Wednesday 23 September 2020

Opinion pieces, columns and insights into Dutch news and current affairs from key commentators. The views expressed in these columns are the writers’ own. To contribute or request our guidelines, contact editor@dutchnews.nl.

The government is underestimating the value of good interpreters and translators

The government is underestimating the value of good interpreters and translators

Professional interpreters and translators play an important role in courts and police investigations. However, justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus’s decision to downgrade the professional requirements to ‘secondary school levels’, is not a good idea, says certified translator and interpreter Roemer Leushuis. International crime and the flow of refugees have led to a greater need for professional interpreters and translators. The Dutch government claims it is unable to meet that need. Is there really a lack of professionals, and if so, how... More >


This is a confession and apology to the First Mate of that KNSM ship

This is a confession and apology to the First Mate of that KNSM ship

DutchNews.nl receives a lot of correspondence from readers, sometimes looking for help in tracing lost relatives, sometimes to share experiences of the Netherlands in years gone by. But this email, from reader Joost Goedkoop in the US, is different. In the summers of 1965 and 1966 I worked on Dutch freighters sailing the Caribbean Seas. The shipping line, KNSM, had beautiful little freighters with routes from Amsterdam to NYC, that continued on to Miami, Puerto Rico, St Maartin, Curacao, Bonaire,... More >


The VVD may be leading in the polls, but the March elections are not a run race

The VVD may be leading in the polls, but the March elections are not a run race

The March elections are not a run race, says columnist Syp Wynia, and the current incumbent Mark Rutte may not last the course. As the country is coming out of lockdown, politicians are jostling for position for the next general elections in March, or perhaps sooner if the coalition should fall. Prime ministerMark Rutte looks to be in poll position but more than one politician has fallen at the last hurdle. At the moment Rutte is not even officially in... More >


The tourists have returned to Amsterdam and I’m back in an open relationship with my city.

The tourists have returned to Amsterdam and I’m back in an open relationship with my city.

During lockdown, Deborah Nicholls-Lee has enjoyed the peace and quiet in Amsterdam’s city centre. Now as the city opens up, she braces herself for change. I think I saw tourists the other day. A young couple in summer prints dragging large wheelie cases, pausing on the brow of a canal bridge to squint into a mobile phone. I’ve been surveying quiet, slumbering Amsterdam for tourists ever since the lockdown began to lift; eyeing suspiciously anyone cycling clumsily on matching bikes... More >


The Dutch need to stand their ground in Europe

The Dutch need to stand their ground in Europe

The coronavirus crisis is generating orgies of spending all over the world, including and particularly in Europe. Brussels is only too keen to get in on the act. It’s time the Dutch do what the Danes do, says columnist Syp Wynia. As other crises have shown, the cry of ‘the end of Europe’ is sure to end in more ‘Europe’ and more money and power for the offices and meeting rooms of Brussels, Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. Angela Merkel, who... More >


Hands off our constitutional rights, say SGP and D66 leaders

Hands off our constitutional rights, say SGP and D66 leaders

The SGP and D66 are not often on the same page but party leaders Kees van der Staaij and Rob Jetten agree on one thing: our constitutional rights have to be taken seriously, particularly in times of crisis. The near future has been named by prime minister Mark Rutte as ‘the new normal’. The question that immediately needs to be asked is: just how normal is this? We think the new normal is not normal at all, and, indeed, must... More >


A tribute to the Scheveningen surfers: And you are up. Dancing on top of the sea

A tribute to the Scheveningen surfers: And you are up. Dancing on top of the sea

In 2016, occasional columnist Joe Weeg was taught to surf by one of the five surfers killed in the sea on Monday. At the time, he wrote about Joost in a piece entitled Old Surfers on his blog, and we reproduce it here, as a tribute to the young men who died. Update 2020: Joe writes: ‘I am always troubled by young death — which I saw a lot of in my former life as a prosecutor either as murder... More >


Dutch economy: without proper steering, there will be trouble ahead

Dutch economy: without proper steering, there will be trouble ahead

The Dutch economy is heading for heavy weather if the government doesn’t promote the economy of tomorrow, say economists Rick van der Ploeg and Willem Vermeend. The Netherlands is one of the countries whose economy will be hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis. Its open economy and dependence on now faltering trade are bringing economic shrinkage and soaring unemployment in its wake. More and more countries are taking measures to get their stagnant economies moving again. But while other EU... More >


These city walls – Six weeks under lockdown in Leiden

These city walls – Six weeks under lockdown in Leiden

Leiden resident Brandon Hartley has taken to counting cats on his daily walk but has failed to tackle that list of chores that he had planned to do in coronavirus time. On a random afternoon before the whole world pretty much ground to a halt, my partner Marie and I met up with some friends for lunch at ‘Vooraf en Toe’. It’s a lively cafe in the centre of Leiden. It was packed as usual. Despite the upbeat atmosphere, the... More >


