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Up to 600 farms will have to go to kick start nitrogen cutbacks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The government should make sure between 500 and 600 factory farms and other major polluters close to environmentally sensitive areas either change or close down within the next year in order to kick start the process of cutting nitrogen emissions, the cabinet’s negotiator Johan Remkes said on Wednesday.

Remkes, who was drafted in to mediate following this summer’s farmers’ protests, said that closing down major producers of nitrogen was the ‘lesser of two evils’ and was crucial to meet legal requirements.

‘Measures have been delayed for so long that there is no other way,’ Remkes said at the presentation of his report. Farmers could either change their ways of working, move to a new location or close down with the help of ‘generous’ compensation, Remkes said.

And while closures should be voluntary, there is no choice other than to intervene if farms do not meet the deadline, he said, avoiding the politically sensitive concept of compulsory purchase.

The government’s deadline of 2030 to reduce nitrogen-based pollution by 50% should remain intact for the time being, Remkes said, adding that it is more important to actually get started than stick to an end date.

Without action, the Netherlands will shut down because it will not be legally possible to give permits for houses, for farms or roads. ‘This also means that construction will come to a standstill, with significant economic and social consequences,’ he said.

Nature

Remkes said nature must be central in the discussions, not nitrogen or agriculture. While 40% of the excess nitrogen in the environment is down to intensive farming, 10% comes from industry, 10% from mobility and 35% from abroad, he said.

The former government minister also highlighted the resentment and rage within the farming community which had led to the protests in June and July. ‘Many farmers know that change is needed and should happen,’ he said.

‘But government policy over the past few years has fed the image that the government is not working with farmers, but against them.’

People living in rural areas, he said, are dealing with the growing divide between the countryside and cities, in terms of both cultural values and their economic position.

The Zuid-Holland town of Gorinchem, he said, where ‘the last bus stop and the last ATM have recently been removed,’ is an example of this.

Reactions

The new agriculture minister Piet Adema, described the report as a first step in rebuilding trust and in a new relationship between farmers and the government.

Mark van den Oever, leader of radical organisation Farmers Defence Force, said in response that if Remkes really is suggesting ‘600 fine farms’ are to go, ‘then we will spring on the barricades’.

‘The plans are nothing to do with saving nature and all about shrinking the farming sector,’ he said.

(DutchNews)

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Customers have beef with ‘vegan’ hotdog… made with ‘chicken’ sausage

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Customers have complained after the shop Hema marketed hotdogs as ‘vegan’, while also saying they contain chicken.

The store admitted that the term ‘wasn’t the handiest choice’ after consumers on Twitter widely shared criticism of the snacks, reports RTL Nieuws.

A Twitter account called ‘bonus vegan’ pointed out that Hema had ‘really missed the point’ with its marketing. ‘It is vegan, but, then again, actually, it isn’t.’ Others called it ‘a kind of vegan washing’.

In the packaging, the shop describes its ‘mini, vegan hotdog roll’ kit as being made with chicken with a one-star ‘better living’ animal welfare accreditation. The sauce is, reassuringly, ‘our unique, vegan mustard sauce.’

The make-it-yourself packs are sold in a pork, chicken and vegetarian version, reports RTL Nieuws.

Hema reportedly said that something had gone wrong with its new packaging. ‘For practical reasons, the text for the vegetable sausage was not changed, and it now says vegan everywhere,’ a spokesperson told the news site. ‘That’s not very handy.’

The high street staple plans to update packaging to make the product clearer in several months.

(DutchNews)

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Cabinet makes 15 million euros available for lower energy costs in the Caribbean Netherlands

SABA/STATIA - The government is taking measures to dampen electricity prices in the Caribbean Netherlands. For example, the fixed costs for grid management, now on average about 390 dollars, will go to 0 dollars in 2023. In addition, the cabinet will pay half of the variable rate for electricity if it exceeds 0.38 dollars per KWh. These measures apply to everyone: households, small and medium-sized enterprises, and sports and cultural institutions on Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba.

The measures, which are expected to cost 15 million euros, are contained in a letter that Minister Rob Jetten for Climate and Energy sent to the House of Representatives today. In the European Netherlands, from 1 January 2023, the support consists of a price ceiling on energy for all households and other small consumers.

Because these measures cannot be applied in the same way in the Caribbean Netherlands, a different scheme was chosen after consultation with the island governments and the electricity companies. In order to keep the measures on the islands feasible, it has been agreed that the money for the electricity bill will be paid to the energy company. In the implementation of the package for the Caribbean Netherlands, it will be examined whether the first measures can be taken from November, just like in the European Netherlands.

