Desire for economic reform is petering out

Reform hurts, says economist Mathijs Bouman, but calling a halt to the reforms will hurt more. In the middle of the euro crisis reforming the economy seemed an important and unavoidable priority. But once the ECB saved the euro and started buying bonds European capitals began to feel much less convinced. The principle is still valid; it is a truth universally acknowledged that only structural reform – principally in the labour market but also the pension and tax systems – will lead to a sustainable economic recovery. But the pressure’s off and European politicians seem to be going for the old postponement reflex. The French need to reform but don’t want to. The Belgians want to but can’t. The Germans can but don’t want to try. The Greeks try but never seem to last more than a day. And the Dutch? They have shown themselves to be veritable champions of structural reform in the last couple of years. Two cabinets led by Mark Rutte have produced an impressive list...  More >

Podcast: The Bitterball Twist Edition

In this week's podcast we have the latest news on the MH17 prosecution, a bus that runs on insect venom, a lemur that went walkabout and a bitter row about vegetarian snacks in Utrecht. Our discussion looks at the latest study into discrimination against ethnic minority job applicants. Top story MH17 suspects will be prosecuted in Netherlands News Customs officer who let drugs into Rotterdam jailed for 14 years Bitterballen row heats up in Utrecht TU Eindhoven unveils bus that runs on formic acid Lemur goes on the run in Amsterdam Discussion: workplace discrimination Violent criminals more likely to get a job than ethnic minorities - report The Hague city council to introduce anonymous job applications Minister says no to anonymous job application trial for civil servants If you're applying for jobs, you're better off with a criminal record than a foreign surname (Volkskrant, Dutch) What do the party leaders want to do about discrimination...  More >

Bus stop, wet day? Share a green ride

Electric charging stations may be a more common sight in Dutch cities and car parks, but smart shared transport services are helping the Netherlands reduce empty buses and polluted skies, reports Senay Boztas On his weekend trip to see his parents, and their washing machine, Jason David no longer has to wait for a bus if there’s no chance of a lift. The 21-year-old, who is studying in Breda but whose folks live in Arnhem, can simply use the Breng Flex app to order an eco-friendly minibus from the train station. He is one of a growing group of people in Arnhem and Nijmegen, young and old, to enjoy the 'flexibility, comfort and personal service' of a new type of public transport. Public transport company Connexxion has had such success with a four-month trial of Breng Flex replacement buses that they are going to be a permanent fixture of this region and beyond. With a fleet of 10 minibuses running on green gas, made from biomass, and eight Hyundai IONIQ Electric cars, around...  More >

'Locals are extra nice when I speak Dutch'

“I moved here for love!” Graphic designer Yihmay Yap (40), hails from Malaysia and moved to Rotterdam for love. Two and a half years later, she’s still learning the language and discovering her favourite places in the country. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It’s a long story, but in short, I moved here for love! My husband is from Rotterdam and we met when he was traveling around Asia and I was living in Singapore. We initially met in Singapore but we decided to meet up in Vietnam. That’s where we found out that we clicked really well. So he decided to move to Singapore to be with me and he ended up living there for seven years. But then he moved back to the Netherlands and when I came to visit after a year, he proposed! So that’s when I packed up and moved to Rotterdam to start a new life! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I am from Malaysia, but I’ve been living outside of my home country for more than half...  More >

Podcast: The Fishy Edition

Gordon, Molly and Paul discuss why assisted dying is back at the top of the political agenda 15 years after the Netherlands legalised euthanasia. There's also news of the broadcasters taken hostage in Colombia,the ongoing legal fall-out from Srebrenica, a rush of big cat births and how Schiphol is planning to cut the summer queues at security. Top story Coalition talks pass 100-day mark News Primary school teachers go on strike Schiphol unveils plan for fast-track security queues TV film crew freed in Colombia Dutch state partly responsible for Srebrenica deaths Older generation takes to social media Discussion: euthanasia and 'right to die' controversy Number of euthanasia cases rises in the Netherlands D66 introduces right-to-die bill for over-75s Rise in euthanasia requests sparks concern (2015) My alcoholic brother chose euthanasia (BBC) The story of Martin Kock (NOS, Dutch) Boudewijn Chabot: I wouldn't agree to assisted dying now...  More >

