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Dutch must improve investment climate, trade board says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – If the Netherlands is to continue to grow as an international trading country, then it must have the best fiscal investment climate in Europe, according to a report by the semi-governmental Dutch Trade & Investment Board (DTIB).

The DTIB report also said that talented students, start-ups, entrepreneurs, skilled labourers and scientists should be encouraged to remain in the Netherlands, the Telegraaf reported on Wednesday.

‘Now that competition between countries is increasing again, it is necessary to strive for the best fiscal conditions in Europe,’ said DTIB chairman Chris Buijink who also heads the Dutch bankers association.

The report, which was presented to caretaker junior trade minister Lilianne Ploumen and acting economic affairs minister Henk Kamp on Wednesday, singled out research & development centres as an example of a sector which would make the country more attractive.

The report said the fact that the Netherlands was now effectively exporting R&D was ‘an alarming development’. It said more money should be invested in international innovative partnerships.

The government, business community and institutes of higher learning must work together to develop a coordinated approach to exports in new growth markets such as Asia and Latin America, the report argues, adding that the Netherlands brand helps sell the country. (DutchNews)

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Dutch tattoo artist recognised in king’s birthday honours list

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher is among the 2,819 people given decorations in King Willem-Alexander’s traditional birthday honours list.

The awards committee said Schiffmacher is being recognized for his contribution to winning acceptance for tattoo culture in large parts of society and for working to improve hygiene and safety standards.

TV presenter Astrid Joosten, who has been on television for almost 35 years, was also among the recipients of an award. Not only are her programmes informative and educational, but Joosten also works hard for good causes, said Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan, who presented her award.

Most of the awards went, as usual, to ordinary people in recognition of their contribution to society. One of the oldest recipients this year is 99-year-old Mrs De Groot from Sliedrecht who has volunteered for the Salvation Army since 1936.

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’. The first Dutch honour was introduced by king Willem 1 in 1815. (DutchNews)

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Dutch town considers giving birthday ear plugs to all 16-year-olds

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Local officials in the Arnhem commuter town of Westervoort will today vote on whether or not to present all 16-year-olds with a set of earplugs to protect their hearing.

The gift will cost the council around €1,500 a year, according to alderman Arthur Boone, who is in charge of health.

Some 175 youngsters turn 16 every year in Westervoort, which has a population of some 15,000. ‘€1,500 is a lot cheaper than the potential consequences of damage to hearing,’ Boone, who himself has hearing loss in one ear, said.

The council is also considering handing out ear plugs at concerts and festivals. According to research by hearing charity Hoorstichting, one in five youngsters suffers from some form of hearing damage due to loud music. (DutchNews)

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Two men shot dead in gangland killing in Zoetermeer

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two men have been shot dead on an industrial estate in the east of Zoetermeer in what appears to be a gangland killing, police said on Tuesday.

According to the Telegraaf, eyewitnesses saw a BMW pull up at speed at around 11am on Tuesday morning. One man in a balaclava jumped out and opened fire on the two victims who were sitting in a car near to a car paint shop and a boxing school.

After the shooting, the BMW drove off. The car was later found burnt out a few streets away. Nothing has yet been said about the identity of the victims but police have said they do not know if there is a connection to an armed robbery in Zoetermeer earlier in the day. (DutchNews)

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Woman, 89, jailed for four years for killing husband of 63 years

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An 89-year-old woman has been sentenced to four years in jail for killing her 88-year-old husband at their home in the east of Amsterdam two years ago.

The woman, named as Antonia M, was found guilty of killing her husband by stabbing him in the chest after 63 years of marriage. She claimed in court he died as the result of a fall and could not explain his injuries.

However, the man had a knife wound and police found a knife with blood from the victim in the kitchen. Evert Bieshaar was in poor health, incontinent and rarely left the house, and the couple had few visitors, the court was told. M, questioned in court, said that she was almost entirely responsible for her husband’s care.

The public prosecution service said in court that despite her age, she should be jailed for four years for the murder. ‘I will never go to jail,’ M said after hearing the sentencing demand. ‘At my age, I won’t get out alive.’ (DutchNews)

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Denk must pay former candidate Sylvana Simons €4,000 for unfair dismissal

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Political party Denk has lost a €60,000 lawsuit against former candidate Sylvana Simons and been ordered to pay her €4,000 for unfair dismissal.

