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Dutch report Dutch report
by Euro Reporter
2012-09-09 10:09:49
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Netherlands could do more to combat bribery

While the number of prosecutions in foreign bribery cases is on the rise worldwide, the Netherlands has been only “moderately” successful in bringing corporations and individuals to account according to a new report by the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International. Titled “Exporting Corruption?” the report released today tracked the progress of the 39 countries signed up to the 1997 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention to fight global corruption.

While the US, Germany and even Italy are among the world’s most stringent enforcers in curbing the foreign bribes that often lead to better contracts or shortcuts around local regulations, the Netherlands is grouped with Argentina, Japan and France as needing to get tougher in the fight against corporate corruption.

Of the nine foreign bribery cases in the Netherlands, says the report, there have been no sanctions handed down to any individuals or companies. Four investigations are still pending, including one reportedly involving illegal payments in Jamaica by Trafi gura Beheer BV, the world’s largest independent oil trader. Dutch authorities also failed to respond on time to a 2008 Polish request to investigate electronics giant Philips, which led to the dismissal of Poland’s bribery case against the company. Transparency International is calling for increased sanctions, more cooperation between police and financial investigators and whistleblower protection in the Netherlands.


Netherlands considers closing coffee shops to foreign tourists

With slogans like “Don’t let your vote go up in smoke!” owners of the free-wheeling cafes where bags of hashish are sold alongside cups of coffee are mounting a get-out-the-stoner-vote campaign ahead of next week’s Dutch election. The campaigners are calling on their sometimes apathetic dope smoking clientele to get out and support political parties that oppose the recently introduced “weed pass” that is intended to rein in the cafes known as coffee shops and close them altogether to foreign tourists. At a coffee shop in The Hague, a member of staff selling weed wears a T-shirt emblazoned with a modified Uncle Sam style poster calling on smokers to “Vote against the weed pass on Sept. 12.” Under the new system, coffee shops become member-only clubs and only Dutch residents can apply for a pass to get in. The cafes are limited to a maximum of 2,000 members.

The online vote2smoke.nl campaign offers cannabis and marijuana users voting advice by showing which political parties support dumping the “weed pass,” which came into force in the southern Netherlands earlier this year and is intended to roll out over the whole country in coming years. Joep Oomen of the legalize cannabis movement says it is hard to know exactly how big the pot-smoking constituency is, but he estimates it at around half a million people in this nation of 16 million. Basically the advice to them boils down to this: Voting for any political party on the left is good, and any party on the right is bad. One champion of the smokers’ lobby is Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer, a jovial 50-year-old former teacher whose party is expected to make significant gains at the Sept. 12 election. Speaking at a campaign event this weekend, Roemer called the weed pass “incredibly stupid” and vowed to scrap it if he wins power.

He said the pass system simply pushes drug dealers onto the streets and out of the controlled environment of the coffee shops — “so stop the wietpas,” he said, using its Dutch name. Jerome Croonenberg, enjoying a joint at The Hut coffee shop in a side street close to the Dutch parliament building, said he would be voting for Roemer because of his coffee shop policy. “I will vote to keep coffee shops open so I can keep smoking,” he said Tuesday. The centre-left Labour Party, which is surging in pre-election polls thanks to strong performances by its leader Diederik Samsom in televised debates, also advocates scrapping the pass and replacing it with legislation that would further enshrine tolerance of marijuana in Dutch law and regulate not only coffee shops but also growers. However, the coffee shops still have a fight on their hands — the conservative VVD party of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte is topping polls and looks set to become the biggest single party. It was a VVD-led coalition that introduced the weed pass and it is standing by the policy.


Hundreds of ‘hidden’ women in Amsterdam

There are believed to be 200 – 300 ‘hidden’ women living in Amsterdam. A new report called Living in forced isolation describes this number as a cautious estimate and says the actual figure could be much higher.  Researchers from the Verwey Jonker Institute carried out the study commissioned by the Amsterdam city council. They sketch a picture of women shut in at home against their will by husbands or family. These women have virtually no contact with society and rarely go outdoors. The report identifies two separate groups. The ‘oppressed hidden woman’ group is mainly women from a strict Islamic or Christian culture. They are carefully monitored by their families and community and often resigned to their situation, meaning violence or the threat of violence is less often involved. These women also tend to accept their isolation more because they speak no Dutch and are unaware of their rights in the Netherlands.

The second group of “imprisoned women” are the victims of physical abuse and often literally locked into their homes. Typically these are marriages where the woman has chosen her partner rather than arranged marriages. It includes both women who came to the Netherlands to marry and women who were already living in the country.  The researchers spoke to women who had previously been ‘hidden’ but had broken free of their situation and to people working for various support organisations in Amsterdam. According to the report, by far the biggest group affected are women who have come to the Netherlands to marry. There is a small group of women from immigrant backgrounds born in the Netherlands and a tiny number of native Dutch women.

The Verwey Jonker Institute hopes the report will mean the problems of hidden women are given more priority and that the taboo around the issue in some Dutch Muslim communities will be broken.

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