Monday 22 July 2019

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

A G&T please, but hold the ice and all the rest of the trimmings

A G&T please, but hold the ice and all the rest of the trimmings

One of the great pleasures of summer in the Netherlands is sitting in the evening sun on a cafe terrace watching the world go by with a nice G&T, writes DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe. Gin and tonics have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The Gordons in its dark green bottle was a permanent fixture in my parents’ drinks cabinet and the tonic was Sssh you know who Schweppes, without exception. As a... More >


The Dutch Turkish community must speak out about the anti-Gülen violence

The Dutch Turkish community must speak out about the anti-Gülen violence

Labour MP Ahmed Marcouch calls on Turkish-Dutch organisations to speak out about violence and intimidation and to build bridges instead. There’s a silence and it’s hurting my ears. It’s the silence that surrounds the violence against the Gülen supporters. What happened to the organisations normally so quick to ask for protection against intolerance? Where are the political parties who recently demanded protection for all mosques when one was attacked in Deventer? Now that Gülen supporter buildings are being targeted in... More >


How to go Dutch: I can chat to the supermarket check-out girl but not about politics

How to go Dutch: I can chat to the supermarket check-out girl but not about politics

Five years ago, Molly Quell moved to the Netherlands as the wife of an academic for a short term project.. Now she’s single, has fallen in love with the country and finds herself in the unexpected position of having to integrate. You can read the first part of her series here. You know how there’s always that kid who sits in the front of the class, always does the extra credit and is generally an annoying suck up? That was... More >


The Dutch economy is relatively crisis-proof

The Dutch economy is relatively crisis-proof

The gloom merchants were wrong: the Dutch economy did better than expected, writes economist Mathijs Bouman. At national statistics office CBS they work with a pencil in one hand and an eraser in the other. They meticulously enter the economic growth figures in their note books only to start adding and subtracting all over again. The old figures are erased and a new set is pencilled in ready to be erased again until, at long last, the figures are entered... More >


Through teenage eyes: Dutch school pupils shine in writing competition

Through teenage eyes: Dutch school pupils shine in writing competition

Every year, the Netherlands-England Society (Genootschap Nederland-Engeland) organises a writing and a public speaking competition for Dutch secondary school pupils who don’t speak English as their native language. Here are this year’s three GNE writing award winners, who had to write a column of no more than 500 words on one of six different topics. First prize winner: Joris Bergman, Metameer in Stevensbeek (18) Looking Through a Different Window Topic: These are the best of times, these are the worst... More >


It’s time for a new social contract, says a former Dutch union boss

It’s time for a new social contract, says a former Dutch union boss

The gap between the employed and the unemployed is growing and this division will cause serious problems for society. It’s time for a new social contract, writes former CNV union boss Doekle Terpstra. The unemployment rate is down but not in a way that might be called significant. The CBS calculated that in April some 2,000 people found work. The total unemployment figure now stands at 6.4%, or 572,000. The economy is recovering but unemployment is still at double the... More >


Racism, says Sylvana Simons, is like being touched up

Racism, says Sylvana Simons, is like being touched up

Television presenter Sylvana Simons caused a media storm when she announced she was getting involved in politics. She talks to Senay Boztas about why people would rather see her dance than hear about the dark side of colonial history, and why she believes the Netherlands is suffering a crisis of racism. ‘Somebody touches you as a woman. You say, “oh, I don’t like that”, and the guy says, “I was just trying to be nice”. People deal with racism in... More >


Health warning: the government’s smoking policy kills

Health warning: the government’s smoking policy kills

Smoking kills but vote-hungry politicians are failing to act, write psychology professor emeritus Frits van Dam and lung specialist Wanda de Kanter. May 31 is another World No Tobacco Day, the United Nations’ cri de coeur against smoking. Almost a quarter of people over 15 in the Netherlands smoke. Half their number, over 20,000 people, will die of smoking-related illnesses. Public health director-general Angelique Berg agrees that smoking should be actively discouraged but her plan – scary pictures on packaging... More >


Unions and employers see soft landing on a downy pension pillow

Unions and employers see soft landing on a downy pension pillow

Trust the employers and unions to come up with a complicated and opaque new pension plan, writes economist Mathijs Bouman. The Sociaal Economische Raad (a senior government advisory body made up of unions, employers and lay members) is laying out a soft pillow filled with the downiest of goose down sown up in a sturdy cotton pillow case. It’s  there to cushion the fall for every unfortunate generation whose luck on the stock exchange has run out. Who fills this... More >


How moderate right-wingers have become ‘extremist’ europhiles

How moderate right-wingers have become ‘extremist’ europhiles

Economist Mathijs Bouman charts the journey from being a moderate right-winger to an extremist europhile. You think that free trade is a good starting point for economic diplomacy, preferably via multilateral free trade agreements, or if that can’t be done via bilateral agreements. You think close cooperation with the US is a no-brainer. Naturally, some hard nuts will have to be cracked at the negotiating table but then a mutually advantageous free trade accord should be in the bag. You... More >


