Anti Piet campaigners lose case to ban 'racist characteristics' from procession

Anti-Zwarte Piet campaigners have lost their attempt to have 'all racist characteristics' removed from the character's appearance at Saturday's Sinterklaas parade in Zaandijk, north of Amsterdam. A group calling itself the Majority Perspective foundation went to court on Tuesday to ask judges to make sure that Piet has no racist characteristics, such as earrings and big red lips, or showed slavish or stupid behaviour. However, the judge said the foundation, which claims to represent a number of adults and children of African descent, had not had proper talks with Zaandam council, which is organising the procession. The council has been 'taken by surprise' by the foundation's demands and has had no time to react, the judge said. He also rejected calls to ban the procession being shown live on television. In his summing up, the judge referred to international criticism of Zwarte Piet, in particular a report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2015. The UN body then urged the Dutch government to actively work to change the features of Sinterklaas’ helper Zwarte Piet which reflect negative stereotypes. Targets The case targeted Zaanstad's mayor Jan Hamming, the public broadcaster which will show the procession live and the event bureau organising it as well as the Dutch media commission and the Dutch state. Soot The campaign to get rid of Piet's curly hair, red lips and blackface makeup has gathered momentum in recent years and in Amsterdam, for example, Piets with sooty faces will dominate at the city's own parade on Sunday. The government has always refused to take a stand, although prime minister Mark Rutte was heavily criticised in 2014 when he said that his friends in the Antilleans (the Dutch former colonies in the Caribbean) 'are very happy when it is Sinterklaas because they don’t have to paint their faces'. A poll by television show EenVandaag last year showed that 68% of the population back keeping Zwarte Piet black, while 26% are open to change. In 2013, the traditional version of Sinterklaas’ helper had 89% support. However, a majority of people under the age of 25 support getting rid of the blackface make-up, the poll last year showed. Demonstrations The 'arrival' of Sinterklaas on Saturday kicks off three weeks of festivities leading up to December 5. This year the Kick Out Zwarte Piet campaign has said it will not demonstrate in Zaandijk during the opening event. Instead, the organisation has applied for licences to hold demonstrations at 18 other locations including Dokkum, which it was unable to reach last year because of the motorway blockade. Last week 34 campaigners who blocked the A7 motorway with cars to stop anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrators reaching Dokkum were sentenced to community service of between 80 and 240 hours and suspended jail terms of one month.  More >

More details about 'get healthy' plan

More details about the cabinet's plans to cut smoking, drinking and obesity are emerging, ahead of the formal publication set to take place before the end of this month. Every year, 35,000 people die in the Netherlands due to smoking, alcohol abuse and obesity and, the government says, illnesses relating to food, tobacco and alcohol abuse cost society €9bn a year. RTL Nieuws says the plans will include a ban on smoking near schools, healthcare institutions, childcare centres, sports clubs and in playgrounds. Smoking rooms in company offices will also disappear and the cost of a packet of cigarettes will hit €10, the broadcaster says. The AD adds that soft drinks manufacturers will have to lower the amount of sugar in their products by 30% by 2025. However, plans to make sugar-free soft drinks and bottled water cheaper, which were leaked in August, will not now go ahead, the paper says. Nor is it certain that the price of cigarettes will go up to €10, according to the AD. The paper says leaks to the media about the plans over the past few months have led to plans being revised. The plans are being put together by government officials, the hotel and catering industry, health professionals, the food industry, education and sports groups.  The three agreements aim to reduce the number of obese people in the Netherlands, ensure no children take up smoking and slash alcohol abuse.  More >

Dutch women qualify for football World Cup

A 1-1 away draw against Switzerland on Tuesday night put the Dutch women's football team into next year's World Cup competition in France. Oranje, reigning European champions, won the first leg at home 3-0 and had seemed sure of a place until Anouk Dekker was sent off early in the game. Vivianne Miedema put Oranje ahead in the second half, with Switzerland equalising shortly afterwards. 'I am very happy with this,' coach Sarina Wiegman said after the game. 'This is what we did it all for. We want to be among the best in the world on a structural basis and are really looking forward to the experience.' The Netherlands earlier beat Denmark in the playoffs and now take Europe's last berth in next year's championships alongside France, England, Germany, Norway, Italy, Scotland, Spain and Sweden. Match report  More >

More fear terror attack in NL

More people in the Netherlands are concerned that a major terrorist attack will take place on Dutch soil, according to the latest poll by the counter-terrorism unit NCTV. Some 67% are now worried that an attack may happen, compared with 55% six months ago, the survey of some 800 people showed. People are also more worried about the safety of friends and family. Four in 10 are now concerned about the security of their loved ones, compared with three in 10 in the previous survey. Nevertheless, six in 10 people said the arrest of seven men who were said to be preparing a major terrorist attack in September has not an an impact on them. Three in 10 people said they now felt safer and just one in 10 less safe. There have only been a few, minor terror-related incidents in the Netherlands. In the most recent case, two American tourists were attacked by a 19-year-old Afghan national living in Germany at Amsterdam's central station. In August, a 26-year-old man was arrested at The Hague’s main railway station after placing a video on Facebook in which he appears to say he is planning to attack the parliamentary complex or on Geert Wilders.  More >

VVD support drops in new poll of polls

Support for the ruling right-wing liberal VVD has dropped in the latest poll of polls but has gone up for the anti-Islam PVV and the Labour party. The poll of polls, an amalgam of six separate opinion polls, puts support for the VVD at between 24 and 28 seats in the 150 seat parliament, if there were a general election tomorrow. That is equivalent to between 16% and 18.7% of the vote and down four seats on a month ago. At the same time, support for the anti-immigration PVV led by Geert Wilders has risen by an average of two seats, putting the party on between 12.7% and 15.3% support. The Labour party, which was hammered at the last general election, has also gone up to between 12 and 14 seats. It won nine in March 2017. The VVD's problems have been partly caused by the discussion about scrapping the dividend tax, poll compiler Tom Louwerse says. In addition, the party has gone down considerably in the Maurice de Hond opinion poll and this may have distorted the results. Nevertheless, with five months to go before the indirect vote for the senate, support for the ruling coalition is now well below the 76 needed for a majority in the lower house. The senate is formed on the basis of the results in the provincial council elections which take place in March next year.  More >

Secret Escapes takes over TravelBird

British online travel group Secret Escapes is taking over bankrupt Dutch holiday platform TravelBird, but most of the company's 270 to 300 workers will be out of a job, the curator said on Wednesday. TravelBird went bust earlier this month after failing to find new financing and the label will now become part of the Secret Escapes stable. The deal gives Secret Escapes the company's IT platform, the brand, logos and its list of customers. 'I think several dozen workers will keep their jobs but over 200 will be out of work,' the curator told the Financieele Dagblad. 'But we should not worry about those who will be out of work because headhunters are already at the door.' The curator's report also shows that TravelBird and Secret Escapes had been talking about some form of alliance up to the bankruptcy, the FD says.   More >

Job vacancies reach new record

The number of job vacancies in the Netherlands reached 262,000 at the end of September, a new record high, the national statistics office CBS said on Wednesday. With unemployment shrinking to 3.8%, there is now one vacancy for every 1.3 workers - compared with seven vacancies at the end of the economic crisis in 2013. Demand is highest for people working in trade and retail, business services and healthcare the CBS said.   More >