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Dutch report Dutch report
by Euro Reporter
2012-01-09 11:16:30
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Lawmaker urges Dutch to apologize for WWII Jewish deportations

Outspoken Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders called on the government Wednesday to apologize for the country's "passive" response to the mass deportations of Jews by Nazi occupiers during World War II. The move is likely to re-ignite debate about Dutch attitudes to the wartime persecution of the country's Jewish population. Of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands before the war, more than 100,000 were deported and murdered. About 30,000 Jews live here now, out of a total population of nearly 17 million. Wilders is best known for his strident criticism of Islam and also is a strong supporter of Israel.

He wrote to Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday asking if he would apologize based on comments by two former government ministers in a recently published book about post-war reparations to Jews. Spokesman Chris Breedveld said the government would carefully study and respond to Wilders' questions. One of the former ministers, Els Borst, says in an interview for the book, "Judging the Netherlands" by Manfred Gerstenfeld, that she believes the response by the Dutch wartime government in exile would have been tougher had Nazis been deporting Catholics or Protestants. Borst, who as health minister was involved in negotiations in the 1990s on reparations for Jews, said wartime prime minister Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy and Queen Wilhelmina should have appealed from their administration in exile in London for Dutch people to do more to protect Jews.

"The government's stance shows that they, along with many others, saw Jewish Dutch citizens as a special group and thought: 'We have real Dutch people and we have Jewish Dutch people,"' Borst said in an interview, a copy of which author Gerstenfeld emailed to The Associated Press. Wilders said he was shocked by the comments. "It would be fitting if the government were at least to offer its apologies," Wilders said in a statement. Gerrit Zalm, a former finance minister who also played a prominent role in restitution negotiations in the 1990s, said he also would support calls for a formal apology. "I would not have had a problem with apologizing" at the end of the restitution process, Zalm told Gerstenfeld for his book. Zalm added that if a Jewish umbrella organization in the Netherlands were to bring up the issue of an apology again, "I would publicly support it."

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Netherlands stops tourists buying marijuana in coffee shops


Foreigners travelling to the Netherlands will be barred from buying marijuana in so-called coffee shops next year, a move that could hurt tourism to the capital, Amsterdam. “There will be an end to the open-door policy,” Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten said in a letter to lawmakers today. “Stricter rules will make coffee shops smaller, better controllable and reduce the attractiveness of Dutch drug policy for foreign users.” The Netherlands decriminalized the use of marijuana in 1976, stopping short of legalizing the drug because international treaties prohibited it from doing so. The country’s first coffee shop, named after Donovan’s song “Mellow Yellow,” opened its doors four years earlier.

While the 223 Amsterdam coffee shops are visited by about 1 million tourists annually, they’ll now only be allowed to sell to Dutch citizens and foreigners who live in the country. Every coffee shop can register as many as 2,000 members who are allowed to buy marijuana or hashish, the minister wrote. “Tourists will come anyway,” Iris Reshef, a spokeswoman for the city of Amsterdam, said by telephone today. “We prefer selling it in a responsible way instead of going back to the days that street dealers in the Red Light district sold soft drugs alongside hard drugs” like cocaine and heroin. Maastricht, a city near the borders with Belgium and Germany, is satisfied with the new rules, Mayor Onno Hoes told news agency ANP today. The southern Dutch city has been seeking ways to cut crime and public nuisance that accompanies marijuana sales to foreigners. The government will use its embassies to inform tourists travelling to the Netherlands about the new policy. Police will act if street dealers try to fill the gap, Charlotte Menten, a ministry spokeswoman, said by telephone today.

“The members-only rule is meant for public nuisance at coffee shops near the border, where foreigners line up their cars to buy,” said Reshef. She said the city of Amsterdam is still in talks with the ministry, adding that the border situation can’t be compared to Amsterdam’s. The government will start enforcing the new rules in May in the southern provinces and in 2013 in the rest of the country, including Amsterdam.

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High unemployment, fears over deepening of crisis hit euro-zone retail sales


Retails sales in the 17-nation eurozone dropped in November; official statistics showed Friday, as consumers felt the bite of austerity measures and feared the currency union could slip deeper into crisis. Retail sales in the eurozone fell 0.8 percent compared with October and were down 2.5 percent from November 2010, according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency.

The steepest declines were seen in Portugal, which had to be bailed out in April and where sales fell 2.6 percent during the month and were down a massive 9.2 percent from a year earlier. But even in richer states like Germany and the Netherlands, consumers were more reluctant to part with their money, with retail sales slipping 0.9 percent in both countries during November. That shows how the eurozone’s worsening debt crisis is taking its toll even on countries with strong economies.

For the whole European Union, which includes non-euro members like the U.K. and Sweden, November retail sales dropped 0.6 percent from October and 1.3 percent compared with a year earlier. Consumers appear worried by high unemployment, which remained stuck at 10.3 percent in November — unchanged from October but above the 10 percent seen a year earlier — and a darkening outlook on the economy.



        
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