The Golden Coach of the Dutch royal family on display at the Amsterdam Museum. There is an ongoing debate about the artefact as it includes depictions of colonialism. Photograph: Patrick van Katwijk/Getty Images

Elis Juliana, a poet, artist and intellectual from the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao, who died in 2013, once said: “The scars of my people’s feet from Dutch enslavement are still bawling pus”. It’s a vivid statement that captures the dominance of Dutch political and economic power over the Black people of Curaçao and its sister islands, including Saba, Statia, Bonaire, Aruba and St Maarten. And it still holds true – even after the surprising apology from the Netherlands last month for the atrocities of Dutch slavery in the region.

In that apology, the prime minister, Mark Rutte, said: “On behalf of the Dutch government, I apologise for the past actions of the Dutch state: to enslaved people in the past, everywhere in the world, who suffered as a consequence of those actions, as well as to their daughters and sons, and to all their descendants, up to the present day”.…  Seguir leyendo »

A visitor walks through the collections of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, plunged into a virulent controversy for having used the term "bersiap", which echoes the memory of the colonial violence perpetrated in Indonesia by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. © Olaf Kraak / ANP / AFP

On October 13th, 2022, an Indonesian man, wearing a golden suit with a black velvet peci (Indonesian traditional cap), stood in front of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. Before him, a black leather case with a sticker that read: ‘Black Pete is racist.’ [referring to the black companion of Saint Nicholas in Dutch folklore] He looked the judges straight in the eye when he spoke: ‘I am delighted to stand here in front of indigenous, white native counselors.’ It is unknown whether they were indeed indigenous to the Dutch land, but that was not the point. By reversing the use of the word inlanders (natives) to address representatives of the Dutch legal system, after all a white institution of power, he reminded them of the condescending way that Indonesians were treated during colonial times.…  Seguir leyendo »

The wall of victims at the Red Terror Martyrs' Memorial Museum in Addis-Ababa. © Thijs Bouwknegt

“I had a lot of pain last night”, Eshetu Alemu coughed, “but I will try to be present during the entire day”. The 68-year-old Ethiopian-Dutchman has terminal lung cancer and he attended his trial via video link from prison. A convicted war criminal, he wants his entire 2017 life sentence– for 75 murders, 6 cases of torture and 320 arbitrary detentions in cruel and degrading circumstances between February and December 1978 in the cities of Debre Markos and Metekel – quashed. He “regrets” that all these things happened. But he maintains he was never at any crime scene.

On 19 April, Alemu heard his Dutch lawyer plead his case.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indonesian veterans commemorate victims of massacres by the Dutch army in the 1940s in 2013. The Indonesian experience of colonial violence is often overlooked in the Netherlands. © Adek Berry / AFP

On February 17, researchers of the Independence, Decolonization, Violence and War in Indonesia 1945-1950 program (IDVWI) presented their results. They concluded that Dutch armed forces structurally and systematically utilised “extreme violence” to stamp out the Republic of Indonesia that had declared itself independent on 17 August 1945. They added that politicians, civilian and military authorities, including their legal systems, looked away, condoned and silenced colonial violence both in Indonesia and The Hague, the Netherlands’ capital city.

Reactions came fast and furious. Prime minister Mark Rutte apologised to “the people of Indonesia”, but also to Dutch veterans and all the communities violently touched by the war, from 1945 onwards.…  Seguir leyendo »

A military handout photo shows a Leopard 2a6 main battle tank firing during a joint German and Dutch exercise held in Latvia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania on Oct. 20, 2021. Andy Meier/NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania

French President Emmanuel Macron recently proposed a new European security pact, which joins his long-standing proposal for a European army. Other countries, trying to show European military muscle of a different kind, are sending weapons to Ukraine and troops to neighboring NATO countries.

But away from the spotlights, the Dutch and German armies are pulling off spectacular integration. In a first anywhere in Europe, a binational unit consisting of Dutch and German soldiers is about to complete a NATO deployment. Other countries should learn from the Dutch-German integration. They’ll discover that it works, but they’ll also learn that it involves painstaking efforts even when just two like-minded countries are involved.…  Seguir leyendo »

We’re Locked Down Again in the Netherlands. Here’s a Warning.

Since 5 a.m. on Sunday, bars, restaurants, museums, schools, clothing stores, gift shops and anything resembling fun have been closed across the Netherlands. We’ve become the first European country to go back to lockdown life amid Omicron (until at least early January): It was “unavoidable,” said Prime Minister Mark Rutte. So here we are, looking over the borders enviously at holiday sales and seasonal celebrations in Belgian Antwerp. Once more, it doesn’t look a lot like Christmas.