State Secretary Van Huffelen of Kingdom Relations is pleased with the approach chosen for the Caribbean Netherlands. "Everyone feels the increased cost of electricity in their wallet. The cabinet is trying to help where possible and that is why there is this regulation for the Caribbean Netherlands. This approach gives clarity to people."

Previously, there was already an energy surcharge of 1300 dollars for households with an income of up to 130 percent of the legal minimum wage and a reduction in the excise duty on gasoline: 16 USD cents per liter for the first half of 2023 and 8 USD cents per liter for the second half of 2023. In addition, in October 2021, an amount of 2 million euros was made available for 2022 for the increased energy prices, which has reduced an important part of the fixed costs for grid management this year.

In order to keep the energy on the islands sustainable, affordable and reliable for the long term, the cabinet announced last week to make 33.6 million euros available for an accelerated switch to sustainable electricity on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

This means that within 3 years, an average of about 80 percent of the electricity on the three islands will be generated with wind and solar energy. In addition to lower prices, this also results in less dependence on, for example, oil and considerably less nitrogen emissions. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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Saba and Statia: ‘positive first year of sports collaboration’

SABA/STATIA — Swimming lessons, sports clinics, training for coaches and umpires and a stronger collaboration. This is the recent outcome of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed by the governments of St. Eustatius and Saba last year thereby committing to strengthen sports on both islands.

For the last two years, St. Eustatius has supported its neighbor island Saba with providing swimming lessons. Twenty-five youngsters and adults received either their A, B, or C diploma due to this partnership. A Saban swim-coach will soon be certified with other new swim-coaches from St. Eustatius, to be able to provide swimming lessons on Saba on a regular basis. 

In addition to strengthening sports on and between the two islands, a Caribbean Netherlands sports meeting was initiated to collaborate with Bonaire. These ongoing meetings will allow for consistent communication between the BES-islands and the Ministry and have already resulted in new opportunities in sports for both Saba and St. Eustatius.

Representatives of each island participated a sports inspiration week in the Netherlands, hosted by the Ministry of Health, Wellbeing and Sports in September 2021. In return, Saba and St. Eustatius have hosted visiting representatives from the Dutch Sports Federations in the areas of volleyball, soccer, basketball, base/softball, as well as the Johan Cruyff Foundation and the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport (VWS). During their visits the Dutch Sports Federations gave sports clinics to players and training to coaches and umpires. At the same time the local sports situation and its sports facilities were assessed. All parties are now working in close collaboration with the two islands towards a structural approach on sports.

More Opportunities in 2023

For the coming year the direction will be continued, and new developments are expected. More opportunities for athletes, coaches, and umpires on Saba and Statia will be provided to develop their skills and to positively interact with other islands and the residents.

 

 

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More generous energy price cap will benefit heat pump households

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The government on Tuesday published more details about its planned energy price cap and it looks as if consumers will benefit more than thought earlier.

Ministers have not only expanded the amount of electricity covered by the price cap but have reduced the maximum price which companies can charge. The plan covers private households and small users such as shops and social organisations.

The new price cap for electricity has been reduced from 70 to 40 cents per kWh including taxes, and the volume increased from 2,400 kWh to 2,900 kWh. Ministers hope this means that people who opted to ditch gas and switched to heat pumps will no longer be disadvantaged.

The gas cap has now been set at €1.45 per m3 including taxes, down five cents on the earlier figure. There is no increase in the amount of gas covered by the cap, which remains 1,200 m3.

The current market price for electricity is around 83 cents per kWh, and for gas €3.66 per m3. ‘This is a big boost for many households in the Netherlands, who were already counting on price increases of several hundred euros per month this winter,’ said Bart Koenraadt from Energievergelijk.nl.

Anti-poverty campaigners and MPs had criticised the earlier version of the plan, saying it would not help people on low incomes living in poorly insulated social housing or poorer families.

Low-income households will also be able to apply for an additional €1,300 in help to pay their energy bills next year, ministers said.

2023

The price ceiling will cover 2023 in its entirety and households will be given a €190 per month discount on their bills in November and December 2021. Compensation for small firms, such as bakers, which have also been hit hard by rising energy prices is still being finalised.

According to broadcaster NOS, the small firm cap will apply to companies in which energy bills account for at least 3% of turnover, to make sure only energy intensive companies benefit.

(DutchNews)

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Film, documentary and exhibitions mark 30 years since the Bijlmer disaster

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Tuesday marks 30 years since the Bijlmermeer disaster, when an El Al cargo plane crashed into a block of flats in an area of social housing southeast of Amsterdam, killing at least 43 people.

