Elected mayors a step closer as key senate vote likely to say yes

The senate - the upper house of the Dutch parliament - is set to vote in favour of plans to remove the way mayors are named from the constitution, a measure which clears the way for the introduction of elected mayors. The measure, proposed by coalition party D66 and which has divided the ruling VVD, is supported by Christian Democrats on the condition that any elected mayors have limits to their powers. Their support is crucial to ensure the required two-thirds majority. The vote will take place next week and the PVV, Socialists, GroenLinks, 50Plus and ChristenUnie have already agreed to back the measure. Currently mayors in the Netherlands are technically crown appointees and nominated by the local authority they will represent. The Labour party opposes the plan, saying it does not see the urgency of making change. Earlier this month the Volkskrant reported that while support for the Labour party (PvdA) may have collapsed at last year’s general election, the party continues to dominate when it comes to new mayoral and other official appointments. So far this year, 11 Labour party supporters have been named as mayors, the same number as for the right-wing Liberal VVD and well above the number of D66 (7) and CDA (6) appointments.  More >

Almere garden show over-runs budget

The final bill for organising the Floriade - the garden show which takes place in a different part of the Netherlands every 10 years - is likely to be almost triple the original budget, the Financieele Dagblad said on Wednesday. The next Floriade will take place in Almere in 2022, but the cost is now set to hit €28m, compared with the original budget of €10m. It could be as high as €35m, according to one council committee. Almere's town council is due to discuss the mounting costs of staging the event on Thursday evening, but has already decided to accept the new financial setback, the paper said. The higher bill is partly due to Almere's plan to expand the concept into a 'world garden show', combined with the development of a new 'green' city district with 660 homes. The cost of making the land ready for building, bills from external advisors and extra input from the city's civil service are behind the higher bill, the FD said. The Floriade in Venlo, Limburg in 2012 was also a financial flop and failed to boost tourist numbers. Local entrepreneurs had expected a surge in visitors but the number of tourists to the region only reached 2.5 million, 100,000 down on the previous year. Local councils were left with a €9m bill for running the show.  More >

Anbang may sell Dutch insurer Vivat

Dutch insurance company Vivat may be put up for sale by its Chinese owner Anbang which is currently involved in a 'strategic reorientation'. A sale of a majority stake in Vivat, which was spun off from SNS Reaal, is one of the options being considered, the company said in a statement on Monday. Reuters values Vivat at around €1.5bn. 'Anbang will judge every option on its merits, without prejudice to the outcome of the strategic review,' the company said. 'JP Morgan has been appointed by Anbang to assist in the next phase of this strategic review.' Vivat was taken over by Chinese insurance group Anbang in 2015 following the nationalisation of SNS Reaal at the beginning of 2013. The group and divided into a banking arm (SNS Bank) and an insurance company (Reaal, now named Vivat).   More >

Half-baked shop name sparks Twitter storm

The owner of an Amsterdam bakery has bowed to pressure to change his business name after his initial choice of 'Anne & Frank' sparked uproar on social media. The man, who gave his name only as Roberto, told AT5 he intended the name to be a tribute to Anne Frank, whose hiding place is just around the corner from the premises in Raadhuisstraat. 'Anne Frank is a heroine for many people and for me too. Because my business is close to the Anne Frank Huis, it seemed like a nice name. She's obviously world famous.' But Twitter users were less impressed, branding the choice of name 'bizarre', 'tasteless' and 'beyond the boundaries of shame and decency'. Roberto said he had not decided on a new name for his bakery. Elke vorm van schaamte en fatsoen voorbij. Een bakkerij om de hoek van het @annefrankhuis om toeristen te trekken. Zelfs al heten de eigenaars Anne en Frank dan is het nog stuitend. @AnneFrankCenter pic.twitter.com/zjLEFp7thZ — Drukke Toestand (@DrukkeToestand) August 25, 2018   More >

'New' Rembrandt to go on show in Leiden

A previously unknown Rembrandt painting will go on show in the painter's birthplace next year. Christiaan Vogelaar, curator of old master paintings at the Lakenhal museum in Leiden, confirmed the discovery of the artwork to the Leidsch Dagblad, but refused to give further details. The picture is currently being restored abroad and will be unveiled to the public on November 3 next year in an exhibition of Rembrandt's early works. 'First we need to make sure it is restored in time so there is enough time to carry out research into the work. I am not allowed to say anything else,' said Vogelaar. It is the second time this year that a 'new' Rembrandt has been attributed to the artist. Art dealer and historian Jan Six bought a painting at auction in London 18 months ago that was previously described as 'school of Rembrandt'. An examination of the Portrait of a Young Gentleman by experts concluded in May that it had been painted by the master in 1654.  More >

Centres for disruptive refugees not used

Two refugee centres which were opened at the end of last year year to accommodate asylum seekers who cause problems in regular centres have barely been used so far, the Volkskrant reported on Wednesday. The two centres, in Amsterdam and Hoogeveen, had housed just 36 people up to March this year, the paper said. It bases its claim on documents obtained using freedom of information legislation. The two centres cost €1.2m to set up and operate a stricter regime than in regular refugee centres, the paper said.  Most of the money has gone on personnel costs. The central refugee organisation COA said that agreement had been reached with Amsterdam and Hoogeveen to start out with a few asylum seekers as a test. There are no figures available for numbers after March. Junior justice minister Mark Harbers told the paper that it would be premature to draw conclusions about the new approach. He said he had the impression that 'removing a disruptive person to the new facility has an impact on the people left behind' who realise that bad behaviour has consequences.  More >

New KLM management structure 'an option'

KLM president Pieter Elbers said a ‘new governance structure’ will be presented for the troubled airline alliance in September. ‘That’s a broad subject. It can be the new chairman or the structure of Air France KLM itself could be revamped. All options are open,’ Elbers told online news service Nu.nl in Paris on Wednesday. Elbers himself is often mooted as a new head of the combine, but he refused to comment, Nu.nl said. Air France KLM presented first-half 2018 earnings figures on Wednesday, but the media were only interested in one subject: the new chairman. The Franco-Dutch airline combine has been leaderless since the 4 May resignation of  Jean-Marc Janaillac over a failed pay deal for the French arm of the company. Strikes earlier this year cost Air France upwards of €400m. Interim Air France KLM is now being operated by an interim management team consisting of three representatives of Air France and Elbers from KLM. The KLM chief described relations on the team as being cordial.  ‘There is more that binds us than separates us,’ he said. Elbers said the new CEO will have to first address the problems in France and then focus on group strategy. He said there was absolutely no chance of a divorce between the two airlines. Air France KLM posted first-half  operating profit of €345m, higher than analysts had expected. KLM contributed a far higher share of group earnings.  More >