Dutch sugar beet farmers want exemption from EU ban on bee-harming pesticides

Dutch arable farmers want to be exempt from the EU’s ban on three pesticides which harm bees and have called on agriculture minister Carola Schouten to campaign for the exemption in Brussels, Trouw reported on Tuesday. Last month the European Commission banned the use of three neonicotinoids which are harmful to insects, particularly wild bees, but Dutch sugar beet farmers say they are essential to growing their crop. Last week it emerged that Belgium’s minister of agriculture is to apply for an exemption from the ban on neonicotinoids for the country’s sugar beet growers, Trouw said. Now Dutch beet farmers want Schouten to follow the Belgian example. They argue that sugar beet does not produce flowers which are attractive to bees, and thus their crop does not hurt insects. Earlier this month, natural heritage group Natuurmonumenten published a new report showing that the insect population of the Netherlands has fallen dramatically in the last 20 years. The report did not draw any firm conclusions about what caused the sharp decline, but said more intensive farming methods may be partly responsible.  More >

Hospital bill for damages claims soars

The Dutch hospital bill for damages following medical errors has gone up over 400% in 10 years, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday. In 2007, hospitals paid out €9.4m in compensation but that had soared to €43.2m by 2016, the paper said. The rise is mainly due to more large claims being made, with the total number increasing 4.5% over the 10 year period. The biggest claim in the 10 years was for €1.9m. 'Doctors think that more claims are being made and that fear is leading to a more defensive approach to treatment,' health lawyer and researcher Désirée Klemann told the paper. 'This is sometimes means more diagnoses are being made than strictly necessary to make sure nothing gets missed out.' Ageeth Bakker, chairman of Centramed, which is one of the big two medical insurance companies, told the Volkskrant that the Netherlands is still far removed from the situation in the US. 'But we have to be careful that we don't head in that direction,' she said. 'We don't want a situation in which doctors refuse to practise because they can no longer afford the insurance.'  More >

Friesland underrated: Lonely Planet

Friesland has come third in travel guide publisher Lonely Planet’s annual list of underrated European holiday destinations, public broadcaster NOS writes. It’s the first time a Dutch destination makes it this far up the list. According to Lonely Planet, Friesland is ‘a hidden pearl’ too often ignored by travellers. The guide calls European cultural capital Leeuwarden ‘atmospheric and compact’ and praises the landscape and Frisian Wadden islands. Emilia-Romagna in Italy and Cantabria in Spain came first and second. Friesland may be in for a busy time as a result of the mention in the list, NOS writes. Rotterdam, which ended in fifth place in 2005 and Texel, which took ninth place in 2016, both saw an increase in the number of tourists.  More >

Wolf may be settling in Drenthe

A wolf may be in the process of settling in the nature reserves of the province of Drenthe, Dutch forestry commission Staatsbosbeheer said on its website on Tuesday. Confirmed sightings of a wolf have been reported over a period of months but a wolf is only considered to have established a territory if he stays in the same place for a period of at least six months, Staatsbosbeheer says. More research is necessary, the forestry commission said, for instance to find out if the sightings are of the same wolf or that various wolves are roaming the area. ‘We have a number of cameras in place but it won’t be until we find ‘territorial markings’, i.e. wolf droppings, that we can do DNA tests and find out if we’re dealing with a particular wolf or wolves, and if they are staying,’ wolf expert Aaldrik Pot said. The return of wolves in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe is not without controversy. Only last week eleven sheep, were thought to have been killed by a wolf over two consecutive nights in Groningen. Pressure on Brussels decision makers to allow the animals to be shot is said to be mounting. But according to wolf monitoring site Wolven in Nederland, there is room for around 20 wolf packs in the Netherlands and sheep famers must adjust their farming practices to teach wolves not to go after their sheep, for instance by putting up electric fences. The wolf spotted in Drenthe, however, has not attacked any sheep, a further indication the wolf may be settling and is getting to know its territory and the prey it can find there. ‘Itinerant wolves often grab a sheep but his wolf seems to be concentrating on wildlife,’ Pot said. Wolves commonly eat roe deer, wild boar and young red deer.  More >

New healthcare innovation fund launched

Health minister Bruno Bruins plans to establish a new €105m fund to speed up the availability of new drugs and medical technologies to patients and to establish the effectiveness of existing treatments. Grants will be available to organisations developing new healthcare ideas so that they can pay for development and research. Proven efficacy is needed before a treatment or product is included in the basic health insurance package and this can prove a stumbling block to developers, Bruins said. In particular, small firms, hospitals and individual researchers tend to give up before a product is available for patients. 'This new fund will enable them to take this last step,' Bruins said in his briefing to MPs. Later this year, Bruins will publish more details about how the fund will tackle new drugs and a programme to evaluate existing treatments.  More >

House prices rise 8.6% in April

House prices in the Netherlands rose 8.6% in April and are now 27% higher than June 2013, when the recovery began, national statistics agency CBS said on Tuesday. The increase in April is up slightly on March, the CBS said. At the same time, fewer homes are changing hands. Some 68,000 flats and houses were sold in the first four months of this year, down 6% on the year earlier period.   More >

