Prime minister flies back early from India mission for MH17 talks

Prime minister Mark Rutte is flying back from a trade mission to India a day early to discuss the new findings about the downing of flight MH17 with the rest of the cabinet on Friday. On Thursday, the team in charge of the investigation said that the Buk missile which hit the passenger plane had come from a unit of the Russian army stationed in Kursk. 'This is an important development and so I have decided to return to the Netherlands, because I want to chair the cabinet meeting at which this will be discussed,' Rutte said in a reaction. The official cabinet reaction to the new findings will be discussed on Friday morning, but foreign minister Stef Blok has already said 'an important piece of the puzzle is in place'. The four coalition parties say the issue should now be raised at the United Nations Security Council. In particular, they hope that Russia will be reprimanded for failing to cooperate sufficiently with the investigation. Russia Russia, meanwhile,  has issued a statement denying all responsibility for the air disaster, in which nearly 300 people died. 'Not one Russian missile has crossed the border between Russia and Ukraine,' Dutch media quoted the Russian ministry of defence as saying. Piet Ploeg of the relatives foundation Vliegramp MH17 told broadcaster NOS he now expects the Dutch government to take action, for example, by taking Russia to court for complicity in the downing of the plane. 'Until now, everyone has been cautious, but now it is being openly said that Russia kept the information presented today to itself, Ploeg said.  More >

Russian army unit had MH17 missile

The international team investigating the downing of flight MH17 in July 2014, said on Thursday the Buk missile which shot down the passenger plane originated from a unit of the Russian army from Kursk in Russia. All 298 passengers and crew, which included mainly Dutch citizens, were killed in the disaster, which took place as the plane flew over Eastern Ukraine on its way to Kuala Lumpur. The investigators told a news conference on Thursday they have now concluded the missile came from a Russian army unit after extensive comparative research based on several images of the Buk. ‘The analysis of those produces a number of characteristics and the combination is so special that that can be considered as a fingerprint,’ the interim report on the air disaster said. This means that people within the brigade and close to it will be aware of the operation in which the missile was deployed, the investigators say. They are now calling on insiders and eyewitnesses to come forward. ‘Who formed part of the crew? What were their instructions? Who was responsible for the operational deployment on 17 July 2017?,’ Dutch police chief Wilbert Paulissen said at Thursday’s press conference. ‘We are convinced that many people have this information. They may be members of the 53rd Brigade, but also relatives, friends or acquaintances.' Chief investigator Fred Westerbeke said on Thursday the probe was now in its 'last phase' but said there is 'still work to be done' before charges can be brought. The trial of any suspects arrested in the shooting down of flight MH17 will be held in the Netherlands under an agreement reached with the countries leading the joint probe.  More >

Dutch MPs query Rwanda sponsorship deal

Dutch MPs have asked aid minister Sigrid Kaag to look into the recent sponsorship deal signed between African country Rwanda and London football club Arsenal, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. In particular, MPs want to know why a country which receives so much aid from the Netherlands is able to invest €30m in sponsoring the club's shirts. VVD MPs want the minister to raise the issue with Rwanda itself. GroenLinks MP Isabelle Diks said it is disheartening to see such payments being made, while the international community is trying to tackle the poverty. The deal, signed on Wednesday, means Arsenal players will sport 'Visit Rwanda' on the sleeves of their shirts for the next three years. The aim is to promote tourism to the east African country, particularly to the national parks. Rwanda is one of 15 countries where the Netherlands focuses its aid efforts.  More >

Electric car sales soar in the Netherlands

There are now some 22,000 electric cars on the Dutch roads, a 60% increase on a year ago, the national statistics office CBS said on Friday. By contrast, the number of hybrids rose just 1.6% to 97,000, the CBS said. In total, this means about 1.4% of cars in the Netherlands are entirely or partially powered by electricity, the CBS said. Changes to the taxes on hybrid cars is behind the collapse of hybrid sales, the CBS said.   More >

Fewer freelancers are insured for illness

Fewer freelancers and the self-employed have insurance against illness or private pensions, national statistics agency CBS said on Friday. In 2016, 19% of the 895,000 self-employed in the Netherlands had disability insurance, compared with 23% in 2011.And in terms of pensions, 10% of the self-employed had put cash into annuities in 2016, compared with 13.3% in 2011. People working in the construction sector are most likely to have supplementary insurance - almost one in three pay into work-related disability schemes, the CBS figures show. Earlier this week, the European Commission said the Netherlands needs to reduce the incentives given to both employers and employees to work via temporary and self-employment contracts. The commission warned that the self-employed are more often under- insured against disability, unemployment and old age. ‘This could affect the sustainability of the social security system in the long run,’ the commission said.  More >

NL rises in one competitiveness ranking

The Netherlands has overtaken Switzerland and moved into fourth place in the latest global competitiveness rankings published by IMD. The top five most competitive economies in the world remain the same as in the previous year, but their order changed in the 2018 rankings. The United States, third last year, returns to the top spot, followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The Netherlands’ advance reflects a ‘balanced’ path to competitiveness, ranking in the top 10 in economic performance, government and business efficiency, IMD said. Switzerland declined mainly due to a slowdown in exports and, to a lesser extent, an increase in perceptions about threats of relocation of R&D facilities. The IMD World Competitiveness Center, a research group at IMD business school in Switzerland, has published the rankings every year since 1989. It compiles them using 258 indicators. ‘Hard’ data such as national employment and trade statistics are weighted twice as much as the ‘soft’ data from an executive opinion survey that measures the business perception of issues such as corruption, environmental concerns and quality of life. This year 63 countries were ranked. The Netherlands is also currently ranked 4th on the World Economic Forum‘s list of the 138 most competitive countries, behind Switzerland, the United States and Singapore.  More >

Bullying in primary schools can be tackled

Only four out of 10 popular methods to combat bullying in primary schools work, according to a new report by five universities and mental health monitor Trimbos Institute. Bullying is also more widespread than previously assumed, a survey among 8,000 children showed. Three anti-bullying programmes which involved the whole class were found to be effective (PRIMA, KiVA and Taakspel) while one (Alles Kidzzz) turned out to be the best of the individual approaches. Schools are required by law to teach children about bullying but are free to chose which method to use. The report showed 30% of primary school children experience instances of bullying at school. A smaller group, 1 in 14, is bullied more than once a week. Of this group a third does not tell anyone about the bullying and 97% of these children have been bullied over several years. According to researcher Bram Orobio Castro of Utrecht University, the figures are higher than previously thought. ‘We always knew that the number would probably be a bit higher but we didn’t think bullying would be as widespread as this,’ he told RTL Nieuws. Orobio Castro says children keep quiet out of fear the bullying will get worse or because they think they are to blame. ‘They are ashamed and feel they should solve the problem themselves. They feel that it is part of life and because they don’t tell anyone they develop a damaging mindset that isn’t corrected.’ Schools are obliged by law to monitor children’s well-being annually, and this includes bullying. It is vital, the researchers say, that children tell teachers and other adults if they are being bullied. The four best scoring programmes were shown to bring down instances of bullying within a year and these need to extended and used across the board, the researchers recommend. Mandatory use is not thought to be necessary because bullying does not occur in all schools.  More >