A sunny Monday, light showers ahead but the drought continues

The rain is set to return this week but only in the form of light showers, the KNMI weather bureau said on Monday. Monday itself will be largely sunny although there may be showers in the south. Cloud will gather overnight and the rest of the week will be overcast, with temperatures around 14 degrees, the KNMI said. Rain is more likely nationwide towards the end of the week. Despite the showers since the end of September, the drought is still widespread in the Netherlands and the water level in the river Rhine has fallen to its lowest ever level - just 6.61 metres above NAP at the Lobith measuring station on the German border. This has led to major problems for inland shipping companies which have been forced to cut the amount of goods carried by barges so they are not so low in the water. Last week, three ships ran aground. NAP stands for Normaal Amsterdams Peil or the normal water level in Amsterdam, which is slightly lower than sea level. NAP is used as a base to measure how high or low water levels are.  More >

Majority no longer identify with religion

Religion has become a minority pursuit in the Netherlands as the number of people identifying with a religious faith has dropped below 50% for the first time, according to official figures. Statistics Netherlands found 49.3% of people identified with a faith community in 2017, compared to 54% when the figures were last compiled in 2012. Roman Catholics remain the largest religious group, comprising 24% of the population, while 6% of Dutch people identified as Protestant and 5% as Muslim. Other religions, including Judaism and Buddhism, accounted for a further 6%. The figures also recorded a continued decline in church going, with 75% of people saying they never or rarely attended a religious service and just 10% going to their church or mosque on a weekly basis. However, the rate of decline slowed and was largely confined to the Catholic community, with Protestant and Muslim attendance showing no fall in numbers. Religious observance was more common among the elderly, with 71% of over-75s declaring a religious belief and one in three attending services regularly. Nearly two-thirds with only a basic education (64%) said they believed in God while 20% were churchgoers. The figures for university graduates were 37% and 12% respectively.  More >

Dutch pension system leads world ranking

The Dutch pension system is once again the best in the world, according to the annual Global Pension Index. Denmark overtook the Netherlands seven years ago and had led the ranking, compiled by consultancy group Mercer, since then. It is now in second place, but the difference with the Netherlands is just 0.1 percentage point. 'Both offer A-Grade world class retirement income systems with good benefits – clearly demonstrating their preparedness for tomorrow’s ageing world,' Mercer said. The consultancy looked at the pension systems of 34 countries this year. Bottom of the list was Argentina. The new ranking comes at a time when government pressure is mounting on both unions and employers in the Netherlands to reach a deal on changing the Dutch pension system. In particular, the government is known to be keen to introduce ‘personal pension pots’ to bring more flexibility into the pension system. Currently, the Dutch corporate pension sector is dominated by industry or company-based schemes. An agreement on how to move forward between unions and employers would then form the basis of new legislation. However, the FNV trade union federation says the cabinet must come up with more money for the state pensions by freezing the pension age, if it wants the unions to make a deal on reforming the entire system. The state pension age in the Netherlands is currently 66 but will rise to 67 and three months by 2022.  More >

ECB warns councils over PIN-only services

Local authorities that only accept bank card payments for items such as passports and driving licences have been warned they are breaching European rules on accessibility. The European Central Bank has written to the Dutch central bank and the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) to tell them they must offer citizens the option of paying in cash. While measures to encourage payment by card are acceptable, refusing to accept cash excludes people, such as the elderly, who are unable to or prefer not to pay electronically, and breaches European law. In a statement, the VNG said: 'Residents who cannot or choose not to pay by PIN must be able to pay cash. It is up to municipalities themselves to decide how to implement their payment policy.'   More >

Amsterdam student refused entry to UK

Glasgow University Legal experts have denounced the decision to refuse an Amsterdam University student from Bosnia entry to the UK to attend an academic conference as 'irrational' and 'nonsensical'. Nadza Dzinalija, 21, travelled to Glasgow for the six-day conference organised by the university's psychology department, but immigration officials said they were 'not satisfied' she would leave even though she had a return flight booked for October 29. The Home Office raised concerns because her student visa was due to expire in December, The Independent reported. Dzinalija, who is on the first year of a two-year masters programme, applied in September for an extension to her visa, which was expected to be granted. She said: 'I was really surprised. I’ve applied for a lot of visas before and this is the first time I’ve had this experience. I’m bitterly disappointed that I can’t attend.' Immigration expert Jan Doerfel said the UK government's insinuation that the student would use an academic conference as a pretext to enter the UK illegally was 'unlawful' and 'deeply insulting to Nadza’s integrity'. He added it was a further blow to the UK's reputation for academic excellence as universities gear up for the challenge of attracting and maintaining top talent after the country leaves the European Union next March. 'It portrays a feeling of superiority and arrogance not only towards applicants’ actual life choices but also towards our European neighbours, as well as an insensitivity towards needs of academic institutions in this country which aim to keep the UK attractive and at the cutting edge of scientific research,' said Doerfel.  More >