Name change hits Heineken Music Hall

The concert hall formerly known as the Heineken Music Hall has tumbled down the list of the best places in the Netherlands to see live music since changing its name to AFAS Live, according to new research on the Netherlands' best cultural brands. Two years ago, the concert hall was fifth on the list but is now in just 17th place, the new ranking shows. The name changed at the beginning of last year, when the brewing group decided to end 15 years of sponsorship and software group AFAS took over. The concert hall with the best reputation, according to the new ranking is the Ziggo Dome followed by the Carré theatre, Ahoy Rotterdam and the Amsterdam Arena. Paradiso, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, is in sixth place. The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam has the best reputation of all museums and cultural institutions in the Netherlands, the research showed. Other rankings in the new research include best bands (Bløf, which has topped the list for 12 years), best festival (Parade) and most status-enhancing cultural pursuit (classical music concerts).  More >

Dutch focus aid efforts on preventing war

The Netherlands is allocating an extra €290m a year for emergency aid and the protection of refugees in areas close to their homes, aid minister Sigrid Kaag has told MPs. In addition, a further €130m a year will go into education for refugee children and to help countries where refugees are able to build up new lives, Kaag said in her briefing. The strategy, the minister said, sees 'development aid as an integral part of foreign policy, focused on combating the causes of poverty, migration, terror and climate change.' The aid will be concentrated on a number of focus regions: The Sahel, the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. 'Greater efforts to boost stability, reduce poverty and promote economic growth that benefits everyone are also an investment in combating irregular migration and the human suffering that accompanies it,’ Kaag said. The strategy also includes a proactive trade and investment agenda, designed to help ensure that significantly more small and medium-sized enterprises, including startups, become active internationally, the minister said. ‘A greater focus on prevention is desperately needed,’ Kaag said. ‘Greater efforts now will mean less human suffering in the future, and it will save billions in emergency aid, reception in the region of origin and reconstruction. That’s better for the world and better for the Netherlands.’ Read the summary, in English  More >

Arcadis wins contract for new Suez tunnel

Civil engineering group Arcadis has won a contract to design a new road tunnel under the Suez Canal, the 193-km waterway which connects the Mediterranean sea with the Indian ocean, the company said on Monday. Financial details were not revealed. Amsterdam-based Arcadis said it won the multi-year contract partly because of its prior involvement in the Ismaïlia road tunnel under the waterway. The new 3-km tunnel is part of a larger project to stimulate the Egyptian economy. Arcadis will deliver the complete design of the tunnel which has a 13-metre tube and will reach a maximum depth of 40 metres.   More >

Amsterdam mayor job still up for grabs

Applications for the job of mayor of Amsterdam are to be reopened because not enough suitable candidates have come forward, the committee in charge of appointing the mayor has said. In total, 29 people had applied for the job, including nine women, but only four of the candidates had worked full time in a public function. The committee has now decided to reopen applications until June 2, in the hope of attracting more suitable candidates to choose from. The official job description called for a mayor with lots of management experience,  a sense of humour and someone who is able to express their vision clearly. They must also be open to society, keen to bridge the gap between politicians and the man in the street, and a quick thinker. Mayors are not chosen by direct vote in the Netherlands. The council draws up a shortlist based on open applications and then the king’s commissioner in Noord Holland will interview the candidates. The full council then debates the commissioner’s findings and picks its front-runner. if all goes according to plan, the new mayor will then be formally appointed by the king, and sworn in. The committee now hopes to have this process completed before the summer break.   More >

Wilders 'fewer Moroccan' appeal case delay

The judges in Geert Wilders 'fewer Moroccans' appeal court trial are to be replaced after Wilders' legal team successfully applied to have them removed. This means the appeal, which started on Thursday and should have run for 11 days, will now be delayed while new judges are appointed and brought up to speed. Wilders had wanted to delay the trial so his legal team could carry out more research into the decision not to prosecute D66 leader Alexander Pechtold for comments he made about Russians. Wilders claims there are parallels between the two cases. The court refused the request, leading Wilders' legal team to challenge their impartiality. A special chamber of judges ruled on Friday that that decision not to give Wilders more time to look into the Pechtold decision was not properly justified and ordered the judges to be removed. Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops wants to use the Pechtold case to show that the public prosecution department is biased about whom it chooses to prosecute. The public prosecution department said earlier this year it would not take action against the D66 leader for saying he had never met a Russian 'who corrects his mistakes himself' even though several complaints were made against him. 2014 The 'fewer Moroccans' case dates back to 2014 when Wilders asked a roomful of supporters if they wanted to have ‘more or fewer’ Moroccans in the country. When the crowd shouted back: ‘Fewer, fewer,’ Wilders responded: ‘We’ll take care of that.’ In December 2016, Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans. A panel of three judges said Wilders’s comments were ‘demeaning and insulting to the Moroccan population’. However, the court decided not to fine or sentence Wilders on the basis that a criminal conviction was sufficient punishment in itself.  More >