75,000 cacti, monkeys and ivory seized in anti wildlife trafficking campaign

Some 75,000 cacti, monkeys, coral and kilos of ivory are among the items seized by Dutch officials in a major drive against wildlife trafficking, which took place between September and mid November. Operation Toucan is a national campaign in support of the CITES endangered species treaty, which also aims to build up a better picture of smuggling routes and boost public awareness about the illegal trade in plants and animals. This year, officials, police and customs experts were involved in raids across the country and on the Dutch Caribbean islands. In total, there were 217 separate investigations. The haul of illegal goods ranged from Korean face creams containing endangered types of the Aloe plant, a parcel containing six live snakes from the US and two dead toucans which had been sent from Uruguay to the Netherlands. Officials also picked up two live monkeys which were being kept as pets. Officials also confiscated rare tropical hardwood which was to be used as wall panelling and took coral from tourists on Bonaire who were planning to take it home. On the last day of the campaign, police seized seven kilos of ivory at a collectors fair in Utrecht. New this year was the involvement of the Meld Misdaad Anoniem crime tip-off hotline, the nature and farm ministry said. The ministry also said on Monday that from next March all trading in raw ivory in the Netherlands will be banned. Selling ivory dating from 1990 onwards was already illegal but this will be extended to cover the entire trade because of fraud with certificates and the difficulty in differentiating between new and old ivory, the minister said. The ministry is also working to set up a network of places where people can hand over ivory or plants and animals which may be on the CITES list.  More >

Rutte letter: Don't let Brexit happen here

Prime minister Mark Rutte has invoked the 'chaos' of Brexit as a cautionary tale of what could happen to the Netherlands if it neglects its political traditions of coalitions and compromise. In an 'open letter', published as a full-page advert in the AD newspaper, Rutte likens the country's prosperity to a precious vase. 'That possession is brittle and fragile. It can easily break.' He goes on: 'We have seen examples of societies where they dropped the vase. Look at Great Britain. The politicians and people there have forgotten what they achieved together. Now they're in chaos.' The letter is published four months before Dutch voters choose new provincial assemblies, which will in turn determine the make-up of the new Senate in May. If, as expected, the coalition government loses its one-seat majority in the upper house, it will need to seek support from opposition parties for its legislative programme. Rutte cites the recent demonstrations against Zwarte Piet, the blackface character who plays second fiddle to St Nicholas in the traditional December parades, as an example of a situation where things 'almost went wrong.' 'People yelling so hard for or against Zwarte Piet that they lost sight of the children.' In fact talks have been ongoing behind the scenes between parties for several years on how to modernise the appearance of Zwarte Piet. The vast majority of arrests during this year's Sinterklaas parades were for people attacking anti-Piet demonstrations. Rutte wrote: 'I hardly ever get everything I want. Usually I make compromises and water down my demands, because I always feel I have a responsibility to keep the vase intact.' He described others who refused to compromise and work together as 'people who grip the vase so tightly that it breaks.' The fragmentation of Dutch politics, which saw 13 parties win seats in parliament at the last general election in 2017, has led to concerns that the 'poldermodel' of governing by compromise is coming under intolerable strain. The recent breakdown of talks between employers and unions to reform the pension system further underlined the perception that decision making is becoming more difficult. The negotiations to form the current four-party cabinet last year lasted an unprecedented seven months and gave the government a single-seat majority in both houses. At local government level this year's coalition talks lasted two weeks longer than in 2014. Rutte struck a more combative tone the last time he used the open letter format ahead of the 2017 election, when his VVD party was trying to overhaul Geert Wilders's anti-Islam PVV in the polls. He was criticised for telling people to 'act normal or go away' in comments that were seen to belittle the concerns of minority groups.  More >

Finance sector workforce still shrinking

While the construction and healthcare sectors are crying out for staff, the number of jobs in the financial sector continues to shrink, national statistics office CBS said on Monday. The size of the working population grew by 334,000 between 2006 and 2016, but the  number of people employed by banks and insurance companies fell 43,000, the CBS said. The shift to online banking has reduced the need for staff, and the banking crisis also led to thousands of people losing their jobs. Of the 12,000 people who stopped working in the financial sector in 2016, 40% ended up claiming unemployment benefits. In general, just under a quarter of people who lose their jobs end up claiming WW, the CBS said.  More >

