Defence spending to be stepped up, more tanks and F-35 jets

Ministers have pledged to set aside more money for the defence ministry in line with Nato agreements and that means buying more JSF fighter jets and tanks, the AD said on Friday afternoon. The detailed plan to boost spending on the armed forces will be unveiled when government publishes its spring statement next year, the defence ministry said in a statement. Nato has said all its member states should come up with a ‘believable plan’ outlining how they will meet the agreed threshhold of spending 2% of GDP on defence by 2024. Most European countries are far below the threshold – the Netherlands, for example, spends just 1.35% of GDP on defence, the AD said. Defence minister Ank Bijleveld said in an official statement that the plan shows that the cabinet takes the current threats seriously. 'The cabinet is committed to invest in defence,' she said. 'The Netherlands must take steps to remain a trustworthy ally.' The minister told the AD that it is still unclear how much extra money will be allocated to defence. Nor would she comment on how many extra JSFs – or F-35s as they are officially called – would be bought. ‘We will soon have two squadrons and Nato is asking for a third. That is 15 planes,’ she said. The Netherlands is currently committed to buying 37 of the fighter jets.. Broadcaster NOS said the government has five priorities to boost the armed forces. As well as buying more JSFs and tanks, ministers want to strengthen the elite special forces units, and boost cyber and information technology capacity.  More >

No-deal legislation plan undemocratic: MPs

The Dutch cabinet's emergency legislation which it will enact if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal gives the cabinet uncontrollable powers, most parties in parliament say. The legislation gives a minister the right to change or withdraw laws without parliamentary approval and without being put out to consultation to the Council of State. 'If something has to be sorted out quickly, parliament can meet on Saturday and it can be implemented on Monday,' CDA parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt told current affairs show Nieuwsuur.  'This emergency legislation has fewer guarantees than a calling for a state of emergency.' The cabinet has to change the proposed legislation, said D66 MP Kees Verhoeven. 'Brexit might be a unique situation but that does not mean you can bypass parliament. Haste and panic are the wrong reflexes.' And GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver has said the legislation 'is more appropriate to a dictatorship than a democracy'. However, VVD parliamentary party leader Klaas Dijkhoff said the concern is premature. 'This emergency law cannot come into effect without parliament,' he said. 'We need to strike a balance between proper preparation and being able to act in a targeted way. But we cannot predict everything, and sometimes parliament will have to lower its voice, if the situation demands it.' No deal Foreign affairs minister Stef Blok sent the emergency powers legislation to parliament last month as part of the preparations for a no-deal Brexit, which pundits say is becoming increasingly likely. He said at the time that the aim is to make sure that people can still travel to the UK without too many problems, and to deal with practical matters, such as the legality of a British driving licence in the Netherlands. 'The law gives the government the option to take emergency measures,' Blok said. 'Brexit is a completely new situation and a no deal Brexit may have far reaching consequences.' He will discuss the draft legislation with MPs in January.  More >

Travellers accuse mayors of discrimination

Travellers' groups have filed formal complaints against mayors in three provinces accusing them of discrimination by branding their communities as criminal organisations. Mayors in Limburg, Brabant and Zeeland wrote to home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren in October objecting to the cabinet's new policy on travellers' camps, claiming it would lead to more criminality. Ollongren drew up the new rules after the national Ombudsman and human rights watchdog CRM said local authorities that deliberately marginalised travelling communities through so-called "extinction policies" were breaking the law. Members of the Sinti, Roma and travelling communities have now filed formal complaints against local officials accusing them of polarisation, racism and discrimination. "Associating a type of living with criminality is against the law," spokeswoman Sabina Achterbergh told NOS. "We don't all want to be tarred with the same brush. Criminality exists in every section of the population."  More >

Climate accord hit by more divisions

Divisions within the coalition about reaching a national climate agreement threaten to derail plans to finalise the deal by December 21, the AD reported on Monday. The paper says the ruling VVD and CDA are particularly concerned about planned increases in the tax on gas and higher petrol prices, and says a deal is now unlikely to be reached before the Christmas break. Sources told the AD that the parties have submitted lists of critical questions to the five groups working on aspects of the agreement, which aims reduce CO2 emissions by 49% by 2030. The CDA, the paper says, is concerned that low income families will be hit unfairly by the increase in the tax on gas because they don't have enough money to put in extra insulation or to pay for a heat pump. At the same time, the VVD has doubts about plans to pay for subsidies on electric cars by raising petrol and diesel prices considerably, the paper said. However, the four coalition parties have reached agreement on closing the coal fired power station in Amsterdam within 18 months, five years earlier than planned, the paper said. Green groups Last week, the Volkskrant said the four environmental organisations involved in the government-instigated talks on combating climate change are threatening not to sign the final agreements. They say the agreements reached so far will not achieve the government’s target of cutting CO2 emissions by 49% by 2030, the green groups say. ‘If this is the final deal, then we will not sign,’ the paper quotes Greenpeace director Joris Thijssen as saying. Some 300 organisations and private individuals are involved in the five separate think-tanks looking at ways to stop climate change and cut carbon dioxide emissions. They cover mobility, electricity, industry, agriculture and the built environment.  More >

