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Food fight in Groningen pensioner complex as bosses ban takeaways

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A group of pensioners in a sheltered housing project in Groningen face being taken to court because they are refusing to eat the meals provided in the complex.

Instead the pensioners have started ordering takeaways from a company which supplies ‘beef with real gravy’, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday, much to the anger of the centre managers.

The row over the catering goes back several months, when the centre’s own kitchens were closed and meals were shipped in from an outside caterer. Then the complaints started, Jaap Pronk, 88, told the paper.

He and 20 others decided to order in their food from another company and stopped paying towards the collective meal provision. Now the centre’s management, who declined to speak to the Volkskrant, are taking the pensioners to court, arguing they are breaking the terms of their lease.

Boss

Pronk says the contracts make no such claim and give residents free rein to choose their own meal providers. ‘We are no longer boss over our own mouths,’ he said. ‘They have not got a leg to stand on.’

Junior health minister Martijn van Rijn has since become embroiled in the row and says the company would be going too far to take the pensioners to court. Both sides in the dispute need to come up with a settlement, he said: ‘They need to get back round the table and keep a cool head.’ (DutchNews)

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Bison and wildcats can be kept as pets by the Dutch … for now

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Junior economic affairs minister Martijn van Dam has postponed implementing an official list of animals allowed to be kept as pets in the Netherlands for six months, the NRC reported on Friday.

The list, compiled under the auspices of Wageningen University, had been criticised by the Platform Verantwoord Huisdierenbezit (Platform for responsible pet keeping) which deemed it ‘unscientific’ and ‘insufficiently transparent’, an evaluation which was backed by the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal, the paper says.

The platform considered the list biased because animal rights group Dierenbescherming and Stichting Aap, an organisation for the protection of exotic animals, were involved in drawing it up.

In the Netherlands some 267 types of mammal are currently kept as pets. The new list rules out 153 different species, which can only be kept under very strict conditions and subject to constant monitoring.

The list includes large animals such as bison, brown bears and kangaroos, but also covers smaller mammals such as wildcats, meerkats and small possums known as a sugar gliders.

The six months grace period will be used to revise the list and put it on a firmer scientific footing, without the input of the animal protection organisations. The ministry will also recruit the help of international experts. (DutchNews)

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ChristenUnie to join coalition talks, serious negotiations start next week

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The small Christian party ChristenUnie is to join formal negotiations to form a new Dutch coalition government after all and serious talks will begin next week.

ChristenUnie is the only option left to ensure a majority government and D66 leader Alexander Pechtold had earlier objected to the party because of their differences on ethical issues. However, on Wednesday evening, Pechtold said that he wants to ‘look seriously’ at a cabinet including the ChristenUnie.

‘No prevaricating, let’s get down to negotiations straight away,’ Pechtold said. ‘If I begin something, I go all out to make it a success’. ChristenUnie’s chief Gert-Jan Segers responded positively to Pechtold’s olive branch.

‘It is always good to look each other in the eye for a moment,’ he told reporters. Commentators say negotiator Herman Tjeenk Willink may submit his final report to parliament by the end of this week.

His task was to identify a coalition with real potential and that he has now done. However, there are still wide differences between the parties which need to be bridged.

Climate

‘ChristenUnie is just as left wing on issues like climate, asylum and income politics as GroenLinks [which broke off talks earlier]’, Trouw said. In terms of refugee policy, ChristenUnie is far away from the restrictions that the VVD and Christian Democrats want to impose, Trouw said.

And while the party is not opposed in principle to making agreements on returning refugees with African countries, as GroenLinks is, it wants assurances on good local provisions.

In the Netherlands itself, the party opposes the way refugee families with school-going children are continually moved around, and favours offering basic support to rejected asylum seekers who cannot leave the country. However, the party takes a more Eurosceptic line than GroenLinks and that could prove an additional headache for D66, Trouw said. (DutchNews)

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Nearly 2,000 people fall for ‘Microsoft helpdesk’ scam in 18 months, police say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Last year 1,100 people filed a police report after being conned out of money by phone callers claiming to work for Microsoft, and 800 have done so already this year, broadcaster NOS said on Thursday.

Victims are phoned by an English-speaking man or woman, often with a heavy accent, who claim to work for the software giant’s help desk. They then proceed to explain that the victim’s computer has problems.

In some cases victims are asked to install software which allows the conman or woman to take over their computer. In others they are asked for bank details so that they can empty bank accounts.

Victims have lost hundreds of thousands of euros to the scammers, police say, and one man lost some €70,000. Most victims are over the age of 50. ‘This could be because the scammers use fixed phone lines and older people are more likely than youngsters to have them,’ spokesman Rob van Bree told the broadcaster.

The police say they think several groups are involved in the different versions of the scam. (DutchNews)

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MPs will debate extending paternity leave to five days after all

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A majority of MPs have voted in favour of processing legislation to give new fathers five days paid paternity leave, even though the outgoing government branded it ‘controversial’.

Traditionally, work on politically sensitive issues is halted while a new cabinet is put together following an election. However, caretaker social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher is keen to press ahead with the plan – which is slated to come into effect in 2019.

For that to happen, decisions have to be taken now, Asscher said. The three parties currently involved in forming a new coalition remain opposed to debating the bill as does the fundamentalist Christian SGP.

