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Thursday 24 October 2019

Opinion pieces, columns and insights into Dutch news and current affairs from key commentators. The views expressed in these columns are the writers’ own. To contribute or request our guidelines, [email protected]

Rain in the Netherlands has a texture it does not have back home

Rain in the Netherlands has a texture it does not have back home

What do you do if you are the Netherlands as a trailing husband while your wife works in a high powered job? Visiting columnist Joe Weeg, who spent time here in 2018, is back in The Hague again. Part 1: Rain Rain in the Netherlands has a certain texture that doesn’t exist back home in Iowa. Here in the Netherlands the rain rarely rages with such thunder and lightning that you decide maybe it would be a good idea to... More >


19 threats to Dutch democracy? Not from the perspective of a foreigner

19 threats to Dutch democracy? Not from the perspective of a foreigner

Ethiopian national and human rights lawyer Tarikua Woldetsadick takes issue with Syp Wynia’s recent claims about specific threats to Dutch democracy, and says his arguments digress into an attack on those very democratic values. To give credit where it is due, Mr Wynia attempts to address a relevant and perhaps timely issue. Is Dutch or indeed global democracy and individual freedom being slowly chipped away at by non-traditional, non-state entities? It is a question that merits serious study and appropriate... More >


Wynia’s Week: Identifying 19 risks to (Dutch) democracy

Wynia’s Week: Identifying 19 risks to (Dutch) democracy

Democracy is on the wane in many countries, and it is not just populism that is to blame. The traditional parties, both on the left and the right of the spectrum must take responsibility, says Syp Wynia. Our rights and freedom are slowly being eroded. A newspaper article containing comments sceptical about climate change is removed from Facebook,  on the recommendation of the editorial team of NU.nl, the country’s largest news site. Nu.nl  has now apparently been given the job... More >


Civilised debate, not mud slinging, is the hallmark of democracy

Civilised debate, not mud slinging, is the hallmark of democracy

Democracy isn’t served by taking a leaf out of the Brexit playbook but by conducting a civilised debate, says professor Reinout Wibier, professor of civil law at Tilburg University. The dramatic developments surrounding Brexit show how easy it is for a civilised country to descend into a situation of paralysing polarisation. The divide between Brexiters on the one hand and Remainers on the other has become so wide that a serious dialogue no longer seems possible. The two camps are... More >


A new ‘war on drugs’ is short sighted and naive

A new ‘war on drugs’ is short sighted and naive

When the Dutch government liberalised cannabis policy in 1976, they understood that the legalisation and regulation of cannabis was actually the best solution, or at least the least bad one. They also knew that legalisation would be highly controversial internationally. Fifteen years earlier, in 1961, the international community, with the US at the forefront decided, on rather questionable grounds, that a number of drugs should be banned. Consequently the Netherlands took a half measure, decriminalising the possession and use, and... More >


Wynia’s week: Amsterdam, the loony left laboratory

Wynia’s week: Amsterdam, the loony left laboratory

A recent report describes Amsterdam as the drugs capital of Europe where mafiosi rule the roost. At a time when drug lords are infiltrating the economy and society, the city is being led by politicians who see the capital as a laboratory where they can cook up their utopian fantasies, writes Syp Wynia. The only upside of Pieter Top and Jan Tromp’s report about European drugs capital Amsterdam is that it was commissioned by mayor Femke Halsema (GroenLinks). Halsema is... More >


Wynia’s Week: Ahead of the budget, here are four lessons for the cabinet

Wynia’s Week: Ahead of the budget, here are four lessons for the cabinet

The Dutch government will publish its 2020 spending plans next month. Syp Wynia has four lessons for the cabinet as they finalise their strategy. As politicians were dipping their toes in the sea, civil servants in The Hague are busy drawing up next year’s budget memorandum. Ministers may tweak a few figures here and there in the final weeks of August but their most important contribution regarding spending was made in spring. Now it’s the effects on people’s incomes that... More >


The ‘VOC mentality’ is not all it’s cracked up to be

The ‘VOC mentality’ is not all it’s cracked up to be

The VOC is part of the Dutch heritage but its rise went hand in hand with structural violence against native populations, writes Leo Lucassen, a professor of global labour and migration history. Two, seemingly disparate, studies made headlines recently. One was a large-scale survey by the SCP on Dutch identity, the other a wide-ranging analysis of the role of slavery in the development of the Dutch economy by the IISG. Where many of the respondents in the SCP survey emphasised... More >


There’s no smoke without ire – especially when it’s summer in the city

There’s no smoke without ire – especially when it’s summer in the city

When you are a former smoker and a current insomniac there is nothing worse than being woken up by people on their balconies, smoking and having a laugh in the wee small hours. What is it with today’s young folk who smoke? If you are going to take up smoking in 2019, when everyone knows it will probably kill you, do it properly or not at all. Chain smoke during dinner, drop ash into your laptop keyboard, and couple it... More >


Wynia’s Week: it’s going to a be a summer of ignoring the law

Wynia’s Week: it’s going to a be a summer of ignoring the law

Passing laws but failing to uphold them is counterproductive, writes Syp Wynia. The ban on a burqa in public buildings threatens to go the same way as the ban on street harrassment and other laws. Shortly before Christmas 2005, a motion devised by Geert Wilders, who was still a parliamentary one-man band at the time, was passed in parliament. Burqas were to be banned outside the home. Now, over 13 years later, the ban, which applies to all face covering... More >


