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Contents 8 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
MENTALITY MAKES THE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR WORKING LIFE
CUT? SPEND? OR BOTH? -Europe searches for solutions to the economic crisis
-says our business columnist, Christiaan van der Sluijs
‘LIKE A HIGH SPEED TRAIN THAT DOESN’T STOP’ -Fashion designer, Ilja Visser
43 ON THE WATERFRONT, EYE, THE NEW FILM MUSEUM
-Journalist Jeroen Jansen talks film production with the director of Eye International
INTRODUCING DIEDERIK SAMSOM -The great new hope of the Labour Party
LIVING THE SWEET AND SAVOURY LIFE -with Alain Alders, Executive Chef of the Michelin-starred De Vrienden van Jacob
THE BIG ISSUE – REDEFINING LITERACY -‘Focus on real education that can prepare forthcoming generations for a borderless world...’
EUROPE IN 10 DAYS -An alternative tour through 10 extraordinary destinations in Europe
72 ‘OUR CHINESE’
-How this cultural group has merged into the Dutch polders
22 79 88
DUTCH DESIGN: MEET MARCEL WANDERS -whose knotted chair is on permanent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York
91 TESTING 1..2..3... -2012 is the year of a new breed of laptop, the Ultrabook
35 OFFICE SPACE
-With a lot of vacancies in office towers, this sector is in the throes of a revolution
44 GENERATION WAR?
-Our political column explores a conflict bubbling in The Netherlands
Photography: Novum/ Bart Maat
FALL OF THE GOVERNMENT -We trace the steps towards the collapse
Contents the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 9
“ YOU MAY BE SURPRISED HOW MANY FESTIVALS PAY ATTENTION TO DUTCH CINEMA. YOU SEE THEM EVERY WHERE, FROM NORWAY TO SOUTH AFRICA AND FROM ASIA TO MEXICO. UKRAINE HAS ITS OWN FLYIN’ DUTCH FESTIVAL. NEXT YEAR THE NETHERLANDS IS IN THE SPOTLIGHT AT THE FESTIVAL OF GUANAJUATO IN MEXICO THIS YEAR, TURKEY HAS SHOWN INTEREST AS WELL. IN OCTOBER, FILMS ARE BEING SHOWN IN THE ISTANBUL MODERN MUSEUM…” Claudia Landsberger, Eye International director
Photography: Novum/ Dick Hol
Photography: Maarten Bezem
HOLLAND’S TOP 10 POLITICAL OUTSIDERS
DUTCH CHILDCARE: A BOON FOR INTERNATIONALS
THE NAME IS MOSZKOWICZ, BRAM MOSZKOWICZ
-Geert Wilders, who brought down the Dutch government in March by refusing to sanction the cabinet’s budget cuts, has achieved worldwide fame in recent years for his anti-Islam and anti-Europe rhetoric. But he’s only the most recent version of the Dutch political eccentric, a species with a flourishing history in The Netherlands’ pluriform political system. Meet our top 10 remarkable politicians.
-is one of the most important tasks you have to undertake when settling in The Netherlands. The good news is that the government will pay up to 80% of the cost of child-care. The bad news is that it means you have to deal with Dutch bureaucracy. But help is available. We offer recommendations as to how you can get the best care for your little ones, while taking advantage of the government’s generosity.
Bram Moszkowicz is to the field of law what James Bond is to spying. With his silver Aston Martin and Italian tailoring, Moszkowicz brings glamour into every courtroom. He has represented the most famous of Dutch bad guys, from super-criminal Willem Holleeder to Surinamese president Desi Bouterse to arch-populist Geert Wilders. A regular talkshow guest on Dutch television, Moszkowicz can be regarded as a prime opinion-leader in this country. The International Correspondent visited him at his stately canal-headquarters in Amsterdam.
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Colophon the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 11
THE INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT Dutch Business in Global Perspective www.theinternationalcorrespondent.nl
WHO BREAKS, PAYS
EDITION #6 May/June/July 2012 PUBLISHER & EDITOR Floris Müller email@example.com ADJUNCT EDITOR Niala Maharaj firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTORS Omid Azadi, Thomas Dieben, Fenna Ferwerda,Martin van Geest, Jeroen Jansen, Joost van Kleef, George Lake, David Lemereis, Mark Maathuis, Paul Rodenburg, Sanjay Sharma, Christiaan van der Sluijs DESIGN AND ART DIRECTION Pascal Bier PHOTOGRAPHY Maarten Bezem, Novum, Donald van Opzeeland, Reuters SPECIAL THANKS TO Wendy van Bavel, Alvie Bhailal, Arno Bier de Jong, Jeroen van Evert, Ramon Groen, Marjolein Hof, Sabine Woelfel
Photography: Pascal Bier
There’s an old saying in The Hague: who breaks, pays. In other words, parties that break up a ruling coalition are punished by voters in the following elections. The social democrats experienced this in recent decades, and so did the right-wing parties. In 2002, Pim Fortuyn’s LPF swept the polls. But after prematurely abandoning the ruling coalition, the party itself got swept out of existence. DAMAGES The same fate could be awaiting Geert Wilders. After seven weeks of negotiations, he withdrew from discussions on economic policy on 21 April, leaving the ruling coalition in the lurch. It costs The Netherlands billions to postpone economic reform till 2013. New elections will cost nearly a billion extra, according to estimates. And the PVV took the country to the edge of disaster, with credit ratings agencies ready to slash Holland’s pristine standing. How will Wilders do in September’s elections? The media is pointedly ignoring the party at present, and even the right-wing VVD party is indicating that it wouldn’t rush into a coalition with the PVV in the future. But voters are still willing to give Wilders the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps that will change in the lead up to elections. A NEW CHANCE FOR RUTTE The crisis also created some political winners. Minister of Finance, Jan Kees de Jager, shone like a diamond in the dark days after the
cabinet fell. Within 48 hours he had managed to summon up a majority of MPs to support an economic reform package. If his accomplishment doesn’t redound to the credit of his party (christian democrats) in the forthcoming elections, it will be because the party is lacking a clear programme and a leader. Premier Rutte has profited from his transparent leadership. Despite the disappointment he had to swallow when his cabinet fell, he dusted himself off and performed well, holding open discussions with his political opponents. ‘Given the seriousness of the financial crisis,’ he said, ‘we have to abandon narrow party interests.’ If he manages to maintain good scores in the polls, he’s likely to be putting together another cabinet in six months time. The left-wing, by contrast, hasn’t benefitted from the fall of the government. The Socialist Party (SP) grew in the last months and is now the largest in the polls. But since the political storm, that expansion has dampened. The social democrats (PvdA) lost five seats in the wake of the crisis, according to the polls. That’s nearly a quarter of their supporters, a huge blow. It resulted from the political clumsiness of the new leader, Diederik Samsom, who played hardball during the negotiations for a solution to the crisis. Samsom got his party sidelined as a result. Rutte and De Jager stitched up a deal with his competitors. New elections will be held on September 12. Keep reading The International Correspondent for extensive coverage of the Dutch political and economic scene as the country negotiates this eventful period in our history.
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WEB DEVELOPMENT Pascal Bier SALES Teye Brandsma email@example.com MARKETING Tom van Messel firstname.lastname@example.org ACCOUNTANCY Jeroen van Evert, Ramon Groen MAIN PRINTING Westdeutsche Verlags- und Druckerei GmbH DISTRIBUTION COORDINATOR Reinout van der Meer DISTRIBUTION Van Gelderen/ Van Gelderen Inflight The International Correspondent is the business magazine for the international community in The Netherlands. It offers quality reports on finance and economics as well as expositions of Dutch politics, education, innovation and lifestyle. It also provides independent advice on living in, working in, and enjoying The Netherlands. The International Correspondent appears every two months and is published in collaboration with partners in business, government and the education sector. It is also distributed by AKO and Bruna bookshops and magazine stores in the Randstad and surrounding cities. The International Correspondent is not dependent on the government and receives no funding or other assistance from official sources. The editors try to ensure the correctness of all information in this magazine. However, mistakes and omissions are, regrettably, possible. No rights may therefore be derived from the material published. We are perfectly willing to publish corrections in the following issue, if they are brought to our attention. For questions or information, please contact the publisher. All rights reserved. Nothing in this edition may be multiplied, stored in an automated database, or made public, in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, by photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher. The International Correspondent is published by Correspondent Media
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the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 15
“THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE NETHERLANDS AND EVEN POLITICAL LEADERS WHO SAY LEAVING THE EURO AND THE EUROPEAN UNION ARE ACCEPTABLE. [...] THESE POLITICIAN SHOULD HAVE THE COURAGE TO EXPLAIN TO VOTERS THAT THERE IS NO FUTURE WITHOUT EUROPE AND GIVING MORE POWER TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT.” Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council. May 8.2012 Photography: European Commission Press Office
In short 16 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
Minister of Economic Affairs Maxime Verhagen (christian democrats) leaves the Catshuis
Photography: Novum / Bart Maat
APRIL: BRIEF FLIRTATION WITH DISASTER
Illustration: Correspondent Media Photo
If, as Harold Wilson said, a week is a long time in politics, then the last week of April 2012 amounted to at least a century. The government fell, The Netherlands edged towards losing its triple-A credit rating and its reputation as a solid economy, and financial disorder threatened. Then, suddenly, everything was fixed; peace and contentment descended. All in the unlikely space of seven days, like in Genesis when God created the sun, the moon, trees and fishes and tropical sunsets, and still had time for a nap on Sunday. It all began in March, when leaders of the governing coalition (the liberal VVD party and Christian Democrat CDA) withdrew to the Prime Minister’s official residence, ‘the Catshuis’, to plan a new series of budget cuts aiming to conform to the European Union rule that national debt should not be beyond 3% of GDP. These had to be supported by Geert Wilders’ PVV (Freedom Party), since the minority government depended on the PVV’s support in the legislature. The talks ground on for seven long weeks till Saturday April 21st, when Wilders suddenly announced that he couldn’t support the budget cuts, torpedoing the entire process. By Monday 23rd, Prime Minister Mark Rutte was forced to go to the Queen and hand in his government’s resignation. The country was in uproar: The Netherlands was due to report to Brussels by April 30 on its plans to cut its budget deficit. If it didn’t, it would risk billion-euro fines. Moody’s rating bureau also made noises to the effect that the country’s triple A status was hanging in the balance. By Tuesday, three small political parties had begun talks on getting the country out of this major political and economic mess. D66, a liberal democrat party, the Green Left party and the Christian Union informed the Minister of Finance that they would support the government’s budget cuts if these were amended. Within a day-and-a-half, a deal had been brokered. Not only was the country pulled back from the brink of disaster, but good humor was suddenly restored to a land that had been torn asunder by the need to accommodate the obnoxious behavior of Geert Wilders and his fellow PVV leaders. For many, the quick action by the small political parties seemed to be a reaffirmation of the Dutch national identity – practical and ready to swing into action in an
emergency. Elections will now be held on September 12. NEW ECONOMIC MEASURES Some of the government’s more controversial budget cuts of last year were rolled back in the negotiations with the small parties in exchange for their support for 12 billion euros worth of new reductions in government spending. Cuts affecting the handicapped, preservation of nature and culture, and international aid have been reduced. The new economic measures to be launched in 2013 include a rise in Value Added Tax from 19% to 21%, a freeze on civil servants’ salaries, and the abandonment of certain types of home mortgages – those that don’t require repayment on the capital borrowed during the life of the mortgage. Employers will have more leeway in dismissing employees, but will have to contribute to unemployment benefits for the first six months after dismissal. A rise in the retirement age will gradually start taking effect from 2013. RESPONSE POSITIVE The new economic measures have been greeted with relief. Opinion polls show that a majority of the population supports them, although everyone will lose purchasing power. Employers are pleased at the sidelining of Geert Wilders’ PVV, and the response from Brussels has been very positive. Political parties that declined to participate in designing the new economic measures have been punished in the opinion polls. The Labour Party, under its new leader, Diederik Samsom, lost five seats on the day after the economic deal was announced.
In short the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 17
GOVERNMENT COLLAPSES It didn’t last two years, the right-wing Rutte government. The minority coalition comprised of political liberals and Christians was held in place by support from the populist PVV untill April this year. Then a new round of budget cuts strained the arrangement too far. ORIGINS In 2006, the basis for this government is laid when Mark Rutte wins overthe leadership of the liberal party, the VVD. When economic crisis over takes The Netherlands in 2008, Rutte’s financial skills and business approach increase his prominence. Simultaneously, support for ex-VVDer, Geert Wilders, who has set up the PVV (Party for Freedom) grows. Wilders’ anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric capture media attention. VICTORY In 2009, VVD wins 31 of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament. A splintering of the political landscape makes it difficult to form a new governing coalition. Rutte tries to put one together with the labour party (PvdA) and some smaller left-wing parties, but that doesn’t wash. He recruits the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Wilders’ controversial PVV. The Rutte 1 cabinet is born, comprised of VVD (liberals), CDA (Christians); it can get legislation through parliament because of the commitment of the populist PVV to an agreement called the ‘gedoog-accord’. CDA TEARS ITS HAIR The CDA is decidedly uncomfortable with this deal struck with the PVV. Two MPs, Kathleen Ferrier and Ad Koppejan, even threaten to block legislation from passing through the House. The new party leader, Maxime Verhagen, has to eat dust to get the support of his party members. He promises not to give in to all Wilders’ demands. WILDERS ON TRIAL Despite being a supporter of the government in parliament, Wilders keeps up his attacks on Islam. In 2011, he’s hauled before the courts on charges of sowing hate. The case turns into a public farce and he is exonerated. The media attention redounds to his benefit. His support continues to grow. BUMBLING PROVINCIALS Out in the provinces, PVV representatives fall over their own feet. In January 2012, provincial politician Cor Bosman refers to another provincial leader as ‘a piece of vomited-up halal-meat’. Wilders’ strict control over his party representatives frays at the edges. BUDGET CUTS In March 2012 the coalition partners start discussing a new round of budget cuts. The cabinet has to cut 12 billion euros in expenditure to cope with the economic crisis. Wilders announces that he’s not agreeing to cuts ‘at any price’. BRINKMAN While the budget cuts are being discussed, Wilders’ second in command, Hero Brinkman, abandons the party. Support drains away from the PVV.
COLLAPSE IN LIMBURG On March 20. the local government coalition in the southern province of Limburg, comprised of PVV, VVD and CDA, suddenly dissolves. That had been one of the PVV’s most important power bases in the country. NATIONAL GOVERNMENT CRUMBLES Despite agreeing to all the individual elements in the plan for budget cuts, Wilders discovers that he can’t live with the total package. He withdraws from the discussions on March 21. The government can’t continue to rule. The VVD and CDA declare that elections are unavoidable.
CHIEF PARTICIPANTS IN THE FALL OF THE GOVERNMENT Mark Rutte – Turns the VVD into the country’s largest party and becomes prime minister, governing with a coalition comprising VVD and Christian democrats (CDA), with parliamentary voting support from Geert Wilders’ PVV. Rutte is a skilled negotiator and capable of putting together creative majorities to support his policies. Stef Blok – Campaign leader for Rutte in the elections of 2009 and negotiator on behalf of the VVD during the ‘Catshuis discussions’ on budget cuts. Regarded as accomplished regarding economic policy. Maxime Verhagen – Outgoing leader of the CDA. Took over from Prime Minister Balkenende after the 2009 elections. Heavily criticized for proposing the deal to rule in combination with the PVV. Has been unable to prevent the CDA from sliding in the polls. Jan Kees de Jager – Minister of Finance. Cabinet’s bookkeeper. Is responsible for the implementation of the massive budget cuts. Regarded by many as the future leader of the CDA. Van der Staaij – Leader of the Christian splinter party, SGP. Official partner of the government on a number of policy issues – in exchange for measures such as restricting Sunday shopping. Geert Wilders – Leader of the PVV and parliamentary supporter of the Rutte government. Addicted to media attention. Has problems holding his party together. His largest competitor for electoral support is Emile Roemer of the Socialist Party (SP). Hero Brinkman – For years he was Wilders’ second in command, but has just left the party after criticizing its undemocratic structure. Emile Roemer – Popular leader of the Socialist Party, which is now the second most popular party in the country. Extreme left. Attracts support from disappointed PVV voters. Diederik Samsom – Leader of the social democrat labour party, PvdA, since the beginning of this year. Has to stem the flow of support away from his party. His major competitor for electoral support is the SP.
In short 18 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
THE RED MESSIAH?
Times are tough for middle-of-the-road political parties in Holland. Increasingly, the public is voting based on single issues that speak to them personally rather than on broad political programmes. Sloganeering populists have the edge on multiissue administrators.
Photography: PvdA Press Dept.
In March the Dutch social democrats chose a new leader: Diederik Samsom. To many, he’s the saviour of the Labour Party (PvdA): popular with the masses and with a flourishing background working for social causes. The question is whether he’ll get enough of a chance to present himself rather than the party programme. ‘This cocktail of fear for the future, every-man-for-himself panic, and misplaced resentment that the cabinet of The Netherlands is serving up to the public deserves to be shot down,’ he stated in his virgin speech as political leader on March 17. ‘And we’re going to shoot it down.’ Grizzled old party prominents cheered, ex-ministers clapped wildly, trade union leaders and local politicians enthused. Samsom was an immediate hit. Young activists waved the red party flag ceaselessly during his speech and even doled out roses, the symbol of the 60-year-old party. But the jubilation can’t be expected to last long. Things are not well with the Labour Party. If elections were held now, they wouldn’t get more than 14 seats in parliament, a third of what they were used to. The PvdA lacks leadership and solid positions that resound with voters. Support has been draining away to the Socialist Party (SP) under its populist leader Emile Roemer. Samsom will have an uphill struggle to wrench voters back into the fold.
of milk or a loaf of bread. Samsom is cut from different cloth. He cut his political teeth in student activism and at Greenpeace, where he shone in creating publicity stunts, including stopping a Japanese whaling ship and blocking rail-shipments of nuclear waste. ‘A man with his feet in the mud, not a bureaucrat,’ one commentator noted. Samsom also set up his own energy company, ‘Echte Energie’ (Real Energy), which aimed to deliver sustainable energy to consumers, produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Within a few years he had managed to win over thousands of clients and the company was acquired by energy firm Eneco. Samsom is also better armed for political debate than his predecessors, Cohen en Bos. More left-wing. So chances are good that he can re-acquire voters who departed for Emile Roemer’s SP. His biggest theme is the retention of social provisions in spite of the crisis, with emphasis on employees’ rights regarding dismissal and unemployment benefits. He’s also keen on more regulation for business, which, in his view, has created the crisis. ‘Morality has vanished from business culture,’ he said in his speech. ‘Stop the perverse bonus culture, divide up the banks, and don’t stop till the financial sector ceases endangering our collective welfare with its reckless behaviour.’
COHEN The PvdA is crazy about so-called ‘saviours’. In the past 10 years the party threw up three earlier ones. In 2000 there was Ad Melkert (later head of the IMF), followed by Wouter Bos (Minister of Finance) and Job Cohen. The latter was convinced to give up his successful career as Mayor of Amsterdam for national politics, and, from his first speech in Den Haag, seemed to wear an invisible mantle of premiership. But it was not to be. Cohen had no answer for the rude attacks launched on him by populist Geert Wilders, nor for the glib number-crunching of Mark Rutte and the liberal VVD. He was doomed to inhabit the opposition benches in parliament, where he quailed into insignificance and finally threw in the towel.
STOP-GAP POPE Samsom has the potential to become a popular political leader. The Labour Party can grow again. The real question is whether the party heavyweights will give Samsom enough time and space to garner political support. Party leaders tend to value a leader only if he brings success and manages to sell the total party programme. If Samsom doesn’t manage to save the party within the established parameters, other messiahs are waiting on the sidelines. Local Amsterdam politician, Lodewijk Asscher, for instance, who is popular both in senior party circles and with portions of the populace. He’s described as dynamic, smart and good in debate, and his name has been hovering in the air since the party elections in March. At the moment, he’s not displaying an interest in the position of Labour leader. But if needs must, at the upcoming elections, he might be persuaded to pick up the glove. And then, despite all his good intentions, Samsom would just have been a stop-gap pope.
