Former prime minister Wim Kok dies: 'a man of total integrity'


Former Dutch prime minister and Labour party leader Wim Kok has died in hospital at the age of 80 after a short illness. Kok was prime minister between 1994 and 2002 when he led the two ‘purple’ cabinets – so called because of the combination of the colours of the Labour party, the VVD and Liberal democratic party D66. They were the first Dutch cabinets without the Christian Democrats in over 75 years. Kok first came to prominence in 1982 when as leader of the FNV trade union federation, he signed a historic pact with the VNO employers organisation which became known as the Wassenaar agreement. The Wassenaar agreement involved the unions agreeing to wage moderation in return for shorter working hours and is still seen as an important contributor to economic recovery after years of crisis. In 1986 Kok replaced Joop de Uyl as PvdA leader, and after a number of years in opposition, he served as finance minister in the third Ruud Lubbers cabinet. He became prime minister in 1994. In 2002 he and his entire cabinet resigned following the publication of a report which was highly critical of the Dutch role in the Srebrenica massacre seven years earlier. Since leaving politics that year, Kok had a number of supervisory board roles, including at ING and Shell. Prime minister Mark Rutte said in a reaction to the news of Kok's death that he was 'always someone to look up to'. 'He was both the architect and the driving force behind our polder system (the process of taking decisions by reaching consensus),' Rutte said. 'As finance minister and as prime minister he was above party politics. He was totally trustworthy, had complete integrity and was always focused on finding a solution.'  More >




Claim: Facebook took fake news election ad

Facebook app on mobile phone A Dutch investigative television programme claims that Facebook accepted its fake news advertisements aimed at sabotaging Dutch elections next year. Researchers from Brandpunt+ say they created a fake Facebook account and various adverts claiming that ballot boxes were closed or that party leaders were involved in nefarious activities, to be shown to certain target groups on the day of provincial elections next March. They claim that Facebook accepted all adverts for publication except for one claiming CDA leader Sybrand Buma was manipulating the housing market for personal gain – deemed to be ‘discriminatory.’ ‘Before the adverts went online, I took them off,’ writes one researcher. ‘Spreading fake news in the name of a public broadcaster didn’t seem a good idea, so they didn’t reach anyone.’ Facebook has reportedly told the researchers it is taking the instance ‘very seriously’ and launching an internal investigation into why the other fake news adverts were sanctioned. The Dutch government announced earlier this week that it is launching a campaign to combat fake news around the local and European elections next year. DutchNews.nl has contacted Facebook to ask for a response to the allegations.  More >




New rules for cosmetic treatment ads

Dutch cosmetic surgeons and other aesthetic medicine practitioners have drawn up new rules for advertising which ban misleading ads, those guaranteeing certain results and adverts aimed at minors. The Dutch Foundation for Aesthetic Medicine drew up the rules after former health minister Edith Schippers said clients should be made properly aware of the risks attached to cosmetic surgery 'in simple, clear language'. The new rules have been adopted by the Dutch Advertising Commission, which will deal with any complaints about misinformation. Current health minister Bruno Bruins told the ANP that he welcomed the new development. 'Medical cosmetic treatment is never risk free,' he said. 'It is important that people are properly informed.'   More >


Book containing fake PM speech withdrawn

A book containing 50 of the ‘most touching, best and most inspiring Dutch speeches’ has been removed from the shelves because a speech attributed to former CDA leader and prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende proved to be a fake, Trouw reports. The speech, in which Balkenende speaks nostalgically about the days of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), is in fact a satire published on a left wing activist website in 2006, the paper discovered. Jan-Peter Balkenende who is now a professor of Governance, Institutions and Internationalisation at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, was prime minister from 2002 to 2010. In 2006 he often referred to the ‘VOC mentality’, praising Dutch derring-do but ignoring the exploitation and slavery the Dutch trading company brought to what is now Indonesia. ‘I dream a little of the Golden Age sometimes,’ Balkenende said at the time. ‘The century when this small country worked its way to the top unaided.’ He later apologised for the remarks. Alarm bells did not go off for historian Denise Parengkuan, who compiled the speeches, when she came across the following: ‘It (the VOC) shows what a small country can do. (..) Our heroes from those days Jan Pieterszoon Coen and Michiel de Ruyter had that business instinct, that drive, that VOC mentality of taking what you want (..) They offered many natives new challenges, in the land that we developed for them or in the hereafter.’ Parengkuan admitted she ‘had not checked the speech properly’, Trouw writes. This is not the first time the fake speech has been taken at face value. A recent book on Dutch history, Tot hier en nu verder’ (Until now and beyond) by journalist Cees van Lotringen also contained quotes from the speech and had to be pulped as well. Publisher of the speech book Hans van Maar of Just Publishers told Trouw he was very disappointed. ‘We were very proud of this book. It seems the author did not check the facts. That puts the rest of the books in doubt as well and that is why we have withdrawn it,’ the paper quotes him as saying. The former prime minister, who was offered an apology and a bunch of flowers by the publisher, did not wish to comment, Trouw writes.  More >



Consumer confidence falls again

Dutch consumer confidence in the economy fell again in October, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. Consumer confidence has now fallen for three months in a row. This month's four point decline takes the confidence index to 15, but this is still well above the -3 average over the past 20 years, the CBS pointed out. In particular, consumers have less confidence in the economic climate and are less willing to spend money on major purchases. However, CBS figures covering consumer spending in August show a rise of 2%, year on year. The increase was down to spending on white goods, cars and clothing, the CBS said.   More >


Thousands drive without a valid licence

Dutch driving licence specimen Thousands of people are still driving around in the Netherlands despite being given a driving ban, either for drink and drugs offences or because they are no longer considered safe on the road, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. In 2016, some 5,000 people who were banned from driving did not hand back their driving licence to the issuing authority CBR, figures from the agency show. While not everyone who has been banned from driving still gets behind the wheel, the police stop an average of 3,000 people a year who do not have a valid licence, NOS said. Repeat offenders fine of up to €8,300, or a prison term of three months.   More >