Cold weather set to blast the Netherlands, white Christmas unlikely

A blast of cold weather is set to hit the Netherlands on Wednesday with light frosts at night and temperatures no higher than 5 degrees during the day, weather forecasters say. After several days of blustery rain, the temperature will drop as an easterly wind moves in, bringing frost on Wednesday night, particularly inland. Friday is set to be the coldest day, with temperatures barely rising above freezing point and Friday night could see temperatures drop to -3, the KNMI weather bureau said. The temperatures will rise again at the weekend, and rain or sleet will return to western parts. A spokesman for weather bureau Weerplaza said it is still too early to say if a white Christmas could be on the cards. 'Temperatures of six or seven degrees are normal at the end of the month, so there is only a 7% chance of snow,' a spokesman told broadcaster NOS. A more accurate forecast will be made next week. The KNMI is not optimistic. It says there is a 70% to 80% chance of rainy weather and temperatures slightly above average for the time of year.  More >

Airlines under fire over 'no show' fees

Dutch consumers association Consumentenbond says it will take airline KLM to court unless it scraps the 'no show' clause in its terms and conditions by December 12. The clause states that all the following flights attached to the ticket are cancelled if a passenger fails to turn up for a particular flight. So if someone misses an outward  flight, the return journey will be automatically cancelled. If the passenger wants to make use of the return flight, they have to pay a hefty fee. The Consumentenbond says it receives regular complaints about the problem and cites the case of a man who could not fly with the rest of his family from Amsterdam to Munich because he was sick. He got to Munich by other means but when the family arrived to check in to fly home, he discovered his ticket had been cancelled. He had to pay €250 to travel, only to be allocated the same seat next to his family as in the original ticket. The Consumentenbond is one of nine European consumer groups hoping to force airlines to get rid of the clause in a concerted campaign. 'The ‘no-show’ clause is downright unfair. The passenger has paid for the tickets and expects to be able to use them,' said Monique Goyens, director of European consumer lobby group BEUC. 'You might have missed your outbound flight, or found a more convenient way to get to point B, there is no excuse for airlines to cancel the remainder of your ticket.' KLM told broadcaster NOS that it first wanted to study the lobby group's letter before making a detailed comment. However, a spokesman said that it is important passengers travel as outlined when they made their booking. 'If a passenger wants to deviate from this, then KLM reserves the right to charge a fee.'  More >

Hard Brexit to cost government €2.3bn

If the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a deal, it would cost the Dutch government €2.3bn in the coming two years, according to the Dutch audit office. The main expenses would be for extra customs and food safety services (€700m) and €1.6bn in higher EU contributions, the audit office says in a new report. If the current deal on the table wins approval, little will change for the Netherlands in 2019 and 2020, the audit office said. A hard Brexit would result in €1.6bn in extra payments to the EU, to help compensate for the loss of Britain's contributions. That will go up to €2.5bn to €3bn a year from 2026.  If the deal goes through, the extra contributions would amount to €500m a year, the audit office said. The total extra payment of €2.3bn does not include the impact of import and export duties or an estimate of what a hard Brexit would mean for tax revenues. Property Meanwhile, the Financieele Dagblad reports that the number of online searches made on the Funda in Business property website by people from Britain has gone up sharply. In January 2016, the commercial property website attracted 2,600 visits from the UK, but this month the number of visits has tripled to 7,200 and the number of unique visitors has doubled, the FD said. Some 75% of the visits from the UK come from London. Most were interested in office space in Amsterdam, the website said. However, Rudolf de Boer, managing director of property advisor CBRE, told the paper that the company has only noticed a minor rise in its British client base. Most are small financial companies with up to 35 workers, he told the FD.  More >

Travellers accuse mayors of discrimination

Travellers' groups have filed formal complaints against mayors in three provinces accusing them of discrimination by branding their communities as criminal organisations. Mayors in Limburg, Brabant and Zeeland wrote to home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren in October objecting to the cabinet's new policy on travellers' camps, claiming it would lead to more criminality. Ollongren drew up the new rules after the national Ombudsman and human rights watchdog CRM said local authorities that deliberately marginalised travelling communities through so-called "extinction policies" were breaking the law. Members of the Sinti, Roma and travelling communities have now filed formal complaints against local officials accusing them of polarisation, racism and discrimination. "Associating a type of living with criminality is against the law," spokeswoman Sabina Achterbergh told NOS. "We don't all want to be tarred with the same brush. Criminality exists in every section of the population."  More >