Wynia’s Week: the European green coup has started

Wynia’s Week: the European green coup has started

Brussels is becoming ever more radical where climate is concerned, says journalist Syp Wynia. But is this what we want? he asks. The European elections in May made the German Green party the second biggest party after the Christian Democrats. In early June the polls put them ahead of Angela Merkel and her party: the Greens were virtually the biggest party in the most populous EU member state. That was quite a blow, not in the least because Angela Merkel... More >


Yet another Dutch lifestyle craze? Nix it, stop reaching and drop it

Yet another Dutch lifestyle craze? Nix it, stop reaching and drop it

It’s that time of year. The sun is shining. Dutch people are complaining it’s too warm. Everyone in your office is on vacation so you’re sitting around, cleaning up your inbox and watching videos about #VanLife. What to do if you’re a journalist and there’s nothing to write about? Do some serious investigative work, digging through microfilm? Hit the streets with your notebook and talk to people? Convince your editor to let you make a trip to the Netherlands and... More >


Wynia’s Week: How Máxima paves the way for Mark

Wynia’s Week: How Máxima paves the way for Mark

What is the link between Jamal Kashoggi, queen Máxima and the international prestige of the Netherlands? It’s something to do with a visit to the Obamas  in 2009 but most of all it’s the Máxima factor, writes commentator Syp Wynia.  The country almost had an apoplectic fit last week when queen Máxima was photographed in Japan having a quiet chat with Saudi heir to the throne Mohammed bin Salman, who is often regarded as the de facto ruler. The queen,... More >


Dutch royal visit to Ireland included a brave gesture of respect

Dutch royal visit to Ireland included a brave gesture of respect

King Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima were in Ireland for the three day visit last week. And in one meeting, they stretched the bounds of diplomacy, writes Peter Cluskey. The most valuable work of state visits such as the one by the Dutch royal couple to Ireland last week is often done well away from the glamour by trade delegations and foreign ministry officials. But rarely is high-level diplomacy used to reach out in as personal a way as this visit... More >


The wolf is back, let it not die out a second time

The wolf is back, let it not die out a second time

Peaceful co-existence between wolves and sheep farmers is possible, says regional director Europe at International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Joep van Mierlo. It was Omroep Gelderland that bagged the scoop on May 19th: a wolf pair had settled in the Netherlands for the first time in over a century. The two were spotted in the Veluwe national park. The news was greeted with whoops of delight by many but the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is afraid that... More >


Why international newspapers reported the death of Noa Pothoven as ‘euthanasia’…when it wasn’t

Why international newspapers reported the death of Noa Pothoven as ‘euthanasia’…when it wasn’t

When the phone rang on a Tuesday afternoon with a blocked number, I knew it was London. Sure enough, The Daily Telegraph had been calling me, asking me to check out a story. Even to the English news editor, who doesn’t speak the tricky language of Dutch, there was something off about the unbylined, 12-paragraph story from the Central European News agency. ‘This depressed 17-year-old girl who was raped as a young child and who felt she could no longer... More >


Wynia’s Week: Refugees need to work before they get settled in

Wynia’s Week: Refugees need to work before they get settled in

  The government’s strategy to get refugees into work needs an overhaul, says columnist Syp Wynia. Some four years ago, a wave of asylum seekers, among whom many Syrians, reached Western European shores to the reassuring noises of a few well-known Dutch personalities and various people in authority. Syrians, they said, were highly educated and would be an asset to Dutch society. The highest asylum centre chief predicted ‘an enormous empowerment for the Netherlands’. On the whole, in reality Syrians... More >


Wynia’s Week: The Dutch EU election results are not European

Wynia’s Week: The Dutch EU election results are not European

Populist parties were wiped out and the PvdA topped the polls, but it would be easy to be wrong-footed by the Dutch results of the EU elections, writes columnist Syp Wynia. In last week’s European elections, the PvdA bagged the biggest win while the CDA and VVD managed a decent score. The populist parties on the left and right (SP and PVV) were wiped out and Forum voor Democratie got fewer votes than expected. GroenLinks won and D66 lost. It... More >


Free Morgan Foundation in court again in fight for wild orca

Free Morgan Foundation in court again in fight for wild orca

On Wednesday, the highest Dutch administrative court will hear legal arguments in the case of the wild-born orca know as Morgan, who was captured in the Wadden Sea and now languishes in Spanish tourist attraction. The Dutch government is to blame for her plight, say Matthew Spiegl and Dr Ingrid N Visser. Infringement of EU law  – including wildlife law – undermines the very foundation of the union. When acts of infringement are alleged, they must be acknowledged, addressed and... More >


Wynia’s Week: taxation and inflation – citizens are out of pocket

Wynia’s Week: taxation and inflation – citizens are out of pocket

The Dutch government knows how to look after itself but is leaving its citizens out of pocket, writes commentator Syp Wynia. The third Mark Rutte-led government is still failing to deliver on spending power.  Supermarket prices and energy bills are rising faster than wages. Taxes have been mounting to a record high, resulting in budget sures and rapidly diminishing government debt. Meanwhile the economy is showing signs of fatigue before people have even started to enjoy the fruits of its... More >