Tuesday 01 December 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.

‘Indifference and ignorance are destroying small theatre venues’

‘Indifference and ignorance are destroying small theatre venues’

The government’s approach to helping the cultural sector through the coronavirus pandemic is sorely lacking, writes comedian Sanne Wallis de Vries. This article was really meant to be an explanation of why small theatres are so important in this country. But the very few words our prime minister Mark Rutte dedicates to art and culture during his press conferences have forced me to address him personally. I may use a small whip to bring the message home. I will begin... More >


Artificial Intelligence in the EU: balancing benefit and control

Artificial Intelligence in the EU: balancing benefit and control

When the president of the European Commission made her first speech to the European Parliament in December 2019, she officially recognised Artificial Intelligence as an area of strategic importance for the European Union. Nine months later, addressing once again the European Parliament in her maiden State of the Union speech”, she had moved from spelling out Artificial Intelligence to talking in terms of ‘AI’ – so well-known is the technology within the EU bubble now. This is not so surprising... More >


Euthanasia for people with dementia remains a minefield

Euthanasia for people with dementia remains a minefield

Granting people with dementia the right to ask for euthanasia when they are still capable of making the decision will free doctors from the task of taking the decision for them, says Klaas Rozemond, associate professor of criminal law at Amsterdam’s VU University. Once again, a medical disciplinary board has said the actions of a doctor involved in the euthanasia of a patient with dementia were negligent. On August 17 the Amsterdam disciplinary board decided that a doctor who works... More >


A tax cut for new home owners? First-time buyers should not start celebrating yet

A tax cut for new home owners? First-time buyers should not start celebrating yet

First-time buyers have been having a hard time of it of late, but they should not start celebrating the recent budget tax cut just yet, writes José de Boer, of financial consultants FVB De Boer. Last month the government published its 2021 spending plans which, at first sight, contained some good news for first-time buyers. Ministers have decided to scrap the transfer tax – overdrachtsbelasting – that everyone buying a home has to pay over the cost of the property.... More >


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 >