Horner praises 'brilliant' Verstappen

Max Verstappen driving a Red Bull Formula 1 car. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner hailed Max Verstappen's 'brilliant' drive at the US Grand Prix as the Dutchman punctured Lewis Hamilton's hopes of sealing his fifth Formula One title. The 21-year-old surged from 18th place on the grid to finish second, shutting out Hamilton in the latter stages as the Briton scrambled in vain to claim the points he needed to become world champion. 'It was classic Max,' said Horner. 'He never gives up. I think he was up to ninth after the first lap. And to contest the race win at the end, with Lewis Hamilton behind him on better tyres, was unbelievable.' Kimi Raikkonen's win in Austin, his first in five years, means he remains 30 points ahead of Verstappen in the contest for third place in the drivers' championship, while his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel finished fourth. It means Hamilton needs five more points to wrap up the championship title, while Vettel will have to win the last three races to overhaul him. Verstappen said the result was unexpected after his poor performance in qualifying, exacerbated by a penalty which pushed him down the grid. He profited from an unscheduled extra pit stop by Hamilton to change tyres, but then had to hold off the British driver's charge without wearing out his own super-soft tyres. 'I had a good start and after that the team made the right strategic choices by going in before Valtteri Bottas,' said Verstappen. 'In the last few laps I didn't have any tyres left.' The last three rounds of the Grand Prix season are in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.  More >

ING warned three times about executive pay

Banking group ING has been warned by three successive finance ministers about planning massive pay hikes for senior executives, the Telegraaf said on Monday. Jan Kees de Jager, Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Wopke Hoekstra had all told the bank in the past that excessive pay rises could lead to social unrest, the paper says. It bases its claim on confidential finance ministry documents obtained using freedom of information legislation. This March, the bank announced a 50% salary hike for chief executive Ralph Hamers, but this was later toned down after protests from both politicians and the public. A previous pay rise for Hamers also came under ministerial fire, the paper said. Rules Hoekstra said in April he is planning to tighten the rules on bankers’ pay in the wake of the row that blew up over ING’s proposal to raise Hamer's salary. One idea is for bank executives to have to repay part of their salary if the bank is bailed out by the state, so that they take a share of the responsibility. The cabinet is also considering a rule that would force bankers to hold on to any shares they receive for a number of years, to encourage long-term thinking. ING was given a €10bn bailout by the treasury after it ran into trouble during the financial crisis. The loan has since been repaid.  More >

Unmanned petrol stations more common

Tough competition has led to a sharp increase in the number of unmanned petrol stations in the Netherlands, according to industry body Bovag. In 2003 there were 3,661 manned petrol stations in the country and 600 without staff but 15 years later, unmanned petrol stations are in the majority, Bovag said. By the beginning of this year 2,023 petrol stations had a shop and staff but 2,098 had replaced cash registry workers with an automatic payment machine. 'Competition is really tough and entrepreneurs have to choose,' spokesman Tom Huyskens told the AD. 'You either close your shop, install a payment system and focus on price or you go full service and offer sandwiches, coffee, a car wash and the like.' The traditional petrol station shop with sweets, tobacco and engine oil will not survive because the margins are too small to pay a decent wage, Huyskens said.  More >

Former prime minister Wim Kok dies

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 >

Seven of world's top 10 best DJs are Dutch

Seven of the best djs in the world are from the Netherlands, including number one Martin Garrix, according to the latest public vote organised by DJ Mag. It is the third year in the row that Garrix has held the top spot and he was the youngest dj ever to win the title when he first took the prize in 2016. Second in the list is the Belgian duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike while Hardwell, the Dutch dj who has now stopped touring and previous two times champion, was third. The annual listing is always presented during the Amsterdam Dance Event, which ends on Sunday. Martin Garrix, who is just 22 and whose real name is Martijn Garritsen, signed his first record deal when he was 16 and broke through internationally in 2013 with his hit Animals. In total, 1.2 million people took part in the poll, most of whom come from the US and UK. The Netherlands is eighth in terms of voter numbers. The rest of the Dutch line-up are Armin van Buuren (5) who has topped the ranking five times, Tiësto, who headed the list three times, new entries Don Diabolo and Oliver Heldens (7 and 9) and Afrojack, who holds on to his eighth place.  More >