NUCLEAR TRANSPORT The biggest criticism against Cohen was his lack of practical experience. He couldn’t tell a television interviewer, for instance, the price of a litre
In short the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 19
Photography: Reuters/ Mike Segar
FIRST QUARTER ENDS WELL, HIGHER COMPANY PROFITS & STABLE AAA STATUS Major companies listed in The Netherlands posted significant profit increases at the end of the first quarter of 2012 while Moody’s credit-rating agency gave the country as a whole the thumbs-up. Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, increased its net profit by 11% to 7.5 billion, according to the NRC Handelblad newspaper. The increase came about mainly as a result of higher production and rising oil prices. Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch food and detergent concern, also reported higher profits, and an increase in turnover of 11.9%, to over 12 billion euros. Dutch electronics giant Philips posted net profits of 248 million euros, up from 138 million euros a year ago. After a difficult 2011, the 80 percent rise in profits on a yearly basis suggests a turnaround for the group, which made a loss of 1.3 billion euros last year. It was influenced by improved sales at Philips’ healthcare division and the sales of the Senseo coffeemaker patent rights and of Philips’ High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. The sale of the science park for 425 million euros at the end of March was purportedly the largest single-asset property transaction in the Netherlands. All the CEOs of the companies were cautious in their forecasts for the rest of the year, citing negative developments in the world economy. Meanwhile Moody’s credit rating agency responded positively to the austerity package that had been agreed by five political parties at the end of April. The Netherlands’ solid institutional character framework and fiscal discipline argued in the country’s favour, reports stated. Its 65-percent ratio between debt and Gross Domestic Product may be higher than it used to be before the financial crisis, but is still well below the 87-percent euro zone average. Moody’s predicts that the Dutch economy will shrink by 0.6 percent this year and grow by 1.2 percent in 2013. Even though Moody’s expects the political situation in the Netherlands to remain volatile for the rest of the year, its misgivings don’t translate into consequences for the country’s creditworthiness. But the credit rater has warned that the credibility of the euro zone as a whole could be adversely affected if The Netherlands – one of the countries which has consistently
argued for strict adherence to EU budgetary rules – failed to live up to its own standards. SCHIPHOL IS EUROPE’S BEST AIRPORT Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is the best in Europe, according to a passenger satisfaction review carried out by airline and airport benchmarking website Skytrax. Schiphol comes fourth in the latest global ranking, behind three Asian airports. It is the first time the Dutch airport has topped the list, a spokesman for Schiphol told news agency ANP. Munich was sixth and Zurich seventh. Schiphol, one of several European four-star airports, won particular praise for its public transport links, passenger facilities and scheduling, but was marked down for long waiting times at security and baggage delivery, its taxis and long-term parking facilities. RABOBANK TO SELL ASSET MANAGER ROBECO Rabobank is to sell its asset manager Robeco in order to boost its own balance sheet, the Financieele Dagblad has quoted company sources as saying. Robeco, which has assets under management of € 150 billion, will sell at between € 1.5 billion and € 2billion, the sources told the paper. Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan have been brought in to manage the sale. The sources say Rabobank is working on a ‘strategic reorientation’ to take the cooperative bank up to 2016. Mortgage provider Obvion and lease company De Lage Landen are also being looked at closely, as is property arm Rabo Vastgoed, the paper said. Merchant bankers told the paper companies such as Robeco are wanted by private equity groups as well as independent British, US and Asian asset managers. READ MORE ABOUT SCHIPHOL AT www.theinternationalcorrespondent.nl/travel VIEW OUR COMPANY PROFILES AT www.theinternationalcorrespondent.nl/bigbusiness
In short 20 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
SILLYQUESTIONS MORTGAGE RELIEF ‘HYPOTHEEKRENTEAFTREK’
It costs the government billions in lost taxes every year and is causing debt to pile up. House prices are way overvalued. And yet a majority of parliament isn’t planning to do anything about the system of mortgage relief. Why? We put the question to Nyenrode Business University’s Associate Professor Dennis Vink, specialist in structured finance. He says scrapping the mortgage tax deduction would benefit the treasury in the short term but it would damange the economy in the longer term.
HYPOTHEEKRENTEAFTREK WHAT IN GOD’S NAME DOES THAT MEAN? It’s the system by which people can deduct the interest they pay on their home mortgage from their income-tax payments. It means the government finances part of the interest home owners have to pay. Since the 1990s it’s promoted home ownership – in those years the interest rate was sometimes over 10%. Today it’s fallen to under 5%. IS IT A PARTICULARLY DUTCH ARRANGEMENT? Not really. The US has something similar. However, since taxes are lower there, the effects of the deduction aren’t as big. In Sweden and Ireland a part of the interest is deductable; in Belgium a set amount. Britain abolished the tax deduction in the 1970s. Because Holland still has it, this country is the world champion in mortgage debt, and house prices are hugely over-inflated. Both these ills are a result of the generous mortage relief system. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? In the last decades, interest rates have fallen drastically. So people have bought more expensive houses and the entire sum of mortgage debt has risen. The house-prices have also risen. According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook (2008) house prices are 30% higher than their real value in The Netherlands.
Illustration: Correspondent Media Photo
SHOULDN’T WE BE WORRIED? Well, the IMF is pressing The Netherlands to reduce its mortgage debt but you have to see that in perspective: the IMF is pressing governments, businesses and ordinary people all over the world to reduce debt. Dutch mortgages also have a good name on the financial markets. The Dutch make their re-payments in a dutiful fashion, so this country’s credit rating is high. And citizens also have healthy balances on their savings accounts. In addition, labour productivity is high here. WILLEM BUITER, THE DUTCH CHIEF ECONOMIST AT CITIBANK PREDICTS THAT THE MORTGAGE RELIEF SYSTEM WILL BE BROKEN DOWN WITHIN FOUR YEARS. DO YOU AGREE? No, that doesn’t make sense. The short-term benefit doesn’t outweigh the long term loss to the treasury. Abolition of the tax deduction would spare the government 12 billion euros in lost income. But when you deduct the effects on disposable income, it leaves a mere four billion. A lot of people will see their debt rise and their disposable income shrink. That will cause the government’s BTW income to fall correspondingly. Economic growth will be restricted for a long time. YET WE ARE CONSTANTLY HEARING CALLS IN THE MEDIA FOR THE MORTGAGE RELIEF TO BE SCRAPPED... The left opposition, in particular, is opposed to the system as it benefits those with high incomes, who can buy more expensive houses and deduct a larger share of the interest. The system is more profitable for those who have more money.
In short the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 21
INDEPENDANT CENTRE OF THE SOUTH Photography: City of Maastricht Press Dept.
South Limburg is a singular place, at a distance from the rest of the country, an enclave between industrial regions in Belgium and Germany. This southern region has a history of strife with The Netherlands and other neighbours, but also a tradition of cooperation and dialogue. In recent years, it has developed a name as a conference location and university town, as well as a site for high value industry. And, with nearly 1,000 eating spots, Maastricht and surroundings attract millions of visitors seeking the Dutch version of la dolce vita. ‘The Hague is far away,’ says Harry Meens, waving vaguely in a northerly direction. Meens is director at Alfa Bier, a little family firm in the village of Schinnen, a stone’s throw from Maastricht. He represents the fifth generation that has run this brewery since it opened in 1870. At that time, nearly every village in South Limburg had its own brand of beer. But some breweries grew at the expense of their competitors in recent decades, and most of Meens’ colleagues dropped out of the business. ‘At the moment, it’s mainly the rules set by the Dutch politicians that threaten us,’ says Meens. ‘We are being forced to invest millions in our traditional businesses. Every cent that has to be passed on to our customers via the price of the beer is a cent too much. Drinkers can easily cross the border here to get cheaper beer. Belgium is less than 10 km to the west, the German border 15 km east, and this central location doesn’t only create trade advantages. It makes businessmen alert to competition on the other side of the border, and to the implications of decisions taken in The Hague. That has led South Limburg to develop over the centuries as an independent centre. The region is a part of The Netherlands, but in certain aspects, particularly economic and cultural ones, it’s also distinct. NATIONAL DISTINCTION The history of South Limburg extends back two millennia. Established on a major crossroads, the city was an important meeting point in the days of the Ancient Romans. In the centuries that followed, the region developed as a trading centre on the Maas river, servicing merchants heading towards Belgium and Germany. From 1300 Maastricht also acquired cultural and religious significance, evident in the many imposing Catholic churches and historic buildings in the provincial capital. In the 19th century the region became an industrial centre: because wages were low, German and Belgian entrepreneurs chose to set up production facilities here and the ceramic industry, in particular, blossomed.
But in the middle of the 20th century, the economy of the region slowed. Employment fell and South Limburg lost its drawing power. The national government took action to reverse this negative trend, investing heavily in the local economy. That paid off. Maastricht acquired national and international repute as a culinary haven and location for meetings and conferences. With an annual 18 million visitors, the 1,000 hotels, bars and restaurant are bustling. The high point on the annual congress calendar is the international art fair, Tefaf. This world famous event has been taking place in Maastricht for the past 25 years, in the MECC exposition hall, attracting wealthy art patrons as well as less-well-endowed art lovers from all over the globe. In recent decades, a lot has also been invested in education. The University of Maastricht, set up in the 1970s, had nearly 14,000 students last year, nearly 15 percent of whom were from Germany, Belgium and France. More recently, the Randwyck Campus was set up near Maastricht and it attracts increasing numbers of scientific firms working in the field of health care. Zuyd University, a combination of theatre school, conservatory, art academy and hotel school is also gaining popularity in The Netherlands and beyond. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION In the latest plans for the area, the city of Maastricht is to reverse its previous efforts to act as a magnet in relation to neighbouring urban centres and instead to seek dialogue with surrounding regions. There’s reason enough for this. Maastricht and its surroundings contain nearly 6,500 businesses and a workforce of around 75,000. The so-called Meuse-Rhine-Triangle has 40 times that number of businesses and a total workforce of nearly a quarter of a million. Because of international cooperation, Maastricht and South Limburg are growing as centres for service industries, life sciences, shared services and the call enter sector. In the wider European perspective, Maastricht is also a name to be reckoned with. In 1992, the Treaty of Maastricht was signed here, laying the basis for the European Union and the single currency. Based on an interview of The International Correspondent and Harry Meens in 2010
Column The Big Issue
22 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
Photography: Correspondent Media Photo
by Sanjay Sharma
There is a story that has never ceased to fascinate me. A school teacher once asked his class a basic maths question: ‘a farmer forgot to lock the gate of his sheep barn, and in the night one of the 20 sheep managed to escape. How many sheep are left in the barn? The teacher felt quite proud of his pedagogical skills as all of his students gave a correct answer ‘19’ except one student. This student answered ‘none’. Perplexed teacher asked him why it was difficult to calculate correctly. The student replied calmly and confidently, ‘you might know maths but I know sheep as we have lots at home. If one sheep escapes, all will follow.’ The teacher was in utter shock realizing how incomplete his scientific knowledge was as compared to that of a little boy who could relate to the real world.
This story is a crude depiction of the reality that most of us – especially the so-called educated ones – are in fact like that teacher. It also makes me wonder whether we recognize this and are courageous enough to admit that we need to unlearn and relearn things. Let me take a few examples from global economy where existing knowledge or rhetoric might not be all that useful anymore. Trade protectionism is one of the most sensitive subjects of our times, one that neither politicians nor academics understand let alone making sense of in the interest of the people. Recently, during my lecture on the theme, most of my students were surprised to learn how expensive it was to protect all those jobs that they initially thought should be protected. A case in question was the US textile industry where the government protected 55,000 jobs through trade barriers. Each of these jobs cost US taxpayers $182,545 annually. In the auto sector, taxpayers’ burden was $208,824 per job annually to save only 3,400 jobs. The most mindboggling was the meat industry where, to protect only 100 jobs, US taxpayers were paying $1,850,000 per job annually. This study by the US Trade Commission in 1993 illustrated that it would still be far more profitable for Americans if those workers were fired with full
pay and pension. We hear many politicians and interest groups supporting protectionism, but if they have access to such information and analysis, they could contribute constructively to the well-being of their nation by lobbying for a right policy choice instead of being manipulated by ‘illiterate’ politicians who are happy to destroy the socio-economic fabric for the sake of petty personal interests. GERMANY AND CHINA Take another example of conventional wisdom about miracle economies offering rays of hope for global recovery. We will talk about two relevant economies of today i.e. Germany and China. As we know, in most miracle economies, the economic growth and prosperity comes less from sheer culture of innovation and productivity and more via external factors like global demand, technology flow, global market formations, geo-politics and so on. In other words, it would not be strange to say that miracle economies are heavily dependent on the mercy of good weather. First, let’s have a candid look at Germany. In February this year, Reuters published a not-so-encouraging account of Germany’s employment sector which has no nationwide minimum wage. It reported that the reason behind an impressive low unemployment
figure is actually underemployment, where workers are being paid somewhere from 55 cents to 3 Euros an hour. Given the constraints in terms of demographics, productive population and available skill pool, it is impossible for Germany to continue shining in the coming months. Even though German firms are known for their quality and precision, they are no longer immune to tougher competition from firms that are offering quality and precision as well as additional services, maintenance and many more add-in products. In the wake of eroding competitiveness, a shrinking market and increasingly toxic financial system, Germany is already on a slippery path. If it goes down, other economies dependent on Germany will take no time to dip even deeper. As for China, most China-watchers seem to be overly enthusiastic - like that maths teacher in the story. China is being advised by experts in global economics and trade that it should shift its focus from just growth to sustainability. Nobody tells how, and nobody knows how. The problem is that China, as we know it today, is designed only for growth and certainly not for sustainability. The notion of sustainability requires a participatory socio-political system and that would mean reformatting its current operating system with new software. This is
DR. SANJAY SHARMA Sanjay Sharma is former director of Maastricht University India Institute and professor of international relations and Korean affairs, is a strategy advisor on global business and economy
not an option for Beijing â€“ at least not today when it is undergoing a slowmotion-hard-landing, thanks to complete distortions in the market - both in volume and prices. While both economies have inspired the world in good times, they are now capable of offering profound frustration to the people if they do not take their people into confidence about their future plans. So if both can ensure public access to all relevant information on the current frailty of the global economy, limitations of government initiatives, impact of paradigm change in global governance, and some hint on what lies ahead, people might direct their energy towards rebuilding the economy rather than being frustrated and destructive as we are noticing on the streets of Athens and Barcelona. Coming back to the literacy issue, it is time that we stop congratulating ourselves for attaining World Bank-defined literacy and focus on real education that can prepare current and forthcoming generations for a borderless world in terms of jobs, migration, and of course opportunities and prosperity. If we fail to take the advantage of this moment, we can be sure of prolonging the bleak future that none of us desires.
READ MORE COLUMNS AT www.theinternationalcorrespondent.nl/columns
Why should we know Abraham (Bram) Moszkowicz? Moszkowicz has built up a name via defending scores of top criminals in The Netherlands. Heâ€™s also known for his expensive suits and car. And for his presence in the media. Heâ€™s a regular guest on the daily showbiz programme, RTL Boulevard. In 2005 he presented a talent show for rising legal staff based on the television hit of American businessman Donald Trump. Bram is the son of the well-known Maastricht lawyer Max Moszkowicz. Together with his brothers David and Max Jr., he has set up the firm Moszkowicz Advocaten, which has offices in Maastricht and Amsterdam. While this article was being written, Moszkowicz withdrew from the family firm, to continue legal practice on his own. For the past two years, Moszkowicz has had a relationship with media personality Eva Jinek.
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 25
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BRAM MOSZKOWICZ A CONVERSATION WITH GEERT WILDERS’ LAWYER by Floris Müller
Some praise him for his courtroom tactics, his eloquence and legal insight. Others bury him as an attention-junkie with a constant presence on talk TV. But whatever your opinion of criminal lawyer Bram Moszkowicz, he bestrides the Dutch legal scene like a colossus, defending larger-than-life personalities operating at the edges of the law: politician Geert Wilders, Surinamese president, Desi Bouterse, and underworld legend Willem Holleeder. Photography: Maarten Bezem
Q&A 26 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
UPON WHAT MEAT DOTH THIS OUR CAESAR FEED, THAT HE IS GROWN SO GREAT? HOW DID YOU ACQUIRE SUCH HUGE STANDING IN THE LAW? There are other well-known criminal lawyers in The Netherlands. I’ve got a lot of attention because many of my cases have been sensitive publicly. I don’t choose those cases; they choose me. Clients seek me out to be their lawyer. I think a lot of people believe I know my job.
DID THE WAR AND YOUR FATHER’S EXPERIENCE CAUSE YOU TO BECOME A CRIMINAL LAWYER? It influenced my relationship with my father. For instance, I never complained to him about trivialities. Because those things can’t compare with what he suffered. The war emphasises how important the law is. In my choice of the law as a profession, the war wasn’t the determining factor. But for my father it was so.
PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THE ‘MOSZKOWICZ METHOD’ OF HANDLING CRIMINAL CASES. WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE, THAT METHOD? Some lawyers want to know the client’s entire background, if he has committed the act he’s accused of, and why. My method is dry and juridical. I focus mainly on the legal issues raised in the case documents. I check if the investigation and any coercive methods employed were carried out in the correct fashion. I also pay great attention to the memorandum of oral pleading. I submit thoroughly investigated pleas with a certain judicial approach.
YOU WROTE THAT, DESPITE HIS EXPERIENCE IN THE CONCENTRATION CAMP, YOUR FATHER DIDN’T BELIEVE PEOPLE COULD BE INTRINSICALLY BAD. WHAT’S YOUR OWN OPINION? I had a lot of discussions about that with my father at the beginning of my career. I had doubts on that subject. But I have to say that in my 25 years as a lawyer I haven’t come across an example of someone who is intrinsically bad. You and I can also commit crimes if the circumstances lined up in a particular way. That doesn’t mean we are intrinsically bad. That’s my conviction as a lawyer.
IS THE PRESENTATION OF YOUR PLEA SO IMPORTANT? A lawyer has to weigh his words with care. The courtroom is not a theatre; I’m not playing a role there. If I get angry, I’m angry. And if I interrogate a witness harshly, I do it out of dedication, in the interests of the case. That’s a given, I think. YOU LEARNT THIS APPROACH FROM YOUR FATHER? From my studies, and later under my father. I found his approach a flawless one. YOUR FATHER PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, IT SEEMS. YOUR RECENTLY PUBLISHED AUTOBIOGRAPHY, LIEVER RECHTOP STERVEN DAN OP JE KNIEËN LEVEN (BETTER DIE WITH YOUR FEET ON THE GROUND THAN LIVE ON YOUR KNEES), WAS DEDICATED TO HIM. I wrote the book to provide insight into the law and into major cases I handled. And to sketch my own roots. My father is important to both topics. YOU DEAL EXTENSIVELY WITH THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE BOOK. YOU WROTE: ‘SOMETIMES I WANT TO KNOW HOW EVERY CENTIMETRE OF THE 1400 KILOMETRES SMELLED AND FELT, IN THOSE WAGONS THAT TOOK MY FATHER, HIS SISTER, BROTHER AND PARENTS FROM THE CONCENTRATION CAMP IN WESTERBORK TO AUSCHWITZ.’ I’ve never given so much credit to the war. I had problems with that subject. My father spent three and a half years in Auschwitz. And he is the only member of that family who returned. He didn’t talk about that much in the past. But I learned a lot about it from my mother. And I noticed things. I remember that once we had red beetroot served at a meal. My father suddenly got sick and ran outside. It reminded him of the years in the camp. That made a big impression on me.
