Koenders to Trump: dismissing Nato and EU would be a 'mistake'

Tax office inspectors raid Damen Shipyards in corruption probe

Foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders has attacked incoming US president Donald Trump's stance on Nato and the EU, saying both organisations are essential to global security. Trump, whose term of office starts on January 20, said in an interview on Monday that be viewed Nato as “obsolete” and the US was footing the bill for other member countries who were not paying their fair share. He also said the European Union was likely to fall apart in the wake of Brexit unless German chancellor Angela Merkel reversed her “catastrophic” decision to take in large numbers of refugees. Speaking in Brussels, Koenders described Trump's views as “worrying” and said it would be a “real mistake in an unsafe world to say that we no longer need Nato”. “We need to sit down with Trump as soon as possible, because Nato is important for the US too. There are mutual interest.” Koenders, who was attending a meeting of European foreign ministers, also said Trump would be making a mistake if he chose not to treat the EU as a serious trade partner. “We can see that he has less faith in institutions such as the UN, Nato and the EU. How that translates in practice remains to be seen,” Koenders said.  More >

Asylum applications down by 50% in 2016

Tax office inspectors raid Damen Shipyards in corruption probe The number of people seeking asylum in the Netherlands fell by 46% in 2016, according to the latest official figures. The immigration service IND said the fall from last year's peak of 58,900 was in large part a result of the deal struck between the EU and Turkey during the Netherlands' EU presidency, under which Turkey agreed to take in more Syrian refugees heading for Europe. Rob van Lint, director of the IND, told NPO Radio 1: 'The deal was agreed in March and since then the influx of asylum seekers, especially from Syria, has gone down a lot.' Syrians are still the largest group of asylum seekers, making up 34% of the total, followed by Eritreans (9%) and Albanians (5%). The Eritrean contingent included a large number of unaccompanied children – 773 in total. Overall 18,000 asylum seekers were first-time applicants, 1,800 were reapplying and 12,000 travelled to be reunited with family members who were already in the Netherlands. Van Lint said there had been a spike in recent months of asylum applicants from Morocco and Algeria, two countries perceived to be safe. Foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders and deputy justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff are due to travel to Morocco later this month to discuss arrangements to take back failed asylum seekers.  More >

Sale of free Michael tickets 'scandalous'

Tickets for free George Michael concert being sold for €35 online Organisers of Monday's free tribute concert to George Michael have condemned touts who are profiting from the event by reselling their tickets online. The 1500 original tickets were snapped up within seconds of being listed on the website of host venue Paradiso on December 30. In recent days tickets have been placed on sites including Ticketswap and Marktplaats for around €35 each. Others have been offered for sale on auction sites. Organiser Peter van Vught described the development as 'disgraceful'. 'The whole idea is that the entire tribute is free,' he told AT5. 'The tickets cost nothing and all the artists, Paradiso itself and the organisers have no stake in it. 'I'm really sad about it. It's a scandal that people are trying to make money out of it, but there's nothing we can do.' Van Vught pleaded with fans who missed out on tickets to watch the event on Facebook or YouTube. The George Michael Tribute starts at 8.30pm on Monday (January 16) at Paradiso. Michael was found dead at home on Christmas Day last year, aged 53. His manager Michael Lippman said he appeared to have died of heart failure.  More >

Rotterdam reduces plastic waste flow

Tax office inspectors raid Damen Shipyards in corruption probe Rotterdam officially inaugurated three plastic litter trapping devices in the Nieuwe Maas river on Monday. The project includes a further eight platforms to be placed in strategic spots along the river in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the North Sea at Hoek van Holland. The accumulated plastic will be turned into a floating city park, architect and initiator Ramon Knoester told the Volkskrant. ‘If we can manage to collect the plastic in the city and the port we will help prevent the plastic soup in our seas and oceans from growing. It’s a first step towards a plastic-free river,’ the paper quotes him as saying. Knoester says the three platforms will collect some 10 to 20 tonnes of plastic, the equivalent of a quarter of all the plastic waste travelling down the river. According to civil engineer Gijsbert Tweehuysen, it is not clear how much plastic waste is travelling down the river. ‘It could be 10 tonnes, it could be 100 tonnes. We simply don’t know. But I do know the Nieuwe Maas is only responsible for a small amount of plastic waste. Much more Maas water, and more waste, is exiting via Haringvliet,’ he told the paper. But Tweehuysen is in favour of the project as is maritime biologist Jan Andries Franeker of the Wageningen Maritime Research Institute’. ‘It’s a great idea. The more plastic is fished out at an early stage, the better,' he told the paper. He is less enthusiastic about the plans to turn the waste into a 150 m2 floating park. ‘I understand it is meant to make people conscious of plastic waste but it’s never a brilliant plan to leave plastic structures in water. The quality of recycled plastic is questionable and you never know what may seep into the environment that way,’ the paper quotes him as saying. The €200,000 needed to build the platforms was provided by Rotterdam council, the government and private investors.  More >

Raccoons are on the rise in Limburg

Raccoons are on the rise in Limburg; experts call for action Racoons are proliferating in the southern province of Limburg, regional newspaper the Limburger reported on Monday. Mutliple sightings of raccoons have been reported around the province. The increase is thought to be down to escaped animals and animals that have been released into the wild but experts don’t rule out raccoons are migrating from Belgium and Germany, the paper said. Their arrival has met with some alarm: according to the product safety board NWVA,  the animals carry parasites which, in rare instances, can cause serious neurological complaints in people. They also do damage to homes and agriculture. The racoon, which was introduced in Europe from North America for its valuable pelt, is on a list of so-called ‘invasive exotic species’ and subject to a European guideline which says it should be eradicated or kept in check. According to German figures the number of raccoons in Germany has grown from some 20,000 to 100,000 in the space of 10 years. Experts at Wageningen environmental research department Alterra  are now calling for a plan of action. Although there are no signs as yet that a significant number of raccoons are settling here permanently, it will just be a question of time before they do, Alterra warns.  More >