Kop Profiel The Netherlands

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Dutch News

It may well be the case that Dutch news is not particularly exciting, but it is often astonishing and hilarious nevertheless. For those who seek to understand the Netherlands and its people, it is in fact extremely revealing. Hence this anthology of Dutch news items, most of them self- explanatory, from the last six months of NRC Handelsblad.

Peaceful New Year

AMSTERDAM, 2 JANUARY. Once again, New Year's celebrations in the Netherlands passed off relatively peacefully. Fights broke out in a number of areas and there were some acts of vandalism. Police made several dozen arrests.A 24-year old man from The Hague died from stab wounds. In the town of Monster, one family's toilet pot exploded after a firework bomb landed in the sewer.

Snack bars unhealthy

AMSTERDAM, 4 JANUARY. According to the Dutch caterers' association KHN, Dutch snack bars are uninviting and unhealthy. They need to improve their image by looking at the competition, especially McDonald's and the supermarkets. In other words, proprietors should make the atmosphere in their snack bar more amenable to children, decrease the 'psychological waiting time' and have a separate grocery corner. According to the association's research, two thirds of all consumers visit a snack bar regularly. Almost forty percent visit one several times a week.

House prices sky rocketing

NIEUWEGEIN, 12 JANUARY. House prices in and around Amsterdam and Utrecht have exceeded the wallet of large sections of the population. According to the estate agents association NVM, only double-income households can still afford the prices asked.

Foreign take-overs up

AMSTERDAM, 19 JANUARY. According to figures released by KPMG yesterday, Dutch businesses spent twice as much money on foreign take-overs in 1998 as they did in 1997. All in all, Dutch companies realised take-overs worth more than 73 billion guilders.

Crown Prince resigns IOC post

THE HAGUE, 25 January. A majority in the lower house of Parliament wants Crown Prince Willem-Alexander to resign his membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This follows the publication in Lausanne yesterday of the IOC's report into the bribery scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

Unemployment rate down

ROTTERDAM, 4 FEBRUARY. The number of people in work has increased by 1.2 million over the last ten years. 6.6 million people were in work in 1998, compared to 5.4 million in 1988, an increase of 22 percent. The most important cause is the increase in part-time work and the increased participation of women in the labour market. Part-time jobs were up 66 percent over the last ten years, from over one to nearly two million.

Minor baby boom

ROTTERDAM, 13 FEBRUARY. While the number of births across the European Union has fallen to a post-war low, the number of babies born in the Netherlands actually rose last year. At four per thousand, Dutch natural population growth (the number of births minus the number of deaths) was the second-highest in the EU.

MPs leak information

THE HAGUE, 13 FEBRUARY. Prime Minister Kok has reacted angrily to reports that a number of MPs have leaked details of discussions with Queen Beatrix. Speaking after the cabinet's weekly meeting, Mr Kok emphasised that such discussions with the Queen can only hope to be useful if they remain confidential. According to last Wednesday's leaks, the Queen was concerned about the increasing lack of security in society and about the empty prison cells.

Dutch like voluntarily work

THE HAGUE, 23 FEBRUARY. The number of volunteer workers in the Netherlands is among the highest in the world.According to a report by the Office of Social and Cultural Planning (SCP), the willingness of people to work for altruistic motives or idealistic causes has actually increased during the past decades.

Windmills due for renovation

AMSTERDAM, 8 MARCH. Two-thirds of the 700 windmills in the Netherlands will need maintenance within the next few years. In 120 cases, thorough renovation work is required.

Gulf between rich and poor increases

THE HAGUE, 25 MARCH. According to research by the Central Statistics Office (CBS), the gulf between rich and poor has increased sharply over the last twenty years. A comparison between wages and benefits shows that people receiving benefits had almost 25 percent less money to spend in 1997 than they did in 1977 compared to those with jobs.

Zoo victim of Fool's Day prank

AMSTERDAM, 1 APRIL. Amsterdam's Artis Zoo is expected to receive up to a thousand calls today for Mr Bear, Mr Lion or Mrs Crane. Pranksters on the zoo staff traditionally leave messages for colleagues on APRIL Fools'Day stating "Please call back Mr. Bear at this number".

Influx of foreigners

ROTTERDAM, 8 APRIL. According to projections by the CBS, the number of inhabitants of foreign origin will more than double over the next fifteen years, from 800,000 to two million. Over this period, the total population of the Netherlands will increase by the same 1.2 million.

Red tape hurts Dutch business

THE HAGUE, 11 MAY. Over the last five years, businesses have spent the amount of 16.5 billion guilders on 'red tape'; 3.5 billion guilders more than in the years before. The extra costs are mostly due to "unintentional by-products of new regulations and legislation."

Environmental awareness limited

THE HAGUE, 21 MAY. According to a new report by the Office of Social and Cultural Planning (SCP), the Dutch are reasonably aware of environmental issues, but do not always behave in an environmentally responsible way. The report claims that people's environmental concerns amount to little more than turning down plastic carrier bags in stores and buying ecologically sound products.

Academy boycots Serbian student

ARNHEM, 22 JUNE. The Serbian student Jelena Dadic has been refused enrollment by the Academy of civil engineering in Arnhem. Director John Carp was not willing to accept a student born in a country that severly represses a group of people. What annoyed Carp most was that the Serbian did not mention the war in her letter of application. ,,She has got quite a nerve'', he concluded.

Gay marriage legalized

ROTTERDAM, JUNE 26. Holland will be the first country in the world with a legal marriage between people of the same gender. That's the outcome of a cabinet meeting, yesterday. Homosexuals and lesbians will be able to adopt children in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Antilles are against gay marriages.

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1 JULI 1999

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