive with a nervy win over ADO Den Haag to draw level with Ajax at the top of the table. Denzel Dumfries put the home side ahead at the Philips Stadium as he cut in from the right flank and fired home after 20 minutes, but Mark van Bommel's side were unable to add to their lead until the 83rd minute when Luuk de Jong headed in his 27th of the season. Substitute Tomas Nedic pulled one back for ADO two minutes from the end before Donyell Malen made the points safe in injury time. De Jong acknowledged his opponents had been hard to break down. 'ADO parked the bus and gave us very little space.' he told NOS. 'We had a lot of the ball which meant we could keep pressing, but we didn't execute the final phase so well. In the end we have to be happy we got three goals.' The result keeps Ajax, who laboured to a 1-0 win at Groningen on Saturday, in the driving seat thanks to their superior goal difference. The Amsterdammers are playing their next fixtures at home, while PSV face tricky away trips to Alkmaar and Tilburg. Substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar grabbed the points with a strike from close range in the 78th minute and was immediately booked for tearing his shirt off in celebration – a moment of exuberance that proved costly when he received a second yellow card for a heavy challenge six minutes later. Fortuna Sittard took a big step towards survival with a 2-1 home win over NAC Breda, who now cannot finish above the relegation play-off line. Mark Diemes scored both goals for the Limburgers, including a first-half penalty. Fortuna are now seven points ahead of 16th-placed Excelsior, while NAC are four points adrift of De Graafschap at the bottom. In Sunday's other game, Excelsior bagged an injury-time equaliser at home to Willem II Tilburg to narrow the gap on Emmen, currently occupying the all-important 15th spot, to five points. The team from Drenthe recorded a 2-0 win over FC Utrecht on Saturday to complete the double over Dick Advocaat's side. Feyenoord need just one more win to secure third place and a Europa League spot after they came from behind to beat their only challengers AZ Alkmaar 2-1, Tyrell Malacia and Robin van Persie scoring in the second half. Mats Seuntjens had put the visitors ahead in the 36th minute. Less than a minute later Seuntjens's brother Ralf scored for VVV Venlo in their match against De Graafschap. It signalled the start of a comeback by the Limburg side, who had gone behind to Furdjel Narsingh's second-minute strike but ran out 4-1 winners to keep their opponents firmly in the play-off zone. Vitesse overcame PEC Zwolle by the same scoreline to improve their chances of a European play-off spot, with Bryan Linssen notching a hat-trick to bring his season's tally to 11. Heracles also stayed in the hunt for European football as they saw off Heerenveen in Friday night's game. Heracles's Brandley Kuwas and Heerenveen's Sam Lammers swapped penalties before Adrian Dalmau made the difference for the home side after 72 minutes. Results Friday Heracles 2-1 Heerenveen Saturday Emmen 2-0 Utrecht Feyenoord 2-1 AZ Alkmaar Groningen 0-1 Ajax Vitesse Arnhem 4-1 PEC Zwolle VVV Venlo 4-1 De Graafschap Sunday Excelsior 1-1 Willem II Tilburg Fortuna Sittard 2-1 NAC Breda PSV Eindhoven 3-1 ADO Den Haag    More >

Bail-out for bankrupt Boxmeer hospital

The Dutch health ministry is to put €10m into a hospital in Noord-Brabant province to head off the threat of bankruptcy. Health minister Bruno Bruins told MPs in a briefing that the investment will be spread up to 2022 and that Rabobank and health insurer VGZ are also involved in the bail-out. The hospital, near Boxmeer, is part of the Pantein health group and covers 130,000 people.  Bankruptcy, the minister said, would mean that key care - including emergency services and maternity care - would not be available within a 45-minute drive. The hospital's problems have been caused by a real estate contract dating from 2008 which the hospital had little influence on, Bruins told MPs. Last year, the government opted not to bail out two other hospitals which went bust. Both were owned by a private healthcare company.  More >