BUT YOU DON’T TRUST PEOPLE IMMEDIATELY... I’m cautious in dealing with people. That’s a character trait. I let few people get close to me. IN THE BOOK YOU SAY YOU WOULD DEFEND THE NORWEGIAN ANDERS BREIVIK IF HE ASKED YOU TO. HE’S ALSO NOT AN INTRINSICALLY BAD PERSON? I don’t think so. He’s sick. And precisely for that reason, he needs a good lawyer. I referred to the Breivik case in my book to support my conviction regarding the Dutch system of TBS -Ter Beschikking Stelling [psychiatric treatment of convicted criminals –ed]. That is a judicial monster. In The Netherlands, you can be declared mad and, apart from being treated, be imprisoned as well. That is clearly wrong. If you determine that someone can’t be held responsible for his actions, you can’t put him in prison. That would apply to Breivik. YOU ALSO SAY THE POWERS-THAT-BE IN THE DUTCH CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM ARE GAINING GROUND. Within the Ministry of Public Affairs, it’s been recognised that you can’t be an expert in all areas of the law. Prosecutors have begun to specialise. At the same time, I notice that some criminal defenders accept cases without specific knowledge of the subject area involved. That they are sometimes incapable of representing the client in question. The balance between defenders and prosecutors has therefore shifted in favour of the prosecutors. That’s not a good development. HAS THE NETHERLANDS BECOME MORE CRIME-RIDDEN IN RECENT YEARS? No. Not generally. Although the media gives more and more attention to issues of criminality. It’s a hot item. And also in public opinion. There’ve been calls for higher sentences and a larger role for victims in criminal cases. I’m in favour of the latter. The former is just gut reaction. Subtleties are diminishing from view. Particularly when
elections are in the air. A lot of votes are won with ‘tough on crime’ politics. YOU’RE OFTEN ASKED WHY YOU TAKE ON CERTAIN CONTROVERSIAL CASES. I’m asked this on a daily basis. Everyone has the right to a defence by someone with knowledge of the law. As a lawyer, you have a role in the maintenance of the rule of law. I oppose emotion-based positions that deny the validity of legal rights for all. ONE OF YOUR MORE DRAMATIC CASES WAS THAT AGAINST WILLEM HOLLEEDER. THE CASE OF THE CENTURY, IT WAS DUBBED IN THE MEDIA. The media blew up Holleeder into ‘godfather of the low countries’ and ‘enemy of the state number one’. I wasn’t so impressive as the media wanted you to believe. ON THE EVE OF THE CASE, YOU STEPPED DOWN AS HOLLEEDER’S LAWYER, SAYING YOU COULDN’T REPRESENT HIM OPTIMALLY. I’ve been his lawyer for 20 years. It’s a great pity that I had to bid him farewell. That he couldn’t have the lawyer of his choice. The Ministry of Justice asserted that I was threatened. Holleeder had me under duress, they said, and I wouldn’t be able to follow my own judgement. I said from the beginning that that was nonsense, but I was still denied use of my office for three days. It was all a tactic to get me off the case, to drive a wedge between the suspect and his counsel. IS PUBLIC OPINION GETTING INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT IN CASES LIKE THESE? Certainly. It’s not for nothing that the Ministry of Justice hired a press officer within the last couple of years. Nowadays courts have press judges. I find it important for a lawyer to plead his case not just in the court but also outside it, in relation to the media. YOU AREN’T ALWAYS POSITIVE REGARDING THE MEDIA. In my area, the law, there are a few very expert correspondents in the media. But there are also those who confuse the facts and publish basic sloppiness. That should really not be allowed. YOU GET QUITE A LOT OF PERSONAL CRITICISM FROM JOURNALISTS. Twitter and other social media is just a sewer. A lot is written without any basis at all. I don’t pay any attention. I’ve developed armour against that. And I don’t have time to bother with everything that is written about me. BUT YOU DID START A LAWSUIT AGAINST JORT KELDER, THE FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE BUSINESS GLOSSY QUOTE, WHO CALLED YOU A FRIEND OF THE MAFIA. That was in the run-up to the case against my client Willem Holleeder. He accused me of actions that are punishable by law. If I let such accusations stand, people might think they’re true. I think
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 27
I have to erect some boundaries there. And I won the case. But looking back, I wonder if it made sense to fight that case in the courts. DESPITE YOUR CRITICISM OF SOME JOURNALISTS, YOU DON’T AVOID THE MEDIA. YOU ARE A REGULAR GUEST ON VARIOUS TV PROGRAMMES. It’s often necessary to represent my clients in the media. That’s hard work, and not always fun. I’m also a guest on the society programme, Boulevard, on the RTL channel. There, I explain the law to a broad public. I enjoy that. It’s relaxing. IN 2010/2011 YOU REPRESENTED THE POLITICIAN GEERT WILDERS WHEN HE WAS ACCUSED OF SPREADING HATE AND DISCRIMINATION. WILDERS CALLED THE CASE A POLITICAL TRIAL. DO YOU It wasn’t a political trial, but a trial with a political edge. A politician was before the court. But the case wasn’t, in itself, political. DO YOU THINK WILDERS SHOULD BE ABLE TO SAY WHATEVER HE WISHES? Yes. Politicians should have free speech. As long as they are not calling for violence. You could say the Wilders case made that clear. After the fact, you can say that, indeed. But also, it didn’t make things less advantageous for Wilders. The case established the boundaries within which politicians can move. That made it clear that the
instrument for a politician is debate. And that politicians can say more than you or I. It is quite unique that this case got to the courts. In the past, controversial statements were judged in the media, not in the courts. A lot has changed in recent years, particularly in the area that concerns Wilders. A real social debate has developed. ARE POLITICIANS ALLOWED MORE FREE SPEECH IN RECENT YEARS? More is being said by politicians than before. IN THE WILDERS CASE, YOU GOT THE JUDGES DISMISSED. And reaped a heap of criticism for daring to do so. But I think that is an important means for exercising the rule of law. Since the Wilders case, requests for dismissing sitting judges in cases have increased. IN 2011 YOU WERE APPROACHED TO BE MINISTER OF JUSTICE. That’s true. But I can’t reveal by whom or on behalf of which party. That would be improper. I’m interested in politics – although I have to say I don’t read through each party programme thoroughly. I follow the debates closely and observe the word-games. I once said in a political talkshow that I’m right-wing, but since then I’ve rethought. I don’t really find it easy to figure out what ‘right-wing’ implies, or ‘left-wing’.
IN THE 1990S, YOU DEFENDED THE SURINAMESE PRESIDENT AND THEN ARMY-LEADER, DESI BOUTERSE. WHAT WAS HE ACCUSED OF? He was suspected of playing a role in a largescale drug deal in The Netherlands. I got him acquitted of five of the six charges. I was also his lawyer when he was summoned before the Dutch court for the December murders in Surinam. He also won that case. It looks like he’s going to be freed of the second case in Surinam. Laws are being enshrined to make him immune from prosecution. I’ve heard the talk. But I don’t really know what has been decided. In general, I think the politicians should never protect someone if that is in conflict with the exercise of the law.
“ In my 25 years as a lawyer I haven’t come across an example of someone who is intrinsically bad. You and I can also commit crimes if the circumstances lined up in a particular way.”
Q&A 28 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
The Bouterse case In 2000, the current Surinamese president and former military leader Desi Bouterse was freed in the high court from charges of being involved in large-scale drug trafficking to The Netherlands. Previous to this, the court in The Hague had determined that Bouterse was the leader of the notorious Suri drugs cartel. Moszkowicz took up the case after his father had refused it, since Moszkowicz senior was friends with Gerard Spong, a lawyer of Surinamese background who was closely connected with victims of the December murders in which 15 opponents of Bouterse’s regime were killed at the beginning of the 1980s. Leaked video tapes showing Moszkowicz dancing with Bouterse led to a great deal of criticism.
The Holleeder case For 20 years, Moszkowicz and his father were the lawyers of Willem Holleeder, top criminal and kidnapper of brewer Freddy Heineken. This came to an end in 2007 when the National Counter Terrorism Coordinator expelled Moszkowicz from his office during a large operation on grounds of ‘serious threats against the lawyer’. Moszkowicz later criticised the action and the attitude of the Dutch legal authorities and media during a press conference that was broadcast live. Moszkowicz also sued journalist Jort Kelder for calling him ‘a friend of the mafia’. Kelder came to this conclusion because Moszkowicz not only defended Holleeder but also the real estate magnate Willem Endstra. It’s generally believed that Endstra was blackmailed by Holleeder.
The Wilders case In 2010/2011 Moszkowicz defended Geert Wilders who was accused of sowing hate and of discrimination. Wilders had described Islam as a fascist ideology and declared that he wished the Koran to be banned in an article in the Volkskrant newspaper in 2008. Numerous people complained to the police about these statements, but four months later, the Ministry of Justice decided not to pursue the case. In 2010 the case was re-opened. Moszkowicz requested that the judges on the bench be dismissed as not impartial. On 23 June 2011, Wilders was acquitted of all charges.
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Politics CUT? SPEND? BOTH? by Mark Maathuis
‘Never let a good crisis go to waste,’ they say. So solutions for the crisis are coming in as many flavors as there are political points of view. But if the different reactions from economists and analysts make anything clear, it`s that options seem to come down to a very simple question: cut or spend? Complicating answering that - at top EU level there appears to be a north-south split among the 23 bankers forming the European Central Bank’s (ECB) Governing Council. The Dutch situation isn`t much easier. There seems to be agreement to a multi-billion-euro package, but for how long that sustains one never knows.
Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager Photography: European Commission Press Office
Politics 32 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
For countries mostly known for their sun-filled days, the last couple of months have been dark. With the highest unemployment rate in Europe, Spain’s economy continued to do in the first quarter of 2012 what it did in the last of 2011: shrink. Though the country passed a tight budget last year, with tax rises for the rich and eight percent spending cuts, it`s already set to miss its European deficit target. Italy saw its public debt rise to around 1.9 trillion Euro or almost 120 percent of GDP at the end of 2011. Mario Monti, who replaced Silvio Berlusconi, continued his austerity package and pushed these even further with higher taxes for the wealthy and a rise in the pension age. This has led to disputes with unions over labor market reforms, adding to the general uncertainty which, in its turn, leads to higher borrowing rates. While no one denies the danger of adding more uncertainty to this already explosive situation, agreeing on action is hard. According to some analysts, a crucial role in the international political debate will be reserved for the Securities Markets Program (SMP). If the flight out of Spanish and Italian bonds continues, 17 of 22 chief economists recently polled by Business Standard expect the ECB has to start buying euro-zone government bonds. ‘It’s not imminent,’ Ken Wattret, chief euro-area economist at BNP Paribas told The International Correspondent, ‘but market stresses will eventually force the ECB to restart the program.’ Not everybody seems ready to accept this development. It would be somewhat embarrassing if the Euro zone’s banking system has to return for a money injection only months after the ECB pumped in a trillion euros. It would also expose the vigorous differences at senior ECB levels. Just a week before the program’s reintroduction was being seriously considered, ECB President Mario Draghi said he ruled out such a move. The day after Market Operations head Benoit Coeure said the bond-buying program was still an option, ECB policy maker Athanasios Orphanides called his colleague to order and forbade any individual banker to deploy it. LIKE THE FRUGAL ANT Reinstating the program could also start another fight with Germany. Europe’s major economy is convinced austerity and budget cuts are a better medicine for the ‘siesta countries’ than bail outs. In fact, former Bundesbank Chief Axel Weber became so enraged over the bondbuy plan he resigned in protest. But rejecting bailouts are about more than a firm German belief in the fiscal lessons of Jean de La Fontaine’s fable The Ant and the Cricket. Just like ‘the frugal ant, who double thinks before anything she lends’, Germany has to be careful. With its economy already in overdrive, flooding the market
with more cash could lead to German inflation, threatening the country’s fiscal health and even risking its triple A credit rating. This scenario can be avoided if public trust in Spain and Italy is restored, easing the lending markets and removing any need for cash injections. So Deutsche Bank economist Gilles Moec did his utmost to praise Spain when discussing the first signs of plans to cut 10 billion euros. ‘We’ve seen more progress in a few days than in four months. Spain is a country that’s intrinsically sustainable, but it’s a country that needs to make decisions.’ Bundesbank Chief Jens Weidmann went even further and said the ECB should start to talk about abolishing its nonstandard policy measures, such as the Securities Markets Program. One delighted banker His Dutch counterpart wouldn’t go that far. But Klaas Knot did tell an April 13th University of Amsterdam symposium: ‘We’re not at the edge of the abyss. Spain is making the structural changes that are necessary.’ Asked whether the ECB would buy Spanish or Italian bonds if interest rates rose further, Knot said he ‘wouldn’t speculate’ on any longer term refinancing operations. ‘The instrument exists, but it hasn’t been used for a long time. I hope it isn’t used again. Meanwhile in The Hague, you can almost touch the relief after Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager, won support from three small opposition parties for a revised budget package. And though only by the smallest numbers, a slim majority of 51 percent told opinion pollster they would vote for the two government parties and three opposition parties that supported the deal, giving them 76 out of 150 seats. But while these politicians are still catching their breath after the marathon discussion, a storm is gathering. The first lobbyists and interest groups critical words can be heard. Unions are also slamming the agreement – including a twoyear pay freeze for civil servants, extra taxes for banks, on fossil fuels, alcohol and tobacco and cuts in healthcare - claiming it will hurt growth. For the political parties opposing the new budget, the Socialist Party SP, Labor PvdA and Wilders’ PVV, it will surely serve as a weapon of assault during the upcoming elections. But for now, the Netherlands has met its EU obligations, much to the delight of Knot. If the country hadn’t done so, he told the Amsterdam students, this core member of the euro zone would have risked more than losing face as one of the most strident defenders of those requirements. It would have meant ‘losing the confidence’ of financial markets and fellow EU members.
EUROPEAN DEBT To get the new billion-euro bailout, Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’ new coalition cabinet is pushing through spending cuts equal to 1.5 percent of its output, including cuts in pensions and civil service job cuts. The aim is to cut government debt from 160 percent to 120 percent of GDP by 2020. In December 2011, Ireland received another multibillion-euro IMF loan. The Irish government has cut spending by 4 billion euros, with all public servants’ pay cut by at least 5 percent and social welfare reduced. VAT rose to 23 percent as child benefit was cut. Ever since Italian bond yields entered the 7 percent danger zone and caused Silvio Berlusconi’s exit, markets are still suspicious of Italy’s public debt, which rose to almost 1.9 trillion euros, some 120 percent of GDP. Cuts to regional subsidies, family tax benefits and the pensions of high earners are combined with an increase in healthcare fees, higher taxes for the wealthy, a rise in the pension age and efforts to tackle tax evasion. After becoming the third Eurozone country to receive a bailout, a new Portuguese government has been installed. This center-right coalition government adopted a range of austerity measures, including a 5 percent pay cut for top earners in the public sector, a VAT rise of 1 percent and income tax hikes for highearners. Cuts in the military budget and a wave of privatization initiatives led to strikes. France has announced plans to cut 65 billion euros by 2016. This will be paid for by closing tax loopholes and withdrawing temporary economic stimulus measures. Also, VAT on many goods and services will be raised to 7 percent and corporate tax on companies with a turnover of more than 250 million euros a year will temporarily be raised by 5 percent. Plans to raise the retirement age provoked protests and strikes. Standard & Poor’s (S&P) recently affirmed Britain’s gold-plated AAA credit rating. The agency said the UK had the ability to ‘respond rapidly’ to economic challenges, but warned that spending cuts could dampen household spending and destabilize the labor and housing market. The 2012 budget includes several measures to ease taxes, but also cuts in personal income tax allowance for pensioners and reductions in child benefits. Germany’s economy is still outperforming the rest of the Eurozone. In 2011, the economy grew by 3 percent. By 2014, the budget deficit will be cut by 80 billion euros. This record amount will be paid for via cuts in subsidies to parents, a reduction in the number of civil servants and raising taxes on nuclear power.
4,8% THE DUTCH DEFICIT IN 2012 3% THE EUROPEAN NORM
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 33
by Floris Müller
Young people want the State’s impending budget cuts to spare education, housing and social services. The over-fifties want them to avoid cutting into pensions, mortgage relief and healthcare. This difference in perspective exposes a generation conflict in The Netherlands, one that’s currently being won by the 50-plussers. Young people are too passive regarding politics.
G500 Chairman Sywert van Lienden Photography: Novum/ Dick Hol
‘Do you guys want a minister’s post or other political position?’ asked talk-show host, Matthijs van Nieuwkerk of the initiators of the G500 political network in April when they appeared on his popular programme, De Wereld Draait Door. The twenty-somethings’ aim was to change political parties from the inside and place on the agenda issues important to young people. They scored immediately. The G500 attracted nearly 2,500 members within days. Ten thousand registered with them on Facebook and Twitter. ‘A grass roots organisation to contend with,’ noted the national media. ‘The politicians of tomorrow.’ They can hardly avoid getting a job in parliament, concluded talk-show host Van Nieuwkerk. POWNED The G500 is an unusual initiative. Nowadays, young people appear completely uninterested in active politics. The youth branches of political parties are deserted; the number of 20-somethings on the parliamentary benches can be counted on one hand. The average age of the members of the cabinet is over 50. In other words, politics and administration in The Netherlands is a greying area. On the other hand, in the last ten years a large number of political weblogs have sprung up. Joop.nl,
Fok and VK get many hundreds of thousands of visitors each day. Politicians can depend on getting hundreds of reactions to their tweets. Website GeenStijl even started its own TV company to ‘present news and current affairs in a fresh way to a younger public’. After a year, though, its TV arm, Powned, has remained more a source of cheap jokes than serious debate. So the political youth movement seems to be passive. Anonymous political commentaries on internet forums and analysts veiled via pseudonyms. GENERATION CONFLICT The question is why young people are so reluctant to take part in the national debate. A lot is at stake at the moment. The future of The Netherlands is being discussed at the prime minister’s residence in March and April during the ‘Catshuis deliberations’. Eighteen billion euros are to be sliced off government expenditure this year alone. If young people don’t look out, their interests – such as investment in education, housing and social services- will be sacrificed to the interests of their elders –such as pensions, mortgage relief and health-care. The interests of the generations are directly opposed to each other. In addition, the oldies are well organised. The parties in the ruling coalition (VVD, CDA and tolerator-
PVV) care about ‘their seniors’ – nearly 50% of voters are over 45 years of age- and protect their interests. The opposition does the same. In the last elections, the one-issue party called 50+ won two seats in the upper house of parliament, and is expected to win seats in the lower house in the next elections.
DELAYED PAYMENT The activists behind the G500 are some of the few who are conscious of the arrears that are mounting up. ‘The bill for the current reforms mustn’t be shoved onto the shoulders of a future generation of Dutch people, so we must take part in the decision-making about how welfare is distributed in this country,’ says Sywert van Lienden, the chair of the group, an old student union leader.
FLORIS MÜLLER Floris Müller studied law, American history and jewish history at Leiden University. He has worked as producer for RTL News US correspondent Max Westerman in New York and as senior editor for Dutch broadcasting company NOS, ANP press agency and business magazine Quote.
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Business ‘OUR’ CHINESE THE MODEL INTEGRATION OF THE CHINESE COMMUNITY IN DUTCH SOCIETY By George Lake
Most populations in the world are mixed with a group of people from Chinese descent. As from the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of people migrated from China to The Netherlands in search for prosperous economic circumstances. Many of them built up businesses in hospitality and trade. As from the 1990s, more and more businesses in The Netherlands started looking for employees, investors and partners among the increasingly skilled and knowledgeable population of China. Together, these groups represent one of the largest communities in The Netherlands whose roots lay elsewhere. Some say the people with Chinese origins rank number one on the Dutch integration ladder, and also Geert Wilders and his xenophobic political colleagues never treated this group as a “topic of interest”. The reason is quite simple: “it’s the economy, stupid!”
Photography: Dutch Chamber of Commerce for China
Business 36 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
MANY CHINESE PEOPLE WHO COME TO THE NETHERLANDS TO STUDY OR TO WORK RETURN TO CHINA AFTER SEVER SEVERAL YEARS OF EXPERIENCE HERE.
No matter where you go in the Netherlands, you can be sure to find a Chinese restaurant. These were originally built by some of the 40 million people who fled China in the middle of the last century, most with limited education, possessing only their mother tongue and a pittance in their pocket. Since 1958, the Netherlands has received around 80,000 people from China. They often enter the country through the port of Rotterdam where they disseminate mostly to the large cities, slowly spreading to the outskirts of the country after finding their feet in their adopted home. Today, Chinese people can be found at all the points of the compass. From north to south, and from the Randstad to the east, most of the first generation established a business upon settling, thus securing a customer base and a new life. Professor Hans Siebers, an expert in multiculturality at Tilburg University, says that there are several reasons why the people of Chinese descent can escape the wrath of anti-immigration politics and negative media attention. ‘Many Chinese people came to the Netherlands via Indonesia after it gained independence. In those days, the Dutch government tried very hard to find a place in society for them, so the general mood was one of acceptance. Also, whereas some political parties can link negative international events with other ethnic groups in the Netherlands, it is extremely hard to find evocative images -such as planes crashing into the World Trade Centre- and associate them with the Chinese.’
Professor Siebers also believes that because the Chinese Dutchmen keep out of the public’s attention, it is much harder for parties like the PVV to villainize them. LOW UNEMPLOYMENT RATES According to the Social and Cultural Planning Bureau, only 5% of ethnic Chinese in the Netherlands are unemployed. Despite 20% of Chinese households falling into the lowest income category, only 15% of Chinese in the Netherlands receive any sort of benefits. This shows what limited pressure the Chinese community put on social services. Also, with the exception of organised gangs, the Chinese generally stay out of contact with the police. The Dutch are tolerant so long as it does not cost them money and doesn’t interfere with their own culture. The Chinese can be accused of neither of these things. And in the past decade, the Chinese coming to settle in the Netherlands has comprised mainly highly skilled migrants. ASIANCLIQ According to the Dutch Chamber of Commerce for China, the ICT sector is suffering from a shortage of skilled workers. Many firms are springing up to help recruit experts from China, with road shows going to Shanghai in the hope of attracting potential recruits. Nearly 10,000 people have arrived since 2008, and Chinese investment in the Netherlands is growing in importance as well as in scope. Indeed the sheer scale of trade between The Netherlands and China is so large that helping
to facilitate possible business opportunities is a growing industry itself. Companies such as Asiancliq helps newly arrived Chinese explore their possibilities in the Dutch labour market, using their large network and business contacts to find the right position for the right person. Many of today’s Chinese newcomers are highly educated, often at a western university, and can converse well in English. Asiancliq capitalizes on this, and those who go through this company are immediately plunged into life in the Netherlands with a high amount of interaction with their colleagues. BRIDGE TO CHINA But it is not only the Chinese who can benefit from Asiancliq’s services. There are massive entrepreneurial opportunities for the Dutch in China, and Asiancliq helps to satisfy the needs of Dutch people with business ideas by finding the areas and materials required in China. Companies such as Asiancliq also help to fertilize good relationships which may bear fruit in the future. Many Chinese people who come to the Netherlands to study or to work return to China after several years of experience here. When they go back, they take not only knowledge to their home country, but also contacts with friends and colleagues in Europe. These relationships can provide a very firm bridge between the Netherlands and China in the future.
