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Archive for the ‘Coastal Land of Holland’ Category

The show can’t go on: Virus halts circus in Netherlands

April 03, 2020

DRACHTEN, Netherlands (AP) — Circus Renz Berlin’s fleet of blue, red and yellow trucks have had a fresh lick of paint over the winter. But now, as coronavirus measures shut down the entertainment industry across Europe, they have no place to go.

“It’s catastrophic for everybody,” said Sarina Renz, of the family circus that has been in existence since 1842. For the foreseeable future, the circus is parked up behind an equestrian center in a northern Dutch town, waiting and hoping for an end to the crisis.

The German circus’ animals, including eight Siberian steppe camels, 15 horses and a llama, are spending their time in sandy fields munching their way through the circus’ supply of food and supplies donated by locals.

“We have food, but not for long. We’re already nearly through our reserves. Now other people have helped by bringing things for the coming weeks. We’ve got supplies from people, that’s really fantastic.”

There are 18 members of the extended Renz family on hand to look after the animals, other performers have already been sent home, Sarina said. Children from the family pass the time playing around the trucks and animals and get home schooling — that’s new for most children in the Netherlands but not for the Renz family, who usually are moving from one show location to the next too often to attend a regular school.

For now, the family has to get used to a more stationary way of life, but one without the lifeblood of the circus: The public. “We’re just used to performing our shows. That’s our life,” says Sarina. “We live to make other people happy with our shows, our attractions.”

Up in smoke: Coronavirus closures hit Dutch coffeeshops

March 15, 2020

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Trade at Amsterdam’s famed weed-selling coffeeshops suddenly went up in smoke Sunday night after the government ordered them closed along with all other restaurants and bars in the latest move to rein in the spread of the coronavirus.

Queues quickly formed outside coffeeshops in the Dutch capital and elsewhere as customers — some facing three weeks of no school or work — decided to buy some pot while they still could. The closures are set to last until at least April 6.

One woman, a health care worker who declined to give her name because of her job, said she rushed out after watching a livestream of a government press conference announcing the new restrictions. Health Care Minister Bruno Bruins made a point of mentioning that coffeeshops would be included in the closures.

“I don’t smoke much, but I thought if I have to sit inside for three weeks,” she told an Associated Press photographer as she waited patiently in line outside the Bullwackie coffeeshop in southern Amsterdam, where the menu includes a gram of Dutch “Amnesia” weed for 10 euros ($11).

Strong showing for pro-EU parties in Dutch EU vote

May 23, 2019

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Pro-European Dutch parties were predicted Thursday to win most of the country’s seats in the European Parliament, with right-wing populist opponents of the European Union managing to take only four of the nation’s 26 seats.

In a surprise forecast, the Dutch Labor Party of European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans became the country’s biggest party in the 751-seat European Parliament, according to an Ipsos exit poll.

“What an unbelievable exit poll!” Labor leader Lodewijk Asscher told a gathering of cheering party faithful. The poll was published by Dutch national broadcaster NOS after polling stations closed Thursday evening in Netherlands. Earlier in the day, Dutch and British voters kicked off the first of four days of voting for the European Parliament in all of the EU’s 28 nations.

Official results will only be announced after the last polling station in the EU closes late Sunday. The Dutch Labor party was forecast to win five seats, while the pro-European center right VVD of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte gained one seat to win a total of four seats.

“There is a clear majority of people in the Netherlands, if you count them altogether, who want the European Union to continue playing a role in tackling problems that need to be solved,” Timmermans told NOS, speaking from Spain.

Timmermans is a broadly respected former Dutch foreign minister who is trying to become the next president of the European Commission. The Dutch right-wing populist group Forum for Democracy was forecast by the Ipsos exit poll to win three seats in its first European elections, but those gains didn’t primarily come at the expense of Europe’s mainstream parties. Instead, it appeared they came from other populists. The anti-Islam Party for Freedom led by firebrand lawmaker Geert Wilders lost three of its four EU seats, according to the poll.

The splintered result echoes Dutch domestic politics: There are 13 parties in the 150-seat national parliament. The United Kingdom was the only other EU country to vote Thursday, even as the nation remained in political turmoil over its plans to leave the bloc altogether. No exit polls were expected Thursday night from the UK voting.