The TTIP is bad for agriculture and environment

The TTIP is bad for agriculture and environment

Representatives of the farming unions, livestock farmers’ associations and environmental groups don’t often agree, but all think the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership should be stopped. The European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are in negotiations about a free trade agreement (TTIP). This is happening behind closed doors, and the precise contents of the agreement have not been made public. But farmers and livestock farmers know enough for the alarm bells to go off: the TTIP will flood... More >


Ebru Umar’s wretched columns are a small price to pay for press freedom

Ebru Umar’s wretched columns are a small price to pay for press freedom

As a ‘shock columnist’ who likes hurling playground insults, Ebru Umar is no fearless martyr to the free word in the mould of Vaclav Havel, writes Gordon Darroch. Ebru Umar might be a fool but we still have to fight for her. The Dutch Metro columnist’s holiday in the Turkish resort of Kusadasi has been indefinitely extended while police decide whether to charge her with insulting the country’s president on Twitter. She appears to be bearing it bravely: she’s tweeted... More >


Is a university campus prayer room any different to providing a bar?

Is a university campus prayer room any different to providing a bar?

Universities provide bars, yoga classes and gyms on their campuses, so why not places where students of every religion can go to pray? asks Molly Quell. Last week, Delta, the Delft University of Technology magazine, reported that the university was investigating how to provide silent rooms on campus. The same week, the AD reported that students in The Hague had requested a prayer room. Judging from the reaction in the media, you could have mistakenly thought Muslim students at these... More >


Long read: Why we should give free money to everyone

Long read: Why we should give free money to everyone

We tend to think that simply giving people money makes them lazy. Yet a wealth of scientific research shows the contrary: free money helps lift people out of poverty. The time has come for a radical reform of the welfare state, writes Dutch author Rutger Bregman. London, May 2009—An experiment is underway. Its subjects: 13 homeless men. They are veterans of the street. Some have been sleeping on the cold pavement of the Square Mile, Europe’s financial centre, for going... More >


The Ukraine referendum was a thrashing the government deserved

The Ukraine referendum was a thrashing the government deserved

The government and Brussels may have deserved the thrashing they got on referendum day but the results are a wake-up call for ministers and voters, say economists Rick van der Ploeg and Willem Vermeend. There are only a few countries in the world where an advisory or binding referendum is part of the democratic tool box. It is generally thought to have too many disadvantages, reason why most have chosen a democratic system in which chosen representatives and administrators take... More >


We’re in the money: how will political parties spend €27bn?

We’re in the money: how will political parties spend €27bn?

According to the CPB, it looks like the political parties can actually afford to go on a spending spree, writes Mathijs Bouman. The macro-economic think tank traditionally analyses party manifestos in the run up to the general election. Every time the CPB analyses election programmes, politicians grumble. But this year their grumble has turned into a wail. Ahead of the national elections in 2017, CDA, Labour and D66 have publicly vented their unwillingness to participate in this uniquely Dutch tradition.... More >


The Ukraine referendum is cynical, manipulative and one we should boycott

The Ukraine referendum is cynical, manipulative and one we should boycott

The Ukraine referendum is cynical, manipulative and all about fake democracy – so not something we should be voting in, writes DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe. Tomorrow (April 6) the Dutch will be able to vote in a referendum on the EU’s treaty of association with Ukraine. The vote is only open to Dutch nationals and the result of the referendum is only advisory – and it won’t have any official weight unless 30% of the electorate turn out. The Netherlands... More >


The lost years: the state has failed to combat terrorism

The lost years: the state has failed to combat terrorism

The state has failed to come up with a convincing counterstory to terrorism, says professor of jurisprudence Paul Cliteur. Perhaps one of the most remarkable facts to emerge from the confusion surrounding the attacks in Brussels is that very few people regard this as a failure on the part of the state. But that’s exactly what it is, isn’t it? Why else do we have states? A state is an organisation which purports to protect its citizens from each other... More >


Dutch elite forfeits moral leadership (but hangs on to its second homes)

Dutch elite forfeits moral leadership (but hangs on to its second homes)

The Dutch elite has lost its moral leadership, writes political scientist Meindert Fennema. In an interview with writer and historian Geert Mak in Belgian newspaper De Standaard, the interviewer refers to the fact that in 1956 Geert’s father took in Hungarian refugees. Geert says he has fond memories of those refugees. The interviewer then asks him if he would do the same for Syrian refugees. ‘Well,’ Geert says, ‘my father did have quite a big house.’ And hesitantly he adds,... More >


Shortage of programmers and engineers will push up wages

Shortage of programmers and engineers will push up wages

Economist Mathijs Bouman thinks programmers and otherwise talented folk will push up the average wage. The Netherlands has two million unemployed, many more than the official tally of 600,000, according to a recent report from the Dutch central bank. It’s a labour surplus which will put any thoughts of big pay increases a long way into the future, even if the economy is showing signs of recovery, the bank opined. Really? The bank seems to be awfully sure of itself.... More >