Internet broker BinckBank to be taken over

Amsterdam-based internet broker BinckBank has agreed to be taken over by Denmark's Saxe Bank for €424m, the two companies said in a joint statement on Monday. The agreement comes three days after both companies confirmed they were in talks. The transaction is unanimously supported and recommended by BinckBank’s executive board and supervisory board, the statement said. The deal will help achieve economies of scale but there will be consequences for staff, BinckBank chairman Vincent Germyns said. BinckBank currently has a workforce of just under 580, making it a third the size of the Danish group. 'As far as possible these consequences will be met through natural staff turnover,' Germyns said. 'In case of redundancies, a good severance scheme will apply.' The severance scheme has the backing of both boards and the works council, he said. BinckBank is listed on Amsterdam's small cap index and has operations in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. In the Netherlands BinckBank operates under two brands: Binck and Alex.  More >

Tesla drivers most likely to drive fast

Three-quarters of the Netherlands' 9,000 Tesla drivers picked up a speeding ticket last year, the highest proportion of any car brand, according to new figures from national statistics office CBS. In addition, nearly two-thirds of plug-in hybrid cars had been fined at least once for speeding, showing that green car drivers are by far the most likely to go too fast on the Dutch roads. Just 28% of petrol-powered cars and 46% of those which run on diesel were caught speeding during the year. The CBS did not have an explanation for the fast driving habits of electric car drivers but said it could be that the driving experience is different and that motorists were not aware they were going too fast. In addition, company car drivers are more likely to speed than those in private cars. It is the first time the CBS has analysed speeding ticket patterns. In total, 5.8 million speeding tickets were issued last year, of which almost half were for breaking speed limits in built up areas. Of the 30 best sold car brands in the Netherlands, Audi drivers were also most likely to be fined, followed by BMW drivers and Volvo owners.  More >

Gov't urged to regulate ecstasy production

The government should regulate the production of party drug ecstasy to remove it from the criminal circuit, GroenLinks parliamentarian Kathalijne Buitenweg says in Monday's Volkskrant. 'The government does not have to make the pills itself but should regulate production,' to make sure they meet proper quality standards, Buitenweg said. 'It is not just a question of health but a question of doing something about the worrying increase in criminal power,' she told the paper. The MP wants the government to take the initiative to revise UN drugs treaties, and points out that the World Health Organisation has also called for a revision of the way drugs are ranked as dangerous. 'We have to ask ourselves what the treaties have delivered,' she said. 'Has usage gone down. Is there less crime? I don't think so. Earlier this year, Amsterdam police chief Erik Akerboom said more should be done to counteract the ‘normalisation’ of drug use and that users are supporting violent crime. And justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus has warned that drugs money is being used to undermine the legal economy. Brabant The situation is particularly acute in the south of the country, in Noord-Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland. Last year, police broke up 127 drugs labs in Brabant and 57 in Limburg, compared with 136 in the rest of the country. Breda mayor Paul Depla also told the Volkskrant the government should take a stand. 'Give me one argument why alcohol is freely available and ecstasy is banned?' he said. 'I am only saying what experts say, that ecstasy is not as dangerous as alcohol.' Depla is at the forefront of local authority efforts to bring in regulated marijuana production in the Netherlands.  More >

Ajax's De Ligt scoops Golden Boy award

Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has capped a memorable season by being named as Europe's best young player. De Ligt will receive the Golden Boy trophy in Turin on Monday night after being selected by a panel of international football writers. Other contenders included former Ajax team-mate Justin Kluivert, now with Roma, as well as Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and Real Madrid teenager Vinicius Junior. Last year's winner of the Tuttosport award, French star Kylian Mbappé, was not on the shortlist despite playing a key role in his country's World Cup victory. De Ligt is the first Dutch player to be chosen since Rafael van der Vaart claimed the inaugural trophy in 2003. Lionel Messi, Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney are also among the previous winners. Born less than five months before the millennium, De Ligt has been a fixture in the Ajax side since the start of the 2017/18 season. He became the youngest player ever to feature in a European final when he lined up against Manchester United in the Europa League in May 2018. He has also won 17 international caps and featured in the Netherlands' recent UEFA Nations League wins against Germany and France.      More >