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Euro-Chinese trade JosĂŠ Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (left), Chinese president Hu Jintao (centre) and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy (right) talk business during a top Euro-Chinese business meeting in Brussels
Photography: European Commission Press Office Photography: Donald van Opzeeland
Business 38 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
CHINATOWNS The Netherlands has a number of Chinatowns in major cities. Although many people of Chinese decent have migrated out of these, they retain their charm for tourists and residents. AMSTERDAM The Chinese district in Amsterdam is situated around the Geldersekade in the old centre. Only a small portion of the first and second generation of Chinese immigrants is still situated here. The neighbourhood has been significantly restored in recent years. The Amsterdam Chinatown was founded in 1911 and is the second oldest in Europe after the Chinatown in London. Yong Sau Dun was the first Chinese entrepreneur to settle on the promenade in 1959. Every year, Chinese New Year is celebrated in Chinatown with dragons and fireworks. The Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple can also be found here. It is the largest Chinese style religious building in Europe. ROTTERDAM Not only Chinese live in the Rotterdam Chinatown area, but also many Dutch, Surinamese, Antilleans and Africans. The old part is situated in Katendrecht and the newer part is in the centre of Rotterdam. THE HAGUE The Chinatown in The Hague roughly covers what used to be the Jewish quarter of the city. After the Second World War, the area was impoverished and empty. In the 1970s the city council decided to renovate the whole district, and it became a magnet for Chinese settlers. The Chinatown Foundation organises various celebrations such as the Chinese Moon festival and Chinese New Year. 2008 saw the beginning of the Wagenstraat renovation, along with the renovation of the Canal and the Gedempte Burgwal. These areas are now being lit by beautiful Chinese lanterns, and in 2009 two Chinese ports were built made from original Chinese materials.
Photography: City of The Hague Press Office
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LARGEST CHINESE BUSINESSES IN THE NETHERLANDS
1. SUNG FENG WU Born in Emmen in 1979, he studied for a masters in tax law at Leiden University. After working for a Canadian Expat company in Shanghai and the International VAT team for Ernst and Young, he set up his own business, China Investment Netherlands, of which he is CEO. This company facilitates Chinese companies setting up offices in the Netherlands as well as other Sino-Dutch investment deals.
1.INDUSTRIAL & COMMERCIAL BANK OF CHINA In the Netherlands since 2011 Worldwide turnover 2010: € 62,7 billion 2. HUAWEI In the Netherlands since 2009 Worldwide turnover 2011: € 22,8 billion
2. YANG BIN Born in Nanjing in 1961, he immigrated to the Netherlands in 1987. After running an agriculture business in the Netherlands, he became a Dutch citizen. In 1995, he took modern horticultural techniques back to China with him and set up an orchid business in Shenyang. He was instrumental in the creation of ‘Holland Village’ in China, where there are replicas of Amsterdam central station and the Peace Palace. In 2001 he was named by Forbes as the second richest man in China. However a year later he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for tax evasion.
3.HAIER In the Netherlands since: 2005 Worldwide turnover 2011: € 18,6 billion 4.ZTE In the Netherlands since 2006 Worldwide turnover 2010: € 10,7 billion 5. LIUGONG MACHINERY CO. In the Netherlands since 2002 Worldwide turnover 2010: € 1,8 billion
3. KHEE LIANG PHOA Born in 1955, Khee Liang Phoa was a Dutch politician of the now defunct Lijst Pim Fortuyn. He took part in the first Balkenende Cabinet (2002-2003) as secretary of state for emancipation and family affairs. He wasn’t included in the second Balkenende Cabinet, so he moved to China to study at the University of Post and Telecommunications in Beijing, where he still resides. 4. LULU WANG Born in Beijing in 1960, Lulu Wang moved to the Netherlands in 1985. After teaching in Maastricht, she gained fame from her first published novel ‘Het Lelietheater’. She has received many prizes for her work, having ten published works to her name, and having sold over 800,000 copies of her books. 5. JENNIFER DE JONG Was born in Amsterdam in 1976. Jennifer de Jong is half Dutch and has a Chinese mother. She has been active as an actress and presenter for channels such as Veronica and SBS 6. She has opened a café in Amsterdam West with her sister. Photography: Donald van Opzeeland
Dynamic business center Vibrant and dynamic, an international business and conference center, a community with more than 352 businesses and 37 nationalities. A multicultural center of knowledge and the top in the area of commerce. Based at the heart of the financial center of the Netherlands. Only seven minutes from Schiphol Airport by train.
world trade center amsterdam brings businesses together and provides them with a range of services that help them succeed.
where business comes to life
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 41
ZIGGO, THE FLOAT OF A SHIPWRECK?
by Paul Rodenburg Photography: WFA/ Michael Jacobs
History’s first ever initial public offering (IPO) was a Dutch one. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) offered stocks and bonds to the public to provide itself with capital for future growth as well as working capital. Since then, a lot has changed and unfortunately not always for the better. To keep things close to the Netherlands, let’s look at the 2012 IPOs or rather the 2012. IPO - given there has sadly only been one up to now. The recent listing on the Amsterdam exchange is a Dutch cable operator called Ziggo.
In a certain way it is already a blessing that we have even one in 2012, given that the last IPO preceding this year’s was in November 2009. Meanwhile, the engine is roaring in the USA where there have been around 50 listings so far this year and many more are in the pipeline including the MOAL (mother of all listings), Facebook, which is planned for later this year. Sadly Ziggo does not have the same great growth outlook and noble intentions as the VOC had back in 1602. The IPO from Ziggo seems to be nothing more than an exit for the Private Equity firms in control. Let me briefly take you through the financials and my ideas on the opportunities and threats. Not surprisingly, the Private Equity firms have loaded Ziggo to the gills with debt, 3.8 times EBITDA to be more precise, which is high but not unworkable. I come across bigger risks when I look through their balance sheet. There is a huge amount of goodwill on their balance sheet which they have not depreciated since 2008. This delay in depreciation could well be caught up on in the near future. They also have some concentration risk in their debt profile. In 2017, they have to refinance most of their outstanding debt, which could
be a disaster. These risks are, in my view, the biggest threat for what is seen as the share’s major advantage: its annual dividend of around 6%. The moment their balance sheet worsens, for instance by depreciation of the goodwill or higher interest payments on their loans, they will not be able to continue paying out their dividend covenant breach. Without the high dividend, the share seems to have very little other appeal, and to make matters worse, they have seen declining customer numbers with a primary focus on the consumer market. Under the current circumstances, it will be very difficult to increase revenue or client base given the present, worsening consumer environment. Around 50% of their revenue is earned in the highly competitive telephony and internet markets, which are under great pressure. Margins in the telephony market are under extreme strain because of the rapid growth of the so called ‘VOIP’ (voice over IP) free calling services like Skype. The broadband market also seems to be under as much pressure as James Cameron’s submarine going down the Mariana Trench. In addition, there is still the risk of the feeling of dilution since only 20% of the shares have gone public so far. It is not a question if more shares will hit the mar-
ket but when. This normally does not increase the price of shares, as we know. One might ask why was the listing such a success? Well, since we haven’t had a proper listing in years, one thing was for certain: the underwriters and guiding banks would do anything to turn this into a success. The companies and banks that guide the listing of a company such as Ziggo make enormous profits from arranging the IPO. To let the first decent listing in years disappoint could act as a discouragement to companies who are potentially interested in a listing. The loss in potential revenues would cost a lot more than eating some of the shares (and losses) themselves. However, I am convinced one should not have a buy and hold strategy for Ziggo. I’m afraid that, just like the VOC, Ziggo will lose the final battle and that all that will be left is a shipwreck…
PAUL RODENBURG Since 2009 Paul Rodenburg is investment specialist for Darion Capital Management in Amsterdam. He’s most interested in alternative investment funds and structured products. Earlier he has come to know what it’s like to be an expat in the Middle East and London.
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MENTALITY MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
by Christiaan van der Sluijs
The economic situation and the changing regulation calls for solutions at corporate and individual levels. How do we hire people? Who do we fire? How do you react when you’re being let off? In the Netherlands the usual reaction is to grieve first and, after that, search for a new role. Here is how Louise, an international, reacted.
Photography: Correspondant Media Photo
Louise was my counter party in a project in ABN AMRO. At the start of a meeting she told me that she had just received news she was to be let off. I replied that this was a loss for the company and suggested that perhaps she would want the rest of the day off to handle this bad news. Louise pointed at a miniature car on her desk and said: “I am a breadwinner. No way I give up today. Already I have sent out three emails to initiate new work. My priority is a new employment. When the new job is secured there is plenty time to grieve.” Three months later she continued her career in another company in Asia. Mentality makes a difference. At the start of 2012, in the midst of the double dip crisis, a newspaper had an article on a study regarding social media. The conclusion was: “the study found that only 53% of staff was updating social media during work hours”. Subtracting the few staff that have social media in their job description, some 50% was engaging in private matters during work hours... If office life is a football match, this 50% of the working population may play beautiful football, but are at risk of losing the game. The crisis has changed the world and The Netherlands in particular. Social security is in decline. The
law relating to dismissal is under review. This calls for more responsibility by the individual – hence more responsibility by you and I. The other 50% of the working population is of a different nature. These people (and the group includes men, women, minorities, locals, internationals etc.) are focused on work. During the crisis I hear more and more people working harder, putting in more hours, doing more in the time available. In football terms, these people play to win. Not surprisingly, these people have a better chance of making a career for themselves. The 50/50 mentality split is a fact. At a specific moment in life we are on either side. From time to time we change course. Being conscious of the mentality displayed by those around us and our own mentality in particular drives development. We need to assess whether our mentality still fits. What we do with our mentality becomes important, if not crucial. As the CEO of a start-up, I select new staff on capabilities and mentality. Capabilities tell me what new staff is able to do. Mentality tells me how new staff delivers. From experience I know this is harder in large multinational organisations. These days, managers are telling me that they are in
need of good quality people, true sparring partners, staff “one can win the war with”. A specific mentality is sought in new staff. However, when the hiring process is completed, the new staff is just new hands on deck. Mentality in the end did not make the selection procedure. The manager’s original call for mentality change has not been answered. It is not only important to assess what we need. It is also important to assess how we deliver. For how we act determines the result.
CHRISTIAAN VAN DER SLUIJS After 10 years of international management and strategy consulting in the high-tech sector, Christiaan van der Sluijs joined ABN AMRO where he performed various roles in product management, IT, Operations and large programmes for 8 years. At present, he is the CEO of HAWK Investment Cycle Solutions, a company focused on delivering recruiting, consulting and bespoke business solutions.
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OFFICES FOR RENT
INNOVATIVE PARTIES IN THE REAL ESTATE SECTOR SEE GROWTH IN A SHRINKING MARKET By Jeroen Jansen
Businesses wanting to settle in The Netherlands are in luck. Thereâ€™s a lot of free office space around - and prices are falling. Wonderful deals are there for the taking. But be careful. Behind this enticing front is a shaky real estate sector.
Photography: World Trade Centre Rotterdam
Feature 46 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
Up to a few years ago, the demand for offices in The Netherlands was sky high. Those were the golden times for real estate developers and investors. But then came the internet crisis, the financial crisis and the European debt crisis. In a few months time, demand plummeted. Now, about 15 percent of commercial space in the Netherlands is vacant. These are old style offices, huge blocks, built in the nineteen-eighties and nineties. Grey, dark and not sustainable at all. Is there a future for these offices nobody wants to rent? It doesn’t look bright. First, the population is getting older. the labour force is decreasing, and with it the demand for working space. Secondly, because of outsourcing to third world countries and the popularity of working at home, the percentage of vacant offices will only grow. And finally, vacancy attracts vacancy. Nobody wants to hold office in a district that is full of empty blocks. Meanwhile it doesn’t seem very realistic that our economy will recover very soon. So something has to be done. But what? OPPORTUNITIES New styles of working are part of the problem. More people work at home. But “new working” also includes small, sustainable and flexible working places. Employees want open spaces where people can meet and drink coffee together. They want flexible working environments, smart technologies, co-working spaces, natural light and materials, bright colours, external views, lounge rooms and cafes nearby. In fact, they want everything a huge block from the eighties doesn’t have. Here is an opportunity for the real estate owner. By adapting his old offices to this new “working style”, the number of companies showing interest will definitely increase. But it will cost money, a lot of money. The fact that almost all Regus’ offices are occupied, is because of this commitment to the “new working” ethos. Regus is the world’s largest provider of flexible workspaces. ‘Flexibility is the key,’ says Eduard Schaepman, Vice President of Regus Benelux. It’s over with fixed rents and yearly contracts. Instead they want offices at their disposal “at any time, at any location”. ‘The same goes for employees,’ he adds. ‘They don’t want to spend their working days in one place any more. Most of us produce more when we are free to work wherever we want. At home or in some office. In open spaces or closed rooms. Near gas or railway stations or even in cafes or restaurants. This philosophy marks the end of the traditional office as we know it, with one desk per employee and the same walls surrounding him nine hours per day. Besides, flexibility is much cheaper than a yearly contract for one office block. In
some cases, companies save 60 percent of their facility costs. With the financial crisis going on, that is a very convincing argument.’ WITHOUT CHANCE About one quarter of the empty working space in the Netherlands (2 million square metres) is considered to be ‘without any chance’. These are the old grey blocks nobody wants to work in. Demolition seems to be the only real option. Bankers might be willing to decrease their interest rates if owners demolish their useless property. Also, some government measures can ease the pain for real estate developers. One of these could be the promise to build one square metre elsewhere for every two square metres an owner takes off the ground. If the futureless offices survive, the Netherlands could easily face a new crisis, the so-called “real estate crisis”. The majority of the vacant offices are valued too high. To avoid a new crisis, real estate investors will have to devalue, according to some experts. But most investors are not ready to swallow their losses. Yet. They still believe the market will recover. The truth is that it only will recover when no new offices are built, “old” but still promising ones (near public transport facilities and shops, with enough parking space and an attractive design) are renovated and the bricks nobody cares for disappear. Are real estate owners willing to renovate their traditional but well located blocks? Regus did in some cases. According to Schaepman there are three major reasons for businesses to choose for a location. Apart from flexibility those are accessibility and the presence of a “community”. ‘It has to be cosy,’ he says. ‘The sociability of a working place is important, especially for younger employees. Are there any cafes, terraces or restaurants? Are there any opportunities to do some shopping, to meet other people? These are important questions.’ Regus owns a Business Centre at Amstel Business Park. ‘Around us you will find many vacant offices. There is no Starbucks and there are no grand cafes or gyms here. There is no community. Except in our Business Centre. We took care of that. And by offering this community none of our offices are vacant.’ CHEAP WORKING SPACE When supply exceeds demand, price will fall. So if you are looking for cheap working space in the Netherlands, these are the times. Or not? It all depends on where you are looking. In general, prices are falling, but far from spectacularly. Last year, the average rental price in the Netherlands was € 143 per square metre. That is € 1 lower than in 2010. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam the average
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 47
REAL ESTATE CRISIS THREATENS Real estate owners and government bodies have to take action if a looming crisis is to be averted, say experts in the commercial real estate sector. City authorities and developers must stop adding to the existing stock of commercial property. Instead, they have to divert vacant office buildings to alternative uses, and reduce the value of their building stock. The National Bureau for the Building Industry estimated last year that, in The Netherlands, about 6.5 million square metres of office space is not being used (out of a total of 50 million). Two-thirds of this can be regarded as permanently empty. In 10 years, the quantity of empty office space has nearly quadrupled. The main cause is the economic crisis, says real estate advisor, Gregor Van Heemskerk of the firm Twynstra Gudde. But the uncontrolled building policy of Dutch municipalities also plays a role. “Despite shrinking demand for office space, increased building is taking place mainly at local level,” he says. “Nobody really wants to deal with the problem in the commercial real estate sector,” argued Cuno Van Steenhoven of DTZ Zadelhoff, the country’s largest real estate broker, at the end of last year. “You see municipalities continuing to develop plans for office complexes. They’re building for things to remain empty.” ACCEPT LOSS Van Steenhoven and consultant Van Heemskerk are advising local governments to find new uses for their empty office buildings. In addition, they say all real-estate companies and municipalities need to drastically reduce the value of their properties. Because of the high vacancy rate, the book value of the office buildings is not realistic. If investors withdraw from the real estate sector due to inaccurate valuation the whole market could collapse, they warn. According to the DTZ Zadelhoff head, municipalities and real estate companies have to write off nearly five billion from the value of empty office blocks. Van Heemskerk, of Twynstra Gudde, estimates a total value write-off of ten billion. Paulus Jansen, a Socialist Party MP, brought the issue of vacant offices to parliament early this year. He described it as financial time bomb – unless the real estate sector acted swiftly to reduce the book value of properties. He warned that the buildings were being valued on the books at seven billion euros more than they were worth. When you add the over-valuation of buildings that aren’t vacant, Jansen noted, you end up with a figure of at least 22 billion euros.
Photography: Correespondent Media Photo
Feature 48 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
realized price even increased to respective € 208 (+ € 19) and € 139 (+ € 9) per square metre. On the peripheries of the big cities, where there is an overload of empty offices, prices have fallen by 10 to 30 percent. But the closer you get to the city centre and the more companies can profit from public transport facilities and hospitality businesses, prices are pretty much the same as a few years ago. According to Christiaan Huijg, Managing Director of World Trade Center Amsterdam, there might not be a better location in Amsterdam than the “Zuidas”, a large, rapidly developing business district in the south of the city. ‘Right now we have the lowest percentage of vacant offices in years,’ Huijg says. ‘Despite the economic setback, small companies are still growing and looking for bigger offices at good locations with plenty of facilities. WTC Amsterdam provides a business club, several cafes, a self service restaurant, a la carte restaurants and many other facilities. There are good connections to the city centre and Schiphol airport. One will also find many shops, restaurants and cafes near the Zuidas. This is why the World Trade Center is still very popular.’ Like Huijg, Jolande Huijers, Managing Director at Beurs-World Trade Center Rotterdam, has no reasons to complain. ‘Some companies wait a little longer before they decide to set up office here,’ she says. ‘Decision makers are keeping their options open, but most of the time Beurs-WTC Rotterdam seems to be the best option. We are located in the city centre of Rotterdam, close to the highway and all forms of public transport. Rotterdam-The Hague Airport is at a distance of 10 minutes. And we offer different sized offices. The smallest office is 34 square metres, which is quite unique. Most vacant offices are much bigger and don’t offer the same service level as we do. We offer architectural and technical services. As well as a business centre for administrative and secretarial services, a congress and event centre, 24 hours security, a parking, catering facilities with room service and restaurant ‘Staal’. In September we will start a new concept, which provides flexible workspace, always available and based on subscription. We are convinced that this concept will suit the current demand perfectly. Because of the wide range of supply, office renters are pickier than before. The only way to attract businesses is to offer all the service they want. And more. In doing so, Beurs-WTC Rotterdam is one of the positive expectations in a difficult market.’
