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Posts tagged ‘Coastal Land of Holland’

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.

Finance Minister Dijsselbloem to leave Dutch politics

October 11, 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the 19-country eurozone, is leaving Dutch politics after 12 years as a lawmaker and nearly five as the Netherlands’ finance minister. Dijsselbloem said in a letter published Wednesday on his Labor Party’s website that he will leave Parliament later this month, but will complete his mandate, which ends in January, as chairman of the eurogroup.

Dijsselbloem says he no longer has “the firepower” to remain in Parliament as part of the Labor Party’s opposition bloc for the coming four years. Dijsselbloem says in his letter that Labor, “paid the price” at the election for tough austerity measures he pushed through to help the Dutch economy recover from the financial crisis. The party slumped from 38 to nine seats in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament.

Dutch government partially liable in 300 Srebrenica deaths

June 27, 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government was partially liable in the deaths of more than 300 Muslim men killed by Bosnian Serb forces in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The ruling formally struck down a civil court’s landmark 2014 judgment that said the state was liable in the deaths of the Bosnian Muslim men and boys who were turned over by Dutch U.N. peacekeepers to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 and subsequently killed.

But the appeals panel largely upheld the earlier case’s findings while significantly cutting the amount of damages relatives of the dead could receive by assessing the victims’ chances of survival had they remained in the care of the Dutch troops.

The court estimated the chances of Muslim males’ survival if they had stayed in the Dutch compound at around 30 percent. “The state is therefore liable for 30 percent of the losses suffered by the relatives,” the court said in a statement. The 2014 judgment didn’t include that qualification.

In a written reaction, the Dutch Defense Ministry said the government would carefully study the latest ruling. “The starting point is that the Bosnian Serbs were responsible,” the statement said. Rights group Amnesty International welcomed the ruling as drawing a line in the sand for peacekeepers.

“More than two decades after the Srebrenica massacre, this decision establishes that peacekeepers can be held responsible for a failure to protect civilians and that their governments can and will be held to account for their conduct,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

The appeals judgment is the latest in a string of legal cases in the Netherlands concerning the country’s role in the Srebrenica massacre and whether the country’s soldiers could or should have done more to prevent the mass killings.

The ruling came the morning after a lawyer told a late-night television show that he was filing a claim for 206 veterans of the Dutch Srebrenica mission seeking compensation and recognition for the suffering they have endured since the fall of the enclave.

Lawyer Michael Ruperti told talk show host Eva Jinek he is claiming 22,000 euros ($25,000) per veteran, a symbolic amount of 1,000 euros per year since the fall of Srebrenica. Defense Ministry spokesman Klaas Meijer said the ministry already handles claims filed by veterans with “demonstrable” physical or psychological complaints as a result of their deployment.

“If people have demonstrable suffering they can come to our veterans department and file a claim,” Meijer said. “It is important that we can handle the claims individually and carefully,” he added. Hague Appeals Court presiding judge Gepke Dulek said the Muslim men in Srebrenica were killed after being removed by Dutch U.N. peacekeepers from their compound during a mass evacuation. Bosnian Serb forces led by Gen. Ratko Mladic had overrun the U.N.-declared safe haven in eastern Bosnia.

“By having the men leave the compound unreservedly, they were deprived of a chance of survival,” presiding judge Gepke Dulek said. The men were among around 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces in Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.

The ruling angered a group of female relatives of victims of the massacre who were in court for the ruling. Munira Subasic, who leads an organization called the Mothers of Srebrenica that brought the case, stood up and waved her finger at the judge after the ruling, saying “this is a huge injustice.”

Lawyers for the victims can now begin discussions with government lawyers about compensation. Lawyer Marco Gerritsen, who represented the relatives, said he understood the relatives’ anger. “But from a legal point of view it is not that bad. Of course we would have hoped for more and I think we had a good case,” he said.

Gerritsen called the court’s assessment of the men’s survival chances “very arbitrary.” He said he will study the judgment to see if it is possible to appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court. On July 13, 1995, Dutch peacekeepers bowed to pressure from Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Mladic and forced thousands of Muslims out of their fenced-off compound, where they had sought refuge.

The Bosnian Serb forces sorted the Muslims by gender, then trucked the males away and began killing them in what would become the bloody climax to the 1992-95 Bosnian war, a slaughter that international courts have ruled was genocide. The war claimed 100,000 lives in all.

The Srebrenica bodies were plowed into hastily made mass graves, which were later bulldozed and scattered among other burial sites in an attempt to hide the evidence. Mladic is on trial for genocide and other offenses at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre and other crimes during the war.

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