Dijkhoff's 'ghetto' plan shot down, as MPs debate 2019 budget

VVD MP Klaas Dijkstra's call for the Netherlands to follow Denmark in introducing tougher penalties for people from 'problem areas' who commit crimes were dismissed as a smoke screen and class justice by MPs during Wednesday's debate on the government's new spending plans. Each party leader is given time to speak in the debate, and Dijkstra used part of his to call on the coalition to adopt the Danish methods - plans which he had outlined in the AD on Wednesday morning. Denmark has introduced a string of measures, including compulsory pre-school education and tougher sentencing, in a bid to combat the development of what it calls 'ghettos'. Dijkhoff, who currently leads the VVD in parliament, said in an interview with the paper that integration has ‘failed’ and that he believes the Netherlands is failing to give people the freedom they should have. He wants the cabinet to draw up a list of areas where the non-western immigrant population tops 50% and where unemployment and crime are high. Dijkhoff said he also backed the introduction of compulsory lessons in ‘democratic values and traditions’, saying that people who do not cooperate should face benefit cuts. His comments dominated the early part of the debate and pushed opposition criticism of the plan to scrap the tax on dividends into the background. Zuidas Socialist leader Lilian Marijnissen told the debate: 'Dijkhoff seems to be suggesting that he wants to introduce class justice. Should that also go for [Amsterdam business district] Zuidas, where fraud is more prevalent?' Dijkhoff replied by saying he did not consider the Zuidas to be a criminal neighbourhood. The aim of his plan is to enable people from difficult areas to 'work their way out', he said. Alexander Pechtold, leader of the the VVD's coalition partner D66, described the concept as 'transparent' and said it would be 'idiotic' to label some areas tougher punishment zones. Amstelveen And Sybrand Buma, leader of coalition partner CDA, wanted to know if a person who beat up an emergency service worker in Amstelveen should get a lighter sentence than someone in Amsterdam's Nieuw West. Tunahan Kuzu of Denk asked Dijkhoff how the policy would relate to the concept of equality in the eyes of the law. 'I though at first this was a trick to distract us from the plan to scrap the tax on dividends. But then I thought, if this is what you think, why do you vote against measures to combat poverty and inequality?' The debate on the budget will continue into Wednesday evening and resume on Friday, after the prime minister returns from an EU summit.  More >

Green light for nature reserve deer cull

Flevoland provincial council's executive board has given the final go ahead for a mass cull of deer in the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve between Almere and Lelystad. A committee set up to look into the future of the reserve said earlier this year the animal population should be reduced drastically and that the wetland part of the reserve should be expanded. Now provincial officials have agreed to press ahead with the cull, which will start at the end of next month. The aim is to reduce the population of deer to 490. At the last count in spring there were 1,470 deer on the reserve. A large number of the ponies which live on the reserve will be moved to new locations, and some will be taken abroad, but the details are still being worked out. More than half the 5,230 deer, ponies and cattle living on the reserve near Almere died last winter – most of which were shot by forestry commission staff because they were starving. Large mammals were introduced in the reserve in the 1980s and 1990s in what has proved to be a controversial move. Reserve wardens hoped that the deer and ponies would eat young shoots, keeping the area open so it will attract geese and other wetland birds. In the original plan, the reserve was to be linked to the Veluwe region, but that was scrapped as part of budget cuts. The province has been in charge of the reserve since 2016 and a majority of provincial councillors want to open the area up to tourism.  More >