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 49
PERCENTAGE OF VACANT OFFICES IN THE NETHERLANDS (JAN. 2012) Almere 23% Amsterdam 17% Den Haag 10% Eindhoven 13% Rotterdam 13% The Netherlands 14,1%
AVERAGE REALIZED RENTAL PRICE PER M2
Amsterdam Den Haag Eindhoven Rotterdam The Netherlands
€ 189,€ 166,€ 145,€ 130,€ 144,-
€ 208,€ 164,€ 143,€ 139,€ 143,-
Photography: Correespondent Media Photo
A different angle 50 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
BUYING A HOME IN THE NETHERLANDS
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE “T’HUIS” By Linda Lodding
According to the The Dutch Association of Real Estate Brokers, the housing market is at its lowest point since the start of the financial crisis in 2008. In the first quarter of 2012, the number of house sales dropped 15.6 % compared to the last quarter of 2011 and house prices were down 6% for the same period. In raw numbers: 1,100 new homes are being bought every month, compared with 4,000 before the economic crisis began. What’s fueling this fall? Low consumer confidence coupled with people’s faltering faith in the economy and housing market. Add to that economic stagnation, government upheaval, budget cuts and intense housing regulations and you’ve got a perfect storm. Banks are also tightening their grip on mortgage lending, scaring buyers (especially first-timers) and prompting home owners to either lower prices or hang tough. When neither of those options appeal, home owners who’d thought of selling are opting for renting out their property while waiting for the economic tide to turn. To give the housing market a boost, the government has stepped in with various incentives. Last summer they temporarily dropped the transfer tax (tax to be paid on the purchase price of a property) from 6 % to 2%. But this measure is due to expire on July 1. and questions (as of this writing) still remain as to whether this initiative will be extended. While the measure has induced some buyers to take the plunge, there are still many more houses on the market than potential buyers. This combination, notes the “Rabobank Housing Quarterly”, of declining prices and fewer houses changing hands, indicates a deterioration of the existing homes market. “Eccentric” is what The American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands calls the Dutch housing market. Together with countries like Ireland and Spain, housing prices in the country have risen more than 90% since the 1980’s - the category defined as “very high” in a recent OECD study. The same study puts The Netherlands among the most regulated housing markets in the world. Maybe such regulations contribute to making the Netherlands also a champion when it comes to the number of tenants with leaking roofs and severe space shortages? HOME AWAY FROM HOME: RENTING TO EXPATS Many Dutch landlords are trying to market their properties directly to the transient expat population, hoping that this segment will be less sensitive to the market. Expats, landlords recognize, often bring to the table a healthy budget for rents
(due to generous employer housing allowances). The change from home owner to landlord, however, isn’t as straight-forward as changing the “te koop” sign to “te huur”. In return for higher rents, expats expect a high standard of property including space – which is a premium in this country. Many of these properties, explains rental agent Yvette Fredriksz of Welp Makelaardij, simply aren’t of the standard required by tenants. “Today’s expat renters expect fresh and modernized properties,” explains Fredriksz – “no carpets in the bedroom (everyone is allergic these days), minimum of two bathrooms, fully equipped kitchens and multiple bedrooms to house children and guests.” Fredriksz, who works at Welp’s Wassenaar branch, has many expat clients trying to secure their “home away from home”. Wassenaar, a suburb of The Hague, holds great appeal for many expats due to the proximity of the American School, the town’s charming shopping streets, biking distance to familyfriendly beaches and easy access to major road arteries to The Hague and Amsterdam. This is a community that is divided equally among locals and expats - led by Shell employees, civil servants and employees of international organizations. Such employers offer their expat staff generous housing allowances which, in communities favored by these employees, have artificially inflated the rental prices. It’s not unheard of for a row of houses with the same size and quality of fittings to be rented out for wildly differing sums depending on which landlords have snagged renters on a company’s housing allowance. (Most landlords will say, however, that these higher rents are warranted since they’re required to upgrade certain amenities demanded by expats such as security measures and kitchens with American-style appliances.) But that too, Fredriksz notices, is changing. The economic crisis has forced large companies to re-evaluate generous expat packages, including a reduction in housing allowances.
SO WHAT’S NEXT? Has the Dutch housing market bottomed out? Most real estate professionals agree that there is no way of knowing for sure, but the general feeling is that the market won’t pick up anytime soon. On the other hand, if you are renting at the moment, this may be a great time to buy
TO BUY OR TO RENT TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY? Conventional real estate wisdom says that if you plan on staying put at least 3- 5 years and your potential rent paid is in excess of 1,500 euros, then buying a home, rather than renting, might be most advantageous in the long run. Anything under a 3-year commitment and it’s unlikely you’ll see a return on your investment (when start up costs, usually about 6 – 10 percent of the purchase price, are factored in). For expats who are rotating through the Netherlands, renting may offer the best option with fixed contract costs, maintenance covered by the landlord and a “pack-up and go” ease to leaving.
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 51
REGIONAL FLUX Zoom out from the map, and you’ll notice regional differences in housing price fluctuations and turnover. The worst hit have been the northern province of Friesland and the southern province of Limburg. But this dip hasn’t been enough to reverse a falling trend in the number of transactions.
% CHNG IN PRICES Friesland Groningen Drenthe Overijssel Flevoland Gelderland N.Holland Utrecht S. Holland N. Brabant Limburg Zeeland
– 7.2 – 5.3 – 1.8 – 3.3 – 4.9 – 6.3 – 3.8 – 4.3 – 4.0 – 5.4 – 7.7 – 4.7
% CHNG IN TRANS. – 25.9% – 17.4% – 15.4% – 3.5% – 24.9% – 11.7% – 16.3% – 13.2% – 10.6% – 13.3% – 11.3% – 5.7%
# OF TRANSACTIONS IN MARCH 2012 292 276 270 638 181 1014 1627 724 1980 1280 534 248
Changes in property prices, transactions and number of transactions by region in March 2012 as compared to March 2011 (total dwellings excluding new construction). Source: Statistics Netherlands
THE DUTCH MORTGAGE Many internationals choose to rent accommodation in The Netherlands rather than buy. A missed chance, says Rick Scholten, ABN Amro’s District Director, International Clients Amsterdam. ‘Buying a house can be a good investment. And the unique Dutch fiscal arrangement means you can save a lot of money.’ He says there is no difference in the loans made to internationals and those made to native Dutch clients, although internationals have a special status when they apply for a mortgage. The explanations needed can make the approval process complicated. Scholten says the decision to rent a house is very quickly made by internationals. ‘There are a lot of rental properties on offer and a lot of real estate dealers have targeted the growing international market,’ he says. ‘Companies send their employees information on rental properties as a standard practice. So many internationals don’t notice the possibilities and benefits of buying. The high rental costs that internationals pay every month can be directed towards financing the purchase of a house.’ The ABN Amro banker says buying a house in The Netherlands is, above all, a good investment. ‘The housing market is under pressure, prices are falling and the number of properties on offer is growing, but in the big cities the results are positive. The market in Amsterdam, for instance, is reasonably stable in comparison with shifts abroad. The houses that fulfil the demands of expats are still scarce.’ Moreover, the interest you pay on your mortgage is tax deductible on a monthly basis. This benefit is likely to be reduced by changes in the arrangements for mortgage relief. But a substantial amount of mortgage relief will remain. In The Netherlands, there are four different kinds of mortgage, Scholten says. First, the linear mortgage where a certain amount of the capital borrowed is repaid every month, thus reducing the repayments due on an annual basis. Then there are mortgages where the monthly repayment remains the same for the entire term of the loan. In this form, the total interest payment charged is spread throughout the life of the repayment period. You can also take out a mortgage with an insurance policy or savings account as collateral. Then there are mortgages where you never have to repay the principal. Those are becoming rare. According to Scholten, there’s no difference between mortgages granted to local Dutch citizens and internationals. The interest rate is the same and so is the amount loaned. That’s based on monthly income. However, requirements for internationals might be tougher. When a mortgage request is being considered, he says, the financial markets want information on all relevant issues that can influence repayment: alimony or child support payments due, for instance. Often, the documentation regarding personal circumstances abroad don’t fulfil the requirements of the financial authorities. ‘That can create a lot of difficulties,’ he says. ‘Credit authorities here have a so-called zero tolerance policy regarding breaking the rules in recent years.’ He therefore advises internationals to make use of experienced financial specialists when they are submitting mortgage applications, specialists with experience in supporting applications submitted by international parties.
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 53
What Where When
NO NANNY DIARIES CHILD CARE IN THE NETHERLANDS: A BOON FOR INTERNATIONALS By Niala Maharaj
The best thing you might have done for your child is to bring her/him to The Netherlands in early childhood. Here, childcare is not only subsidized by the government but it is carefully thought out, planned and monitored. Your child has a chance to develop early ‘soft skills’ such as self-confidence, creativity, independence and initiative… as well as having a happy childhood. These personality traits are important for making children capable life-long learners, experts say. Initial knowledge of geography is likely not as important as confidence and willingness to learn for later academic success. Self-control and attention control are found to be a stronger predictor for school readiness than IQ and entry level reading or math. Photography: CompaNanny
Education 54 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
‘Stress in the Crèche!’ blares the cover of Holland’s premier magazine for highly-educated employees, Intermediair, this month. This tells you how central child-care is here in The Netherlands: it’s the cover-story for a major career magazine. Unlike in most other parts of the world, babysitting in northern Europe is not a private concern but a public issue - like education and health-care. The government currently pumps a whopping three billion euros into crèches and other forms of child care every year, according to NRC Handelsblad newspaper. This is very good news for international employees. First on the financial front: the Dutch government will pay up to 80% of the cost of child-care for you, whatever your nationality, as long as you’re working in this country. It’s part of the ‘social welfare system’. Dutch women are quick to plead family responsibility as a reason to stop working: 70% of them stick with parttime work, according to the Volkskrant newspaper. To get them onto the job market, the government has to sweeten them with a child-care allowance, which can be used to subsidize any form of professional childcare, including daycare centers (crèches), after school care, private child minders, nannies - and even grannies. But there are other important benefits to raising infants in this part of the world. The fact that child-care is a public service means it is seriously organized and monitored here, and best practices are sought in the babysitting sector. CHILD MINDERS HEAVILY MONITORED ‘While it is important for children to be just children, the early years are also especially formative and important for children to develop skills and competencies,’ says Matias Egeland, Consultant to the OECD Directorate for Education. ‘The importance and value of good quality care and education for children is becoming
increasingly clear, and have shown to impact things as diverse as creativity and lifetime earnings.’ For instance: according to social psychologist Marilse Eerkens, author of Wat doen we met de baby? (What do we do with the baby?), the book that raised the current alarm about stress in the crèche, recent research indicates that a private babysitter is the best choice for parents of children under two years of age. At that age, the child needs more one-on-one attention than a crèche can provide. But what the child doesn’t need, according to researchers in this part of the world, is the New York ‘Nanny Diaries’ approach, where the children of the well-paid are coddled and cosseted till they turn into brats. Or the Asian ‘amah’ syndrome where kids are forced to spend their waking hours with illiterate, downtrodden maids while their parents are at work. In The Netherlands, by contrast, people who work as child-minders are heavily monitored; they have to be linked to a supervisory body (gastouderbureau). ‘We ensure quality standards are maintained amongst the home-based nurseries in our network,’ says Olof Lakmaker, director of one gastouderbureau, Blue Umbrella. ‘And we also work directly with the Dutch tax office to acquire and manage our international clients’ childcare allowance.’ CRÈCHES GOOD FOR COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT From the age of two, children should be sent to the crèche. This fosters their cognitive development, states research carried out by the Dutch Child-Care Consortium, which comprises pedagogues and psychologists from the Universities of Amsterdam and Nijmegen. The more the crèche focuses on pedagogic quality, the better for the kids, say the resear-
chers. It should help kids learn how to deal with each other, how to play with others, carry out tasks together and establish boundaries. This approach differs vastly from that of US child-care organizations, notes Jiska Horn, director of CompaNanny, one firm that offers services in English for international families. ‘We help the kids develop socially,’ says Horn. ‘In the US, child-care focuses predominantly on teaching the kids skills. But in The Netherlands pre-school is for developing the kids’ ability to function in the world outside the home.’ CompaNanny, which handles a total of 1,500 kids, ensures its staff members undergo not only a rigorous selection procedure, but also 33 hours of external training in the company’s pedagogic philosophy during their first year of work. It devises strategies for handling current social needs, such as the fact that there are too few male role models in the child-care environment and in schools. ‘We try to hire male nannies,’ says Horn, ‘but that’s difficult because of the low supply of males in this sector. So we train our nannies in handling boys. We have them look at the intuitive differences in behavior between boys and girls, and train them in supporting male behavior. We make them aware of their own behavior as females, so they don’t limit the boys in trying to explore and discover the world.’ MUSIC, THEATRE, SPORT AND DANCE You’ll never see a computer or television at a CompaNanny crèche. According to CompaNanny’s researches, such equipment doesn’t stimulate the kids’ own creativity. Instead, this company hires ‘nannies’ who have studied such things as music, theatre, sport and dance to encourage the kids’ development of their own talents. This is the approach developed in the Nordic countries, says Matias Egeland.
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 55
COMPANANNY’S 8 DEVELOPMENT GOALS FOR KIDS UNDER ITS CARE
‘As the early years represent a crucial chance to shape and impact children and their future development,’ Egeland notes, ‘the key question is which traits and abilities do we want children to acquire and harness? The curricula that shape and guide early childhood programmes have traditionally been divided between those seen to focus on “academic” learning in specific subject areas, and those seeking a “comprehensive” approach more focused on children’s social development. The countries that tend to favour an “academic” approach usually see the child as a young person to be formed, the child presenting an investment for society. They try to centre curricula on what is considered “useful” learning. The “soft” skills favoured in a “comprehensive” approach such as self-confidence, creativity, independence and initiative are useful beyond giving children a happy childhood. Indeed, these personality traits are important for making children capable life-long learners. Initial knowledge of geography is likely not as important as confidence and willingness to learn for later academic success. For example selfcontrol and attention control are found to be a stronger predictor for school readiness than IQ and entry level reading or math. Moreover, these traits are proving increasingly important for later labour-market success. Soft skills that can be fostered in the early years are not just useful, they are also important from an equity perspective. As the Economist put it in a recent article: “the qualities that employers in the service sector want are those the middle classes acquire at home: articulacy, confidence and smartness”. Confidence and emotional control do not develop automatically, but can be facilitated by skilled professionals by focusing on children’s perspectives and through active use of play.’
1. independence 2. social skills 3. a sense of responsibility 4. sensitivity to others 5. respect for oneself, other people, animals and things 6. decency and tolerance 7. courtesy 8. involvement INSPIRED BY THE FOLLOWING PEDAGOGIC PHILOSOPHIES • • •
The vision of Emmi Pikler The thinking of Reggio Emilia The Method of How 2 Talk 2 Kids
BLUE UMBRELLA SERVICES Search – Finding the right childcare or school. Blue Umbrella’s English-speaking staff discuss your specific needs with you and the different childcare options available in the Netherlands and help you navigate the waiting lists. Home Childcare – Reducing the cost of private childminders for international families. Blue Umbrella is approved to register nannies and private childminders and undertake the checks required by the Dutch Childcare Act. Once your chosen nanny or childminder has been registered, you can receive the childcare allowance. Payroll – Blue Umbrella will, in effect, ‘employ’ your childminder and invoice you for their wages each month. They ensure that your childminder is registered with the tax office and all the correct insurance, holiday and sick pay entitlements are taken care of to comply with Dutch employment regulations. For more information: www.blueumbrella.nl Tel:+31(0)204687560 e-mail: email@example.com
A learner-centered, American curriculum modified for the needs of an international student and parent population. Full college-preparatory programs, including International Baccalaureate Diploma and Certificate, and Advanced Placement courses.
“From day one my kids felt welcomed and special. In the 3 1/2 years we have been here they have grown academically, socially, and are excited about learning.” “As a parent, ASH is the school you dream of your kids attending and not believing it exists till you get here.”
A wide variety of extracurricular activities, including strong visual arts, drama, music, and athletics programs. Graduates accepted at American, European, and home country universities. More than 1,100 students from 70 nationalities (29% American, 12% Dutch with 59% representing 68 other nationalities). Fully accredited by the Council of International Schools and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Located in Wassenaar, on the north side of The Hague.
3D Impression of Early Childhood Center Development
Educating the WHOLE Child “American School of The Hague nurtures and inspires character, commitment, creativity, and learning.”
Complete Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle and High School programs for ages 3 to 18.
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DcWZ]Va[d[ZkZgndcZVi7ajZJbWgZaaV/ Dutch tax service provider for internationals LZaXdbZ6WgdVY
Blue Umbrella helps internationals by managing their Dutch income tax and correspondence. We specialize in income tax return and childcare subsidy. Blue Umbrella works in partnership with the Amsterdam Expatcenter and the Dutch Tax Office.
Blue Umbrella promises: 100% tax compliance - Full transparency - Minimum red tape - Timely and clear communication in English - Your tax letters on-line
Visit us at www.blueumbrella.nl. On behalf of everybody at Blue Umbrella: Welcome Abroad!
Blue umbrel a
Their For studentso from 3 trs 18 yea
Did you know that more parents choose the BSN than any other international school in Holland? With four campuses in The Hague area, The British School offers a caring and stimulating learning environment, with an individual approach that ensures every child can achieve their full potential. The BSN is a thriving and supportive expatriate community made up from over 80 nationalities. Contact us today to arrange a visit and see for yourself why the BSN is the international school of choice. Admissions 070 315 4077
h s i l g n E Also ing speak
CompaNanny is a professional childcare organization where Nannies assist in the development of children. CompaNanny offers: • • • • •
Professional and dedicated Nannies Extensive opening hours from 7.30 a.m. until 8.00 p.m. A specially developed pedagogical philosophy Our daycares are decorated and furnished as a comfortable house At our locations Atlas Arena in Amsterdam and Oegstgeest, we offer English speaking childcare.
Please contact our Customer Care if you would like to have more information: 020 417 0117 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Aalsmeer, Amsterdam, Den Haag, Oegstgeest, Rotterdam
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 63
LEARNING THE LANGUAGE (Advertorial)
PHOTOGRAPHY WFA/MICHAEL JACOBS
When one calls the Dutch offices of Nike, Infosys or NATO, the telephone operator will be English-speaking. Although an increasing number of companies in The Netherlands treat English as the primary language on the work floor, the majority of language training programs that international professionals attend are for the Dutch language. Usually participation is on a voluntary basis, The International Correspondent learned through some quick calls with HR departments of international companies in The Netherlands. One HR training officer said: “The primary language in which we train our professionals is Dutch. This happens on a voluntary basis, since everyone in the company is perfectly able to communicate in English as well.” Sophie de Boeij, from Ricoh Europe: “Communication in our office is in English, and we offer Dutch language training to all motivated non-Dutch professionals.” Regardless of the language, both companies and private persons rely on the services of language institutes to help developing language skills for the work place and beyond. The International Correspondent spoke with the representatives of a selection of those institutes to talk about their work. Photography: Koentact.nl
Personal Advice Finance 64 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
Photography: Leiden University Academic Language Centre
“ A continuous drive to bring people in touch with each other”
“ In-depth linguistic and intercultural knowledge”
KOENTACT LANGUAGE SCHOOL, AMSTERDAM Koen Gijzel talks fast and with an enthusiastic spirit. When he describes his goal as “connecting people” it is not merely a hollow phrase. “At Koentact, we want our trainees to be immersed in a new social network while learning the Dutch language,” he says. “We want to give them an opportunity to really feel integrated and connected. For example, people from my own Dutch network participate in my classes to meet with trainees; I usually find good matches between people based on mutual interests, work-related or otherwise. I strongly believe there is a strong social drive to wanting to learn a new language, and we provide that social context in our classes.” Koentact offers group programs in the Dutch language, and individual training programs in most other languages. Group training includes lessons at the school on Elandsgracht in the Jordaan and field trips around town. I recommend taking a look on the Koentact website for videos of those educational excursions. Clients like Air France KLM, GE Artesia Bank, Peugeot and Delta Air Lines hire Koentact for in-company training programs, which include team building programs. Language is just one of the tools to let people from different countries connect with each other. During the interview I started wondering whether the teaching method ever stands in the way of making quick progress, but then I saw the many testimonials on Koentact’s website.... “Our progress is noticeable and we are very pleased with the method of Koentact!”, as an Inventory Analyst at Air France KLM enthuses on Koentact’s website. What about the name of the school? “Friends started calling me Koentact after they learned that I have a continuous drive to bring people in touch with each other, whether it be through mutual interests, talents, nationalities or friendships.”
LEIDEN UNIVERSITY ACADEMIC LANGUAGE CENTRE “Last week, 599 people enrolled in courses of the Academic Language Centre,” was tweeted in March this year. Notwithstanding the fully commercial character of the Language Centre, it has historically known a natural inflow of a large number of internal “clients” (students and university employees), which contributes to its organizational experience and range of training programs. Gabriel Hoezen, head of the Centre: “On top of that, Leiden University offers a great source of expertise, which at times proves valuable to our customers. If relevant in a training program, there are so many specialists linked to the university that can give that additional depth clients may be looking for. For example, if it becomes relevant within in a certain training program, we can rely on the in-depth linguistic and intercultural knowledge of our teachers and our colleagues in the university departments.” Naturally, for people who wish to stay for a longer time in The Netherlands, it is quite interesting to learn about communication in a broader cultural sense. Hoezen has been a trainer himself in the past: “I remember a French young man, in an individual custom-made program. Besides learning Dutch he was interested to learn how flirting and dating works here.” As regards the group language training programs, participants come from all parts of the world, but are homogenous in terms of their learning curve. “These are people who are already used to having learned a second or third language, and generally have a higher educational background. These circumstances allow us to offer well-suited programs for all participants.” Clients of the Language Centre include Vopak, Ahold, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Personal Advice Finance the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 65
Photography: Maastricht University Language Centre
Photography: UVA Talen
“ Maintenance of one’s communication skills is key”
“ Climb proficiency levels within two or three months”
MAASTRICHT UNIVERSITY LANGUAGE CENTRE “Obviously, the university is a great source for the language centre,” says Peter Wilms van Kersbergen, Manager of the Maastricht University Language Centre. “Think of all the expertise and practical knowledge among the academics we involve in our training programs.” He cites their tailor-made program focused on highly specific medical-technical topics in English. “And we make this type of custom made program for any language. Learning a language is valuable only if one is trained in applying it.” The scale of the institute and its link to the university allows it to be very flexible across the full range of its offerings. The Language Centre (with clients like Vodafone, DSM, Maastricht School of Management and Maastricht municipality) serves as a training institute for thousands of students and university employees, which enhances its ability to accommodate the wishes of a variety of clients and trainees. “On top of that, the university’s problem-based learning regime fits like a glove for something like language studies. Language training programs for both groups and individuals are based on this regime, which shows in terms of participants’ influence on the specific topics of interest and the interactive teaching methods.” Does the Language Centre offer full immersion programs? “Our view is that full immersion programs clearly have their role, and we have vast experience in organizing them. However, in any individual case, maintenance of one’s communication skills is key. I would always encourage training programs spread out over a longer period of time. Within this vision, we offer the full range of training methods that one would expect, including distance learning through computer programs, and offering interactive language/culture trainings mixed with excursions across town, for example.” Wilms van Kersbergen regards language proficiency as a strong motivator for internationals to feel comfortable in their job or studies. “To keep international talent in The Netherlands, both companies and government should continue investing in the language skills of those who came from abroad, as well as of those in The Netherlands who have to communicate in English.”
