Dutch foreign ministry has no doubts about US support for MH17 probe

The Netherlands has no doubts about American support for its investigation into the downing of flight MH17 despite reports that US officials withheld a statement blaming Russia, the foreign affairs ministry said on Thursday. 'Over the past few months, the US has made many statements which lead the Netherlands to conclude we are supported in the MH17 case,' a spokesman for foreign minister Stef Blok said. 'US secretary of state Mike Pompeo strengthened that support at a news conference on Wednesday, as has the US ambassador to the Netherlands,' the spokesman said. The US did not issue a statement on July 17, the four-year anniversary of the disaster, in which nearly 300 people died. According to website Foreignpolicy.com 'the department prepared to criticize Russia’s role in the 2014 downing of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, but the statement was never released'. There are suggestions that the decision not to publish the statement was taken in the wake of president Donald Trump's controversial meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Russia In May, the Netherlands said it is holding Russia liable for its role in the shooting down of flight MH17 in July 2014. The decision to hold Russia responsible followed the publication of a report by investigators looking into the crash, who said the Buk missile which brought down the plane was fired by a weapons system in the hands of a Russian brigade. Russia has repeatedly denied all responsibility for the air disaster.  More >

Festivals under fire over tobacco deals

Tobacco companies are continuing to sign exclusive deals with festival organisers to ensure theirs are the only cigarettes on sale even though this against the law, according to journalists specialising in the tobacco industry. Researchers visited 24 festivals in the Netherlands over a two month period and found exclusive deals appear to have been signed at 17. Thirteen festivals only sold cigarettes produced by Philip Morris and four were confined to British American Tobacco. Dutch laws on tobacco ban exclusive sales deals by clubs, bars and the rest of the hospitality sector. Festival organiser Mojo said in a reaction that 'just because one company's products are on sale does not mean there has been an exclusivity deal'. British American Tobacco took a similar line and said its agreements did not include exclusivity deals. Philip Morris declined to comment. Last year the research team visited 21 festivals and found evidence of exclusive deals at 16 of them, including Pinkpop, Mysterland and other major events.  More >

Dutch Muslim convert found guilty

A young Dutch woman who converted to Islam and went to Syria has been jailed for 413 days, 180 days suspended by judges in Den Bosch. The court said that there was enough evidence Lieke S was planning to join terrorist organisation IS, despite her claims she had wanted to help refugees. S will not have to return to jail, because she has spent some eight months in custody prior to the trial. She was arrested at the end of 2016 on the Turkish Syrian border after leaving the Netherlands after the summer of that year. S has also been told not to leave the Netherlands during her three years' probation period and that she must cooperate in meetings with Islam experts.   More >

Limburg toddlers to learn Limburgish?

Toddlers in Limburg are to be spoken to in Limburgish in an effort to help keep the local language alive, the Limburger newspaper said on Thursday. The province is launching an experiment at play group Spelenderwijs in the far south in which play group leaders will talk to the children in Limburgish rather than Dutch. Some words, such as hin for hen, are fairly easy to understand but others, like kuusj for pig and sjokel for swing are very different from Dutch. 'Limburgish is still the first language in many Limburg families,' said regional language expert Ton van de Wijngaard, who advises the provincial government. 'But once they go to play groups, children only hear Dutch... and then they don't want to talk Limburgish at home any more.' The province has published a new policy document which states the language is a very important part of Limburg's cultural heritage and should be given a more prominent place in education. The province is also planning to develop special lessons on Limburgish for use in both primary and secondary schools. The province's culture director Ger Koopmans told the paper he is 'charmed' by the plan. 'This is an important step in keeping Limburgish alive,' he said. More details about the plans will be released in the coming months. Limburgish has been recognised as an official regional language in the Netherlands since 1997. According to the Limburgish Academy Foundation Limburgish also has its own written tradition, which dates back to at least 900 AD and some of Europe’s most highly regarded literature came from Limburg between the 11th and 14th centuries.   More >

Sacked bankers find it hard to get new job

People who have lost their positions in the banking and insurance industry are finding it tough to land a new job, the Financieele Dagblad said on Thursday, quoting figures from the state jobs centre UWV. Only 27% of the people who lost their financial services sector jobs in 2016 were back in work after a year, compared to the average industry-wide figure of 63%. In 2014, 38% of former bankers had found jobs within 12 months. The financial services sector employed 288,000 people in 2005.  The number is projected to fall to 222,000 by 2020. Digitalisation and automation made inroads on banking sector jobs, the FD said. Moreover, only 10% of people aged 50 and older found new jobs. Both ING and ABN Amro told the paper they ran schemes to retrain redundant workers for jobs elsewhere in the bank. ‘If any task it easy to digitize, then it’s only a question of time before that happens,’ said De Unie union spokesman Emanuel Geurts.  More >

Easyjet adds quieter planes at Schiphol

Budget carrier Easyjet said it is employing quieter and larger aircraft on flights to and from Schiphol to enable its growth at the Amsterdam airport.   Easyjet chief Johan Lundgren said quieter aircraft can be a means to facilitate growth at airports like Schiphol which are approaching full capacity, the Telegraaf has reported. Schiphol has an effective freeze on the number of aircraft movements at an annual 500,000 until 2020. Easyjet began operating the Airbus A321 at Schiphol on Wednesday. The plane is 50% quieter and has 49 more seats than its predecessor.  The A321 will be deployed on Easyjet’s busiest routes such as Schiphol-London. Schiphol is Easyjet’s busiest base outside Britain. The Dutch government is now working out what will happen at Schiphol after 2020. Lundgren, a Swedish national who has been at the helm of Easyjet since last winter, believes airlines flying cleaner aircraft should be awarded additional landings and takeoffs.   More >

Real threat of water shortages in NL

With no end to the drought in sight, the country's water boards say there is now the real threat of a water shortage over most of the country. The demand for water will remain 'very high' in the coming days and pumps are being used to keep water levels up to scratch. Salt levels in some western parts have now risen so much that extra sweet water is being brought in. This, water board officials say, is necessary to protect both farmers and vulnerable parts of the countryside. The main cause, according to the transport ministry's water department, is falling water levels in the river Rhine, which is used to keep Dutch water supplies topped up. Although the drop has not yet had an impact on inland shipping, this could be an issue if the drought continues, the ministry said. Weather forecasters say there is very little chance of any rain falling over the next two weeks. The Dutch dunes are a source of drinking water  More >