The Netherlands and Turkey restore diplomatic relations, Blok to visit Ankara

The Netherlands and Turkey have put their differences behind them and agreed to restore diplomatic relations, according to a joint statement published on Friday. The relationship between the two countries has been soured since last March, when the Netherlands refused to allow two Turkish ministers to come to the Netherlands to campaign for a controversial referendum. Talks on resuming diplomatic relations began in the margins of the Nato summit on July 11 and were followed by telephone conversations, the statement said. Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu refer in the document to the 400 years of friendly and economic ties between the two countries. In addition, they state that it is important to normalise relationships in light of tackling migration and combating terrorism. Blok has also agreed to make an official visit to Turkey in the second half of this year.  More >

The art of travel: north-south metro line

With the help of a ‘flash mob’ choir, dozens of chess tables and thousands of Amsterdammers, the North-South tube line opened on Saturday. It was also the launch of Amsterdam’s newest public museum, according to Véronique Baar, who has curated a €5.5m project to commission and install eight artworks in the new stations. From a hidden toilet duck in the platform mural of Station Noord to a mosaic crocodile on the subterranean walls of Station Rokin, the artwork is literally built in to the project. The art budget – provided by Amsterdam municipal council – represents 0.18% of the total metro line’s cost, said Baar, and the project is intended to appeal to all. Museum ‘In this museum there will be 14 million travellers a year, which is quite a good set of visitors!’ she said at a press launch on Saturday. ‘The route itself follows the historic infrastructure of the Amstel, the river that was once here. We also wanted to have art in natural measure with the city. So we asked all the artists to look above ground to all the elements they could find there, and translate that into an art piece under the ground. ‘In that way, you have as a traveller a sense of identification with where you are and what is going on upstairs.’ The station that gathered the most reaction from crowds of people taking advantage of the chance to explore the nine-year-late metro line (and a free ride) was Station Rokin. Crocodile Here, a mural of marble and natural stones in the walls alongside the platform, by artists Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel, is based upon 700,000 artefacts discovered at the site, the former river bed of the Amstel. These ranged, said Baar, from pipes thrown overboard as ships departed and jugs from the sugar trade to a crocodile jaw – although the mural, ‘The crocodile, the melodica, the pike fish, the high heel pump...’, has added a few whimsical extras. Alongside the escalators on the north and south side are glass cases containing thousands of the objects themselves on display. Station Noord, meanwhile, has murals on the platform stones themselves representing the lives of migratory birds plus a few others. Artist Harmen Liemburg didn’t just include geese and water birds – there’s also a Twitter bird tweeting, a toilet duck and a rubber duck. Weather In Centraal Station, meanwhile, a massive screen above the platforms by David Claerbout is actually a slow-moving animation of a man in the Dutch countryside, with a background based on the actual weather forecast for 24 hours ahead. At Station Vijzelgracht, imaginary tube lines come together to form the face and story of Dutch singer Ramses Shaffy, while at Europaplein, photos inlaid in the glass walls tell the story of a romantic encounter – with a more sinister backstory based on the Greek myth of the rape of Europa. Not everything is complete: the lighting isn’t quite right on the Sipping Colors mural by Amalia Pica in Station De Pijp, but Baar pointed out that the metro didn’t need any more delays. People will be able to find out more about each art piece with a book to be published in October. ‘All the artworks are completely different: we worked with walls, with the floor, with mixed screens,’ says Baar. ‘We have a wide range of artists and art pieces for a very broad public. It’s really art for everyone.’    More >

Biggest Dutch childcare group sold

The Netherlands' biggest childcare group Kidsfoundation has been sold by its private equity owner HIG Capital to Canadian investment company Onex. It is the fifth time in 12 years that the group has changed hands, the Financieele Dagblad says. Financial details were not disclosed but the FD put the takeover price at around €300m. The company says its various units cater to 30,000 children all over the country. The biggest brand is Smallsteps but Zus en Zo, Kits, SKS and De Speelbrug are also part of the group. Kidsfoundation was previously known as Estro, which went bust in 2014 under its previous owner, US private equity group Providence. After a controversial restart, which involved sacking 1000 workers, the company was then sold on to HIF. Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of four daycare workers sacked in the pre-packed bankruptcy deal.  More >

