Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (1527)

€500 notes are only used by crooks and should be withdrawn: police

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – €500 notes should be removed from circulation as soon as possible because they are only used by criminals, the head of a special police team responsible for tracking crime cash has told the Telegraaf.

The notes are no longer being printed but there are some 509 million in circulation, with a value of over €250bn, the European central bank said in March.

Most of the notes are in the hands of drugs criminals in Latin America and Mexico, countries where ‘you can’t buy butter with euros’, FIU chief Theo Akse told the paper.

The €500 note also makes it easy to smuggle cash, Akse said. He suggests phasing out the note over a two-year period and giving the holders three months to swap their cash.

The €200 note should also be withdrawn from general circulation, he said, because it too serves no useful purpose. Most Dutch shops already refuse to accept €200 notes.


Dutch tourist board pledges to better manage and spread tourism

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch tourist board is to stop actively promoting the Netherlands as a holiday destination because its main attractions – the canals, tulips and windmills – are becoming both overcrowded, the Telegraaf said on Monday.

In future the NBTC will focus on trying to spread visitors to other parts of the country ‘by putting the spotlight on unknown areas’ and on limiting the problems caused in the busiest periods.

The change of position is part of the organisation’s strategy for the period up to 2030. ‘To control visitor flow and leverage the opportunities that tourism brings with it, we must act now.

Instead of destination promotion, it is now time for destination management,’ the NBTC report said. ‘Many other regions should also profit from the expected growth in tourism and we will stimulate new offerings.

The NBTC will become much more of a data and expertise centre,’ a spokeswoman told the Telegraaf. The organisation expects at least 29 million tourists will visit the Netherlands a year by 2030, compared with 19 million in 2018.

Last year it developed the HollandCity to try to spread tourists outside the main hotspots of Amsterdam, fishing villages and the bulb fields. HollandCity strategy which involves promoting the Netherlands as a single metropolis with lots of districts, such as Lake District Friesland and Design District Eindhoven.

Traffic chaos

This Easter, the Keukenholf bulb garden and the Kinderdijk windmill district impossible to reach for a time because so many people had turned out to visit them. The congestion forced the director of the Keukenhof to discribe the situation as ‘completely unacceptable’ for locals.

Amsterdam too has been grappling with over-tourism and is attempting to spread visitors throughout the city.



‘Real’ chance of a pension cut in 2021, says biggest Dutch pension fund

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The giant Dutch civil service pension fund ABP will not raise pensions in the coming years and says there is a ‘real’ chance it may have to make cuts in two years’ time.

ABP has 2.9 million participants and, with invested assets of €43bn, is one of the biggest pension funds in the world.

The fund’s annual report, published on Thursday, says that its annual coverage ratio – assets as a percentage of its pension obligations – was 103.8% at the end of 2018 – that is just below the legal requirement of 104.2%.

However, by the end of March 2019, the average ratio over the past year had fallen to 102.4% as interest rates continue to pressure results.

The fund’s financial position means that ‘a pension increase is not on the cards in the coming years and there is a real chance that ABP will have to lower pensions in 2021,’ the fund said.

Last year, ABP said it was phasing out all investment in companies associated with tobacco and nuclear weapons.



Noisy youths cause cinema security alert, police storm building

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A security alert at a cinema in The Hague, which led to the screening room being stormed by police in bullet proof vests, has been resolved with a couple of fines, police confirmed on Friday.

The four youths aged 14 and 17, whose actions created the panic on Thursday were arrested at the scene and two have been fined for not carrying ID, police said in a statement.

The problems arose during the screening of the film Hotel Mumbai, about the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in 2008. According to some eyewitness reports, four youths, who had been talking noisily during the screening, got up and left shortly before the end of the film, just when the attack was due to be shown.

They then returned and all sat in different parts of the cinema, sparking a panic among other cinema goers, at least one of whom left and alerted the police. Some 20 to 30 police officers, some with bullet proof vests, then burst into the cinema.

Visitors were forced to put their hands on their heads and leave the screening room while police combed the building. A police helicopter was also brought in and part of the Spui closed off.


A police spokesman told the AD that the youth’s behaviour had been ‘rash’ rather than an act of terror and that all four have been given a stern talking to. The police did not say if the teenagers were fooling around or had deliberately tried to frighten people.

‘They certainly came over threatening to the audience, but we should not lose sight of their age,’ the police spokeswoman told the AD. But other eyewitnesses told the AD the youngsters had been noisy and irritating but there was no question of a threatening situation.

Nor had they sat in different parts of the cinema. The police also said in their statement that officers have undergone training to deal with incidents of extreme violence at the location where the panic took place. ‘The aim of the training was to help police and cinema personal work together in stressful situations,’ the statement said.



Dutch consumers buy more goods online, at home and in the EU

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch consumers spent €1.6bn buying goods from webshops in other EU countries last year, according to the national’s statistics agency CBS.

Total sales via other EU member states rose 17%, which is down on recent years, the CBS said. Nevertheless, final quarter sales – which include Sinterklaas and Christmas – were up 22% year on year.