The elections come as support is surging for populists and nationalists who want to rein in the EU’s powers and strictly limit immigration. Meanwhile, Europe’s traditional political powerhouses, both conservative and left-wing, insist that unity is the best buffer against the shifting economic and security challenges posed by an emerging new world order.

But populists across several countries have united to challenge those centrist forces. On Saturday, Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was joined at a rally by 10 other nationalist leaders, including far-right leaders Wilders, Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally party and Joerg Meuthen of the Alternative for Germany party.

Wilders vowed to keep fighting the populist cause even after his party’s projected big defeat. “We had hoped for more seats,” Wilders said in a statement. “But with one seat in the European Parliament we will, together with our European friends, fight even harder against the EU monster, Islam and mass-migration.”

Voters across Europe are electing 751 lawmakers, although that number is set to drop to 705 when Britain eventually leaves the EU. The U.K. has 73 European lawmakers, who would lose their jobs when their country completes its messy divorce from the EU. Some of its seats will be reassigned to other EU member states.

The British vote may have a direct impact on the future of embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Conservative Party appears to be losing support amid a prolonged Brexit impasse. May has tried but failed for months to get lawmakers in the British Parliament to back her plan to leave the EU.

Both the Conservatives and Labor in Britain were predicted to be heading for an electoral pasting in Thursday’s vote, due to the chaos over Brexit. Results of the vote will be announced Sunday night, and a poor showing for the Conservatives would increase the calls for May to step down as party leader, which would set in motion a leadership contest.

Britain’s Brexit party, led by Nigel Farage, has appeared to gain strength in recent voter surveys. Farage voted Thursday, then declared that he hopes to have the shortest possible tenure as a member of the European Parliament because he wants Britain to leave the EU as quickly as possible.

“If you want Brexit, you’ve got to vote Brexit,” he said, warning lawmakers from Britain’s two major parties — Conservatives and Labor — that they will be vanquished at Britain’s next general election unless they respect voters’ desire to leave the EU.

Voting in Britain was marred by the inability of hundreds of the 3 million EU citizens in Britain to vote despite having a legal right to do so. EU citizens who wanted to vote in Britain had to complete a form confirming they would not be voting in their homelands. Some say they did not receive the forms.

The Electoral Commission blamed the problem on the short notice that officials had to prepare for the election, which would not have been held in Britain if the country had left the EU in March, as planned.

Katz reported from London.

Turkey says ‘Nazi remnant’ dispute with Dutch has ended

October 03, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s foreign minister says the country is working with the Netherlands to end diplomatic tensions and that the days when Ankara described Dutch policies as “Nazi remnants” are behind them.

Turkey and the Netherlands reinstated ambassadors last month following a dispute triggered by a Dutch decision to bar Turkish officials from campaigning on Dutch soil for a 2017 referendum on increasing the powers of the president. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the term “Nazi remnants” to criticize the Netherlands.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said at a joint news conference on Wednesday with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu: “Today is a positive day in relations.” Cavusoglu insisted that Turkey never accused the Dutch people of being “Nazis.”

He added: “As we agreed, we left those days behind.”

Dutch king and queen to travel to Britain for state visit

October 08, 2018

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands will travel to London later this month on a state visit that the Dutch government says will take them from Buckingham Palace to Brixton.

The government said Monday that the first state visit to Britain by a sitting Dutch monarch since Queen Beatrix in 1982 “re-affirms the excellent ties between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom as ‘North Sea neighbors’ based on shared values in the past, present and future.”

The announcement comes as Britain is negotiating its divorce terms from the European Union, of which the Netherlands is a founding member. The Oct. 23-24 visit that will take the royals to appointments including a speech in Parliament, a banquet at Buckingham Palace and visit to the London neighborhood of Brixton.

Wildfires torment Portugal, Spain; French, Dutch feel heat

August 07, 2018

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Firefighters and anxious residents braced Tuesday for a fifth straight night of battling a major wildfire that is racing across tinder-dry forested hills in southern Portugal. The blaze is sending high plumes of smoke across the Algarve region’s famous beaches and bringing criticism of authorities for failing to halt the flames.