A chiropractor keeps a dancer on his toes

Early this spring, a Belgian dancer walked into an American chiropractor’s new office in Amsterdam—no, this isn’t the set-up to a joke. It’s the set-up to the dancer’s journey towards improved mind-body wellness, with the help of Kate Cox at Thrive Chiropractic on the Prinsengracht. ‘Dancing has always made sense’, says Birger van Severen, 41, of Amsterdam. ‘My earliest memories are of dancing to The Village People and Michael Jackson.’ These days, he dances and performs in Tineke Schouten’s touring show, performing for Dutch audiences in the tens-of-thousands each year. To still be dancing professionally at his age is extremely rare Van Severen started late as a dancer. At 18, he had his first ballet class—there, he says, he was surrounded by people who’d been at it for close to ten years already. They possessed a natural flexibility which he could not match. Instead, it was his passion and work ethic which propelled him, bringing him to Amsterdam to study...  More >

No English: Spreek Nederlands met mij

The Netherlands’ enthusiasm for speaking English leaves many newcomers struggling to learn the language. Could wearing a badge insisting on Dutch shake things up? Deborah Nicholls-Lee tries it out. 'Ah, it's you, David!' I sigh with relief as one of the two British hairdressers in the team of four picks up the phone at my local salon. No need to speak Dutch then. I have been in the Netherlands eight years and this wimpy attitude to speaking Dutch is hard to defend. My Dutch isn't too bad and it's time I got the bitterbal rolling. When I heard about the Spreek Nederlands initiative, I ordered the Spreek Nederlands met Mij! (Speak Dutch with me!) badge and committed myself to a week-long challenge. Founded in 2013, and billed as a chance to ‘fight for our right to speak Dutch’, the initiative is a response to the frustration felt by newcomers whose attempts to speak Dutch are thwarted by locals who insist on replying in English. Phone conversations aside - where the absence...  More >

Peace of mind a Brexit priority: minister

The rights of British people in the Netherlands and Dutch nationals in Britain are central to the Brexit negotiations, says David Davis, Britain's secretary of state for exiting the European Union. Last week Michel Barnier and I sat down for the first time last week, to begin negotiating the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. The UK has been clear that our first priority is to provide certainty to EU citizens living in Britain – indeed, we had hoped to be able to do so last autumn – and to UK citizens living in the EU. I'm pleased that the EU has agreed this is one of the first issues we will address — and yesterday, the UK published a detailed policy document explaining our offer - Roughly 80,000 of our citizens live in each other’s country, highly integrated into their local community, reflecting the long-standing and close bonds between the UK and the Netherlands. Three million EU citizens have made the UK their home. They have contributed to the very...  More >

Divisions are a theme in Dutch history

Historian James Kennedy's new history of the Netherlands shows that the Dutch tradition of tolerance was not driven by idealism, but a hard-headed need to hold together the patchwork of minority groups that made up the nation. By Gordon Darroch To many outside observers the recent Dutch election campaign, and particularly the dominance of Geert Wilders and the issues of migration and identity, came as a violent shock. A country that had long been viewed – and sometimes derided – around the world as a bastion of tolerance, progressivism and unencumbered dope-smoking seemed to have succumbed to the populist bug. On the BBC's Newsnight programme, John Sweeney confronted a voter in The Hague with the question: 'When I was young Holland was the most tolerant and open society. What's changed?' The sense of aggrieved innocence was palpable, as if a much-loved celebrity from the 1960s had been exposed as an alcoholic wife-beating racist. James Kennedy's new history of the...  More >

Podcast: The We Demand Loyalty Edition

In this week's podcast we find out where's the best restaurant to cook up a coalition deal, the unlikely reason a Dutch film crew were kidnapped in Colombia and the even unlikelier plan to protect otters by building road tunnels for them. In the discussion Molly gets in her five cents' worth about the participation contract which requires new residents to pledge loyalty to Dutch conventions and values. And as a bonus there's some fake news about the teachers' strike, which is taking place next Tuesday and not Friday as billed. We'll blame Alexander Pechtold for that because it seems like the fashionable thing to do. Top story Coalition talks latest News Heatwave changes tone of complaints about weather Film crew kidnapped in Colombia released Teenager arrested for ISIS propaganda was 'just fanatical gamer' Hundreds fall for fake Microsoft helpdesk scam Amsterdam builds three tunnels for mating otters (Omroep West, Dutch) Discussion: What's the point...  More >