The Netherlands’ lockdown stands as a warning to the United States, other European countries and Covid hot spots across the globe. The warning, though, isn’t just about Omicron — other countries have more coronavirus cases and worse vaccination rates than the Netherlands does, and they are not locking down (at least yet).…  Seguir leyendo »

"Authorities are trying to see what they can salvage from one of the few good outcomes of the crisis. They want to restrict arrivals, keep tourists away from cannabis "coffee shops," and prevent them from overrunning the Wallen, the centuries' old neighborhood that is also home to Amsterdam famed red light district.&quot

From the earliest days of which I have memory, I felt the need to travel as if it were an extra ingredient in my blood, pulsing in my veins. The pandemic didn't give me a transfusion; it didn't sedate my wanderlust. It forced it on hold, as if waiting in a strange airport for updates on a long-delayed flight. I have booked and rebooked so many flights that I had to make a spreadsheet to keep track. But then, finally, thoroughly vaccinated, I made it across the Atlantic.

First, I had to remember how to pack again for a big trip.…  Seguir leyendo »

Thierry Baudet at an anti-lockdown protest in Breda, Netherlands on 2 March 2021. Photograph: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

On 20 March 2019, Thierry Baudet provided Dutch television viewers with two surprises. The first was news of his landslide victory in that day’s senate elections. Baudet’s far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) was a newcomer in parliament, holding just two seats out of 150 in the lower house. But that day, from scratch, Forum gained 12 of the senate’s 75 seats, putting it on a par with the governing liberal party (the VVD) led by prime minister Mark Rutte.

The second surprise was Baudet’s victory speech. “The owl of Athena spreads her wings as evening falls”, he started, and across the country, jaws dropped and drinks were spilled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Crowds at the Vroesepark in Rotterdam over the weekend. Photograph: Barcroft Media/via Getty Images

The whole world has been struggling to contain the coronavirus and “flatten the curve”, but Taiwan has had no curve. Out of a population of 24 million, only 440 people have tested positive for Covid-19, and there have been just seven deaths. Compare that with the Netherlands: while it is similar in size to Taiwan with a population of 17 million, well over 5,000 lives have been lost to the virus.

What has made the difference? Clearly, the Netherlands is not an island that could cut itself off from the rest of world, lock down completely and thus contain the disease.…  Seguir leyendo »

Recientemente, el primer ministro de Portugal calificaba como “repugnantes” las últimas declaraciones realizadas por el ministro de Finanzas de los Países Bajos, Wopke Hoekstra, en las que acusaba al Gobierno de España de no haber ahorrado los suficientes fondos durante los últimos años para hacer frente a la crisis de la Covid-19. Mas allá del legítimo rechazo a las palabras de Hoekstra por la insolidaridad y por el halo xenófobo que alientan, entiendo que es fundamental intentar describir con sosiego qué es lo que está sucediendo.

En este sentido, algunas precisiones son importantes. Son muchas las voces discordantes con las decisiones tomadas durante esta crisis por el Gobierno de Mark Rutte.…  Seguir leyendo »

Celebrations in March marking Poland's 20 years as a NATO member. Photo: Getty Images.

Under NATO’s ‘enhanced forward presence’ programme, small additional contingents from other NATO allies join the host nation’s troops in Poland and the Baltic states to bolster deterrence against any further Russian military adventurism.

These contingents have inevitably become the targets for malign Russian information activities. But so have their communities and families at home.

In the Russian view of information warfare, there is no front line and rear areas, and no non-combatants. According to Russia’s Chief of General Staff General Valeriy Gerasimov, a key feature of modern warfare in the information domain is ‘simultaneous effects to the entire depth of enemy territory’.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Baudet has been flirting with ‘Nexit’ for a long time, constantly calling Brussels the root of all evil.’ Photograph: Robin Utrecht/EPA

For the past decade, the face of Dutch populism has been Geert Wilders, notorious for being anti-Muslim, anti‑immigrant, anti-establishment, anti-intellectual, anti-pretty much anything with three syllables or more.

But last month, about half of his voters jumped ship. When the Netherlands held elections to provincial assemblies – which indirectly elect the upper house of parliament – Wilders’ Party for Freedom party lost half of its seats to Forum for Democracy (FvD), the party, launched in 2016, of political newcomer Thierry Baudet. FvD even won one more seat than the current liberal governing party, the VVD.

Baudet’s midnight victory speech was one of the bigger WTF moments in recent Dutch political life (first line: “The owl of Minerva spreads his wings just before nightfall”).…  Seguir leyendo »

The Netherlands has a complicated relationship with direct democracy. Polls have shown that since the late 1960s, large majorities of the population have consistently supported the introduction of referendums, most recently in a 2018 survey revealing that 70 percent were in favor. What’s more, every government-installed expert commission on institutional reform, since the 1980s, has proposed introducing citizen-initiated referendums. And yet, the Dutch constitution has remained extremely hard to change. Every serious attempt at reform has been smothered, typically by the institutional conservatism of center-right parties and now, ironically, by the very progressive parties that pushed for them.

