Opposition parties unite to censure prime minister over dividend tax memos

Prime minister Mark Rutte narrowly survived a motion of censure on Wednesday night, as MPs condemned the way he had handled the situation around secret memos on abolishing dividend tax. The motion, proposed by GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver, was supported by 67 MPs, while 76 - all four cabinet parties plus the fundamentalist Protestant SGP - voted against. Klaver, who led the onslaught on the prime minister during the debate, said the way Rutte had briefed parliament on the memos was wrong. More than the prime minister’s reputation is at stake, he said. ‘The credibility of the political system is under fire and I blame the prime minister for that,’ he said. ‘This is politics at its most ugly.’ Both Rutte and finance minister Eric Wiebes, who drew up one of the memos, told parliament they had made mistakes. Rutte in particular said he should have done more to find out if there actually were notes about the tax when the issue was raised in parliament in November. The prime minister claimed he had forgotten about the documents which were used during the cabinet formation process. But he also stated that he still believed the memos should not have been made public. Memos The memos themselves make it clear that finance ministry officials felt abolishing the tax on foreign shareholders ‘did not play a major role’ in the Netherlands attractiveness as a place to do business, as argued strongly by the cabinet. In addition, it would be be ‘bad for the Netherlands’ image’ because it increased the risk of companies moving money through the country as part of tax avoidance schemes, finance ministry officials state. The scrapping of the tax on foreign shareholders will cost the Dutch treasury €1.4 billion a year from 2020.  More >

King Willem-Alexander rises in popularity

King Willem-Alexander, who celebrates five years on the throne on Friday, is more popular than ever, according to the annual 'royalty survey' carried out by current affairs show EenVandaag. Some 85% of the programme's 25,000 strong panel said they had confidence the king is doing a good job, up from 82% last year and 77% in 2016. The king is more of a king to all the Dutch than he used to be, is more credible and presents himself better than he used to, the panel members said. Queen Maxima remains the most popular member of the royal household, followed by Willem Alexander. The king's mother princess Beatrix ties for third place with Pieter van Vollenhoven, husband of the queen's sister Margriet who has held a number of public jobs.   More >

2,912 people get a king's birthday honour

Darts player and world champion Michael van Gerwen is one of the 2,912 people given an award in the King's birthday honours list this year.  Van Gerwen, who is just 29, is also the youngest recipient on the list. The annual honours list is always announced the day before the monarch's birthday and focuses mainly on people who have made a major contribution to society, usually in the form of volunteering. The oldest recipient in 2018 is a Mr Du Pon from Vlaardingen, who is 105 and has been an active volunteer since 1934, broadcaster NOS said. Other famous faces on the list are television presenter Caroline Tensen who was recognised for her fund raising activities and work with the charity Orange Babies. Rapper Angelo Diop, who is better known as 'rotjoch', was also made a knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau for his work with young hiphop artists. In total, 2,287 people were nominated for an award and 375 applications were rejected. Some 64% of the recipients were male and the average age is 60. Most people were made members of the Order of Oranje-Nassau – which has six levels. That honour was introduced in 1892 for foreigners and the ‘lower classes’. Just 18 people were given an honour in the more exclusive Order of the Dutch Lion. The first Dutch honour was introduced by king Willem 1 in 1815. With pride i can say today i have received the title “Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau” (MBE) from the King. It’s a honor. pic.twitter.com/hGL8Ax5uMo — Michael Van Gerwen (@MvG180) April 26, 2018   More >

Germany takes 30% of Dutch steel

Germany is by far the biggest customer for Dutch-made steel, buying up about 30% of total domestic production in 2017, the statistics office CBS said on Thursday. Belgium is second with 12% of production, followed by France at 9%, Britain at 8% and the US at 6%. Dutch steel exports to the US were worth €570m in 2017, the CBS said. Total steel exports from the Netherlands hit €9bn last year, but part of this is earned from the re-export of steel made elsewhere. Nearly half the steel exported to Germany consists of steel imported from other countries, further processed in the Netherlands and re-exported. But almost all the steel sent on to the US is Dutch made, putting it in third place in exports of Dutch-made steel. Steel exports have been stable for years at about 11 billion kg. But the price of steel has varied. China China is the world's largest steel producer at 832 billion kg in 2017, of which 108 billion kg is exported. Japan, India, the US, Russia, South Korea are the next largest producers. The Netherlands is in 24th place in terms of production, but 14th in terms of global steel exports. Steel is produced in IJmuiden on the North Sea coast. The plant started out as Hoogovens, then was known as Corus after the ill-fated merger with British Steel and is now Tata Steel Europe. India-based Tata and Germany's ThyssenKrupp are now in advanced merger talks which would create Euope's second-largest steel maker after ArcelorMittal of Luxembourg.  More >

Shell writes off entire investment in NAM

Shell has written off its entire $244m investment in gas production company NAM in a move seen as a further attempt to distance itself from the troubled company. NAM is a 50-50 joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil and faces huge damages claims because of the earthquakes in Groningen province which have been caused by the extraction of natural gas. The one-off charge was booked in first-quarter earnings published on Thursday, according to the Financieele Dagblad. The Dutch government plans to shut off production of gas from the northern Groningen field by 2030 and pull back production sharply before that. The cost of shoring up houses hit by subsidence is put at between €1bn and €30bn and is to be shared by the state and the oil companies. In addition, some €50bn to €125bn worth of gas will remain underground. And documents from 2016 show the oil companies may make a claim against the Dutch state for lost income. Shell booked first-quarter net profit 43% higher at $5.3bn, far above analysts expectations. The earnings increase was ascribed to higher gas and oil prices. Operational cash flow was virtually unchanged at $9.4bn. The Anglo-Dutch company, sixth largest in the world, is proposing to maintain its $0.47 per share dividend.  More >