At the time, the Bijlmermeer was viewed by many as a ‘no go area’ and its problems of social deprivation and crime were largely ignored. The real death toll itself remains open to question because the area was lived in by a large number of undocumented migrants.

Yet even though crash and its aftermath focused both political and media attention on the district, leading to its ongoing rejuvenation, the scars still run deep. Ghanese born Mama Betty told the NRC she was drinking with friends when they heard a loud boom.

‘The gallery was full of people screaming and running for the stairs,’ she said. ‘You heard every language mixed up together: Dutch, Papiamento, Sranang, Ghanese.’ The plane had crashed less than 100 metres from her front door.

Betty says she stood and watched as people escaped from the burning building. ‘People were throwing their children into the little canal next to it because that was the only way to get out,’ she said.

Several events and exhibitions have been organized to mark the 30th anniversary of the disaster, including a five-part television series about the crash and the aftermath, including speculation about the cargo and mysterious men in white suits.

Special exhibitions have been curated at the Amsterdam Museum and Imagine IC in Zuidoost, in which the memories and experiences of people who lived through the crash are central.

Broadcaster Omroep Zwart has produced a television documentary Een gat in mijn heart (a hole in my heart) which looks at the experiences of 30 children who were caught up in disaster.

Emergency landing

The crash took place early on Sunday evening, October 4, 1992. The plane, with a crew of three and one passenger, had requested to make an emergency landing after two of its engines broke off and a wing was damaged shortly after take-off.

It circled over Amsterdam to reduce altitude, but the crew lost control of the aircraft and it hit the high-rise complex, exploding into a fireball.

The flats were demolished and a memorial near the crash site lists the names of the victims, close to a tree that survived the disaster, which is known as ‘the tree that saw it all’ (de boom die alles zag).

Every year, a public memorial is held to mark the disaster and no planes fly over the area for one hour out of respect for the victims. ‘When October 4 approaches, I pray for the families of those who were affected,’ Betty said.

‘And I think of my neighbour who lost her three children. One of her daughters borrowed sunflower oil from me that afternoon. It was the last time I saw her.’ Tuesday evening’s remembrance ceremony will be broadcast live on NOS television.

(DutchNews)

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Latest sign of recession as purchasing managers’ index records falling activity

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch purchasing managers’ index (PMI) has dropped below the crucial level of 50 for the first time in two years, strengthening fears that a recession is imminent.

The PMI, measured by managers’ association Nevi, is based on a monthly survey of supply chain managers to gauge their perceptions of whether market conditions are expanding or contracting.

The index figure fell from 52.6 in August to 49.0 in September. A score below 50 means the majority of managers see a reduction in economic activity. The drop of 3.6 is also the fifth largest since Nevi started the index in 2000.

Dutch producers received fewer new orders from abroad in September for the first time in two years, reflecting weakening demand in China, rising inflation and uncertainty about the economic future.

Economist Albert Jan Swart of ABN Amro told NOS that the slowdown was also driven by the high cost of energy and materials and the disruption to the global economy caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Purchasers of minerals and parts are the first to experience a fall in orders, he said. However, Nevi also said there were positive signs in the figures, including an increase in jobs in industry and more purchases of machinery.

The latter may be due to manufacturers replacing older equipment with more energy efficient models.

(DutchNews)

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Police to investigate leak of inquiry into former parliamentary chair Khadija Arib

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Parliamentary chair Vera Bergkamp will ask police to investigate how allegations of harassment against her predecessor, Khadija Arib, were leaked to the media.

The presidium, the executive committee that oversees parliamentary business, will file a criminal complaint about the leak on Monday, a spokesman for Bergkamp told NOS.

Arib resigned as an MP for the Labour party (PvdA) on Saturday, claiming she had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by Bergkamp. She learned of the inquiry into her behaviour when she was contacted by the NRC newspaper.

‘I’ve seen many things, but the (anonymous) stabs in the back in recent days have led me to conclude that I no longer wish to be a member of parliament,’ she said. ‘I am prepared to put up with a lot, but everyone has their limits.

‘This concerns an attack on my dignity.’ The presidium has still said nothing officially about the inquiry into Arib, who chaired parliamentary proceedings from 2016 to 2021, but NRC reported that it had received two anonymous letters complaining of a ‘reign of terror’ and ‘abuses of power’.

Bergkamp’s spokesman said a statement would be made to parliament by Tuesday. The government’s legal advisers, Pels Rijcken, said after analysing the complaints that they were consistent with ‘firm and clear indications that this could be described as (having been) a very unsafe working environment’, according to NRC.