The best of the Netherlands in the summer

Amusement parks, beaches, islands, pretty villages... Here's a list of our lists of the best things to do in the Netherlands in the summer. One of the great thing about the Dutch coast is the sunsets, with the sun sinking into the sea. And they are not bad for swimming or sunbathing either. Here's a list of the best Dutch beaches, from Lloret de Holland to Timboektoe. Fancy some sightseeing but want to avoid the massed hoards of tourists? The Netherlands has some charming places which are off the beaten track. Here's some of our favourite villages. Want to go island hoping but no money for Greece? We've got it covered. Here's a list of some of the best Dutch islands where you can get away from it all. From pony rides to a roller coaster, the Netherlands is packed with amusement parks to keep the kids busy. Here's our selection of 10 of the best theme parks. If something more off the wall is your style, why not visit some of the Netherlands' weirdest places?  Mummies,...  More >

Small Wonders at the Rijksmuseum

This summer the Rijksmuseum is featuring an extraordinary exhibition of Dutch micro-carvings from the late Middle Ages. Christine Medycky has been finding out about 'Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures,'  - a testament to human creativity and ingenuity. The exhibition which brings together for the first time from private collections and museums around the world, is made up of more than 60 rare miniature boxwood devotional objects from the 16th century. These include rosaries, prayer beads, altarpieces, engraved plaques, prayer pods and even some memento mori in the form of skulls and coffins. In an unprecedented collaboration, curators and conservationists from the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), joined forces to investigate the long-standing mystery of how these tiny masterpieces were made and by whom. What their five years of research uncovered is fascinating. Private devotion The production...  More >

Male circumcision violates the body

Male circumcision is ‘violation of bodily integrity’ and should be banned A ban on male circumcision should be put on the political agenda, say Wouter van Erkel and Koen Sijtsema of D66’s youth wing Jonge Democraten. In the Netherlands thousands of boys, both Jewish and Muslim, are circumcised for religious reasons every year. Estimates range between 10,000 and 15,000 circumcisions carried out in this country annually. Campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali highlighted the issue years ago but every time circumcision is subject of a public debate, politicians shy away from putting it up for discussion in parliament. That is a great shame, because non-therapeutic male circumcision is an infringement of fundamental rights. The fact is that male circumcision (as is female circumcision which, fortunately, has already been banned) is a violation of the integrity of the body. Often parental autonomy is used as an argument to allow this violation to take place. That is a nonsense. Of course parents are at liberty to raise their children the way they like but the line...  More >

Podcast: Tjeenk Willink's Love Letters

DutchNews podcast – Tjeenk Willink’s Love Letters Edition – Week 24 In this week's podcast we look at the latest failure to form a Dutch government, a €60,000 barrel of herring and the tragic consequences of an online 'choke challenge'. We also have a fizzing and fruity discussion about the burgeoning craft beer scene in the Netherlands. Top story Coalition talks break down again News New herring season begins with traditional auction Amsterdam railway station crash Heineken kidnap money was invested in property (, Dutch) Teenager died attempting choking challenge Snakes stolen from shed Discussion: craft beers make headway Cheers! Craft beer takes off in the Netherlands as brewery numbers soar Heel Holland brouwt! (Telegraaf) Number of breweries more than quadrupled since 2007 (CBS, Dutch)  More >

Dutch design duo Puck & Hans back on show

It is half a century since Dutch fashion duo Puck Kroon and Hans Kemmink opened their first clothing store in The Hague. Together with the Amsterdam Museum, they have curated a rich retrospective on these flamboyant years: ‘Puck &Hans – Local Couture’. Deborah Nicholls-Lee toured the new exhibition with the famous designers to find out more. On Amsterdam’s busy Rokin, flanked by a mobile phone outlet on one side, and a cosmetics chain on the other, is yet another cheese shop. But the listed building at Rokin 66 was not always a tourist trap. From1986 to 1998, it housed one of the most iconic women’s fashion boutiques in the country. The elaborate, outlandish window-dressing – created by Hans himself – the avant-garde designs, and the promise of a glass of wine and a good chat inside, attracted style-seekers from far and wide and gave the shop its reputation as a ‘happening’ and not just a place to buy clothes. ‘Puck & Hans was really something,’ says...  More >

'Invest in a museum card and see them all'