Two remain in Prague jail after attack

Three of the seven men arrested in central Prague after a waiter was beaten up have been sent back to the Netherlands with suspended jail terms and a five year ban on returning to the Czech Republic. Two others, including one who is an Amsterdam policeman, were released earlier without charge because they had tried to break up the fight. Two others remain in custody in the Czech capital and could face up to 10 years in jail, according to local media. The men, who were on a stag weekend, reportedly attacked the waiter after the told them they could not drink their own alcohol on the café terrace. The entire incident was captured on surveillance cameras.  More >

New bike insurance includes a transmitter

A new security system guaranteeing your stolen bike back within 48 hours, or you get a new one, is being launched on Thursday by motoring and tourism body ANWB. The system, which is coupled to an insurance policy, involves glueing a tiny transmitter to a bike, which can be activated if the bike gets stolen and then used to trace the two-wheeler. So far 1,000 bike dealerships have signed up to work with the new system, the ANWB said. In 2017, 79,000 bikes were reported stolen in the Netherlands but the true total is likely to be far higher. The ANWB itself dealt with 2,200 claims for expensive e-bikes. The transmitters will be attached to the bikes with industrial glue. 'We've used a demolition hammer to try to remove them,' spokesman Klaas Kregel told the AD. 'The bike is so damaged you have to wonder if it is worth it.' The insurance policy for an e-bike will cost between €85 and €100 a year.  More >

Boskalis wins €85m order to extend IJburg

Construction group Boskalis has won the €85m order to construct a new artificial island in the IJmeer lake adjacent to Amsterdam's eastern IJburg islands, the company said on Thursday. When the initial 82-hectare island is completed in mid-2020, it will become the largest construction site in the Dutch capital. About 8,000 housing units will be built. The land will be created by constructing both soft and hard bank dams and filling the reclamation area with nearly nine million m3 of sand. In addition 3,500 kilometers of vertical drains will be used to improve the soil. The project includes an option to create an additional 53 hectares of land. Boskalis will also create a nature area measuring more than three hectares and consisting of reeds and a mussel bed. Constructing the nature area in the initial phase will enable the wildlife to take over sooner. IJburg is Amsterdam's newest district and work on the seven islands was begun in 1999. IJburg has a current population of some 22,000. The city is now working on plans for a newer district to be called Haven-Stad in the western port area. This area will eventually have between 40,000 and 70,000 housing units.  More >

Dutch lag behind in nature protection

The Netherlands is lagging behind other European states when it comes to protecting its natural environment, the Dutch branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature says in Thursday's Telegraaf. Together with bird protection organisation Vogelbescherming and natural heritage body Natuurmonumenten ,the WWF carried out a comparative study of 18 European countries and the way in which they have embedded the European guidelines on nature protection in their national legislation. ‘Everything looks ok on paper but in practice the protection of nature is not up to speed,’ a WWF spokesman said. The organisations are particularly worried about the state of the North Sea. The Dogger Bank, an area shared by the Netherlands, Germany and Britain, is a good example, the organisations say. In part of the area belonging to the Germans fishing is not allowed but the Dutch have no adequate protection in place for threatened fish species. On land, the main point of criticism is the lack of interconnected natural areas and the lack of concrete measures for the protection for meadow birds. The organisations say Croatia is a prime example of how things should be. Its natural parks are interconnected so animals can roam from one place to another. The other European countries should take a look at how they manage nature there, they might learn something, the organisations say.  More >

Peeping Tom civil servant avoids jail

A gavel in a courtroom. A 57-year-old civil servant who put cameras in two women’s bathrooms in Vlissingen town hall has been sentenced to two months’ probation, 240 hours of community service and a fine of €4,000 which will be divided among the victims, Dutch media write. The man, who was caught out last year when a cleaner discovered a camera in one of the bathrooms, said he filmed women on three occasions and looked at the footage at home. None of the images ended up on the internet. The council fired him and reported him to the police. Asked to explain his actions the man told the court ‘a woman’s behind is the most beautiful part of her body’. The public prosecutor said the man should be jailed but the judge deemed this too harsh a measure, saying that the publicity surrounding the case had been punishment enough.  More >

Amsterdam ups anti-terrorist measures

Amsterdam city council is to take more measures to head off the risk of a terrorist attack in the city and cutting the queues outside attractions such as the Heineken Experience is on the list, officials say. Large concrete blocks were last year placed at popular locations to stop cars driving into the crowds and these are to be replaced with permanent structures, the city said in a statement. These could include steel obstacles which can be sunk into the ground, fences and bike racks, the city said. 'In addition to physical measures, preventative measures will also be taken, such as shortening the queues outside museums and ensuring good escape routes,' the statement said. 'Despite the measures, we can never completely rule out an attack...' officials said. In addition, it is impossible to place barriers at all busy locations in the city because it would be paralysed, the statement said. Meanwhile in Rotterdam, the DSI anti-terror unit held a practice exercise on the city's underground system on Wednesday evening involving dozens of marines and volunteers. The aim was to recreate an attack on the metro during the Kings Day celebrations.  More >