Monday 22 July 2019

Opinion pieces, columns and insights into Dutch news and current affairs from key commentators

Impotent ministers, impotent MPs and impotent voters: Wynia’s week

Impotent ministers, impotent MPs and impotent voters: Wynia’s week

In the Netherlands governments govern as if elections and even new cabinets are just by the by. It’s diversity and sustainability galore and anyone who dares criticise Brussels is a populist. Where can a voter find refuge these days? asks Syp Wynia. Who wouldn’t want to be a minister? A nice, chauffeur-driven car, a ministry at your beck and call and a weekly outing to the Trêveszaal, the most beautiful place for a parliamentary get-together ever. But does a minister... More >


Dutch climate agreement flawed, cabinet must do better

Dutch climate agreement flawed, cabinet must do better

Economists Willem Vermeend and Rick van der Ploeg say a carbon tax is inevitable to save a flawed climate agreement. In December 2015 195 countries and the EU signed up to the Paris climate agreement, committing themselves to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century compared to 1990 levels. To achieve this the global net total of emissions of greenhouse gases, and carbon dioxide in particular, would have to be practically zero... More >


Wynia’s Week: The pope, the bishop and sister Urgenda

Wynia’s Week: The pope, the bishop and sister Urgenda

Climate change in the Netherlands has become a matter of faith, says columnist Syp Wynia. Forum, the magazine of business lobbyists VNO-NCW, published an interview with Alliander energy boss Ingrid Thijssen recently. As Alliander provides a third of the Netherlands with gas and electricity you would be right to expect the interview to focus on this activity but no, its themes were guilt and atonement. Ingrid Thijssen personifies the way the Netherlands looks at gas and electricity: not as energy... More >


Wynia’s Week: Klaas Dijkhoff’s yellow vest is losing its lustre

Wynia’s Week: Klaas Dijkhoff’s yellow vest is losing its lustre

VVD stalwart Klaas Dijkhoff told the Telegraaf newspaper this weekend that he could not support the cabinet’s climate agreement which was sealed at the end of last year. Despite the apparent split, Columnist Syp Wynia does not believe the coalition is in trouble. Klaas Dijkhoff, who leads the VVD in parliament, opened election year 2019 by launching a broadside on climate change ‘moaners’, including coalition partner D66’s Rob Jetten. Dijkhoff told the Telegraaf he did not feel bound by the... More >


The Netherlands not too small to make big climate effort: D66

The Netherlands not too small to make big climate effort: D66

With just 11 years to halve CO2 emissions, the draft climate agreement presented on the threshold of 2019 came not a day too soon. But defeatism is rearing its ugly head, says D66 parliamentary party leader Rob Jetten. The recent agreement bore all the hallmarks of Dutch ‘poldering’. There is no country in the world that includes so many parties and interests in the quest for a broad consensus. Hundreds of experts, social organisations, unions, and energy companies gathered around... More >


Nijntje is Miffy, not Fluffy and she’s also a statue in Des Moines

Nijntje is Miffy, not Fluffy and she’s also a statue in Des Moines

What do you do if you have been sent to live in the Netherlands as a trailing husband for six months, while your wife works in a high powered job? Visiting columnist Joe Weeg has been exploring his neighbourhood. Part 2: Miffy Henriette Priester is helping me learn Dutch during my stay in the Netherlands. Not such a big deal, one would think. I figured that with the right motivation and a little time I could learn just about any... More >


‘The threat to Dutch in higher education is no idle chitchat’

‘The threat to Dutch in higher education is no idle chitchat’

In the garden of higher education, Dutch is being weeded out. It’s alarming that the education minister seems oblivious to the demise of Dutch in higher education, say Annette de Groot, Erik Jurgens, Jean Pierre Rawie and Ad Verbrugge. The language policy of education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven is like a garden where English is allowed to bloom unhindered while Dutch is withering on the vine. In a recent radio-interview with journalist Frits Spits the increasing influence of English in... More >


Parents, are you as bad at Sinterklaas as I am?

Parents, are you as bad at Sinterklaas as I am?

So, Sinterklaas is back in the Netherlands and the count-down to December 5 is well and truly underway. After numerous debacles, Deborah Nicholls-Lee thinks she’s got the hang of celebrating Sinterklaas with her kids. But has she? When the pepernoten appear in Dutch stores at the end of the summer, I usually chime in with the moaning. Not this year. Succeeding during Sinterklaas is all about preparation. I know this from experience: last year was a shambles. The intocht (Sint’s... More >


Citizens’ rights should be guaranteed, regardless of Brexit

Citizens’ rights should be guaranteed, regardless of Brexit

European leaders should guarantee the rights of British and Dutch nationals alike ahead of Brexit, say D66 MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld and MP Kees Verhoeven. The spectre of failed Brexit negotiations between the EU and Britain means that the status of millions of people at risk. Will they be unceremoniously kicked out of the country between now and a year’s time? Can they keep their jobs? It is high time assurances were put in place for these people now that... More >


The social partners have done talking, time for politicians to take action

The social partners have done talking, time for politicians to take action

The social partners have mulled over all the main issues in the government accord. So now it’s time for the government to take decisive action, says economist Mathijs Boumans. In March 2017 we went to the polls. In October, following the longest formation period in history, we had a cabinet. We are now a year into a new government but we are still not really being governed. Voters have no idea where the country is headed. Of course there is... More >