Regulated marijuana trial should be bigger

The government's highest advisory body, the Council of State, has thrown its weight behind criticism of plans to begin trials of regulated marijuana production. The organisation says the experiment should be bigger than the government has determined, a criticism made last month by a panel of experts set up to develop the proposals. The Council of State, which points out the experiment conflicts with European law and United Nations' treaties, states that the trial must be 'useful, believable and scientific' to have any merit. But the experiment as now planned - with just six to 10 councils taking part over a four year period - will not be big enough to allow useful conclusions to be drawn, the council said. In June, the commission working out the practicalities said the government's plan is not wide enough to be properly representative and to allow methodological analysis. Grey area The experiment with regulated growing is supposed to remove the gray area between the sale of marijuana in council-licenced coffee shops and the illegal cultivation and supply. However, justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus and health minister Bruno Bruins, who are in charge of the project, have rejected the criticism. 'The cabinet believes that it is feasible to carry out a useful and scientifically relevant experiment within the current legislative proposals,' the ministers said. The draft legislation is due to be debated in parliament this autumn.  More >

Thieves steal 114 tonnes of cobalt

Rotterdam port Thieves have stolen 114 tonnes of cobalt from a secure warehouse in Rotterdam's port area, local broadcaster RTV Rijnmond reported on Friday. The haul has a value of some €7m and must have been removed by lorry but it is unclear as yet how the thieves were able to do this, RTV Rijnmond said. Cobalt is a rare mineral used largely for the production of batteries and pigments. The theft from the Vollers warehouse took place between July 5 and July 9, the Minor Metals Trade Association said in a statement issued to members earlier this week. 'Additional monitoring and security have been implemented since the discovery of the theft, and Vollers are working closely with police and insurers,' the MMTA said.   More >

Alkmaar dance festival faces Sunday ban

A group of strict Protestants who believe Sunday should be a day of rest are going to court on Friday to have a festival in the centre of Alkmaar banned. The Vereniging Zondagsrust is using legislation dating from 1815 to make its case to halt the outdoor dance party, due to be held on Sunday August 26. The legislation, which was amended in 1953, states that there must be no noise nuisance close to churches before 13.00 on Sunday or any public entertainment nearby, unless local councils rule otherwise. But it also stops local councils in strict Protestant communities from banning sports events on Sundays. Councils are allowed to deviate from the rules, but must properly support their arguments, association lawyer Laus Vogelaar told local paper Noordhollands Dagblad. And, he says, the town council has failed to mention the legislation when granting the licence for the event. Sunday as a day of rest is being increasingly undermined, he says, adding 'it is right that the courts take a look at it'. The Alkmaar resident who initiated the legal action told local website Alkmaar Centraal he hoped the courts would realise the importance of having a day of rest to city centre residents. The previous coalition government had planned to remove the law from the statute books but the new coalition, which includes two Christian parties, decided to leave it unchallenged.  More >

Rare amulet reveals 'occult Zutphen'

Archaeologists in Zutphen on the river IJssel in Gelderland have found a rare 17th century amulet connected with alchemistic activity in the town, local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland reports. Building sites are routinely checked for possible finds as it is often the last chance for archaeologists to investigate a particular spot. In this case work to the quayside enabled archaeologists to investigate. The amulet is made of a silver alloy and measures 49mm across. It has three holes, which experts say were meant to nail the amulet to a surface or sew it onto a piece of clothing. Alchemistisch amulet opgegraven in Zutphen — NOS (@NOS) July 20, 2018 At the moment a layer of rust is obscuring part of the lettering on the object but an octogram can be distinguished on one side with the names of the planets and a Latin translation on the edge. On the other side archaeologists have found alchemistic symbols and what they think are the words ‘tetragammaton+Maria’ and possibly ‘Agla+Emanuel’ - phrases that can be found on  similar amulets. The first word means ‘four letters’ and refers to Jahweh or God. The texts, which are often found on objects related to alchemy and the Christian Kaballah, were used as a charm to protect the wearer of the amulet. It is the second time an object like this is found in Zutphen and the town was ‘a hotbed’ of occult activity in the 17th century, the broadcaster writes. In 2010 building activity to the local crematorium yielded a gilded bronze amulet with similar phrasing, also from the 17th century. At the time of the Reformation no fewer than 1600 people in and around Zutphen engaged in occultism, among whom exorcist Arnt Schimmelpenninck, a former canon of the church of Sint Walburgis. The amulet is being cleaned and will form part of a small exhibition on 'occult Zutphen' some time in the future.  More >