Does the Netherlands have activist judges? They’re just doing their job

Does the Netherlands have activist judges? They’re just doing their job

Judges are not stepping into the role of politicians as some on the right would claim, says professor Barbara Oomen. Rather, they are simply doing what they have been appointed to do. Earlier this month, MPs discussed the latest term Forum voor Democratie leader Thierry Baudet had unearthed from his political philosophy handbook: dichastocracy. The notion of government by judges is not something the average citizen, scientists and politician is overly concerned about but it would be wrong to dismiss... More >


Europe’s seasonal workers are being forgotten in the corona crisis

Europe’s seasonal workers are being forgotten in the corona crisis

The corona crisis affects everyone, not least of which the thousands of Polish and other temporary workers in the Netherlands. They are now losing their jobs and their homes, and are being excluded from financial bail-out schemes. No-one is listening to their cry for help, writes Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska. Stories about EU labour migrants in the Netherlands are always driven by economics. The current big question makes this all too clear: If the Poles don’t come, nobody will harvest the asparagus.... More >


The government needs to tackle social inequality

The government needs to tackle social inequality

The coalition government should stop kowtowing to right-wing politicians and concentrate on tackling social inequality, say Leiden professor Leo Lucassen. Now that the dust has settled on the latest ‘refugee crisis’ the conclusion has to be that the predicted, sometimes apocalyptic, consequences have failed to materialise. Societies in Western Europe have not been disrupted and in Germany, the country which has taken in most refugees by far, most of the 1.2 million immigrants are in work. There are, of course,... More >


Respect democracy: it safeguards our prosperity

Respect democracy: it safeguards our prosperity

Democracy is the safeguard of prosperity. We tamper with it at our peril, warns Coen Teulings, professor of Economics, Institutions and Society at Utrecht University.  From Roman times until the 19th century the average standard of living remained virtually unchanged, and differences in prosperity between countries were minimal as well. We know this thanks to the work done by economic historians Paul Bairoch and Angus Maddison. Around 1830 the income in ‘the West’ (Western Europe, North America and Japan) was... More >



Judges should not lay down the law to politicians

Judges should not lay down the law to politicians

Judges laying down the law to politicians? It should not be allowed, says columnist Syp Wynia. Politicians are worried. Increasingly, the courts are telling them what to do. In the normal course of things, MPs make laws and ministers and junior ministers carry them out. The courts step in when people break these laws. It no longer works like that. Last year the judges of the Council of State decided that Dutch nitrogen emissions policy does not comply with European... More >


As the population grows, we need more labour migrants, not fewer

As the population grows, we need more labour migrants, not fewer

Immigration might be a hot topic at the moment but the Netherlands should limit labour migration at its peril, warns economist Mathijs Bouman. Do you sometimes get the feeling there’s not enough elbow room in the Netherlands? If the national statistics office CBS is right, it will only get more crowded in the next 30 years. There are currently some 17.4 million people living in this country. By 2050 that number will have gone up to 19.3 million. It’s a... More >


Wynia’s Week: Politics is not fragmenting but consolidating

Wynia’s Week: Politics is not fragmenting but consolidating

It’s not that long ago that we had political parties on the right and political parties on the left. In 2020 we seem have a consolidation of parties in the middle and the rest are kept on the fringes, says columnist Syp Wynia.   It’s become common among politicians in the last few years to characterise all parties which have governed at one time or another, or which are considered eligible to take up that responsibility, as occupying ‘the middle... More >


The government has declared war on the self-employed

The government has declared war on the self-employed

The government has declared war on the self-employed, says freelance writer and translator Natasha Cloutier. On Thursday, a long-awaited report commissioned by the Dutch government on the future of the labour market has basically stated that the Netherlands’ 1.3 million self-employed need to be eliminated from the workforce. Many freelance jobs such as the healthcare professional who provides elderly care based on a personalised budget or a musician playing alongside employee-colleagues in an orchestra would therefore no longer be able... More >


A room with no view at all? How not to find a home in Amsterdam

A room with no view at all? How not to find a home in Amsterdam

The experiences of a young Brexit escapee trying to find a place to live in Amsterdam have proved quite an eye-opener. When your own offspring have flown the nest, the rooms they have left behind collect all manner of waifs and strays who need a place to stay. The longest was with us for almost a year while she found her feet after 15 years away from the Netherlands, but most stay a few days while they InterRail around Europe... More >


Media and politicians, get over your pessimism about integration

Media and politicians, get over your pessimism about integration

It’s time for the media and politicians to overcome their pessimism about integration, says Leiden professor Leo Lucassen. Twenty years ago the Netherlands witnessed the rise of Pim Fortuyn. In the wake of his death on May 6 2002, his party Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) scored 26 seats in the elections. Many were taken completely by surprise by the massive win and the social discontent about immigration and integration that was at the bottom of it. Journalists and commentators, as... More >