Wednesday 20 November 2019

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.

Let’s learn from history, both good and bad

Let’s learn from history, both good and bad

History’s saints as well as its villains carry lessons for the present, writes historian Tineke Bennema. I could see where Urk city council was coming from when it decided to name some of the town’s new streets after discredited sea heroes such as Michiel de Ruyter and Jan Pieterszoon Coen. I believe Urk didn’t do this to stir up controversy but to show that the history of human beings is not a blank slate but a product of the past.... More >


Farewell Facebook, you and I are through!

Farewell Facebook, you and I are through!

Economist Mathijs Bouman has said goodbye and good riddance to Facebook and he won’t be back (he hopes). I would like to start this column by offering my sincere apologies to all my friends. Bart Stoffels, Rineke Gieske-Mastenbroek: my apologies. A hearfelt sorry is also due to Witdietma Narain from Arnhem, Willem-Aart Hop from Spakenburg and of course Fokke Obbema from Amsterdam. Apologies too to Remco Dijkstra and Annette van Trigt. And even to Thierry Baudet who, to my surprise,... More >


Dutch agriculture is not a beacon of good farming practice to the world

Dutch agriculture is not a beacon of good farming practice to the world

Dutch agriculture has to become a lot less efficient or the environment will suffer even more, say agro-environmental scientists. Greater awareness among consumers and voters may make it happen. In an opinion piece in January, Volkskrant columnist Bert Wagendorp claimed most farmers simply can’t help being fraudsters when it comes to manure: it’s a national sport to hoodwink the authorities. We are not trying to make excuses but isn’t it also true that we are all responsible for the mess... More >


The Netherlands doesn’t need ‘the G4’ big cities to stay in business

The Netherlands doesn’t need ‘the G4’ big cities to stay in business

There is more to the Netherlands than four big cities with a few fields in between, says economist Mathijs Bouman. Amsterdam stands for Schiphol airport, HQs, and the creative sector. Rotterdam is synonymous with the port, trade, and hard graft. The Hague is the administrative capital and looks after international relations. Utrecht takes care of the business services. The Dutch economy is propelled by a four-cylinder motor: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Without a hint of irony they call... More >


Do-it-yourself: the wonderful world of having multiple jobs

Do-it-yourself: the wonderful world of having multiple jobs

Journalist may be her main profession, but bank clerk, travel agent, postman and bin woman could easily be included on her cv, writes DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe Not so long ago, the national statistics office CBS announced that the official Dutch unemployment rate had dipped under 5% – one of the lowest rates in Europe. The economic recovery is racing along, gross domestic product is forecast to hit 3.3% this year and the declining jobless total is one of the... More >


The arrival of the PVV and FvD in the cities is alarming, say D66 local leaders

The arrival of the PVV and FvD in the cities is alarming, say D66 local leaders

The PVV and Forum voor Democratie are making a bid for local power and that is a worrying development, say Reinier van Dantzig and Klaas Verschuure, who are leading the local election campaigns in Amsterdam and Utrecht. Terms like ‘head rag tax’, ‘arranging’ for ‘fewer, fewer, fewer Moroccans’ and ‘homeopathic dilution’ have so far largely come from the mouths of national politicians. But it was local Amsterdam FvD leader Annabel Nanninga who came up with the term ‘bobbing negroes’ for... More >


Dutch case over Britons’ EU rights could have profound consequences

Dutch case over Britons’ EU rights could have profound consequences

Next week, five British nationals living in the Netherlands will hear if their bid to keep European citizenship after Brexit will be referred to the European court. London barrister Jolyon Maugham QC, who is funding the legal action, says if they win, it will have profound consequences. The Conservative manifesto of 2015 promised to scrap the rules barring those who had lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting. Still, long-term British expats were denied the chance to vote... More >


Don’t fear the robots or the foreigners, they will make us richer

Don’t fear the robots or the foreigners, they will make us richer

Robots and foreigners have been taking over Dutch jobs for 50 years – but more people than ever are working, says economist Mathijs Bouman. And the bottom line is, we are all getting richer because of it. In 1969 Jan Wolkers wrote Turkish Delight, the Beatles recorded Abbey Road and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Piet de Jong was our prime minister, ruling a country with a flourishing manufacturing industry. Of a working population of around 5.3 million, 1.3... More >


Christianity has fostered much in the way of scientific progress

Christianity has fostered much in the way of scientific progress

Science and faith are not on the opposite side of the fence and Christians are responsible for many scientific breakthroughs, says Rob Mutsaerts, the auxiliary bishop of the diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch. Richard Dawkins, advocate of scientific and rational thought, is calling on everyone, and  people of faith in particular, to think for themselves. People who believe in God do not think for themselves, he claims, and are cowardly and lazy to boot. Perhaps this is a good time to... More >


