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Probe after 117,000 job seekers’ CVs are skimmed from UWV website

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – An investigation has been ordered after 100,000 CVs have been illegally downloaded from the website of the employees’ insurance agency UWV.

Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees said the 117,000 resumes had been accessed over a period of two weeks from the website werk.nl using the account of a UWV staff member.

The employee in question claimed to have been unaware of the activity. The national cybersecurity centre NCSC and the privacy watchdog Autoriteit Persoonsgevevens have been informed and the incident has been reported to the police.

All those involved have been contacted by the UWV to warn them to watch out for phishing scams and other online fraud. IT experts said the episode highlighted weak security at the UWV, which uses the werk.nl website to share the CVs of jobseekers with employers.

Jobseekers have the option of uploading ‘open’ CVs, which are freely available, or ‘closed’, meaning they are available on request. ‘Every company that has an account with werk.nl can see job seekers’ details,’ René Veldwijk told Trouw.

‘All that’s happened now is that somebody spent two weeks trawling al those details with a computer programme. It could be criminals, but it could also be a company that wants to use the data to connect job seekers with employees.’

He added: ‘The fact that it took two weeks for the UWV to notice that so many CVs were being downloaded shows they’re not looking out for it properly. It was all done through one account.

If the perpetrators had been a bit more professional in their approach and used several accounts, the UWV probably still wouldn’t have noticed anything.’

(DutchNews)

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Councils forced to make major spending cuts to pay for youth care services

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dozens of local authorities in the Netherlands say they have to make far-reaching cuts in spending to pay for all the care duties they now have to undertake.

The Volkskrant says libraries are being closed, budgets for road and building maintenance are being cut and less money will go to the arts and culture. In addition, local taxes are also being increased to make up the shortfall.

In particular, youth care services are proving to be more expensive than thought in some two-thirds of the local council areas which took part in the Volkskrant survey.

Local authorities were made responsible for youth care services in 2015 and since then the number of children in contact with youth social services has risen by 12% to over 400,000, the national statistics agency CBS said last week.

The government saw the move as a cost-cutting exercise, in particular because officials hoped potential problems would be spotted earlier and that would require less use of expensive ‘specialist’ help.

What actually happened, the Volkskrant says, is that experts on the ground identified more youngsters who needed help than had been previously identified. Together, the councils expect to beat their budgets by €600m, the paper said.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge has admitted there are issues and will make some extra funding available.

(DutchNews)

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Amsterdam brings in ‘bizarre’ plan to ban all but electric cars by 2030

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam city council has published plans to ban all but electric cars from the city by 2030 in a move that officials hope will extend locals’ life expectancy by three months.

From next year, diesel-powered cars which predate 2005 will be banned from the area within the A10 ring road and further restrictions will be brought in gradually as the plan is put into practice.

The first evaluation will take place in 2022. Amsterdammers, says alderman Sharon Dijksma, have their lives cut short by one year because of airborne pollution. The most effective way to change this, she said, is to bring in emissions-free transport.

‘This is something the city council has a direct effect on, hence my mission to make Amsterdam the “world capital of emissions free mobility”‘.’ Last month junior environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven said she planned to give local authorities the opportunity to ban old diesel cars and vans by setting up ‘environmental zones’.

Some 4,100 cars would be affected by the Amsterdam ban. Dijksma’s plan envisages this environmental zone being gradually extended and then, once it covers most of the city, bringing in a complete ban on petrol and diesel cars in smaller areas.

Nine streets in the city currently break EU pollution standards. The city will need 16,000 to 23,000 charging stations by 2025 to make the project a success, she says. There are currently some 3,000 charging stations for electric cars in the city.

Grants and subsidies will also be used to encourage motorists to make the switch. ‘The switch to emissions-free travel will require everyone to contribute companies, residents and visitors,’ Dijksma said.

The city has already banned the most polluting vehicles from the area within the ring road and from 2022 buses and coaches will not be allowed in the city centre if they produce exhaust emissions.