Universities partly blamed for downturn in Dutch as a language degree

Universities partly blamed for downturn in Dutch as a language degree

Dutch is no longer a popular choice for prospective students but universities are partly to blame, says Lotte Jensen, professor of Dutch cultural and literary history at Radboud University in Nijmegen. In recent weeks newspapers have been reporting on the alarming decline in the number of young people opting to study Dutch at university level. It is a worrying development which, if the trend continues, could land Dutch in the department of minority foreign languages. There are several reasons why... More >


ING takes the money and the biscuit, says VVD MP

ING takes the money and the biscuit, says VVD MP

Society has nothing to apologise for but ING does, says VVD MP Roald van der Linde, who is the party’s financial markets spokesman in parliament. ‘It’s MPs who are fuelling public mistrust,’ said Henk Breukink, a member of the supervisory board at ING, in a recent opinion piece in the Financieele Dagblad. When I read this I nearly fell off my chair and I don’t think I can have been the only one. For years ING has looked the other... More >


Glass ceiling? It’s a sticky workfloor that makes women stay put

Glass ceiling? It’s a sticky workfloor that makes women stay put

It’s not the glass ceiling that keeps women from the top positions but the sticky workfloor of part-time jobs, says Barbara Baarsma, director of knowledge development at Rabobank and economics professor at the University of Amsterdam. If, like me, you think quota are a paternalistic panacea for the lack of women in top executive positions, you are duty-bound to monitor the labour market for women with an eagle eye. Unfortunately, the last 15 years do not make for happy viewing.... More >


How much more in your pocket? Down with purchasing power predictions!

How much more in your pocket? Down with purchasing power predictions!

There they are again: the spending power predictions. Don’t you believe them, says economist Mathijs Bouman. Crack open the beer, we’re having a party. Next year spending power is up by 1.5%. For a while it looked as if the meter would get stuck at 1.3% but in an ultimate pre-budget day effort the government cranked it up by means of a number of measures. What these measures are we do not know – I’m guessing it will be something... More >


Staffing agency exploitation is the other side of the benefit fraud scandal

Staffing agency exploitation is the other side of the benefit fraud scandal

Last week, the Dutch media was full of a new scandal, which they dubbed ‘the Polish fraud’. But the expose only covered part of the story, and the real scandal is going unmentioned, says Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska, editor of Polonia.nl. Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees wants to come down hard on Polish fraudsters, who are claiming unemployment benefit while living back home in Poland.  He is, of course, totally justified in doing so, but in essence it is not enough. Why?... More >


Enough of out-of-court settlements, put bankers in the dock

Enough of out-of-court settlements, put bankers in the dock

Banks that settle scandals out of court continue in their wicked ways. Instead, they should be hauled before a judge so justice is seen to be done, says economist Mathijs Bouman. But Mr Hamers, how do you explain the fact that your own computer system was programmed deliberately to limit alarm signals over possible money laundering practices to three times a day? The public prosecutor gazes at the ING boss Ralph Hamers for a long time before adding: ‘And how... More >


‘Dutch people with different backgrounds are no longer timid newcomers’

‘Dutch people with different backgrounds are no longer timid newcomers’

The Netherlands is a pretty stable, well-integrated and prosperous country. So why do the white Dutch talk about the failed multi-cultural society? asks journalist and writer Hassnae Bouazza. The media and politicians have been banging on about it for over twenty years: the multicultural society has failed and we are living a multicultural nightmare. I have never understood the failed-multicultural-society mantra. You might as well say the sun has failed. The multicultural society is a fact and that’s it. Like... More >


How many people in uniform does it take to rescue a dead duck?

How many people in uniform does it take to rescue a dead duck?

How many people in uniform does it take to kill a duckling? In the case of the duckling born on top of a five-floor block in Amsterdam west, the answer is 13 – which was certainly unlucky for the bird itself. It all began when a neighbour alerted the animal ambulance people to the presence of a female mallard and one tiny duckling, which were stuck on the parapet, 20 metres up above a street in the 19th century zone.... More >


If salary shaming doesn’t work what will curb executive pay?

If salary shaming doesn’t work what will curb executive pay?

If salary shaming does not limit excessive executive pay, a link with workers’ pay will, write social psychologist Naomi Ellemers (Universiteit Utrecht) and organisational sociologist Rafael Wittek ­(Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) Executive pay levels at large companies frequently prove controversial. ING, Van Lanschot and Unilever have all come in for criticism recently for what is perceived to be the excessive remuneration of their CEOs. Perspectives on the subject vary. Politicians, concerned with public accountability, rely on the embarrassing effect of transparency. If top... More >


Column: Stef Blok backtracks but the damage has been done

Column: Stef Blok backtracks but the damage has been done

What will be the ramifications of foreign minister Stef Blok’s comments on the multicultural society, asks Arend Jan Boekestijn, a former VVD MP and lecturer in international relations at Utrecht University A safe pair of hands, that is the image Stef Blok projected in the wake of the ludicrous and ego-inspired dacha affair which scuppered his predecessor Halbe Zijlstra’s career at the foreign office. A smaller ego was required and when Edith Schippers refused, Blok, after being wooed for some... More >