Villa murder suspects could be innocent

Statue of justice. Nine men who served five to 12 years in prison for a 1998 robbery which ended in murder may be victims of the biggest miscarriage of justice ever to take place in the Netherlands, the NRC reports. The case, known as the Arnhem villa murder, revolves around the robbery of a 63 year-old woman in her home in Arnhem. She was shot through the head and killed and her 33-year-old friend was wounded and survived. The robbers got away with a couple of bank cards, some money and a bracelet. Nine men, eight of whom were of Turkish decent, were arrested for the crime. Their convictions are now deemed to have been ‘potentially unsafe’ according to a report  sent to the public prosecutor’s office by Acas, a panel of independent legal experts. The panel said video footage of the interrogation of the men was ‘worrying’ and showed the suspects were put under undue pressure. In some cases, 'words were put into their mouths' even though they spoke little Dutch. In addition, forensic investigation into fingerprints and blood could not be linked to the suspects, and that is now to be re-tested, the paper said. If the investigation into dna evidence turns out to be unrelated to the men, a request to review the case will be filed at the High Court. Meanwhile the men have completed their prison terms. One man committed suicide in his cell, leaving a note saying ‘I am innocent’, the NRC reported.  More >

Police personality Ellie Lust quits

The Netherlands' most famous police woman Ellie Lust is quitting the force to focus on a career in television. Lust, 52, has been spokeswoman for the Amsterdam police force since 2007 and is  a leading light in the gay police network Roze in Blauw (pink in blue), but reached national prominence through her role in several television programmes. She told the Parool on Wednesday that senior officers had told her to make a choice between policing and television. 'I don't want to be pathetic about it, but that is how it went down,' she said. 'It hurt me a lot.' Lust has appeared in talk shows, was a participant in the 'The Mole' tv show in 2016 and presents her own series Ellie op Patrouille about police work. She joined the police as a beat copper in 1987.  More >

3 in 10 Dutch do grocery shopping online

Some 29% of the Dutch are now doing grocery shopping online, up from 21% a year ago, according to new figures from the national statistics agency CBS. The increase puts the Netherlands at the top of the EU list of online supermarket shoppers, the CBS said. Britain used to lead the list but last year the number of people using online grocery services actually fell from 29% to 28%, the CBS said. The European average is 14%. Supermarkets such as Albert Heijn, Jumbo and Plus have been developing their online services and are now being challenged by new players such as Picnic. Clothing still dominates the online retail market, with 57% saying they have bought clothes or sports gear online. In total almost 8 in 10 people in the Netherlands have bought something via internet in the past year. Late delivery is the biggest problem facing online shoppers. Almost a quarter report this as a major issue. Technical problems and wrong deliveries are the second and third biggest bugbears.  More >

NL could face sea level rise of 2m in 2100

A new report by independent water research institute Deltaris is warning that sea levels are rising more quickly than previously foreseen and measures must be taken. According to the researchers sea levels could rise by as much as one to two meters in 2100 if the earth’s temperature goes up by two degrees. If that figure is doubled, the North Sea could rise by three meters, and by eight meters in another century. ‘We may need up to twenty times the amount of sand we are using now, which is 12 million cubic meters,’ Deltares researcher Marjolijn Haasnoot told broadcaster NOS. Haasnoot said the storm surge barriers will need to be closed more often and maintenance work will have to take place earlier. ‘The question is not by how much sea levels will rise but how much time we have to prepare,’Haasnoot said. The Netherlands has a plan in place to cope with the effects of climate change called the Delta programme and every year on budget day Delta commissioner Wim Kuijken sends MPs a report of what needs to be done . This year the recommendations include a national programme to combat soil subsidence, building guidelines to protect buildings from extreme weather and more research into water and climate. 2050 The effects of a possible acceleration of rising sea levels will be felt from 2050 at its earliest, researchers said, and the livability of the delta will be guaranteed until that time. After that, NOS writes, uncertainties abound. Much will depend on limiting CO2 emissions worldwide, as laid down in the Paris climate accord, and the melting of the ice in the Antarctic. Earlier research by weather bureau KNMI predicted no more than a one meter rise in sea levels this century but the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctic will possibly melt at a faster rate. ‘We need to defend the coast in case sea levels rise but the main thing is to keep global warming down to under 2% and then this low-lying country can defend itself in a controlled manner,’ Kuijken told NOS.  More >