Bizarre

Reactions to the proposals have been extremely mixed. The RAI Vereninging motoring lobby described them as ‘bizarre and impossible to put into practice’. However, Maarten Steinbuch, a professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, told broadcaster NOS that the plan should be seen as something to aim at.

‘We’ve still got 11 years,’ he said. Electric cars are becoming cheaper and are already cheaper than petrol-driven cars to maintain, he pointed out. The plans still have to be approved by the full city council, and before that they will be put out to public discussion.

(DutchNews)

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Three weeks to the European elections – but who is leading the campaign?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The European elections may be three weeks away, but six in 10 people in the Netherlands do not know who the campaign leader of the party they plan to vote for is, according to a new survey by research bureau I&O.

The best known of the campaign leaders is former foreign minister Frans Timmermans, who is heading up the PvdA campaign.

More worrying for the right-wing VVD – 10% of people who plan to vote for the party on May 23 think Timmermans is their party leader. In total, 69% of people were able to identify Timmermans but others, some who have worked in Brussels for years, were off the radar.

D66’s campaign leader Sophie in ‘t Veld, who is a high-profile campaigner, was recognised by just 26% of those polled. She has been a MEP since 2004. One in 10 voters could recognise Marcel de Graaff, leader of the anti-EU PVV while just 9% and 7% knew who Esther de Lange (CDA) and Bas Eickhout (GroenLinks) are.

The research results were much more pessimistic about support for the EU and voting intentions than a recent poll by the EU-allied Eurobarometer.

Almost one in five said the Netherlands should follow Britain and leave the EU, compared to just 8% in the Eurobarometer survey. I&O also said 46% of those polled agreed that EU institutions have too much power and 47% said European integration had gone too far.

I&O also forecasts turnout in the vote will be between 37% and 45%, whereas Eurobarometer put it at over 70%. At the last EU elections in 2014, just 37% of the population voted.

(DutchNews)

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More Dutch women and children in Syrian camps as fighting continues

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – There are now 55 Dutch adults, of whom three-quarters are women, living in Syrian Kurdish camps or in detention, together with 85 children, the Dutch security service AIVD said on Thursday.

Many of the children were born in the region, the AIVD said. A month ago, the AIVD said 40 adults and 65 children were living in Kurdish camps or prisons. In addition, a further 80 or so Dutch jihadis are still involved in active fighting in the region and they have a further 85 children with them, the AIVD said.

Nine in 10 of the children are below the age of nine. Some 300 Dutch nationals have travelled to the ISIS caliphate, of whom 90 have died and 60 returned to the Netherlands.

The Dutch government remains adamant that it will not act to bring Dutch jihadis back to the Netherlands, despite a plea by the children’s ombudsman earlier this year to help the children to return.

Dutch jihadis can currently only return to the Netherlands if they manage to get to a Dutch embassy or consulate under their own steam.

(DutchNews)

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Call for debt collectors to be banned from paying ‘kickback fees’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A financial regulator is trying to stop debt collectors passing on so-called ‘kickback fees’ to their clients by bringing a tribunal case.

The Financial Supervision Office (BFT) has raised the disciplinary action against two debt collectors who passed on a share of the administrative costs incurred by deducting debts directly from wages.

The BFT says the practice creates a perverse incentive for creditors to press for debts to be reclaimed from wages, regardless of the debtor’s circumstances, and creates extra administrative costs.

Debt collectors are allowed to charge up to €122 for recovering debts from earnings. Some pass on a portion of these costs on to the creditor in the form of a ‘kickback fee’, allowing them to make a profit on the debt.

The BFT said the two cases were the first in a series designed to stamp out the practice. But the professional debt collectors’ organisation KBG said the regulator needed to change the rules to make kickback fees illegal.

‘We have spent two years trying to change these practices,’ chairman Wilbert van de Donk told NOS Radio 1 Journaal. ‘They are the result of having a competitive marketplace. Until the regulations are in place, we think it’s hard to ask for a judicial decision.’

(DutchNews)

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Pharmacies protest about aggressive customers and ‘drug shortages’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Het Gooi, home to some of the richest neighbourhoods in the Netherlands, may not have the country’s happiest pharmacists.