UVA TALEN, AMSTERDAM Already the largest in the Randstad region, UvA Talen is steadily growing in spite of adverse economic developments, says Marcus Hilbers, Director of the institute. “Although we do see a move towards lower cost training programs, the group of people who seek to be trained is still growing due to the internationalization of labour and study”. UvA Talen is a full service institute, offering individual and in-company training programs for clients like McKinsey, Shell, ING, KLM/Air France and Deloitte, as well as group training (including NT2) open to anyone. Although linked to the University of Amsterdam, UvA Talen is an independent institute. “In any of the training programs, UvA Talen seeks to do everything to ensure a steep learning curve, allowing trainees to climb proficiency levels within two or three months.” “A year ago, we started offering our full immersion programs, a shortterm full-time course, which enables the trainee to make huge steps in only a week’s time. During this time, the trainee is taken on walks and tours around the city. Also, in the other program types we often go outside and expose trainees to real everyday situations. We see that trainees are generally better able to memorize what they learned when there is a visual and situational association. This has proven particularly appealing for those young professionals who are used to being stimulated by new and interesting things around them. ” To ensure that trainees don’t feel limited by time and location restraints, trainees can communicate with trainers through phone or Skype, while making use of document sharing programs. “We want to offer trainees all the flexibility that they look for. Trainees can also choose between different trainers, so they can continue learning at irregular times.”
Personal Advice Finance 66 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
Photography: STE Languages
Photography: Alba Fotografie, Amerongen
“ Preperation is key”
“ Feeling at home”
CAPITAL LANGUAGE SERVICES, INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE CONSULTANCY The Capital Language team prepares and composes training programs focused on motivating individual trainees in an extremely goaldriven way. “We always seek to effectively enhance the trainee’s communication,” says director Yvonne Stadt, “which goes much further than training in a language. I remember an Italian trainee who compensated for his flawed grammar with much flair, confidence and listening skills. We take into consideration such personality attributes when formulating our goals for individual trainees and trainers.” Preparation is a key ingredient. Capital Language has developed its own assessment method for new clients. Called “Profile”, this tool has proven to be valuable in determining what goals should be reached and in preventing trainees from ending up in a group that does not sufficiently fit their level. “In practice this tool helps a great deal in managing the expectations of trainees, their trainers and HR officers.” “We see that both trainees and HR officers value the degree to which we take that extra step when composing tailor made trainings. For example, the training for a group of 15 accountants was given by a native French trainer and a Dutch accountant who had frequently worked in France for many years, thus offering a necessary mix between general language training and specific cultural and industry insights.” Business clients include UPC, ABN AMRO, PwC, AKZO Nobel, Novartis, Nuon/ Vattenfall, Philips, PostNL (former TNT), Unit4 and KPMG Meijburg. “At Capital, the majority take English, Dutch and German training, but also French, Spanish and Chinese are popular. To be able to communicate effectively also, intercultural awareness is essential. Not only do we organise programs on Dutch-Indian, German-English intercultural communication, also do we organise these training programs for language and communication trainers.” “Last month, we heard the outcomes of the last two-yearly extensive evaluation survey among our clients, by Cedeo,” says Yvonne Stadt. “Our institute was granted a rating of 100% client satisfaction. We take a proactive attitude to any question that comes our way. The solutions may be quite refreshing, exceed the client’s expectations or be just right.” What this means is that 100% of Capital Language’s clients indicated feeling ‘satisfied to very satisfied’ with its service, the collaboration and the achieved results of the training. The full report is made available on the website of Capital Language.
STE EINDHOVEN (STE LANGUAGES) STE Eindhoven is a language institute offering training programs and courses for individuals and groups, both on site and on location, at the offices of its corporate clients, which include ASML, DSM, Sabic, DAF, De Lage Landen and Océ. I had an interview with Willem van der Velden, Director of the institute, through STE’s own Web Learning platform. The made-to-measure Adobe platform combines whiteboard, document sharing, screen and web links sharing, as well as direct communication by means of a video and audio interface. “Whenever relevant and convenient for our clients, we have the option to use this web platform, in addition to the regular face-to-face sessions. Within the last weeks, I repeatedly had clients for whom the Web Learning platform, as we call it, was the perfect solution for their specific situation: a multinational wanted to assess the English language skills of a few Russians applicants before their transfer to the Netherlands, a client who asked us to continue the training program during a 3-week trip abroad, and someone who wished to continue lessons in the Japanese language after having moved to Japan”. Unlike some of the other language institutes I spoke to, STE also offers training programs for students with higher educational backgrounds targeted at Dutch national exams (for ‘inburgering’). STE received a grade of 8.1 for customer satisfaction from the independent rating agency Blik op Werk. It’s in the top rank of Dutch training programs. 85% of STE’s students pass the national exam; this is well above the 73% national average. “It will be a challenge for The Netherlands to be internationally regarded as a still tolerant and welcoming country for knowledge workers from abroad,” says van der Velden. “I think that the discussions in the Netherlands about double nationalities and broader issues concerning integration and immigration jeopardize our history of attracting and caring for talented experts from abroad.” Part of STE’s mission is to try to contribute to a feeling of belonging and feeling at home for those who speak Dutch or English only to a limited degree. Apart from the programs mentioned above, STE organizes language training courses for partners of those who participate in training programs through their companies. www.ste.nl
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REBELS WITH A (SOMETIMES NUTTY) CAUSE By Jeroen Jansen
Dutch coalition politics contains plenty of room for eccentrics to spread their wings and expose their whacky issues. In this issue, we present some of the most noteworthy of them. Meet the egos that could not control themselves: from a Frustrated Farmer to the Greatest Dutchman of All Time. 10. HANS GRUIJTERS (1931 - 2005) Gruijters was one of the founders of Democraten 66, the liberal democratic party currently known as D66. He is less wellknown than his co-founder, the charismatic politician Hans van Mierlo who died in 2010. Unlike Van Mierlo, Gruijters was already politically engaged before starting Democraten 66. Being part of the centre-right VVD, he refused to attend the controversial 1966 marriage of the Dutch crown princess Beatrix and the German Claus von Amsberg. Von Amsberg had been a member of the Hitler Youth. Gruijters was banished from the VVD and started his own party. 9. ALI LAZRAK (1948 - ) This politician of Moroccan descent came to the Netherlands in 1971 as part of the first immigration wave and worked for Dutch car manufacturer DAF. Lazrak’s political career started at the left-wing Labour Party, PvdA. in 2000, but the following year he moved to the even more left-wing Socialist Party (SP). He became a deserter again in 2003, when he questioned the ‘dictatorial behaviour’ of SP front man Jan Marijnissen. Lazrak then decided to continue as a one-man party. He soon dominated the list of most absent politicians in parliament. In 2007, news spread that Lazrak had to pay back the House of Representatives 25,000 euros for expenses he could not justify. 8. DAAN MONJÉ (1925 - 1986) The currently popular Socialist Party was founded in 1972 by Daan Monjé, a former pipe fitter in the Rotterdam harbour who had been excluded from the Dutch communist
party in 1964, after spreading his sympathies for Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Seven years later he founded his own communist party, dedicated to Russian leaders Marx and Lenin, which soon became the Socialist Party. In 1991, the SP officially distanced itself from the Marxism/Leninism ideology, because it had evolved to the point that this was no longer considered appropriate. 7. HANS JANMAAT (1934 - 2002) According to most Dutch observers, Janmaat was the first official right-wing extremist in post-war politics. He raged against immigration and foreign influences when this was still considered to be politically incorrect. Yet he had started as a moderate politician, being a member of the Catholic party KVP and later the Democrat Socialist party. In 1981, he shifted radically, to the nationalist party Centrumpartij. His longwinded xenophobia encountered growing opposition in the House of Representatives. In 1984 he was excluded from his own party and continued on his own. Two years later, he escaped unharmed from an assault by left-wing extremists. His wife-to-be Wil Schuurman was less lucky. She lost a leg as a result of the incident. 6. HENDRIK KOEKOEK (1912 - 1987) That Mr. Koekoek is still known as one of the most eccentric figures in Dutch politics, has little to do with his surname (‘Koekoek’ means cuckoo in English). He is especially remembered for his nickname, ‘Boer Koekoek, which refers to his job as a farmer. He deserted the Christian party CHU in 1958 because he felt that the party didn’t sufficiently
support the interests of agrarians, and founded the Boerenpartij (Farmers’ Party). In later years, both the party and its chairman were hit by several scandals - from members accused of Nazi sympathies during the war to the allegation of animal abuse. 5. RITA VERDONK (1955 - ) Ten years ago, Verdonk was a rising star in Dutch politics. She even made it to minister between 2003 and 2007. But Verdonk wanted more. It was her ambition to become a leader of her own party, the centre-right VVD. Her ambition took a blow prior to the elections of 2006 when Mark Rutte was chosen over her despite Verdonk’s greater public popularity. In the following months, Verdonk expressed her concerns about the course of the VVD and its “soft” immigration policy. She was banned from the party and started her own, Trots op Nederland (Proud of the Netherlands). It was a huge failure. Mrs. Verdonk retired from politics last year. 4. WILLEM DREES SR. (1886 - 1988) Drees is considered by many as the best Dutch Prime Minister after the Second World War. Being a convinced social democrat and head of the Labour Party (PvdA), Vadertje Drees (Little Father Drees) took the initiative on many social laws. He was Prime Minister from 1948 until he retired from active politics in 1958 and continued to be a member of the Labour Party until his ‘desertion’ in 1970. Upset by the ‘radical’ course the PvdA had adopted, he then joined DS’70, a new centerleft party, led by his son Willem Drees Jr. In 2004, Willem Drees sr. was named the ‘third greatest Dutchman of all times’, after Pim
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Top10 “ Meet the ego’s who can’t control themselves”
Photography: Novum/ Dick Hol
2. PIM FORTUYN (1948 - 2002) Ten years after his violent death, it seems unlikely that Mr. Fortuyn would win a ‘Greatest Dutchman’ contest for the second time. But in 2004, only two years after the assassination, the memory of his spectacular rise in
1. GEERT WILDERS (1963 - ) Wilders is often called the political heir of Pim Fortuyn. Like Fortuyn, Wilders is extremely outspoken, aggressively anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim. But it has not always been like this. When Wilders was still a VVD
member, he rejected Fortuyn’s criticism of Islam. In 2001 he called Islam a ‘respectable faith’. Things changed after 9/11 and the assassination of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. The Dutch Mozart (a nickname based on his prominent hairstyle) frequently rebelled against his own party, like Fortuyn before him. When Wilders stated that Turkey could never be a part of the European Union because of cultural differences, he was overruled by his political associates. Things got worse after the party threatened to ban Wilders if he didn’t retract, so he left the VVD in 2004 and started his own party, ‘Group Wilders’. In 2006 he founded the PVV (Party of Freedom), which is now one of the most popular parties in the Netherlands.
PHOTOGRAPHY WFA/MICHAEL JACOBS
3. HERO BRINKMAN (1964 - ) For most supporters of the right-wing PVV party, Brinkman turned from hero to villain after he left the party in March this year. A former police officer, he had joined controversial politician Geert Wilders in 2006 and soon became one of Wilders’ confidants within the PVV. But he always expressed concerns about the lack of democracy within the party and its overdependence on its leader, Geert Wilders. In recent times he also rejected the PVV’s discrimination regarding Islam and people from Eastern Europe. His decision to leave the party in March followed his severe criticism of a new PVV website where people can report complaints about Central and Eastern European immigrants. Brinkman is now the sole member of a one-man party.
Dutch politics was still very much alive. Pim Fortuyn went from left to right, being successively a one-time communist, a member of the Labour Party, and a member of centreright liberal VVD. He left the VVD because he disagreed with the party’s immigration policy and its ‘denial of the Islamic danger’. In 2001, prior to the elections of 2002, Fortuyn was chosen front man of a party called ‘Livable Netherlands’, but he was dismissed after saying that he would put an end to Muslim immigration. He then formed his own party, the ‘Pim Fortuyn List’ (LPF). With his controversial statements and charismatic appearance, the flamboyantly homosexual Fortuyn attracted many voters from other right-wing parties. Suddenly, the thought of him being prime minister (a nightmare for many) became very realistic. But Fortuyn’s sudden rise was brutally stopped on 6 May 2002, when he was shot to death outside a radio studio.
Fortuyn and William of Orange.
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– This summer’s culinary event! – 31st mAY - 3rd junE - AmstelpArk - AmsterdAm Enjoy Taste of Amsterdam! Four days of summer eating, drinking and live entertainment. The city’s best restaurants will fashion special menus of starter-sized dishes for the occasion, including signature dishes created by chefs to specially reflect their philosophy and showcase seasonal and premium ingredients. Furthermore a huge range of producers and exhibitors provide a bounty of the best food and beverages, ensuring that guests sample and shop for a range of produce in the laid back atmosphere of a boutique food market. Each year Taste of Amsterdam brings together not just restaurants and food and wine suppliers, but a line-up of innovative and interactive programs on cooking and eating. The Taste Theatre continues to host some of the cities greatest chefs, plus a wide range of other features to make it the ultimate foodie day out.
Restaurant line-up: MOMO • Bolenius • Blauw • Lute • Fifteen • Bridges • The Harbour Club • De Kersentuin • The Butcher • Sucre • and more!
For more information & tickets, visit our website: www.tasteofamsterdam.com
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 71
Culture & Cookery
What What Where Where When
“ MEAT SHOULD LOOK, TASTE AND BITE LIKE MEAT. FISH SHOULD LOOK AND TASTE LIKE FISH.” Chef Alain Alders of Restaurant De Vrienden Van Jacob, Santpoort Photography: Maarten Bezem
What Where When 72 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
EYE TO THE WORLD by Jeroen Jansen
For the Dutch film industry, the new Eye Film Institute Netherlands, which opened last April, is a huge asset-albeit one with a price tag of 38 million euros. There are four modern film auditoriums, studio workrooms, a film lab, a café and plenty of room for exhibitions and educational functions. And of course, there is Eye International, the section that lobbies strongly for Dutch films. The International Correspondent talked to Eye International director, Claudia Landsberger, about the international success of Dutch cinema. “Eye International’s goal is to generate both cultural and commercial interests in Dutch film abroad in order to strengthen its repute in the international market. It lobbies strongly for Dutch films during the selection processes at the major film festivals in Berlin, Sundance, Cannes, Locarno, Venice and San Sebastian, and provides logistical support for the transportation of film prints to numerous other film festivals. Every year we send more than 700 different films to 800 festivals worldwide,” Lansberger says. “Besides that, we make sure that Dutch films are shown on foreign television and in theatres.” Each year nearly 40 Dutch films are released, she added, as well as about 15 documentary films and dozens of short movies. “Don’t think we only take care of them. Films from earlier years do have our interest as well, sometimes with relation to retrospectives of Dutch filmmakers,” she says. SO IS IT FAIR TO SAY THAT DUTCH FILMS ARE POPULAR ABROAD? “Yes. We are very busy. You may be surprised how many retrospectives there are, as well as festivals that pay attention to Dutch cinema. You see them everywhere, from Norway to South
Africa and from Asia to Mexico. Ukraine has its own Flyin’ Dutch Festival. Next year the Netherlands are in the spotlight at the festival of Guanajuato in Mexico. All sorts of films from Dutch filmmakers will be shown—documentaries, short movies, motion pictures. Producers are invited to discuss the business with their Mexican colleagues. This year, Turkey has shown interest as well. Dutch children’s filmmakers will give a workshop in Istanbul. And so will Michiel van Erp, one of our most famous documentary makers. In October films are being shown in the Istanbul Modern museum from young and ta lented filmmakers like Nanouk Leopold, Esther Rots and David Lammers. So yes, there is a lot of interest in Dutch cinema. Maybe not as much as in Italian or French cinema, but from all the smaller countries we are doing exceptionally well.” IS THE DUTCH FILM INDUSTRY KNOWN FOR A CERTAIN GENRE? DO WE HAVE ANY SPECIALTIES? “We are widely acknowledged for our children’s and youth films. In that genre Dutch filmmakers are among the best, along with the Scandinavians. We sell many children’s and youth films to foreign television stations. And some films are
shown in foreign theatres. Miss Minoes is currently released in the United States. And a total of nine films will be shown at the next TIFF Kids International Film Festival of Toronto. That says it all.” WHY ARE DUTCH CHILDREN’S AND YOUTH FILMS SO POPULAR, DO YOU THINK? “Because Dutch filmmakers know how to handle serious problems in a casual way. That way it’s much easier for children to deal with difficult themes as death, addiction and immigration problems. We do not step away from these topics either. And we take our younger audience more seriously than some filmmakers in other countries, who seem to think that children are only interested in sweet movies. But life is not only sweet. A child knows that. In Polleke, the main character, a young girl named Polleke, grows up with her single mother. Her father is a junkie and her uncle a racist. That causes problems because her boyfriend is Moroccan. These are not only Dutch ‘problems’. You see them everywhere. But we show them on screen, in a children’s movie, without being too sad and somber. It’s all rather casual. Kids all over the world seem to like that.”
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Photography: Eye International
HOW RECOGNIZABLE IS DUTCH CINEMA? IS THERE SOMETHING LIKE A TYPICAL DUTCH FILM? “In my experience foreign people do actually recognize a Spanish or French movie, but not so much a Dutch one. They sometimes think a Dutch film is of Scandinavian or German make. That is also a matter of language, as long as a film is not dubbed. Now that I think of it, there actually is a trend toward filming complex matters in a rather casual way, not too heavy-handedly like French or German movies sometimes can be. It is the same with children’s films. The Dutch are more distant. There is less drama and it is usually less ponderous. There is time to laugh as well.”
themes like alienation, miscommunication and repression.”
HAVE DUTCH FILMS ALWAYS BEEN THAT POPULAR OR IS THIS SOMETHING OF RECENT YEARS? “Well, we have won Oscars before. But in recent years the popularity has grown, mainly because of the willingness among Dutch filmmakers to cooperate with their foreign colleagues and to look beyond borders. There are a lot of co-productions now. And the Dutch know what it takes to make an internationally successful movie; not a movie that only animates the Dutch, but one that appeals to a much wider audience. Dutch filmmakers are very much aware of the fact that their films need to travel. So while most films have local and sometimes typically Dutch scenery, they do focus on the bigger issues that everybody understands and recognizes. The films most successful abroad are the ones that combine folklore and localness with universal
CAN YOU GIVE OUR READERS “MUST-SEE” RECOMMENDATIONS? WHAT FILMS REFLECT OUR CULTURE BEST? “I really think everybody should see Kauwboy. It’s a youth film, but very compelling to grownups as well. It’s about loss and animal love, filmed in a very poetic way. Nova Zembla and Süskind are two of the best historical dramas in years. They say a lot about our culture and past. Süskind tells the true story of Jewish resistance hero Walter Suskind. Nova Zembla is about the dramatic travel of Willem Barentsz, who in 1596 tried to find a shorter shipping route to India by going North over Russia through uncharted waters. These films will be shown in Eye soon, with subtitles as well, so that international audiences are included.”
IS THE DUTCH FILM INDUSTRY SUFFERING FROM THE FINANCIAL CRISIS? WITH ALL THE CUTS, BUDGETS MUST BE LOWER THAN EVER. “Times have been better. But the Dutch are specialized in making good films with small budgets. That’s something we are used to. There never was much money for making films. You have to be creative. And you have to cooperate with producers from other countries as well. There are a lot of co-productions these days, which is a good thing actually. Dutch filmmakers will only benefit from working together with their talented colleagues abroad.”
