Binding referendums would strengthen democracy, says gov't commission


A commission set up to look at ways of boosting confidence in the Dutch parliamentary system is recommending the introduction of a binding referendum. The current government is scrapping the option of advisory referendums because of fears they were being misused. But the commission, which published preliminary findings on Thursday, says a binding referendum would be a 'good safety valve' when it comes to dealing with controversial issues. The commission, led by former minister Johan Remkes, has been charged by both houses of parliament to look into the entire system of government in the Netherlands and to develop suggestions for modernising it. Society The commission, according to broadcaster NOS, says the current batch of MPs and senators are 'not an ideal reflection of society'. There are, it says, deficiencies in terms of the 'demographic, educational level, wealth, employment background and, potentially regional' make up of the two houses of parliament. In particular, the decisions made on major issues such as European integration and migration do not reflect the views of a large group of voters, the commission said. 'The introduction of a binding, corrective referendum can contribute to solving this problem,' Remkes writes in the report. Voting districts The commission is recommending introducing a system of voting districts which would ensure all parts of the country are represented in parliament and to focus attention on candidates more than the party. There also needs to be more supervision of digital political campaigns and a maximum limit for political donations, both from within the Netherlands and abroad the commission said. The commission has until December to complete its work and publish finalised recommendations. The government is under no obligation to adopt them.  More >



All out regional bus strike postponed

A bus in Amsterdam. The all-out strike by regional bus drivers, scheduled to start on Monday has been postponed to Wednesday, trade unions said on Thursday. The two-day delay is to open the door to a potential settlement, the unions said. ‘It may be an idle hope, but let us see,’ the CNV trade union said in a press release. ‘The employers are beginning to move, because of the pressure of the strike and there is a way in for further talks,’ FNV negotiator Paula Verhoef said in a statement. Breaks Talks on a new pay and conditions deal for 12,000 public transport workers have been stalled for months. The unions are demanding less pressure of work and a 3.5% pay rise while employers have offered a 2% increase and no agreement on working conditions. The employers say the unions call for an extra five minute break per 150 minutes on shift will lead to a 5% increase in costs. ‘And then the pay rise comes on top of that,’ a spokesman told broadcaster NOS last month.  More >



Dutch police help bust child abuse ring

Dutch police have been involved in breaking up a child sex ring in the Philippines in which children were sold by their families for internet-based abuse. A Dutch police officer who is permanently stationed in Manilla to help combat child sex tourism, was directly involved in the investigation, as were specialists from the Dutch high tech crime unit, according to a report on politie.nl. In total, 18 children were removed from their homes, five of whom were from the same family. The children were aged between five months and 12 years and were abused to order via the internet. A show cost between €15 and €25. Clients The report did not say if any clients, some of whom came from the Netherlands, had been arrested. 'All available information about the buyers is being shared with the authorities in the countries where they come from,' the police statement said. Farid El Hamouti, the Dutch policeman in Manilla, said it is shocking what a low threshold this form of abuse had. 'Both the buyers and the sellers seem to think abusing children is the most normal thing in the world,' he said. Australian police were also brought in by the local police force to help in the investigation.  More >


Amsterdam nears moped bike lane ban

Mopeds may be banned from Amsterdam's bike lanes earlier than expected now the government has decided the new legislation allowing local councils to implement a ban will come into effect next month. Currently mopeds which travel at up to 25 kph are allowed to use bike paths and their drivers do not have to wear helmets. But up to 80% of mopeds are thought to be capable of higher speeds, and growing congestion on the bike paths is forcing the city to take action. The introduction of the ban was originally slated for summer 2019, but the Council of State has approved the legislation earlier than expected, paving the way for a speedier introduction of the new law, the Parool reported on Thursday. Six months Officials say it will take about six months to ready the city's bike infrastructure for the ban and to pass the necessary local legislation. In addition, everyone in the Dutch capital will be able to have input into the local law, and objectors can appeal against the final decision. 'We are happy all the lights are now green,' new transport alderman Sharon Dijksma told the Parool. 'At the same time, this is a far-reaching and complex measure. Moped users may have to take other routes, get used to their new place on the road and wear helmets. So we have to take proper care.'  More >




1,000 fake webshops closed down

Dutch consumers lobby group Consumentenbond has succeeded in forcing a further 1,000 fake websites targeting Dutch consumers offline since March, the organisation said on Thursday. SIDN which registers domain names in the Netherlands told Consumentenbond that two large foreign issuers of domain names had pulled the suspect websites. In March, 850 names were removed from the internet, following the publication of a list of 2,000 suspect companies. The websites were offering brand name clothing or luxury products at huge discounts. But in reality they were selling counterfeit items or failed to deliver completely. Nearly all the 2000 webshops identified by the Consumentenbond were registered at only four domain names companies.  The shops removed were all under the aegis of US-based GoDaddy or PDR of India, both domain name brokers.  More >



Over one in four households have no car

A full 27% of Dutch households had no car, moped, motor bike, scooter or van in 2016, the national statistics agency CBS said on Thursday. In the three million households in the lowest income group, 46% had no form of motorised transport while 27% did not have a driving licence. But nearly all higher-income households had a car, the CBS said. Most households without motorised transport were in urban areas where 63% had low disposable incomes. Car-less household were most often found in cities with big student populations. In Groningen, for example, 43.9% of households had a low disposable income and thus had no motorised transport. The northern student city was followed by Wageningen (39.8%) and Delft with 38.3%. Of the households with motorised transport, 95.3% had a car and 30% had two or more cars.  More >


Yoga is booming in the Netherlands

The number of yoga schools in the Netherlands has soared by 124% over the past five years and there are now nearly 6,400 schools and private teachers offering yoga lessons, according to research by RTL Z. Most of them - 5,875 - are self-employed teachers, the figures, which RTL Z obtained from the Chambers of Commerce, show. The Dutch yoga teachers organisation said last year that 800,000 people in the Netherlands regularly take part in yoga. One teacher, who began in 2015, told RTL Z: 'People do yoga because it works, particularly in these times. People are becoming over-sensitised, they work too much, their phones ping continually and they have no time left for themselves. Yoga helps you to become calm.'  More >