Simons, who had been chosen as Denk’s lead candidate for the elections on March 15, quit the party just before Christmas to found her own group, Artikel 1. The founders of Denk, former Labour (PvdA) MPs Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk, demanded compensation from Simons for breaching a secrecy clause in her contract six times, at €10,000 per incident.

The former TV presenter, who was employed three days a week as a member of Denk’s communications team, criticised the party in an interview in the Volkskrant on December 24 in which she announced the launch of Artikel 1.

But a court ruled that her comments could not be viewed as a ‘straightforward breach’ of her contractual obligations because she was engaged ‘in political and public debate’. ‘She is free as a former employee to speak critically of the ideas and decisions made by Denk,’ the ruling said.

The court also found that the secrecy clause in her contract was ‘unusually vaguely worded’. Simons was sacked by Denk in January, but the court said she had been unfairly dismissed and ordered the party to pay her €4,000 in compensation and holiday pay.

Simons’s colleague Ian van der Kooye, who left Denk at the same time to co-found Artikel 1, was also cleared of breaching the secrecy clause, but was ordered to compensate the party for leaving before he had worked his notice period. Denk won three seats in Parliament in last month’s election, while Artikel 1 failed to return an MP. (DutchNews)

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Most Dutch health insurance policies include limits on payments, research shows

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Three quarters of health insurance policies taken out by the Dutch only cover patients completely if they visit a healthcare practitioner who has a contract with the insurer, new figures out on Wednesday show.

Just under 20% have opted to have complete freedom to decide where to get treatment and the rest have opted for a combination policy, according to research by care information platform Vektis.

This year, insurance companies had 58 different policies on offer and 67% of people were covered by a collective policy, often via their jobs, Vektis said. In addition, 84% of people have taken out top up policies to cover services not covered in the basic state-determined policy.

These include items such as extra physiotherapy, homeopathy and dental treatment. Just over half of patients spend less than the €385 compulsory excess on their health bills last year.

Of those who opted to increase the excess charge by €500 – which results in lower monthly premiums – just 8% ended up having to pay the first €885 of their medical bills themselves. Vektis over one million people changed insurance company during last year’s window. (DutchNews)

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Dutch businessman found guilty of war crimes in Liberia

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A Dutch businessman has been found guilty of war crimes and smuggling weapons into Liberia by the appeal court in Den Bosch in the latest twist in a legal case dating back over 10 years.

Guus Kouwenhoven, now 74, had been earlier found not guilty of the charges but the Supreme Court in 2010 ordered the case be heard again. Judges sentenced him to 19 years in prison, one year less than the public prosecution department had demanded.

On Friday Kouwenhoven was found guilty of delivering weapons to Liberian dictator Charles Taylor in 2000 and 2002 in return for special treatment for his timber company.

The weapons deliveries broke international embargoes. Some 150,000 people were killed during the Liberian civil war. Taylor was eventually deposed in 20013 and sentenced to 50 years in jail.

Kouwenhoven was first sentenced to eight years in prison for breaking the UN arms embargo on Liberia in 2006. That sentence was later overturned on appeal in 2008.

Then in 2010, the Supreme Court said later the appeal court was wrong to refuse to hear two key witnesses who could only give evidence anonymously and ordered the case to be heard again.

Kouwenhoven, who is in poor health, was not in court to hear the verdict. He has always denied the charges. (DutchNews)

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Dutch millennials prefer interesting jobs over better pay

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Young Dutch jobseekers are looking for interesting job opportunities over well paid employment, according to a survey by Utrecht University which was commissioned by temps agency YoungCapital.

The survey covered 3,721 millennials born between 1980 and 1999 in eight European countries who were asked to choose between salary and work satisfaction, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Thursday.

A full 71% of the Dutch opted for job satisfaction. Only the French and the Spanish had a higher sample favouring an interesting job over pay. 

In Germany and Sweden, 55% opted for job satisfaction, and 45% chose salary. (DutchNews)

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Dutch cabinet talks are tricky but making progress, D66 leader says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – D66 leader Alexander Pechtold told reporters on Thursday he expects the talks on forming a new coalition government will continue after next week’s break.

‘That’s my intention,’ Pechtold said. ‘If others think differently, then I would like to know about it.’ D66, the VVD, the Christian Democrats and left-wing greens GroenLinks have been meeting this week for a fourth week of discussions on a potential new cabinet.

Pechtold said that advances are being made on a daily basis. ‘It is not easy, but the cabinet could become a reality,’ he said. VVD leader and Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday he also expected the talks to continue.

Chief negotiator Edith Schippers is expected to make a statement on progress so far later today. (DutchNews)

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