The most recent example of this occurred on July 10 when a tiny majority of the Dutch Parliament abolished its three-year-old national referendum law, which allowed citizens to initiate a non-binding referendum on most laws and treaties newly approved by Parliament, so long as there were at least 300,000 signatures in support.…  Seguir leyendo »

There’s a new cyberpower in the world. Last month, Dutch reporters from Nieuwsuur and de Volkskrant revealed that in mid-2014 the Dutch Joint Sigint Cyber Unit (JSCU) infiltrated the computer networks of the infamous Russian hacker group “Cozy Bear”.

By sharing information with their U.S. counterparts, JSCU helped oust the Russian government-linked group thought to be responsible for the Democratic National Committee breach during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Hacking by its very nature is a secretive business. Although numerous states reportedly are interested in the development of offensive cybercapabilities, we typically hear about only a small set of state actors conducting operations.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman paints her face as she dresses up as Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) in Soest, the Netherlands, in October 2013. (EPA/Robin Van Lonkhuijsen)

Ah, holiday time in the Netherlands.  It means pepernoten (holiday cookies), handwritten, personalized poems to give to friends and family, and large parades across the country. But for many cities in the Netherlands, the season of Sinterklaas is not complete without a dash of holiday blackface.

Every year, from late November to early December, the Dutch celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of St. Nick) and Zwarte Piet, (Black Pete in English). For decades, Dutch people have dressed up as Zwarte Piet by painting their faces black, giving themselves big red lips and donning curly afro wigs. Sinterklaas is the stern boss, Zwarte Piets are his goofy, acrobatic helpers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las conmemoraciones de las víctimas de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y de la liberación de los nazis, que se celebran en Holanda invariablemente una detrás de otra los días 4 y 5 de mayo, este año se han visto enturbiadas. Una iniciativa quería hacer coincidir las ceremonias en el centro de Ámsterdam con un homenaje a los refugiados muertos. Dado que estaba previsto que la vigilia se celebrase en el recorrido por el que pasaría la tradicional “marcha silenciosa”, el alcalde de la ciudad desplazó la manifestación a favor de los emigrantes a un lugar apartado. En vista de lo sucedido, la organización CIDI (Centro de Información y Documentación en Israel) no quiso seguir adelante y suspendió todos los actos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Me habría extrañado mucho que Geert Wilders, con su peinado a lo Donald Trump, su retórica exagerada, su xenofobia, pudiera sacar ventaja en las elecciones holandesas. Llegó lo más lejos que podía llegar, y es de esperar que su votación, mediocre, desinflada, marque el comienzo del fin del populismo de extrema derecha en Europa. Ahora esperamos las elecciones en Francia y Alemania con más optimismo que antes, con una confianza mayor en el estado de derecho europeo. El hecho de que Mark Rutte encuentre tiempo todas las semanas para hacer clases de formación cívica en una escuela secundaria me parece interesante, hasta simbólico.…  Seguir leyendo »

Wilders y la libertad de expresión

Al líder del Partido de la Libertad holandés, Geert Wilders, le gusta manifestar su admiración por la Primera Enmienda de la Constitución de Estados Unidos. No es ninguna coincidencia. La Primera Enmienda es la norma que mejor protege la libertad de expresión en el mundo, incluidos discursos como el que le costó a Wilders, en diciembre de 2016, una condena por insultar hace años a los holandeses de origen marroquí e incitar a la discriminación.

Supongo que ese es el motivo de que algunos consideren a Wilders un defensor de la libertad de expresión, alguien dispuesto a decir lo que piensa sobre temas incómodos que otros no quieren abordar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dutch Green Party (Groen Links) leader Jesse Klaver, left, takes a selfie with campaign workers after casting his ballot at a polling station in The Hague. (Robin van Lonkhuijsen/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

In the Netherlands, the conservative, pro-market People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) led by incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte won 21 percent of the votes in Wednesday’s election, more than any of the other 27 parties on the ballot.

VVD benefited from an upswing in the polls after the prime minister took a tough stance on Turkey last weekend. On March 11, the Dutch government blocked two Turkish ministers from attending a Rotterdam rally, a move that resulted in police clashes with protesting Turkish minority groups.

In a campaign dominated by issues of immigration, integration and identity, Rutte showed his willingness to stand up to the backlash from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who countered the diplomatic slight of the Turkish ministers by accusing the Dutch of permitting the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnians.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prime Minister Mark Rutte saw off far-right challenger Geert Wilders. Yves Herman/Reuters

Voters in the Netherlands have handed current Prime Minister Mark Rutte a resounding victory over far-right, anti-EU firebrand Geert Wilders in national elections. Rutte’s centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is projected to win 33 of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, while Wilders’s Freedom Party (PVV) is set to capture 20, placing him in distant second place.

Rutte’s victory was met with immediate relief from national capitals across Europe. French President François Hollande called it “a clear victory against extremism.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, congratulated the Netherlands on the “great result”.

Elections in the Netherlands – a stable, prosperous country of nearly 17 million – do not generally receive so much international attention or scrutiny.…  Seguir leyendo »