Kristin Anderson is a American novelist and her second book has a Dutch travel writer in the lead role. A stroopwafel fan, she would warn tourists not to eat space cake and would like to meet television naturalist Freek Vonk, who recently got chomped on by a shark. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I fell in love with a Dutch man of course. We met at a wedding in Santa Barbara, California where I lived at the time. He was the best man for his Dutch friend and I was the maid of honor for my friend. After his two week stay in the US, we fell for each other and had a long distance relationship, traveling back and forth. Nine months later I quit my job and moved to the Netherlands to live with him. After one year together in Amsterdam, we moved to the U.S. and lived there together for six years before moving back to the Netherlands in 2011 to pursue work opportunities. In 2013 my husband started a masters’ program in theology. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat,...  More >

Cabinet, get ready for Economy 4.0

The new Dutch cabinet must get its Economy 4.0 act together The new cabinet can only be successful if its economic policy is geared towards the new economy, or 4.0, say economists Rick van der Ploeg and Willem Vermeend The unstoppable progress of digitalisation and new technologies in the next few decades will ring in huge changes around the world. This combination, also called Economy 4.0, in tandem with globalisation and the impact of measures to combat climate change, will revolutionise economies everywhere. Its impact is already becoming clear: companies who failed to take 4.0 seriously have been falling by the wayside. Preparation The Netherlands too will have to deal with far-reaching social and economic developments which, at the moment, do not seem to inspire a great sense of urgency. Education, which should be at the forefront of any new development, is still firmly stuck in the ‘old’ world of 3.0 and is training people for obsolete jobs. There has been no sign of any serious preparation for 4.0 in education as yet. The...  More >

Podcast: The Paul Ducks Out Edition

In this week's podcast we learn about dead ducks in Rotterdam, the cheese shop boom in Amsterdam and the squeeze on international school places in The Hague. We've also got news of the coalition talks and the two communities rocked by the deaths of local schoolgirls. In our discussion we ask why Dutch Parliament is investigating the tax breaks that allow international companies to save billions. Top story: coalition talks Dutch coalition talks to resume: negotiator meets potential fourth partners Party leaders tight lipped as dutch coalition talks restart News Concern over shortage of international school places Communities shocked by deaths of teenage girls Plan for 24-hour opening abandoned Cheese shop boom in Amsterdam Dead duck day Discussion: The tax haven inquiry U2, Rolling Stones business rep called to Dutch tax haven committee The Netherlands is third in Oxfam’s tax haven league Dutch government to appeal EU ruling on Starbucks...  More >

8 people full of Syrian culture

From Dabke dancing to Muwashshah music, the Netherlands has a lot to learn about  Syrians and vice versa. Deborah Nicholls-Lee meets eight people who are building bridges between the two communities and celebrating the very best of Syrian culture here. Samer al-Kadri Located in some of Amsterdam’s most expensive real estate on the Herengracht canal, is a place where almost everything is free. Pages Bookstore Café is not a business, says Syrian founder Samer al-Kadri: ‘It’s just a message in my mind that I want to say to the world.’ On June 12, the artist and publisher opens a centre that brings literature, art, music and theatre from the Arabic world and from Europe to a diverse audience to create a place that feels like home to everybody. Pages Amsterdam is Samer’s second bookstore. Pages Istanbul opened in 2015, partly supported by the Prins Claus Fonds, whose motto is ‘Culture is a basic need'. Samer (42) already has plans for a third branch in Berlin....  More >

Solution or utopia? Design for refugees

Can design really improve the experience of the 65,000 displaced people worldwide who have fled their country in search of safety? Deborah Nicholls-Lee visits the Stedelijk Museum’s newest exhibition, Solution or Utopia? Design for Refugees. In stark contrast to the magnificent oil paintings that hang in the adjacent gallery, a sheet, a tent and a urinal are among the prosaic artefacts that populate the Solution or Utopia? exhibition. Here the emphasis is on necessity and survival - and the beauty is all in the design. Yet a closer look reveals that the items are less mundane than they seem: The sheet is biodegradable, the tent can be worn as a raincoat, and the urinal uses biofuel cells to convert urine into energy to light up the toilet block, making it safer to use at night. ‘Design and architecture…is not only about nice chairs,’ explains Ingeborg de Roode, curator of industrial design at the museum. It is hoped, she says, that the exhibition will show visitors...  More >