A strong seasonal wind from the north known as a “nortada” was driving the fire south toward Silves, a town of about 6,000 people, after it narrowly missed the smaller town of Monchique. Several hundred people were evacuated, and 29 were hurt, one seriously, officials said.

Almost 1,200 firefighters supported by 16 aircraft and 358 vehicles were deployed around Monchique, a town of 2,000 people about 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Lisbon, where the blaze came within 500 meters (yards) of the local fire station.

An unknown number of homes — believed to number in the dozens, according to local reports — in the forested hills have burned down. With so many resources deployed, many residents asked why the fire was still burning, especially after 95 percent of it was under control on Monday.

Firefighters also publicly questioned the wisdom of the strategy to counter the flames, with some claiming poor organization was thwarting the operation. Monchique was identified as a high risk area months ago.

Firefighting is coordinated by the Civil Protection Agency, a government body overseen by the Ministry for the Interior, which oversees national defense. The National Association of Professional Firemen and the Professional Firemen’s Trade Union issued a joint statement saying that the government’s recent reorganization of firefighting capabilities need to be reassessed and rethought. The organizations asked for a “very urgent” meeting with the Minister of the Interior.

The minister, Eduardo Cabrita, told reporters authorities were switching coordination of the Monchique fire from the local Civil Protection Agency to the department’s national operational command in Lisbon.

He declined to criticize the firefighting operation, saying the effort had been “notable.” Portugal beefed up its wildfire response over the winter after 109 people died last year in forest blazes amid a severe drought.

Vitor Vaz Pinto, the Civil Protection Agency’s district commander, said the weather forecast around Monchique was “unfavorable,” with a gusting wind from the north, known as a “nortada.” Temperatures were forecast to reach 35 C (95 F) — normal for August in southern Portugal.

The Iberian peninsula endured some record heat last weekend, with temperatures exceeding 45 C (113 F), which parched large areas. Spanish emergency services said a wildfire Tuesday near Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast, was almost under control after two dozen aircraft were brought in. The blaze forced the evacuation of around 2,500 people.

The high temperatures moved northward to France. The hottest weather was expected in central and northeastern France, with temperatures that could reach 40 C (104 F). Dutch authorities evacuated four campsites as a brush fire swept through parched countryside in the eastern Netherlands, where temperatures were in the mid-30s C (90s F). The regional security service said that firefighters from three provinces were battling the blaze Tuesday in Wateren, 135 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of Amsterdam.

Dutch foreign minister quits after lying about Putin meeting

February 13, 2018

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch foreign affairs minister resigned Tuesday, a day after admitting that he lied about attending a meeting hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin more than a decade ago.

An emotional Halbe Zijlstra announced his resignation at the start of a debate Tuesday at which he was expected to be grilled by opposition lawmakers about the lie. He called it “by far the biggest mistake I have committed in my entire career.”

“This is about the credibility of the minister of foreign affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands,” Zijlstra said. “That credibility must be beyond doubt.” Zijlstra, a member of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right VVD party, is the first minister to quit since Rutte’s four-party coalition took office in October. Rutte, who was also in Parliament for Zijlstra’s resignation, hugged him as he left.

Zijlstra’s position as the country’s top diplomat became untenable after he admitted lying about a meeting with Putin. Zijlstra has in the past said he attended a 2006 meeting when Putin said he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states as part of a “Greater Russia.”

On Monday, Zijlstra conceded he wasn’t present at the meeting but heard the story from somebody who was. He said he considered Putin’s statements so geopolitically important that he spoke about them publicly and took credit for hearing the comments as a way of protecting his source.

“It was clearly a wrong choice,” Zijlstra said as he announced his resignation. The Russian embassy in the Netherlands waded into the debate by issuing a statement accusing some in the Netherlands of distributing “fake news” aimed at discrediting Moscow by suggesting it has expansionist ambitions.

“This can only be heard from those who are interested in presenting Russia as an enemy and who under the pretext of the notorious ‘Russian threat’ keep pushing NATO military infrastructure eastwards, therefore consciously provoking military confrontation,” the Russian statement said.

Zijlstra’s resignation came a day before he was due to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow. There was no immediate announcement about a replacement.

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