Police diversity records 'may be illegal'

Police may be breaking privacy laws by recording the ethnic background of job applicants in an attempt to improve the service's record on diversity. Lute Nieuwerth, who is responsible for the national police force's diversity policy, told the Volkskrant that the service wanted to 'establish the boundaries of what is permissible' as it tries to meet a target of recruiting 25 per cent of officers from minority backgrounds. A police spokesman told NRC that job applicants had been asked about their parents' country of origin since 2008 and all details were anonymised. But Sandra Loois, spokeswoman for privacy watchdog Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens, said collecting personal information was banned unless police could show they fell into one of 10 categories for exemption. Organisations are allowed to collect private personal details if they have permission from the people whose data is being collected or if there is a 'significant general interest' in retaining them. 'The question for us is whether the police can successfully apply one of these grounds,' said Loois. Gerrit van de Kamp, chairman of the ACP police union, called for the police to clarify their methods and allow them to be independently scrutinised, adding that he would raise the subject with senior police officers later this week. But lawyer Maarten de Man, who specialises in privacy law, said the courts could allow the practice if they are satisfied it forms part of the police's diversity strategy. 'In general registering details of ethnicity is permitted if you are using then to correct the deficit that vulnerable groups have to deal with,' he said.  More >

Height of Dom tower no longer standard

Utrecht city council is flouting an unwritten rule that no building in the city may exceed the height of the Dom tower with a new housing project it describes as a 'vertical village'. The new housing project comprises three high rise blocks, one of which will be 140 metres tall, well above the 112 metres of the iconic Dom tower. ‘We realise that any building higher than the Dom has to be very special indeed,’ alderman Klaas Verschuure, who presented the plans, said. The new builds will provide 1,100 new homes and will be ready in 2023. An earlier attempt to top the Dom was voted down in 2010, NOS writes. The tower, which dates from the 16th century, is still the highest church tower in the country.   More >

Hospitals stop importing US body parts

Two big Dutch hospitals have said they will stop importing human body parts for teaching purposes from two US firms on ethical grounds, news agency Reuters said at the weekend. Amsterdam’s AMC teaching hospital and the Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam have been importing body parts for 10 years, but have decided to stop doing so because of investigations by US officials into the body brokers they had been using, Reuters said. One, MedCure, is under FBI investigation for potentially selling tainted body parts in Canada and Hong Kong, and the other, Science Care, recruited donors from hospices and retirement facilities, Reuters said. In the Netherlands, people who donate their bodies to research do not get paid. In the United States, many brokers offer donor families free cremation in return for donating a body – a potential saving of up to $1,000, Reuters said. Freek Dikkers, the professor of ear, nose and throat medicine at the AMC told Reuters soliciting donors at hospices and old age homes and earning millions from the trade is 'unacceptable'. Read the full story   More >

Red deer cull starts on nature reserve

Wardens at the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve between Almere and Lelystad on Monday began a mass cull aimed at reducing the red deer population by 1,800. The final legal obstacle to the cull was lifted on Friday, paving the way for wardens to shoot some 20 animals a day until the population has been cut back to around 490. Hunting can take place 19 hours a day but the court said it should start as early in the morning as possible. The licence runs until April 1. As yet it is unclear what will happen to the dead animals. One option is to leave them to decompose on the reserve, another is to sell them as meat. However, in order to do this, the meat needs to be approved as healthy and no deal has yet been agreed with game butchers, broadcaster NOS said. This weekend it emerged that the ministry of defence has imposed a temporary flight ban over the reserve which local broadcaster Omroep Flevoland says targets small plans, helicopters and drones. A police spokesman said the ban is one of several measures being taken to ensure public order during the cull. Local officials have said earlier they expected protests about the shooting, following several demonstrations last winter.  More >