MEPs being denied entry to Venezuela will have 'consequences', says Dutch delegate

A European Parliament delegation including Dutch MEP Esther de Lange has been refused entry to Venezuela to observe how medical supplies are reaching people behind the blockade. De Lange said the group, from the centre-right European People's Party coalition, had been invited by Venezuela's parliament to observe the humanitarian situation on the ground, only to be turned away by officials at Caracas airport. The CDA politician posted a short film on Twitter explaining that the MEPs had been told by an official to take the 'first flight back to Madrid'. Her German colleague, Manfred Weber, called for immediate action and said the European Union should recognise opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's president. My colleagues @eppgroup were denied access to Venezuela tonight. The Maduro regime is scared of what foreign observers will see. He is denying people food and freedom. I expect the EU to act immediately and recognise Juan Guaido as the legitimate President of the country. — Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) February 18, 2019 The United States and European nations including France, Spain, the UK and the Netherlands have severed diplomatic ties with President Nicolas Maduró after a deadline to hold 'free and fair' elections expired last month. In a video filmed in Caracas, De Lange said: 'The chairman of the foreign affairs committee is waiting for us outside the airport, but we're not being allowed to enter the country. 'We've been told by an official representing the government that we will have to take the first plane back to Madrid. So we're being expelled and there will undoubtedly be consequences. 'It's a real shame, because we weren't here to provoke. We came here to see how medical help was getting to people on the ground and to plea for humanitarian aid to be allowed into the country for those who are suffering most from this situation.' Update over wat er zojuist gebeurde op het vliegveld van Caracas. @gonzalezpons @GabrielMatoA @EPPGroup — Esther de Lange (@Esther_de_Lange) February 18, 2019   More >

Russian campaigners detained at Schiphol

Two Russian human rights campaigners have been detained at Schiphol on their way home from a meeting with activists in Amsterdam. The Dutch border security force (Marechaussee) would not say why the two women had been held, though it denied a report by Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta that they were arrested. De Volkskrant identified the women as Elena Milashina, an investigative journalist with Novaya Gazeta known for her work on the persecution of gay people in Chechnya, and Milana Bakhayeva, who works for human rights organisation Memorial. The pair had been in Amsterdam to discuss the situation of Syrian refugees with other human rights activists. Milashina wrote on her Facebook page that border police stopped Bakhayeva 'because she is Chechen', according to The Moscow Times. She said: “I, who had already passed through [passport] control and was waiting for Milana to be released, was detained for company.” In a later post she alleged that the officers had tried to gain access to her work phone without her permission. The independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper has come under pressure from Moscow for its critical reporting on the Russian government. Milashina briefly had to flee the country in 2017 after she received death threats prompted by her work in Chechnya. The US State Department conferred the International Women of Courage award on her in 2013.  More >

FvD blunders with German church photo

Anti-immigration party Forum voor Democratie has a made a major blunder on a poster for its campaign in next month's provincial elections by using a photograph of a German cathedral. The mistake was spotted by contributor Molly Quell when she was watching NOS news about the campaign launch on Saturday evening. I guess the FvD wants to make the Netherlands German again? — Molly Quell (@MollyQuell) February 17, 2019 The church on the poster is actually a stock photograph from the German town of Limburg an der Lahn. Local campaign leader Ruud Burlet told the Limburger he could not believe a mistake had been made and that he would have to check it out first. It is the first time FvD has competed in the provincial elections.  More >

Dutch journalist ordered to leave Morocco

Moroccan and Dutch flags A Dutch journalist working in Morocco has been ordered to leave the country in a move believed to have been prompted by his coverage of the crisis in the Rif region. NRC reported that Gerard van der Aa, who freelanced for the newspaper and other media outlets, was arrested four days after returning to the country and told he was working illegally. He was due to return to Europe from the Spanish exclave of Melilla on Monday. Van der Aa said he was working undercover because the Moroccan government no longer accredited foreign correspondents, but had previously had no trouble reporting from the country without an official licence. He has also written articles on alcohol abuse and illegal migration. The Berber-dominated Rif region has become a focal point of unrest since 2016, when a fishmonger was crushed to death while trying to recover fish from a rubbish truck that had been confiscated by police. The incident spawned the protest movement Hirak, whose leader Nasser Zefzafi was jailed for 20 years by a court in Casablanca last June for offences including threatening national unity. Tens of thousands of people subsequently took to the streets to demonstrate against the trial and sentence. Van der Aa one of several Dutch journalists who have been barred from working in Morocco in recent years. In 2015 Radio 1 journalist Rik Goverde was ordered to leave the country at short notice, while two years later freelance reporter Sjoukje Rietbroek said her work had been made impossible. NRC reporter Koen Greven and photographer José Colon said they were followed by security service agents and told to leave while working in the Rif region in the summer of 2018.  More >

Average energy bills rise €334 due to tax

The average Dutch household is paying €334 more a year for gas and electricity following tax increases introduced on January 1, the national statistics office CBS said at the weekend. That takes the average household bill to €2,074 - a rise of around 18% or €28 a month, the CBS calculations show. Just under half of energy bills are now made up of taxes - part of deliberate government strategy to encourage people to reduce gas usage. Earlier, energy price comparison websites said they expected the average increase to be in the region of €300.   More >

Firms queue up for online gambling licence

Some 300 companies have expressed interest in running a gambling website in the Netherlands and about 50 are expected to make a formal application for a licence if senators vote to allow online gambling on Tuesday, the Financieele Dagblad said. Tuesday's vote comes two years after the lower house voted in favour of allowing third parties to legally offer online gambling. Holland Casino is the Netherlands’ only state-regulated gambling establishment but foreign firms widely flout the ban and continue to target Dutch punters. The new law is restrictive and contains a number of element to try to combat addiction. Players have to register and state their limit and will be periodically reminded of the risk of addiction on screen. The gambling firms will also have to appoint an addition expert and pay gambling taxes of 29%, which is one of the highest in Europe. 'Individually the measures are okay,' Rutger-Jan Hebben, head of the lobby group Speel Verantwoord, which represents big foreign firms such as Unibet and Betfair, told the paper. 'But when combined together, you have to ask if there is enough room to actually place a bet,' he said. A survey among 15,000 adults by market researcher Motivaction for Holland Casino last month showed that illegal gambling has increased by 20% in the last two years. Some 1.8 million people now admit to the occasional flutter, creating an estimated turnover of €600m and €175m in lost tax revenue. The most popular online games are poker, bingo, roulette and bets on sports results.  More >