Amsterdam council votes to apologise for slave-trading past

Amsterdam is likely to be the first Dutch city to formally apologise for its role in the slave trade after a majority of councillors backed the move. Seven parties holding 31 of the 45 council seats voted on Monday to offer the city's apologies at next year's Keti Koti, the annual commemoration of slavery, on July 1. Don Ceder, of the ChristenUnie group, said: 'This should have happened much earlier,' while Dehlia Timman of D66 described the vote as 'a historic moment'. The other parties supporting the move were GroenLinks, PvdA, SP, Bij1 and Denk. Rutger Groot Wassink, Amsterdam's alderman for social affairs and diversity, said the council's officials would honour the decision, but added that the next year should be spent researching the city's slave-owning past. 'If you're going to apologise, you need to know exactly what for,' he told Het Parool. Former minister for integration Roger van Boxtel expressed 'deep regret, tending towards remorse' for the slave trade in a statement in 2001, but stopped short of saying sorry. Rotterdam's mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said in 2018 that the government should apologise, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Amsterdam held a one-third stake in the Society of Suriname, which established and ran the trade in the South American colony for a century. Leiden University historian Karwan Fatah-Black, who recently published a book on the subject, said: 'The council played a prominent role in the history of slavery.'  More >

MPs divided over hard rock concert invite

An invite to five MPs to a performance by German hard rock bank Rammstein highlights opposing attitudes within parliament to freebies, the AD reported on Wednesday. Rotterdam city council has invited five MPs known for their love of heavy metal music to watch the show from the city's 16-seater skybox at the Kuip football stadium next week. if they accept the tickets, they will have to be recorded in the official register, and three MPs say they can't justify a concert as a parliamentary event. 'I've never been more fed up having to turn down an invitation,' GroenLinks MP Lisa Westerveld told the paper. 'Rammstein is my type of music, but there does need to be a reason to accept such a gift, and I can't come up with one.' Esther Ouwehand of the pro-animal PvdD has also turned down the ticket, saying she has a rule of always buying her own. Socialist party MP Peter Kwint, who has a Whatsapp group with Westerveld and Ouwehand to share hard rock music tips, says he tried to buy a ticket for the show before the invitation came from Rotterdam. But he too has turned down the invite, he told radio station Kink, because there is no 'programme' to justify his attendance. Sold out On the other side of the political spectrum, Christian Democrat Rene Peters has accepted the Rotterdam invite, after seeing Metallica last week at his own expense. And VVD MP Martin Worsdorfer, who had also tried to buy a ticket for the sold out German band's performance, had no hesitation in taking up the offer either. The ticket will be included in the register of MPs gifts and, he said, he will also do some networking before and after the show.  More >

Islamic college banned from issuing grades

An Islamic further education college has been stripped of its title and been barred from awarding grades to its students by education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven. Van Engelshoven was responding to a report by the education inspectorate into management and financial problems at the Europe Islamic University of Applied Sciences (EIUAS) in Rotterdam. The fraud investigation service FIOD launched an inquiry into the college's fundraising activities in 2016, which was followed by a review by the education department of the effect of fraud on the school's operation. Inspectors concluded that the college's board was unable to provide complete accounts for several years and had set its budget at an unrealistic level. The school was placed under extra supervision, but inspectors twice said its situation had not improved. In November Van Engelshoven gave the EIUAS three months' notice to guarantee its financial and administrative continuity or face closure. She warned that the financial problems were so severe that its status as a place of learning was in doubt. The college has been declared bankrupt and no classes have been taught since February. It will now have to reapply for the right to award grades to students who enrol for its masters course in Islamic Spiritual Counselling. The institution has no formal connections to the Islamic University of Applied Sciences Rotterdam. The development came just days after another Islamic centre of learning, the Cornelis Haga Lyceum in Amsterdam, sought an injunction against the Dutch state to block publication of a report by education inspectors. The lawyer for the school, Wouter Pors, said the report should not be published 'in its current form'. Dutch media reported that the inspectors had given the school a 'fail' rating. The AIVD security service claimed in a recent report that Amsterdam's only Islamic secondary school was dominated by 'Salafist' influences and a controversial British imam, Haitham al-Haddid had held secret meetings on campus. It also said that the head of the school and his brother donated money to a Chechen terrorist organisation. The school has denied that its curriculum is influenced by fundamentalism and said four Salafists who visited the school had no contact with its pupils.  More >

Bill for jobless aldermen tops €126m

Dutch local councils have spent €126m over the past five years on special unemployment benefits for former aldermen, according to research by current affairs show EenVandaag. In total, 1,500 aldermen received the civil service benefit known as wachtgeld after losing their jobs when councils changed political colour or because they were not reappointed. Lelystad, with a total bill of €1.8m, topped the list of big payers, the research, involving 297 councils, found. In 10 local authority areas no benefits were paid out at all. Oude IJsselstreek and Eindhoven also had bills of over €1m. The biggest payout - €510,000 - went to a former alderman from Capelle aan den IJssel. The aldermen's association Wethoudersvereneging said it is concerned that employers are reluctant to take on people who have served as local council officials because of fears they can no longer accept not being in a position of authority. But it cautioned against calls to cut the benefit, arguing that would make the role of alderman less attractive. Aldermen who lose their jobs are entitled to 80% of their salary for one year. Subsequent payments, which can last several years, are made at 70% rate. Former aldermen who get a lower-paid job can also claim top-up benefits.  More >

'Road pricing fairer to motorists'

The ruling right-wing VVD is looking into the option of introducing some form of road pricing in the Netherlands, and could include the option in its manifesto for the 2021 general election, parliamentary party leader Klaas Dijkhof has said. Road pricing would be a new way of taxing motoring, given so many people are switching to electric-powered cars, Dijkhof told podcast Betrouwbare Bronnen. At the moment, 'the more you drive the more you pay,' Dijkhof said. 'If you can't raise taxes via the petrol pump, we need to think how we can do it,' he told the programme. 'You need to find a way to make sure electric car owners pay their fair share.' Earlier this week, road pricing was part of a package of measures to cut pollution and car usage proposed by an alliance of motoring and public transport organisations. 'We are aiming for 2024 as the start of a road pricing scheme which will cover everyone, not just in rush hour,' Steven van Eijck, chairman of the Rai motoring organisation, told the Telegraaf. In January, the Volkskrant published a survey showing there is growing support in the Netherlands for some form of road pricing, through which motorists pay a tax on every kilometre they drive. In 2009 the then transport minister Camiel Eurlings dropped plans to introduce road pricing from 2011 because it would be too complex and would cost too much to run.  More >