Away joy for Fortuna, Emmen and ADO

Eredivisie logo A shock home defeat for Feyenoord at the hands of Fortuna Sittard has left the Rotterdammers eight points off the pace as the halfway point of the Eredivisie season approaches. Feyenoord manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst acknowledged there was a 'world of difference' between the recent performances that had hauled his team back into contention and Sunday's game. Fortuna created several good chances before Lars Hutten opened the scoring on 51 minutes, and Ahmed El Messaoudi's late strike sealed the 2-0 win. At the opposite end of the table, Emmen sealed a dramatic late win in the northern derby against Groningen. Mimoun Mahi appeared to have snatched victory with an 87th-minute flying header, but Emmen substitute Nicklas Pedersen bundled in an equaliser a minute later and then completed an unlikely comeback three minutes into stoppage time. Ajax showed no signs of post-Champions League fatigue as they thrashed bottom side De Graafschap 8-0. Hakam Ziyech and Daley Blind both took home match balls from the Amsterdam ArenA, after Dusan Tadic and Noussair Mazraoui had opened the scoring. PSV dispatched Heracles Almelo 4-0 with first-half goals from Steven Bergwijn and the returning Daniel Schwaab. Mark van Bommel's side had more breathing space in the second half following Jesper Drost's dismissal and wrapped up the win with late goals by Denzel Dumfries and Gaston Pereiro. A 3-2 win at Heerenveen put Utrecht clear in fourth place, but Dick Advocaat was unhappy with the way his side let the Frisians back into the match after going 3-0 up. 'We were in control right up until they scored, had another two or three chances, then gave one away and you could see the panic rising. Totally unnecessary,' said Advocaat. PEC Zwolle and NAC Breda remain embedded in the relegation quagmire after their 0-0 draw on Saturday, while ADO Den Haag scored a vital 3-0 win in Tilburg on Friday over fellow strugglers Willem II. Excelsior also remain in the mix after going down 2-1 to AZ Alkmaar, as Bjørn Johnsen denied them a point with an injury-time header. Vitesse Arnhem strengthened their hopes of a European play-off spot by beating VVV Venlo thanks to Oussama Darfalou's 80th-minute goal, four minutes after Peniel Mlapa looked to have grabbed a draw for the Limburg side. Results Friday Willem II Tilburg 0-3 ADO Den Haag Saturday AZ Alkmaar 2-1 Excelsior Heracles Almelo 0-4 PSV Eindhoven PEC Zwolle 0-0 NAC Breda Vitesse Arnhem 2-1 VVV Venlo Sunday Ajax 8-0 De Graafschap Feyenoord 0-2 Fortuna Sittard Groningen 1-2 Emmen Heerenveen 2-3 Utrecht  More >

Kromowidjojo wins third swimming gold

Dutch swimmer Ranomi Kromowidjojo picked up her third gold medal of the short course swimming world championships in Hangzhou on Sunday, taking the 50 metres freestyle in a time of 23.19 seconds. Femke Heemskerk won the silver in 23.67. Kromowidjojo won gold in the 100 metres freestyle and 50 metres butterfly earlier in the competition, but goes home with eight medals altogether, including four relay silvers and one bronze. Heemskerk also takes home eight medals - six silvers and two bronze. Swimming team coach Marcel Wouda told NOS after the last race that the two Dutch women had an important role in nearly all the Dutch medals in the competition. 'Other times are on their way,' he said. 'You have to ask if they will still be with us in 2020.' Both women have been at the top of their field since they were teenagers. Kromowidjojo is now 28 and Heemskerk 31.  More >

Dutch men take silver in hockey World Cup

There was disappointment for the Dutch men's hockey team in India on Sunday when they lost the World Cup final to Belgium on shoot-outs. The match itself resulted in a 0-0 draw. It was the first time Belgium had made it to the final of a World Cup - their best performance to date had been fifth place. Dutch coach Max Caldas said after the game that the Dutch had fought hard. 'And I am proud of the resilience and the improvements shown by the squad during the tournament,' he said. Nevertheless, the strong Dutch performance at the event pushed the Netherlands from fourth to third place in the global rankings, behind Belgium and Australia, who took bronze. The women's rankings are led by the Netherlands, who are also reigning world champions.   More >