Forum voor Democratie’s focus on race is damaging, says D66 MP

Forum voor Democratie’s focus on race is damaging, says D66 MP

D66 MP Jan Paternotte calls the Forum voor Democratie’s focus on race ‘damaging’ and challenges its MPs to face opposition where it can be heard: in a public debate in parliament. ‘Hiddema didn’t say anything wrong, silly Jan Paternotte’. That is how columnist Theodor Holman ended a passionate defence of Forum voor Democratie MP Theo Hiddema in his column in the Parool. This was the same Hiddema who, during a parliamentary debate spoke of a ‘proud, noble negro’ who, he... More >


‘We want British citizens in NL to continue to live as they do now’

‘We want British citizens in NL to continue to live as they do now’

With European leaders due to meet in Brussels next month, the time is right to press on with negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, says  ambassador Peter Wilson says in an open letter to British nationals in the Netherlands. On 14 and 15 December the leaders of the European Union member states will meet in Brussels for the December gathering of the European Council.  The council comes together after months of talks which have generated a huge... More >


Amsterdammers moan about the arrival of the EMA (but then they would)

Amsterdammers moan about the arrival of the EMA (but then they would)

Macro-economist Mathijs Bouman looks at the reactions of the inhabitants of the Dutch capital to the news that the European Medicines Agency will move to Amsterdam.  And of course, he says, they are moaning about it. It’s party time in Amsterdam. Wouter Bos has pulled it off. Not until the last round, mind you, and thanks to the luck of the Amsterdammers but mostly because of a clever and intensive lobby which made sure the capital was a contender at... More >


Give everyone the opportunity to learn about Anne Frank

Give everyone the opportunity to learn about Anne Frank

Hardly a day has gone by in recent weeks without Anne Frank cropping up in the news. What is going on? asks Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House. Football fans used her photo for an antisemitic provocation of their opponents, American stores were offering an Anne Frank costume for Halloween, the German railway company wanted to name a train after her, and there was an outcry – including threats of legal action – in connection with a... More >


Dear Mr Mayor, I am so grateful for what you did for me and my son

Dear Mr Mayor, I am so grateful for what you did for me and my son

Amsterdammer Somaye Dehban remembers Amsterdam’s mayor Eberhard van der Laan and the impact he has had on her life and family. I am an Amsterdammer who was truly affected by the news of your illness like many others, even the ones who have met you for a brief moment. I am writing you this letter because I want you to know how grateful and appreciative I am for what you have done for me and my family – specifically my... More >


The new Dutch ministerial line-up should aim for 50% women

The new Dutch ministerial line-up should aim for 50% women

  The coalition talks are nearing completion after a record-breaking period of negotiation. It is also about time the Netherlands had a cabinet made up of an equal number of men and women, says Marije Cornelissen, the director of UN Women Netherlands. Two years ago Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau presented his new government to the press. Asked by a journalist why half of his cabinet was made up of women Trudeau paused a few seconds and said: ‘Because it’s... More >


The Netherlands: a tale of two governments

The Netherlands: a tale of two governments

The longer the process to form a new coalition takes place, the more the Netherlands is becoming a country run by two governments with a shared prime minister, writes Gordon Darroch During the 1950s the Netherlands was famous for having two foreign ministers. When asked to explain this curious situation, one of them, Joseph Luns, is said to have quipped: Als klein land heeft Nederland heel veel buitenland. (‘As a small country, the Netherlands has a great deal of foreign... More >


Dutch national identity goes further than singing the Wilhelmus

Dutch national identity goes further than singing the Wilhelmus

National identity is about more than the national anthem, writes Kim Putters, head of the government’s social policy advisory body SCP. This summer the search for what constitutes the Dutch identity took centre stage once again. A rumour about including the national anthem in the school curriculum as part of the next government’s policy programme got tongues wagging. Opponents responded by protesting that the Dutch colonial past should be given more priority. It never ceases to amaze me how any discussion about... More >


How to go Dutch: the final installment, as those crucial envelopes arrive

How to go Dutch: the final installment, as those crucial envelopes arrive

Six years ago Molly Quell moved to the Netherlands with her husband, an academic, for a short-term project. Now she’s a divorcee, has fallen in love with a Dutch guy and finds herself in the unexpected position of having to integrate. Read the first, second, third and fourth parts of her series. I was working from home on the day the letter arrived. I heard the familiar ka-chink as the post was pushed through the mailbox. I got up from... More >


Dozens of languages disappear, so why not ditch Dutch as well?

Dozens of languages disappear, so why not ditch Dutch as well?

Dozens of languages disappear every year, and English is taking over, so why not bite the bullet and wave bye bye to Dutch? suggests Leiden University professor of Chinese Linguistics Rint Sybesma. The English language takeover of Dutch higher education is creating all sorts of problems. We only need to look at the latest report on the subject. It’s doing the quality of our education no favours at all. The linguistic abilities of both teachers and students are failing to... More >


The Netherlands has an unhealthy obsession with statistics

The Netherlands has an unhealthy obsession with statistics

Rankings praising the Dutch health system abound in the media but what do the results really say about the Netherlands?, asks DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe. If you read the Dutch press, it cannot have escaped your attention that not so long ago the Dutch health service was again ranked one of the best in the world. We foreigners may moan about over-inquisitive receptionists when visiting our family doctor and the fondness for paracetamol, but in terms of our health we... More >