According to the NOS, 24 stores have closed their doors on Wednesday for a morning of protest at the aggression they experience from their customers. ‘A colleague from Weesp was recently hit in the face because a certain drug brand was no longer covered by insurance,’ Bernadine Armbrust, a pharmacist from Hilversum, told the NOS Radio 1 Journaal.

She said her protest had a dual function: to ask clients to behave differently, but also to ask insurers and politicians to take note of the effects of limited supplies of insurance-funded medicines in the Netherlands.

‘There was already a lot of frustration among clients because brands were no longer covered and they would then have to switch,’ she added. ‘But then you also get drug shortages.’

Gerben Klein Nulent, chair of the KNMP pharmacists’ trade association, told the NOS the frustrations are not only in Het Gooi. ‘Screaming, threats and hitting have become daily events, and we find this unacceptable,’ he reportedly said.

His organisation found that last year, medicines were not available for 769 prescriptions. Zorgverzekeraars Nederland told the NOS that it was not responsible for client frustrations.

‘Shortages are an international problem, and the causes are outside the Netherlands,’ it reportedly said. ‘It’s not about the coverage policy of health insurers as the demonstrating pharmacists suggest.’

Earlier this year, a ‘just be nice’ (‘doeslief’) campaign also claimed that 8% of public transport workers are spat at each year, and 72% of traffic wardens regularly ‘get the middle finger’.

Posters from this campaign were displayed in the windows of at least one of the protesting pharmacies. (DutchNews)

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Pro-Nexit Forum and the ruling VVD neck and neck in EU parliament poll

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – With just under four weeks to go before the European parliamentary elections, the right-wing VVD and pro-Nexit Forum voor Democratie are neck and neck, according to a new poll by television current affairs show EenVandaag and research bureau Ipsos.

The Netherlands has 26 seats in the European parliament, and both the VVD and Forum are on target to take five in the May 23 vote, the new poll shows. Forum, which emerged as the winner of the provincial elections in March, will debut in the European parliament after the elections while the VVD’s tally of five is up two on its current total.

The Christian Democrats were the big winners in the vote in 2014, taking five seats, but are now on target to win three. The pro-Nexit PVV and pro-Europe D66 are both likely to see their seat total halved to two. GroenLinks will add one seat to take three. (DutchNews)

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Dutch military secret service says Russia, China espionage ‘very worrying’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch military security service discovered several attempts by both China and Russia to steal military secrets last year, the MIVD said in its annual report on Tuesday.

‘The threat facing the armed forces is the is the theft of military technology and technological expertise, which can be used for both military and civil ends,’ the report said.

Cyber espionage activities undertaken by both Russia and China are ‘very worrying’, the report said. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Syria have also been looking for knowledge and equipment in the Netherlands and other western countries which they can use for their own weapons programmes, the ministry said.

‘Our role of ensuring safety is expanding due to growing threats,’ MIVD director Onno Eichelsheim. ‘We have screened dozens of defence companies and helped them to secure strategic information. In doing this, we are preventing military secrets leaking out.’ (DutchNews)

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Former police officer jailed for talking about his job, Wilders to impress women

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A former police officer involved in protecting far right MP Geert Wilders has been jailed for seven months for leaking confidential information.

Faris K, who described his actions as ‘stupid’, talked about Wilders and a visit to the Netherlands by one of president Obama’s daughters to several women, in breach of his confidentiality agreement.

The public prosecution department had called for a five-month jail term, but the court decided to add two more months to the total to ‘act as a deterrent’, pointing out that K had been warned several times about speaking out of turn.

When K was first a suspect it was widely assumed, he had been leaking information to criminals. He has been placed under observation and his phone and internet were tapped for months before he was finally arrested in February 2018.

However, during the court hearings, the public prosecution department confirmed that he had talked about his job to several women, as a way to impress them. K worked for a special security team which checked out locations where politicians like Wilders and members of the royal family would visit.

He was not involved with Wilders’ personal security detail. He told the AD in an interview on Monday that everyone in the village where Wilders lived knew he was there because of the heavy security. He plans to appeal against the verdict. (DutchNews)

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