“ There is a trend toward filming complex matters in a rather casual way, not too heavy-handedly like French or German movies sometimes can be.”
MORE ABOUT EYE EYE Film Institute Netherlands is the new Dutch center for film culture and heritage. It is located in a futuristic building on the northern bank of the Amsterdam waterfront IJ. EYE intends to be a gateway to
the world of the moving image. The Vienna office of Delugan Meissl Associated Architects has translated this intention into a remarkable design which “leaps” over the IJ. The museum collection includes 46,000 film titles, 35,000 posters and 450,000 photographs. EYE’s new location will feature four modern film
auditoriums: one with 300 seats, two with 120 seats and one with 80 seats. There is ample room for exhibitions, educational activities and other events. Workrooms, a film lab, a shop and a café complete EYE’s headquarters. A sunny terrace will offer a great view over the water. EYE’s new location is in Overhoeks,
Amsterdam’s new urban district named after the prominent Overhoeks Tower on the former wShell research site. Eye was officially opened on Wednesday 4 April by HRH Queen Beatrix.
What Where When 74 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
UPCOMING EVENTS CRAZY ISLAND Have you ever been to the Dutch ‘Waddeneilanden’? It’s lovely, green and peaceful. Except for those ten crazy days in June, when the island of Terschelling is one big stage for artistic, musical and theatrical performances. This year, the Oerol Festival takes place from 15 to 24 June. Some call it a ‘site specific, location-based theatre and landscape art festival’. The spectacular dunes, wide beaches, woodland areas, old bunkers, farmers sheds and fields form the backdrop to unique performances. Each edition of Oerol has a theme where the combination of culture and nature serves as inspiration. For 2012 the theme will be ‘The wind spoke’. The festival program is divided into 20 small-scale performances and visual projects that can be visited ongoing, as well as up to 50 musical performances and 130 street theatre performances from international artists. The Oerol passport will allow you entrance to the majority of Oerol’s programme. www.oerol.nl
ALL THAT JAZZ If you like jazz, bebop, funk, soul, blues and drum n bass, then you don’t want to miss North Sea Jazz. The biggest jazz festival in the world takes place from 6 to 8 July at the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam. Over the last few years it has grown to 150 performances on thirteen stages, 1,200 artists and about 25,000 visitors a day. The annual festival has a strong reputation for showcasing many different areas of jazz from all eras. Among this years’ big names are Van Morrison, Tony Bennett, Pat Metheny, Monty Alexander, Rufus Wainwright, D’Angelo, George Benson and Macy Gray. Lenny Kravitz performs at the Night Concert on Friday 6th. Tickets for North Sea Jazz can be bought via www.northseajazz.com and www.ticketmaster.nl. A ticket for 1 day will cost you € 89. Price 3-day ticket: € 209. To see Lenny Kravitz, you will have to pay € 30 extra or € 56 for a Lenny Kravitz only ticket. www.northseajazz.com
2011 IN PICTURES Each year, World Press Photo invites professional press photographers, photo agencies, newspapers and magazines from all over the world to submit their best news-related pictures from the previous year. The best images are assembled into a travelling exhibition of over 200 images, creating an overview of how press photographers tackle their work around the globe and how the press relates the news through images. This exhibition traditionally begins at Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk (Oudekerksplein 23) before travelling to more than forty countries, welcoming in excess of two million visitors annually. The Oude Kerk (‘Old Church’) dates from 1306 and is the oldest building in Amsterdam. The photo exhibition will end on 17 June. www.worldpressphoto.org
Chef ’s table the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 75
LIVING THE SWEET (AND SAVORY) LIFE By Linda Lodding
Photography: Maarten Bezem
Chef Alain Alders is the first to admit he can’t solve the world’s problems with his tender Anjou pigeon or succulent beef rib. ’But what I can do,’ he says, ‘is offer good food, good wine and a beautiful setting for conversation.’ And if that conversation happens to solve the economic debt crisis or simply offers a respite from life’s hectic pace, then Alders is happy to have done his part to make the world a better place. Alders is the 43-year old Executive Chef of the Michelin-starred De Vrienden van Jacob (The Friends of Jacob), the crown jewel of the rural country estate, Duin & Kruidberg. Nestled in the South Kennemerland National Park, the estate is a tranquil oasis a stone’s throw from Amsterdam. Built in the early 1900s, the residence, was once the private domain of the industrialist and politician Jacob Theodoor Cremer, who made his fortune in tobacco and enjoyed socializing with friends in his living room. That living room is now the 40-seat dining room of De Vrienden van Jacob. For the past 15 years, Alders has been at the helm of the Duin & Kruidberg kitchens – first opening “Jacob” in 2002 and subsequently the DenK brasserie, and lounge bar. He ended up there after working his way through fine eateries in Amsterdam, Bosch and Duin, and The Hague and training at the three-star Michelin restaurant Akelare in San Sebastián, an experience that influenced the Spanish inspired dishes he serves.
At De Vrienden van Jacob, Alders builds his menus around what’s in season – incorporating the five taste notes of salty, sour, bitter and acidic – and maybe a hint of sweetness. These are the building blocks for his French/Mediterranean cuisine. All sits beautifully on the plate - as one would expect from a restaurant whose motto is ‘painting with flavors’. Today’s culinary trend is back-to-basics, Alders notes. ‘Meat should look, taste and bite like meat. Fish should look and taste like fish.’ But Alders is not just a trend-follower. ‘It’s important,’ he says, ‘to have your own identity.’ He enjoys blending the traditional with the modern, relying, for instance, on time-honored techniques such as making a 12-hour stock, but then using state-of-the-art kitchen appliances and techniques to round off the recipe. This results in dishes such filet of rabbit saddle with potted rabbit meat, amaranth, crisp of curry, and quince treacle followed by a coconut filled with mousse, bergamot and sorbet of lightly smoked tea. ‘But one does not get to be a Michelin star restaurant for the food alone,’ Alders adds. ‘It’s about the whole experience.’ This experience starts when the guest first visits the restaurant’s website and continues when he makes the reservation. Even the drive to the restaurant is part of the experience (in summer time, for local guests, lunchtime arrangements can be made for a chauffeur-driven Jaguar). Not only the meal, but the whole event, should linger in the guests’ memory.
Alders is quick to distance himself from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who is notorious for his quick temper and rough language. ‘I want a kitchen that’s harmonious and controlled. You can’t get this with shouting,’ he says, gesturing to the elegant dining room and the terrace that stretches out onto the estate’s peaceful grounds. Chefs are often asked ‘what would you eat for your last meal’? Alders has a hard time deciding. It would depend on the season of his demise. Langoustine would be likely followed by seasonal fruit – maybe mango or raspberries. But Alders is having too much fun at De Vrienden van Jacob and has no plans to check out soon. In fact, he says, he plans on doing this for the next hundred years. RESTAURANT DE VRIENDEN VAN JACOB Duin en Kruidbergerweg 60, Santpoort www.devriendenvanjacob.nl
What Where When 76 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO By Marco de Vries
Mochi, The Hague
Taste, the wine bar, The Hague
East meets west in Mochi - an unexpected culinary hot spot tucked away on the Mallemolen in the trendy Denneweg section of The Hague. With a menu combining South American and Japanese influences, Mochi is as fun and distinctive as its name. Owner and chef Patrick Buyze is a Dutch native who studied throughout Asia and is married to Colombian-born Lissette Parra, the restaurant’s maitre d’ and sommelier. The menu is an extension of their cultural leanings. But you can’t go to Mochi with preconceived ideas. Every evening is a parade of 10 to 12 dishes pulled together by the chef to delight your taste buds and challenge your notion of ingredient combinations. One evening you may find grilled eel with seaweed, cucumber and bonita followed by a sirloin with braised winter melon, citrus and Japanese chanterelles. Even the classic Dutch frikadel, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, gets a make-over - this one made with white fish, Balinese spices and Japanese curry sauce. And with no set menu, the wait staff are eager to accommodate personal preferences. The plating, too, is a feast for the eyes - creative, inventive and downright fun. Fusion food can sometimes be more flash than favor, but at Mochi you won’t only be surprised by the original marriage of Latin with Asian cuisine - you’ll actually enjoy it.
Taste certainly wins for the wine bar with the most bling. And if comfy gold sofas, Swarovski light fixtures and a large selection of the by-theglass wine is your thing, then Taste, the wine bar, is your spot. And a heavenly spot is it. Taste is located across from The Hague’s Parliament complex, Hofvijver (Court Pond) and het Torentje (the Little Tower) which is home to the office of the Prime Minster. With such neighbors, you’d expect a swanky hang-out, but, as one guest noted, ‘Taste doesn’t make you feel like you’re too un-cool to hang out there.’ The best part? The wine, of course. Taste has over 200 international wines to choose from. And if this leaves you overwhelmed, the knowledgeable staff is there to guide you – or to just let you mull over the offerings for as long as you wish. For those with deep pockets (and a Taste Membership Card), Taste offers personalized wine ‘estates’ where you can store your wine selection (even those bottles only partially drunk) perfectly climatised. If you’re craving a more solid accompaniment to your wine, Taste also specializes in a changing menu of seasonal dishes. The outdoor café is open from May to October.
Every August Maastricht plays host to the largest gastronomic festival in The Netherlands. The 4-day ‘Preuvenemint’ brings together over 40 restaurants and caterers with nearly 100,000 annual visitors all in celebration of food, wine and music. The event, whose name is a fusion of the Limburg words preuve (taste) and the Dutch evenement (event), takes over Maastricht’s central Vrijthof Square, transforming the space into the largest, yet coziest, open air restaurant in the world. On offering are local bites such as satay and baguettes as well as more gourmet fare such as lobster, turbot and exotic delicacies – all to be washed down with a wide selection of fine wines and frothy beer. This is a far cry from “carnival food” and is a wonderful way to sample the culture and food of the province. Couple your tastings with a continual flow of live music from the open air stage and you have yourself an event. There’s no entrance fee for the Preuvenemint; the live music can be enjoyed for free while food and drinks can be paid for with special Preuvenemint bills (known as the preuvene-lappe). And what’s sweetest of all? The proceeds are donated to charity.
Mochi Mallemolen 12a, Den Haag
Taste Wine Bar Tournooiveld 1, Den Haag
This year’s event will be held from Thursday the 23rd until Sunday the 26th of August.
What Where When the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 77
SWEET SPOT HOLLAND
SWEET SPOT HOLLAND By Thomas Dieben
Back in the 13th century some Dutch aristocrats played a game with a stick and a leather ball. The objective was to put the ball in a certain target within the least number of strokes. Some say this is the origin of the golf game. Nowadays Holland is not often mentioned for its golf courses. With more than 150 golf courses there is however a lot to choose.The golf courses reviewed in this issue are located in the east of The Netherlands.
GOLFCLUB ZWOLLE An underestimated area in the Netherlands is the region east of the IJsselmeer. The provinces of Overijssel and Drenthe have a beautiful a rural character, where lakes and forests are combined with fields and wetland. This is therefore a perfect region for a short golf holiday. Golfclub Zwolle, located in the province of Overijssel has the characteristics of a park course. It’s surrounded by pastures and (recreational) lakes. The differences in heights of the greens make this a challenging course. Next to the 18 holes (par 72) the club offers practice facilities like a four hole (par 3) mini course, chipping area, driving range, etc. In the fine clubhouse you can enjoy a cup of coffee, lunch or dinner.
GOLFCLUB HAVELTE In Drenthe you can find the beautiful nature reserve ‘Het Uffelterzand’. Next to this is the Golfclub Havelte. Golfclub Havelte offers an atttactive 18 hole course with A status. The first nine holes offer accents of height with different and challenging wings. The last nine holes have a more park-like character where water and old trees set the tone. The course is known for its peacefulness. Apart from birdsong, there is hardly any noise. Next to the clubhouse you will find the practice area with a driving range and chipping and putting greens. The restaurant offers an a-la-carte menu and an affordable ‘golfers plate’ that changes every week.
Golfclub Zwolle Zalnéweg 75, Zwolle www.golfclubzwolle.nl
Golfclub Havelte Kolonieweg 2, Havelte www.golfclubhavelte.nl
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the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 79
s y a d 10
By Omid Azadi
Organized group-tours across Europe are enormously popular. Countless American, British and Asian tourists engage in voyages that guide them past the tourist attractions Europe has to offer, such as Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel tower and the ring of canals of Europe’s ‘sin city’ Amsterdam. However one wonders whether these cultural explorers experience the ‘real’ Europe. The International Correspondent invites you along on an alternative tour through 10 extraordinary destinations in Europe in 10 days. The objective is to introduce you to the most deserted and luxurious regions and hotels of Europe, reaching every outskirt of our continent, from a Scottish ‘castle in the sky’ to an overnight stay at a historical water tower in Cologne.
Photography: Correspondent Media Photo & supplied by featured hotels
Lifestyle 80 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
‘THE CULZEAN EXPERIENCE’ DAY 1: MAYBOLE, SCOTLAND, DISTANCEFROM AMSTERDAM: 700 KM COST: SINGLE OCCUPANCY RANGES FROM € 180 (CLASSIC) TO € 300 (DE LUXE) Our journey begins at Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland where the ‘Culzean Experience’ awaits us. At the coastline we find ‘The Culzean Castle’, a fairy-tale like fortress on a cliff top. The castle is a national landmark and owned by the National Trust for Scotland. You can explore the deer park, swan pond, miles of woodland walks and adventure playground.
‘SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES’ DAY 2: STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 1,800 KM COST: € 400 TO € 550 Our quest for the extraordinary brings us to the aquatic life of Stockholm, Sweden. Floating atop the serene lake of Malaran we stumble upon a typical red house marking the entrance of the underwater hotel, Utter Inn, sculpted from the unrestricted and ingenious mind of Mikal Genberg. Guests are taken to the Utter Inn by boat, presented with some simple instructions and a polite adieu: “Ha det bra!” before being left alone. You can spend your days sunbathing on the crest of the little red house and spend your nights three meters underwater with panoramic windows in all directions. Truly an invigorating experience a la twilight zone as one finds him or herself in an aquarium, for fish to be beholders of man.
‘SAFE & SOUND IN COLOGNE’ DAY 3: COLOGNE, GERMANY DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 2,950 KM COST: € 134 (SUPERIOR ROOM) € 454 (DELUXE SUITE) Next stop: the ‘Wasserturm’ in Cologne. A historical water tower built into one of Europe’s finest luxury hotels. The Hotel’s exceptional construction presents an exclusive, unique and a one of a kind experience. The unusual exterior is a symbolic message of security, as the official website states: “the form of the tower is a symbol for a kind of refuge, protection and safety that is not confining”. The Wasserturm leaves very little to be desired as it includes a Michelin star restaurant, elegant bars and large function rooms for conferences and such. The ideal place to set up base before going out to seek cultural enrichment in the city of Cologne.
‘ECO CHIC’ DAY 4: MCELY, CZECH REPUBLIC DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 3,350 KM COST: € 172 (CLASSIC) - € 807 (ROYAL) A special destination on our list is the ‘Chateau Mcely’ in Mcely, Czech Republic. This fivestar eco chic chateau provides luxurious accommodation and services for the most demanding and environmentally-aware clients. The Mcely Spa is for healing and relaxation. Take a walk through the well-maintained park surrounding the hotel, a dip in the natural bio-lake, a spot of sunbathing on the white sand beach. Continuing our trip though Eastern Europe, we find ourselves in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where we will stay at the romantic ‘Villa Dubrovnik’, one of Croatia’s most exclusive boutique hotels. An overnight stay at the Villa guarantees luxury and elegance. The hotel includes executive and conference rooms, a restaurant providing “gastronomical miracles”, a spa and swimming pool “specially designed for your pleasure, privacy and relaxation” and a SkyBar rooftop lounge which will make the stay at Villa Dubrovnik an experience you will cherish for a lifetime.
FINDING ROMANCE IN DUBROVNIC” DAY 5: DUBROVNIC, CROATIA DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 3,950 KM COST: € 270 (DELUXE ROOM) – € 1200 (ROYAL SUITE) Continuing our trip though Eastern Europe, we find ourselves in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where we will stay at the romantic ‘Villa Dubrovnik’, one of Croatia’s most exclusive boutique hotels. An overnight stay at the Villa guarantees luxury and elegance. The hotel includes executive and conference rooms, a restaurant providing “gastronomical miracles”, a spa and swimming pool “specially designed for your pleasure, privacy and relaxation” and a SkyBar rooftop lounge which will make the stay at Villa Dubrovnik an experience you will cherish for a lifetime.
‘CHARMING SARDINIA’ DAY 6: SARDINIA, ITALY DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 4,700 KM COST: € 635 The average Japanese or American tourist on a tour though Europe will never come across the ‘Calpa Di Volpe’ Hotel on the island of Sardinia. It is located at the Porto Cervo. The surroundings of the hotel are sculpted in the tradition of a Mediterranean fishing village, containing the grid of towers, porches and terraces. The ‘Calpa di Volpe’ provides the ideal vacation, set among the sea, sun, shopping and going out to the best restaurants and nightclubs of the Sardinian coast.
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‘LAND OF THE BASQUES’ DAY 7: PAMPLONA, SPAIN DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 5,700 KM COST: € 113.83 (CLASSIC) – € 208.39 (SUITE) We progress towards the ‘land of the Basques’, where we will stay at the Palacio Guandulain in Pamplona. The hotel, thriving on the charm of emblematic 18th century architecture, is decorated with an inner courtyard, gastronomic restaurant, and show cases an extraordinary horse carriage built in the 18th century commemorating the roots of Palacio Guandulain. While the average tourist is running from the bulls, you can observe the spectacle from your deluxe 4 star hotel room sipping on a glass of Pamplona’s finest wine. The Palacio Guandulain mixes luxury and comfort with affordability.
“PERFECTION AT THE CÔTE D’AZUR” DAY 9: MONTE CARLO, MONACO DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 7,950 KM COST: € 135 No tour through Europe is complete without a taste of French culture, and when in search of luxury there is only one place to go: the Côte d’Azur, more specifically, Monte Carlo, Monaco. Monaco offers an endless array of activities from inner city hot spots, such as clubs and casinos, to the coastal experience. A recommendation for accommodation, just something to ponder about, is the La Roquebrune hotel. A stay at the ‘Chambre L’horizon’ offers a stunning view of the French Riviera.
(From and to Amsterdam)
8,9150 km Total cost
(Transportation not included)
‘THE ESSENCE OF SOUTH PORTUGAL’ DAY 8: ALENTAJO, PORTUGAL DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 6,450 KM COST: € 280 (SKY VIEW SUITE) – € 575 (LAND VIEW SUITE) Our next stop is the L’AND vineyards in Southern Portugal, in the heart of the ‘Alentejo’ countryside. This luxury wine resort offers serviced residential accommodation incorporating a wine cellar and a wine club. It is the ultimate sabbatical for the wine connoisseur. The accommodations include 22 suites and a selection of villas and townhouses built in a contemporary Mediterranean style. The resort truly captures the essence of southern Portugal, the tranquility and sophistication. If you are like me, and love to lose yourself in a clear star spangled sky, L’AND Vineyards offers you this experience from the comfort of a king-size bed. The 10 luxury sky view suites allow the complete opening of the roof, presenting a unique sky experience.
“THE BEAUTY OF HISTORIC BRUGES” DAY 10: BRUGES, BELGIUM DISTANCE SINCE BEGINNING: 8,700KM COST: € 185 - € 550 We wrap up our trip with a visit to the Hotel de Tuilerieën in Bruges, Belgium. Admitted to the list of small luxury hotels of the world, de Tuilerieën prides itself on the decorative philosophy of the beauty of historic Bruges. The hotel is a strikingly elegant 15th-century noble residence overlooking one of the Bruges’ most stunning canals, the ‘Den Dyver’, located in the city centre. The hotel strives for excellence by providing an indoor pool, massage facilities and a gourmet restaurant. The décor includes an impressive collection of antiques, portrait paintings, crystal chandelier and classic furniture.
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the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 83
Fashion, Art & Design
“I SEE MY GALLERY AS A SORT OF THEATRE. I WANT VISITORS TO GET THINKING. AND TO REACT. IT’S A SORT OF EDUCATION PROCESS.” Gallery owner Hans Persoon.