Pandemic inquiry

Civil servants are said to have spoken out about Arib’s behaviour after she was appointed to lead the upcoming parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, where she would have worked closely with officials.

A total of 23 employees had spoken confidentially to doctors or liaison officials in parliament about ‘unwanted behaviour’ by Arib in the last three and a half years, Pels Rijcken said.

The PvdA said it had been unaware of Arib’s intention to resign before her announcement at the weekend. ‘This is very painful for me personally and for the PvdA party group as a whole,’ said leader Attje Kuiken. But Arib said the lack of support from her own party was one of the factors in her decision to go.

In her resignation letter she thanked six members of the presidium who signed a letter demanding Bergkamp publish a statement on the inquiry by 1pm on Monday. Henk Nijboer, the only PvdA MP on the committee, was not among them.

(DutchNews)

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Amsterdam council to vote against banning tourists from coffeeshops

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam council will vote against a proposal to enforce a national ban against tourists in coffeeshops, where cannabis is smoked. At a long debate in the city hall, where residents, researchers, and coffeeshop representatives also spoke for more than an hour, the majority of parties were against the policy.

Mayor Femke Halsema formally proposed temporarily banning non-residents from the city’s 166 coffeeshops in April, in a 13-page briefing. This is already a national law, enforced in some places, but Amsterdam had negotiated a formal exemption.

The mayor said that she, the public prosecutor and chief of police now believed enforcing the measure was necessary to reduce the size of the soft drug sector, tackle extreme nuisance and criminality.

A recent study found 100 of the coffeeshops effectively serve only the needs of tourists.

Street dealing

But in a late-night debate, Fatihya Abdi, Labour PvdA politician, said the largest party would not support the measure in the end because there were not ‘sufficient guarantees’ that the city would act to reduce street dealing and police the streets.

Sheher Khan, councillor and leader of the Denk party, added that there was not a ‘solid’ substantiation that soft drugs supported the hard drug trade.

His party is primarily concerned that demand for cannabis will continue, leading to more street dealing, and more vulnerable young men tempted into crime.

Although the mayor, who is responsible for law and order, does not need to have the support of the elected council, she has said that she wants this before enforcing a national law that already exists, the so-called i-criterium.

Image

However, after the debate, it emerged that she would only have eight of 45 council votes, from the liberal VVD, Christian democratic CDA and right-wing JA21. An attempt to bring in the policy two years before, led by the VVD, also failed in council.

Claire Martens, leader of the VVD, told Dutch News before the debate that while it was a difficult measure to enforce the residents-only law – while increasing policing on the streets – her party thinks it is the only way forward.

At the start of the meeting, in the morning, an unprecedented number of Amsterdammers used their right to speak to express strong sentiments.

Dr Ton Nabben, a criminologist at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, said there was an urgent problem with crime but the argument that a coffeeshop ban would help was ‘built on thin ice’; he said fully legalising and controlling the cannabis trade would do more.

‘The prognosis is that the tourist stream will keep coming,’ he said.

Simmering

Mark Jacobsen, co-owner of coffee shop The Rookies Club, said that it was ‘drunken, screaming’ tourists who were more of a problem than his clients, complaining that all coffeeshops were put in one box.

‘I have had my coffeeshop for 30 years and the moment [customers] do anything with cocaine, I throw them out,’ he said.

‘I don’t see hard drugs around me.’ At the end of the late-night debate, a concerned Halsema said, however, that she had not given up and was still determined to tackle the illegal back door of coffeeshops – where selling and smoking cannabis is legal but growing commercially is not: ‘My good friends, this is simmering,’ she said.

‘We will let the i-criterium simmer in your heads.’ The official council vote is on Wednesday.

(DutchNews)

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Threats against politicians top 1,000 so far this year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Over 1,000 reports of MPs and ministers being threatened were made to a special police team in the first nine months of this year and the full year total is likely to be double the 588 reports made in 2021 as a whole.

Reports have risen since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, team leader Ruud Gründmann said. ‘‘At the end of the day, it’s about safeguarding democracy and protecting the people who stand for it.’

The threats are both online and physical and have changed in seriousness and intensity, Gründmann said. ‘Politicians and minister are being harassed and yelled at,’ he said.

‘They don’t always make a formal complaint, but it is symbolic for the time.’ The previous peak was in 2018, when 620 complaints were made.

Most of those were made by far-right leader Geert Wilders, who was subject to a string of threats from outside the EU.

(DutchNews)

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