Me Too is an issue in parliament as well

A survey among parliamentary staff has shown that seven women have been subjected to sexually intimidating behaviour and that their complaints had been ‘100% badly handled,’ the NRC reported on Friday. The survey, conducted in a reaction to the MeToo movement, took place in September and comprised questions about workplace experiences, including some on sexual harassment. In total, 300 out of 415 civil servants participated in the survey which did not cover MPs or party workers. Five out of the seven cases involved a colleague or superior and two an ‘external’, which can mean anyone from a politician to a person visiting parliament. The exact nature of the abuse was not specified although the report said it mainly referred to touching and sexual innuendo. A further 33 workers complained about being threatened or aggression, 22 said they had been bullied and 18 had faced discrimination. ‘We know people find it difficult to report abuses and we see from the results that these complaints are badly handled,’ works council chairman Ton van der Zee told the paper. Parliamentary chairwoman Khadija Arib has said the results of the survey will be taken into account but has not specified any measures to be taken. Investigation A straw poll conducted by the paper shows political parties are not in a hurry to investigate the personal safety, sexual or otherwise, of their staff. Of the parties which promised to investigate possible sexual transgressions only GroenLinks has so far conducted and concluded a review. The other parties said they were either preparing a review or not conducting one at all. Two cases of alleged sexual intimidation made the headlines recently. One involved VVD MP Han ten Broeke who stepped down as a result of having had an ‘unequal’ relationship with a member of staff. The other concerned a GroenLinks member of staff who was fired for accosting an intern. From 2020 all ministries will be obliged by law to report breaches of personal integrity, the NRC said.  More >

MPs plan to cut alimony from 12 to 5 years

MPs are working on their own legislation to cut the number of years divorced couples have to pay alimony from 12 to five years. A majority of MPs back a reduction because, they say, too many people - usually men - are supporting exes who are quite able to work or who have sufficient income. The measure is also important to emphasise equality between men and women, MPs say. The new legislation, if it goes ahead, would come into effect in 2020 and would apply to all divorces from that date. There would, however, be exceptions for couples married for more than 15 years, for couples with children under the age of 12 and for partners nearing retirement age. The three Christian parties in parliament all oppose the measure. Kees van der Staaij, leader of the fundamentalist Protestant SGP, said the plan assumes that all women with children will go out to work full time. And ChristenUnie MP Stieneke van der Graaf said that the law ignores the fact that many women work less and take care of the children. 'The choices people make during marriage have consequences for both of them after that marriage,' she said. MPs will vote on a motion to draft new legislation next week. Child support payments would not be affected by the plans.  More >

Dutch set to back Marrakesh pact

A clear majority of MPs in the Dutch lower house of parliament back signing the Marrakesh pact on controlling migration, it emerged during a stormy debate on Tuesday evening. The debate was called by Forum voor Democratie leader Thierry Baudet, who has been engaged in a high profile campaign against the pact. A motion of no confidence in the cabinet, however, was only backed by the FvD and the anti-immigration PVV. Junior immigration minister Mark Harbers, defending the measure to MPs, said the pact should be viewed as a diplomatic instrument to combat unregulated migration. It also includes basic principles which make it easier to reach deals with other countries, he said. Baudet said in his speech that the pact will encourage immigration and that migrants will derive rights from it, with the help of lawyers, a statement Harbers firmly rejected. 'The pact is not a human right and it cannot be enforced legally,' he said. 'It is about cooperation between countries.' Vote MPs will formally vote on the pact next week. The Dutch government has already agreed to introduce an additional declaration to prevent unintentional legal consequences. The additional document, known as an EOP or explanation of position, reaffirms that UN pact will not lead to additional jurisprudence, thereby stopping refugees using it as an extra legal support in asylum claims. Harbers has also pledged to provide a legal analysis of the pact to parliament, so it can be debated before the Marrakesh meeting next week. Australia, Israel, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria have all refused to sign the pact, saying it will weaken their own immigration controls. In Belgium, the largest party in the centre-right coalition government has said it will not back the plan, forcing a government crisis.  More >