One million tourists to hit the Netherlands over sunny Easter weekend

A million tourists are expected to come to the Netherlands for the Easter weekend, up 150,000 on last year, the Dutch tourist board NBTC said on Thursday. Two-thirds of the visitors will come from Germany and 25% from Belgium, the NBT said. In addition, a further 350,000 Dutch people will have a long weekend break elsewhere in the country. The coast, boosted by the warm weather, and the bulb fields, which are currently in full bloom, are set to be major draws. The string of Rembrandt-related exhibitions at museums nationwide are also proving popular. In total, the tourists and day trippers will spend some €800m over the three or four day break. Dutch weather forecasters say there will be four days of blazing sunshine over the Easter weekend, with the temperature reaching up to 22 degrees in places. Dutch motoring organisation ANWB says the sunshine will lead to busy roads over the weekend, and that jams are likely on Thursday evening as Dutch holiday makers head abroad for a few days.  More >

Who is monitoring citizen's patrols?

The increase in citizen involvement in crime prevention in the Netherlands is giving rise to problems because there is little regulation and no-one monitors what the groups are actually doing, the NRC said on Thursday. Some 700 citizens' watch teams are currently operating in Dutch towns and villages, and there are at least 3,500 neighbourhood watch app groups, the paper said. But according to Erasmus University researcher Vasco Lub, problems are arising on a regular basis because of the lack of policy. He researched the actions of some 200 teams nationwide, and found that two in three local authorities actually stimulate their residents to get involved in crime prevention. However, 'councils often can't explain what the aim of the involvement is and that means that locals themselves are deciding what action to take,' Lub said. 'In both teams and app groups, it is no longer about preventing burglaries but about tackling youngsters who cause problems, or making it impossible for charities to operate door to door collections,' Lub told broadcaster NOS, in a follow-up interview. Among the cases he has come across are the group who used plastic binders to tie up a suspect and locals who closed off a public roundabout because of reports that a burglar had been spotted. Ethnic profiling is also becoming more common. 'There more cases of people who consider it suspicious if someone of Turkish origin walks down a street, and in which locals noted down the number plates of Polish and Romanian cars,' Lub said.  More >

Cuts loom, warn big Dutch pension funds

Some of the biggest Dutch corporate pension funds are warning that cuts are still likely next year, despite booking good results in the last few months. Pension funds are required to have assets equal to at least 104% of their liabilities but the big funds are all below this, as low interest rates continue to have an impact. The giant civil service and healthcare pension funds ABP and Zorg en Welzijn currently have coverage ratios of 99%, while engineering fund PMT is sitting on 100%. ‘Interest rates have reached their lowest level since Zorg en Welzijn was set up,’ director Peter Borgdorff said in the new quarterly update. ‘The risk of having to make cuts has never been greater.’ Borgdorff told broadcaster NOS that it now even more imperative that ministers, employers, unions and pension funds work out ways of ensuring the Dutch pension system is future-proof. Talks The talks collapsed at the end of last year when the three big unions pulled out. The unions say the government is not doing enough to meet their demands for a slower rise in the official retirement age – which is going up in line with life expectancy projections and is set to reach 67 by 2021. Experts believe that the Dutch pension system – a combination of a state pension (AOW) and corporate pension schemes – needs to be reformed because the aging population is putting more pressure on the current pension system and pension funds are having to pay out to more people for longer. The rise in self-employment is also having an impact, with fewer people paying into company and sector-wide schemes.  More >

Asylum requests still face delays

It will probably take until 2021 before the immigration service IND can process asylum requests within the legal time frame, junior justice minister Mark Harbers told MPs on Thursday. Last year, 5,500 more asylum requests were made than had been forecast and this, combined with government spending cuts, has boosted waiting times again, the minister said. The IND is supposed to rule if an asylum seeker should be given a refugee permit within six months, although this can be extended for complex cases. Last year the IND took on an extra 200 members of staff to cut the waiting lists, and a further 150 people are being employed this year, Harbers said.   More >

Hudson's Bay to close Saks Off Fifth in NL

Hudson's Bay offshoot Saks Off 5th is closing its doors in Amsterdam and Rotterdam at the end of June, the company said on Wednesday, via Instagram. 'After saying goodbye to Germany we are sad to announce that Saks OFF 5TH will be leaving the Netherlands as well towards the end of June!  But there will be a big final sale,' the company said in a short statement. The news follows mounting speculation that the company's European expansion is in trouble. Last week, German paper WirtschaftsWoche reported the parent company of Hudson's Bay's European operations was considering closing shops in the Netherlands this year, or letting the company go bankrupt. And at the end of last year, the Telegraaf reported that the new owners - German retail group Karstadt - are 'extremely concerned’ about the major investments the company is making in the Netherlands and the disappointing earnings. The paper based its claims on internal documents which show the company has lost more than €80m in the Netherlands this year. At the end of 2017, the company changed its strategy in the Netherlands to bring in cheaper product lines and last February plans to open a total of 20 department stores were scrapped. Hudson’s Bay currently operates 13 stores in the Netherlands. Many of these are located in premises which were used by the V&D department store chain before it went bust. The first store opened in September 2017.   More >

Ajax to meet Spurs in London on April 30

Amsterdam football club Ajax will play Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-finals of this year's Champion's League competition following the English club's away goal win over Manchester City in Wednesday's quarter final. The first leg will be played in London on Tuesday April 30, with the return leg on Wednesday May 8 in Amsterdam. Four of the current Spurs line-up are ex-Ajax players. It’s time to meet our ❌❌❌-friends! #UCL #ajatot — AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) April 17, 2019 The confirmed dates mean the Dutch football association is now trying to rejig league fixtures to give Ajax enough time to both prepare and to rest between games. The Amsterdammers are due to play De Graafschaap on April 28, just two days before the first leg of the semi-final. A suggestion to switch the game to Friday evening would appear to be impossible because of logistical problems, including the shortage of police cover, De Graafschaap director Hans Martijn Ostendorp told broadcaster NOS.  More >

Dutch man caught with €800,000 in cash

Police on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba have arrested a Dutch national carrying over €800,000 in cash on money laundering charges, broadcaster NOS reports. The man, about whom police will only say he is 39, was born in Suriname and lives in Amsterdam, was on his way to Miami. He was taken into custody during a scheduled landing on Aruba at the request of the Dutch public prosecution office. In May a transfer of some €19m from Surinamese banks was intercepted by the Dutch justice department in connection with a money laundering operation, NOS Suriname correspondent Harmen Boerboom said. Banks have become wary of exporting euros since then and that means a ‘glut’ of euros has diminished the value of the currency. ‘It is now a lucrative business to transport cheap euros from Suriname and exchange them for dollars which are then used to buy more cheap euros’, Boerboom said. Based on the amount of money in his possession the arrested man could have made a profit of about $100,000, he estimated.  More >