However, GroenLinks has now changed sides, making the debate possible. Dutch fathers currently only get two days paid paternity leave, one of the lowest amounts in the EU. It is not yet clear when the debate will take place. (DutchNews)

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No word yet on release of Dutch tv crew, kidnapped in Colombia

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Foreign minister Bert Koenders has declined to comment on reports that the Dutch tv crew kidnapped in Colombia are about to be freed.

A member of a Colombian humanitarian mission which has flown to the area where the two disappeared told Dutch media earlier that they could be released as early as today.

Presenter Derk Bolt and cameraman Eugenio Follender were trying to trace the mother of someone adopted by a Dutch couple when they disappeared in the northern region of Catatumbo, close to the border with Venezuela on Saturday.

Dozens of armed militias are active in the region and according to the Colombian army, Bolt and Follender have been taken by guerilla movement ELN.

Koenders, who is with King Willem Alexander and queen Maxima on their state visit to Italy, told reporters that he is in continual contact with the Colombian authorities. However, saying too much would not be in the interests of efforts to free them, he said. (DutchNews)

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Dutch teens have sex at a later age, and most enjoy it: new report

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Half of Dutch teenagers have had full sex for the first time by the time they reach the age of 18.6, a rise of 1.5 years on 2012, according to a major new survey of youngsters’ sexual habits.

The survey, carried out by the Rutgers foundation, involved a representative sample of 20,000 Dutch youngsters under the age of 25. ‘It is difficult to say what has prompted the shift,’ the foundation said.

‘46% of the boys and 59% of the girls who have not had sex consider themselves to be too young.’ However, researcher Hanneke de Graaf told broadcaster NOS that the findings fit in with a broader European trend.

‘It could be that social media is steering youngsters away from an interest in sexuality. That all those hours on Whatsapp and Instagram have left less time over for physical flirting.’

The research also said that 94% of boys and 90% of girls say they enjoy sex and that fewer young teenagers are having sexual experiences. This, say the researchers, is a good development because ‘early beginners are more vulnerable and less able to protect themselves.’

While the contraceptive pill remains the most popular form of contraception, its use has gone down from 61% to 50% while IUDs have become more common. In addition, 70% used a condom the first time they had sex.

Youngsters have also become more accepting of homosexuality, the survey shows. In 2012, 50% of boys and 25% of girls said they did not approve of two men kissing in the street, but that has now gone down to 27% and 13%. (DutchNews)

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The Netherlands is not dodging its EU refugee responsibilities: court

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands does not have to take in any more refugees from camps in Italy and Greece than it has already done so, judges in The Hague said on Tuesday.

A foundation called We Gaan Ze Halen (we are going to fetch them) had taken the Dutch state to court, arguing that the Netherlands has only taken in 1,433 refugees under the terms of the EU resettlement deal worked out in 2015.

The deal says the Netherlands must resettle 8,712 of the 160,000 refugees in Italian and Greek camps, and, the foundation argues, there are just six months to go before the deadline is reached.

The state lawyer told the court that the Netherlands is meeting its obligations and that fewer refugees have been allocated to the scheme than originally thought. The lower court, and now the appeal court, both sided with this view.

‘The number of refugees to be divided up [between member states] does not have to be adhered to because the number [of refugees] has not been in line with the September 2015 expectations,’ the court said. (DutchNews)

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Survey Says: New government should increase taxes on cigarettes

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Just over half the Dutch think the next government should put up taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products, according to research carried out for anti-cancer charity KWF Kankerbestrijding.

And two in three think the next government should take further steps to stop children taking up the habit, the charity’s research, which involved 1,000 people, said.

Charity spokeswoman Marsja Meijer told news agency ANP: ‘In practice, we know that an increase in taxes is the most effective way of discouraging the use of tobacco. When the price of a packet increases 10%, consumption falls 4%.’ (DutchNews)

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Four in 10 Dutch adults think terror attack in the Netherlands is likely

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Four out of every 10 adults in the Netherlands thinks the chance of a terrorist attack is high. But they put actually being a victim of such an attack lower, according to a 2016 study by national statistics office CBS published on Monday.

Nearly 70% of respondents said they have been concerned about a terrorist attack in the Netherlands and 16% said they had these fears frequently. Despite this only 4% of the adults felt they themselves would be a victim of an attack, and some 75% regarded this chance as very small.

Nearly four out of 10 said they were alert to possible terrorist attacks on a daily basis. They noted suspicious people or behaviour such as displaying nervousness or people hanging around where they did not belong.

They also noticed heavy rucksacks or suitcases or people who looked foreign. Many respondents also said they are now more aware of their surroundings, and are particularly alert at big events, train stations, airports and shopping centres.

Fears of problems also spread to holidays with 7% saying they have eliminated Turkey as a holiday destination. The same number avoid big events in the Netherlands. The research was carried out last year, before the recent spate of attacks in Britain but after the attack on Zaventem airport in Belgium which left 32 people dead.

Plans

There has not been a terrorist attack in the Netherlands since the 1980s, although several alleged jihadi cells with plans have been broken up. In the 1970s and 1980s, some 30 people were killed in 70 terrorist incidents.

The last attack, apart from the murder of Theo van Gogh, was the killing of two Australians by the IRA in Roermond in 1990. (DutchNews)

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