Webshop purchases in other EU countries from just 2% of total consumer retail spending. The amount spent by the Dutch in Dutch webshops was up almost 18% on 2017.



There were just 28 strikes in the Netherlands last year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – There were fewer official strikes in the Netherlands last year – 28 as opposed to 32 in 2017 – and the number of working days lost to industrial action was down by 67,000.

The 2017 total of 32 strikes was the highest in 30 years, the national statistics agency CBS said. In total, 239,000 days were lost to strikes last year.

The transport and logistics sector topped the list of strike-prone industries with 10 strikes, followed by industry with seven, both of which led to large numbers of lost days.

The biggest strike was in the education sector, which affected more people than any other, the CBS said. Wages and working conditions accounted by far the most strikes.



Big daycare group says children who are not vaccinated will be sent home

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A large Dutch childcare group has gone public in saying that it will ban children who have not be vaccinated against mumps, measles and German measles from July 1, broadcaster NOS said.

The Berend Botje daycare group, which looks after over 3,000 children in Noord-Holland province, has told parents that children who have not been inoculated will be sent home after that date.

The aim is to protect children of pre-inoculation age. There have been four cases of measles at a daycare centre in The Hague in recent weeks. Several are under 14 months old, the age at which children are vaccinated against the three diseases.

So far around 100 daycare groups in the Netherlands have said that they will not accept children who have not been inoculated, but Berend Botje is thought to be the first one which has said it will ban children who already use its facilities.

It is currently illegal to discriminate against non-vaccinated children under discrimination legislation but legislation to make a ban possible is currently going through parliament.


Berend Botje looks after children in a variety of age groups at 50 different locations across the province. So far around 10 parents have asked for further information about the ban, which will come into effect on July 1, the organisation told NOS.

At the moment 90.2% of Dutch children are vaccinated against potentially serious illnesses such as measles, polio and whooping cough. This is below the level of 95% the World Health Organisation considers safe.

The last measles epidemic in the Netherlands hit the Dutch Bible belt in 2013. In total, 2,600 people were diagnosed with measles and the outbreak was concentrated in families with young children who had not been vaccinated for religious reasons. One girl, who had not been vaccinated, died.



Brothers jailed for five and six years for attack on waiter in Prague

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two Dutch brothers among a group who attacked a waiter at a cafe in Prague have been jailed for six and five years for public order offences and serious assault.

The waiter was reportedly attacked when he asked a stag party group to leave a pavement terrace where they were drinking their own beer.

Seven people were arrested, three of whom were given suspended sentences and banned from returning to the Czech Republic for five years.

Two others were acquitted after it became clear from video footage that they had tried to break up the group. Arash and Armin N. have been held in custody since the incident a year ago, which left the victim in hospital for three weeks.

Under the terms of a treaty with the Czech Republic, the two men will be allowed to return to the Netherlands to serve out their jail time, but only once any appeals have been heard, broadcaster NOS said.

The public prosecution department, which had called for sentences of 10 to 18 years, has said it will appeal. The brothers have also been ordered to pay their victim €75,000.



Pressure grows for laughing gas ban as abuse concerns mount

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam city council is being asked to consider banning the sale of laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, after a number of youngsters were taken ill during the King’s Day festivities.

Wil van Soest, a councillor for the pensioners’ party 50Plus, has asked the city’s executive board to consider banning the sale of the gas under local bylaws. ‘Several dozen’ people had to be helped by ambulance staff after using the drug on Saturday, according to early media reports.

According to the Parool, a ban on the sale of the gas capsules has already been brought in in Alkmaar and Hoorn during events. In addition, a spokesman for junior health minister Paul Blokhuis told the Parool that there are concerns that voluntary rules worked out with wholesalers and the hospitality sector to limit the sale of the gas are not bearing fruit.

While has stopped selling the gas altogether and wholesalers such as Sligro limit the sale to legitimate buyers, it may be that more needs to be done, the spokesman said.

The health ministry said last year it wants to make it more difficult for teenagers to buy laughing gas following a report by addiction clinic Trimbos on the rising use of the drug by youngsters.

That research showed over 37% of Dutch party goers use laughing gas on a regular basis and that young adults are the most likely to do so. Although laughing gas is relatively safe it is not without dangers and its long-term effects on children has not been researched.

Dozens of little companies have sprung up in the Netherlands selling and delivering laughing gas to party goers since courts ruled the gas should not be treated as a medicinal drug.



Deliveroo workers ‘ride to find’ five missing people in the Netherlands

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Cyclists working for food delivery service Deliveroo will be riding around with posters of missing people on their delivery bags for the next month, as part of a joint initiative with the police to try to solve several disappearances.

Police hope the ‘ride to find’ campaign will generate tips to solve five high-profile cases and follows similar initiatives in other countries. The missing people include James Grealis, who disappeared in Breda over 10 years ago and four more recent cases.

‘Every bit of attention helps,’ Neeltje Wagenaar of the national missing person’s bureau, said. ‘The worst thing about being left behind is not knowing what has happened to someone you love.’

The campaign involves 100 delivery workers in Amsterdam, The Hague, Breda and Nijmegen. A similar campaign in Britain led to three people being found, the press statement said.


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