Marti de Greef (left) & gallery owner Hans Persoon (right) Photography: Hans Persoon
Dutch Style 84 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
FASHION LIKE A HIGH SPEED TRAIN THAT DOESN’T STOP By Karine Bloem
From the beginning Ilja Visser knew the level she was going to take her brand to. ’I had it all figured out, as I assumed it was important to have a commercial label for a steady income, apart from making couture.’ Someday she would start her own Ilja Visser Group that would allow her to steadily expand and cross Dutch borders. ‘Although the goal has always been clear to me, the road towards it has been full of surprises, she says now. After graduating from the Arnhem School of Arts, following an internship at Donna Karan in New York, and a job at a retail agent, Ilja Visser made her debut in the Dutch fashion scene seven years ago. The rollercoaster began. Today, she owns two successful labels –the ready to wear label Ready to Fish- and ILJA couture- and an office, studio, showroom and brand store located in the magnificent Cristofori building overlooking the Prinsengracht. One might think that Ilja is a fulfilled designer and businesswoman who can sit back and relax, but that’s definitely not the case. ’It is already an ongoing challenge to market the current labels,’ she says. ‘Everything evolves in such a fast pace. It’s like a high speed train that doesn’t stop.’ How did she experience the journey of building her own business? ‘I have a creative background, so things like handing over monthly turnover numbers, directing a staff etc. I discovered through trial and error.’ When a business grows, delegating is inevitable. She installed a CEO about six months ago, but still holds final responsibility for all the creative processes. ‘Delegating certain tasks
Photography: Karine Bloem
started with the first interns six years ago. I believe that giving people responsibility makes them do their best. Let them bring in ideas, and let them feel their contribution is equally important. We’re all part of the team, and everyone should be able to give her opinion.’ The Ilja Visser Group has a clear international focus, which expresses itself in an international team of employees, and representation of the labels through international agents. Forecasting points out that, in the future, the Dutch market will be less important compared to the whole of IVG’s sales volume.Regarding the international trail the brand is following, would Ilja consider collaborating with a well-known mass production label like many designers do nowadays? ‘It surely is a trend, and a strong marketing tool. If I would once consider this… it depends on the other party. I would not go along with it just because it is a trend. The most important question is: what’s the mutual benefit?’ That’s probably how Ilja’s labels stand out from other Dutch ones. They are conceptual yet cohesive; there is a solid home base and a defined vision.
Photography: Ilja Visser
DUTCH STYLE ON THE STREETS SEEN WHERE? Gerard Doustraat in Amsterdam
Trousers: Club Monaco Shoes: Red Wing
WHO? Raphaël Bittner Strategist at Sid Lee
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE DUTCH STYLE? It’s either in your face or too ‘laisser faire’. The Dutch don’t seem to care too much about it, or they overdo themselves. It misses a certain class.
WHAT DO YOU WEAR? Glasses: Façonnable Leather bracelet: Hermès Watch: Breitling Cardigan: Club Monaco T-shirt: Uniqlo
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 85
SHOPPING: WOMAN By Karine Bloem
Men often have difficulties in shopping for fashionable items for their ladies. The International Correspondent can help. We’ve selected a Spring/Summer outfit with charm and poise. Remember it’s all about classic icons and mixing sculptural shapes with pastel colors. FILLIPPA K Queen of basics What exactly makes the Swedes so strong in creating fashion? Well, their ability to create quality basics. If there is a word to describe the collections of Filippa K, it would be ‘clean’. The shapes, colours and fabrics change along with the trends, but the perfect fit remains. If you buy an item from Fillipa K you’ll know it will last more than one season. Price upon request www.filippa-k.com
ACNE For mad women The series Mad Men has been quite influential for designers these past seasons: typical early 60s silhouettes made of stiff fabrics to enhance feminine curves. On-trend Swedish label, Acne, always has key pieces that stand out in the whole of the collection, which further consists of a variety of styles. Like this pink dress that could have walked away from the Mad Men set. Price € 1,300 www.acnestudios.com
RIKA A star of a bag It can be considered a cult bag by now. Nearly every grande dame of fashion is familiar –or at least owns- a RIKA star bag. That includes Carine Roitfeld and Helena Christensen. For designer and founder of the RIKA-label, Ulrika Lundgren, stars have a symbolic meaning: ‘It’s a spiritual sign for me. I think we’re all connected with the stars.’ Price € 667 www.rikaint.com
HUGO An arty pair In the HUGO BOSS universe, HUGO stands for innovation with freshness. For Spring/Summer 2012, the inspiration was drawn from the British artist Melinda Gibson. The focus lies on her collages: works in which she mixes and rearranges images, materials and surface textures to create new dimensions. Resulting, for instance, in this arty pair of heels. Price € 399 www.hugoboss.com
Dutch Style 86 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
SCULPTOR WITH A NORMAL JOB By Floris Müller
Commercial values are not going to dictate what Marti de Greef makes. He only creates sculpture that speaks to him personally. Imposing images of the human body that are not only original, but are finely produced. De Greef ’s production skills have remained optimum since he has worked for his whole life in a bronze foundry. Gallery manager, Hans Persoon, is also less interested in money than in innovation and provocation. He regards his business as a ‘theatre where visitors are educated in art’. Whether it can remain so in this time of crisis is yet to be seen. The International Correspondent travelled to the village of Veldhoven, near Eindhoven, to talk to the artist and gallery-owner.
Photography: Hans Persoon
the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 87
“ I don’t want to make statues to order, I’ve always had a job” WHY VELDHOVEN? A BIT OUT OF THE WAY FOR AN ART GALLERY... Hans Persoon: Not at all. Brabant is about the good life. Food, drink, beautiful things. Art belongs here. There are a lot of galleries in this area. I set up shop here 35 years ago, and since then I noticed that people have money to spend on art, due to the expansion of Eindhoven as a business centre. YOU’RE RIGHT. IT’S A GOOD PLACE FOR THE BUSINESS... HP: But that’s not my major concern. I see my gallery as a sort of theatre. I want visitors to get thinking. And to react. It’s a sort of education process. But to carry it out you have to offer a wide range of art, and artists. You have to constantly innovate and provoke. AND THAT’S THE AIM OF YOUR WORK... Marti de Greef: Absolutely. Mine are robust figurative pieces. Very impressive. I’m not bothered with details. I’m into giant gestures. I’m inspired by the human body. Previously I made pieces with cocks, bulls and horses. But I now make only human figures. That’s difficult. So many others have done this before me. WOULDN’T MORE ABSTRACT CREATIONS OFFER MORE FREEDOM? MdG: A good abstract work is unbelievably difficult to make. I find, to be honest, that there are few good abstract creations. Many artists disguise their lack of skill with abstraction. HOW DID YOU START? MdG: I had the chance to experiment with sculpture at a very young age. My father was a carpenter here in southern Brabant. He always had pieces of wood lying around, so my first works were in wood. After that I experimented with plaster. It was only when I was 22 that I registered for training at the Free Academy in Eindhoven. That took me five years. AND YOU GOT INTO THE TRADE QUICKLY AFTER THAT? MdG: I was lucky. I was discovered very quickly by a gallery in Eindhoven. They got my work shown in other galleries in The Netherlands, Belgium and France. My work is often bought by governments. Helmond, a local council near here, has recently acquired a series of my pieces. And my work is also part of the permanent collection of Eindhoven’s Bonnefantenmuseum.
IT ISN’T EASY TO MAKE A NAME AS A SCULPTOR, IS IT? MdG: No. Since I don’t want to make statues to order, I’ve always had a job. For nearly 30 years, I’ve worked in a sculpture foundry. I’ve learnt a lot from that. You see splendid work. But you also notice that a lot of concepts don’t translate well into the final work. Actually, in addition to concentrating on design, sculptors should get more involved in the production of the work.
where this is concerned. A lot of artists need a bit of help. You need a minimum income to keep producing work. YOU GOT A DAY-JOB SO YOU COULD MAINTAIN YOUR INDEPENDENCE AS AN ARTIST... MdG: But not every artist can do that. HP: I’m not against budget cuts. I’m against the willy-nilly removal of all subsidies.
WHAT ARE YOU SUGGESTING? MdG: Ultimately, the viewer of the work looks at the final product, not at the concept. With sculpture, often there’s not enough thought devoted to the material. For commercial reasons, bronze is often chosen, although not every piece comes out good in bronze. Also the delivery, the creation of color, is neglected. I pay attention to all aspects of the production of my work. From the design, to the pouring of the metal, to the final coloring. HOW IS THE ECONOMIC CRISIS AFFECTING ART SALES? MdG: My work always sold steadily. It still does. But it is true that things are getting more difficult. Art isn’t a necessity of life. HP: And then there’s the increase in VAT. From January 1., that went from 6 to 19%. Next year it will go up to 21%. As a gallery owner, you can’t reduce prices to attract customers. That would devalue the work and artists would lose credibility.
Photography: Hans Persoon
YET YOU DON’T SOUND VERY NEGATIVE ABOUT THIS PERIOD. MdG: I’m not. In the last years there was an increase in people calling themselves artists. A lot of work came on the market that wasn’t of good quality either in terms of concept or in technique. The crisis will stop this trend. It will separate the sheep from the goats in the art world. I don’t bother with the politics much. Everything cultural has been dismissed in the last years as ‘left-wing hobbies’. That’s a problem. Nothing is being done to maintain the cultural stock in The Netherlands. Apart from the rise in the VAT, art subsidies have also been slashed. IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO ASSIST THE ART SECTOR? MdG: Artists, galleries and musea have to focus on the public. And they don’t all succeed
Photography: Hans Persoon
Dutch Style 88 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
MARCEL WANDERS By Karine Bloem
Photography: Marcel Wanders
WHAT? The knotted chair WHO MADE IT? Marcel Wanders WHY SHOULD WE KNOW HIM? He attained international fame with his knotted chair in 1996. It was produced by Dutch Design brand Droog and is now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Apart from designing for the most prestigious manufacturers in the world, Wanders teaches at Design Academies and is art-director and co-founder of Moooi Gallery in Amsterdamâ€™s Westerhuis, where his studio is also located. His work consists of industrial design, interior design and architectural projects, but he also exercises his creativity in other disciplines like fashion apparel (PUMA) and beauty (M.A.C cosmetics). His eccentric personality, ability to produce something remarkable from almost any kind of material and from experimenting with the old and the new, caused Wanders to be dubbed the Lady Gaga of Design by the New York Times. He is regularly featured in leading media, and has won many design prizes. He recently launched a range of products for Marks & Spencer.
Gadgets Toys for Boys & gizmos 90 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
GIZMOS AND GADGETS By Jeroen Jansen
OLD MEETS NEW Vinyl is one of the fastest growing musical formats. Again. So maybe you wanna buy yourself a vinyl player. What to do with your cd’s and mp3-music? Grace Digital’s Victoria Soundwriter plays them all. This retro music machine even comes with a radio and cassette player. It allows you to convert all your music to mp3 as well, for use on your PC, Mac, iPod or any other mp3 player. In fact, this recordable turntable combines the most modern USB technology and LCD display with ‘old school’ look and feel.
Price: € 120
AS LIGHT AS AIR Since Apple launched its Macbook Air, other notebook makers have been lusting after that ultra-slim design as well. Acer’s Aspire S3 is one of the latest ultrabooks that hit the market. It’s cheaper than the Air and, with 0.68 inches, just a shade thicker. The 13.1-inch aluminium chassis weighs only 2.98 pounds, identical to the Air. A big plus is its speedy 20GB solid-state-drive (combined with a conventional 320GB hard disk), which resumes sleep mode in about two seconds. On the other hand, don’t look for USB 3.0. It’s simply not there.
Price: € 799
7 PIXELS IN 1 Photos taken with your smartphone can’t quite match the quality you get from a ‘real’ camera. But now Nokia introduces a smartphone with ‘groundbreaking 41MP image quality’. 41MP? Well, the 808 PureView comes with a 41MP sensor, but you can take photos up to 8MP. PureView pixel oversampling technology packs the goodness of 7 pixels into 1 for sharp, clear, and ready to share photos. Nokia’s new cameraphone also contains Full HD video, 4x lossless zoom, as well as a Carl Zeiss lens and powerful Xenon flash. According to the GMS Association, this is the ‘best new mobile handset, device or tablet’ of 2012. Amen.
Price: not yet available
Toys for Boys the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 91
TESTING, 1,2,3... ULTRABOOKS By David Lemereis
2012 is the year of a new breed of laptops, the Ultrabooks. Ultra light, slim, fast and affordable, here are three Ultrabooks you won’t mind carrying around In 2008 Apple launched the 13.3 inch MacBook Air. It was the thinnest laptop available, yet it delivered the performance of all full blown laptop making it an overnight success. In 2011 Chipmaker Intel introduced the Ultrabook trademark to do for the PC laptop market what the MacBook Air had done for Apple. Only PC laptops that are ultra thin, light and fast -according to Intel’s specifications- and which also have a decent battery life and awake from sleep in seconds can carry the label Ultrabook. All three of the Ultrabooks tested sport a similar configuration; a 13.3 inch LCD display, 1366x768 pixel resolution, 4GB memory, a speedy Intel Core i5 1.6 Ghz chip, integrated Intel HD Graphics chips for decent graphics performance and run on Windows 7. Yet as similar as they seem, the Ultrabooks differ. Which one best fits your needs depends on your preferences.
TOSHIBA Z830 SATELLITE The Z830 not only weighs a mere 1,085 kg but it is also the thinnest of the three, measuring only 16.5mm thin. The build quality is excellent and the sturdy magnesium housing keeps this thin Ultrabook from flexing. The Z830 sports all the ports you’d expect on a serious laptop such as HDMI, two usb 2.0, one usb 3.0, gigabit ethernet and a SD card slot. It also hosts a classic VGA port so you can hook it up to most beamers without a convertor. The 4GB memory can be expended to 6GB. The 128 GB Solid State Drive helps to boot the Z830 very fast, but does limit the amount of data you can store. That would require an external hard drive which would add weight to carry around. The biggest drawback of the Z830 is the keyboard which feels mushy and undefined. Nonetheless, If weight is your main concern, the Z830 may your choice of Ultrabook.
Price: € 999
www.toshiba.com SAMSUNG SERIES 5 ULTRA Pick up the Samsung and you really notice it weighs 400 grams more than the Toshiba Z830. However, there’s a good reason for that. Instead of a lightweight 128GB SSD with limited storage capacity, Samsung choose for a 500 GB hard drive. That’s more than enough to store your music, videos and photos without carrying an external hard drive with you. Though the build quality of the Samsung feels a tad less than the other two Ultrabooks, it is still sturdy. The keyboard is excellent, has a mini-vga port and has similar battery life to the Z830 varying from 3.5 to 6 hours depending on use. The Toshiba may be lighter and the HP folio may shine on battery life, but if you want to store your entire digital life on an Ultrabook and save a hundred euros compared to the others, the Samsung is the way to go.
Price: € 899
www.samsung.nl HP FOLIO 13 ULTRABOOK Specs can be deceiving. True, the Folio weighs 1.5 kg and is 18mm thick, making it the heaviest and thickest of the three Ultrabooks tested. Like the Toshiba, the 128gb SSD limits its storage capacity and on top of that it lacks a vga port which means you have to buy a HDMI to VGA convertor cable to hook it up to a beamer for presentations. That said, the Folio has a superb keyboard and outstanding battery life of more than 6 hours under heavy use such as playing videos. That makes the HP Folio a good choice for the frequent air traveller.
Price: € 999
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Last words the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT 95
WHAT TO READ
BEHIND THE DYKES By Martin van Geest, Joost van Kleef
Cheese, windmills and dykes are nice and all, but apart from the clichés, what is life really like in the Netherlands? Do you know how this swampy little country by the sea really functions? One could fill the library of a medium-sized college with books on the subject. The International Correspondent selected four of the best known titles aimed at internationals in Holland and tells you if they’re worth the read. The Undutchables 6.0, An Observation Of The Netherlands: Its Culture And Its Inhabitants, Colin White & Laurie Boucke, Nijgh & Van Ditmar, € 15.99 The first edition of this ‘travel guide’ for internationals in the Dutch lowlands appeared in 1989, 23 (!) years ago. It became an instant hit. Two writers, one British and the other American, who both spent some years in the Netherlands back in the eighties, conceived this book about the Dutch and their idiosyncrasies. The volume is a never-ending cascade of stand-up comedy – and rightly so. Why is growing marihuana illegal, but selling it is okay? Why do the cloggies call two paltry slices of bread with a thin slice of cheese and a glass of buttermilk lunch? And
what idiot would knowingly decide to live below sea level? White and Boucke explain it all. The result is a hilarious narrative that sells extremely well: so far, more than 175,000 copies have been sold and the book has even been translated into traditional Chinese. Apart from being funny, it’s somewhat useful. The authors analyze and shed some light on many typically Dutch phenomena. The Undutchables is not a real guide to living in Holland though, because the duo’s focus is mostly on making clever jokes and ridiculing Dutch quirks and oddities.
Dutch for Dummies, Margreet Kwakernaak, Pearson Benelux, € 32.95 Spanish literature graduate Margreet Kwakernaak – completely unknown as an author in Holland by the way – needs a staggering 375 pages to explain her own country’s oddities. To be fair, those pages do include a crash course in the Dutch language. But let’s be honest: if you’re serious about learning a foreign language, you’re going to have to take classes with a real teacher. Reading a book will not make you speak
Dutch. Not even if the book has 375 pages. Apart from the language instruction, Kwakernaak follows the tried and tested For Dummies-format. She thoroughly and lengthily explains every single word, every single concept, every single definition. As if you’re a retard. Which you aren’t, or else you wouldn’t be reading this article. Dutch for Dummies is, well, for dummies. Not recommended.
Getting to know Dutch society, Marijke Linthorst et al., Essener € 34.90 This book succinctly explicates Dutch society. Everything an expat living in The Netherlands needs to know, from politics, taxes and education to government services, is neatly clarified. Interesting detail: originally, the book was conceived for Dutch students who go to an English
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language school. That probably explains why it’s so good. Getting to know Dutch society can be ordered at any bookstore or through Bol.com or Amazon. We recommend that you do order it, if you’re planning on staying here for a while.
Living and Working in Holland, Robbi Forrester Atilgan & René Kroes, Survival books, € 13.97 (Kindle version only, Amazon) Badly written and horribly dated, this virtual rag from Survival Books. Originally published in 2001, it is now only available as an e-book. And deservedly so. To give you an example: the aut-
hors use one (1!) page to elaborate on the Dutch economy. That’s like buying a Maserati and receiving a one page manual that says: ‘Start the engine and drive.’ Burn!
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Last Words Fenna Ferwerda
98 the INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
Photography: Fenna Verwerda
FINDING A HOUSE ON A TIGHT BUDGET Finding a place to live in Amsterdam is easy. Even on a tight budget. If you don’t mind that half your salary is wired to your landlord every month, your neighbours are a bunch of loud, unkempt students, and what is called a shower is a garden hose tied to a hinge in the kitchen. Well, at least you won’t have to worry about not waking up in the morning - your friendly neighbour is bound to wake you up at 6 am every day - when he gets home from another late night at the student fraternity. Any last remnants of sleep can easily be washed off under the freezing water from the garden hose, cleverly located next to the coffee machine.
Excuse me, but how did you end up here? And, more importantly, how do you get away from this horrible place that you now call home? When I first planned on moving here, I subscribed to every housing website I could find, searched the Dutch equivalent of Craigslist until I fell asleep behind my laptop, and made several trips to Amsterdam to go and see some apartment, usually conveniently located above a smelly snack-bar. On my way to Central Station after another fruitless visit, I bumped into an old flatmate, who had gone to live in Amsterdam some years before me. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘we are looking for a new flatmate at the place where I live…’ Remembering that she lived on the Keizersgracht, my hands actually turned sweaty - that’s how badly I wanted that room. Like a madman, I texted her every single day about how much I would love to live with her, about my great cooking skills, my numerable household qualities and my willingness to redecorate the kitchen. It took some perseverance, but in the end there was nothing she could do but give in to my persistent requests to tell me that her flatmates picked me. And so I became the proud resident of a monumental place on the Keizersgracht. Great redecorated kitchen, too. It has to be said - the only way to find a decent place in Amsterdam on a tight budget is by networking. A lot. It may seem a little awkward at first, but you need to keep your eye on the prize - an apartment on the canals can be within reach. Take my boss, for example. Born and raised in Amsterdam, inherited his mother’s place on the Keizersgracht, decided to keep his apartment on the Herengracht
when moving in with his girlfriend, bought another place to live when forced to move out when she became his ex-wife instead of his girlfriend. Now owns a tremendously big loft in a quiet neighbourhood with his new wife. Rents his remaining real estate to expats. Shaking his hand is a good way to ensure your future home on the canals. Someone you don’t need to know is that fellow from one of the many housing agencies with neatly combed hair, photographed before his fantastic office on the canals while seated on a Vespa covered with the logo of his housing agency, who will tell you about some interesting options. A charming little place, located in a cosy Amsterdam neighbourhood. Sounds good, right? Wake up and smell the coffee. In broker-language, ‘charming’ means old and crappy. Hence that pathetic shower in your kitchen. A ‘cosy neighbourhood’ means, well, a place right in the heart of the red light district. Crowded with bling bling pimps and bored-looking prostitutes, rowdy tourists tapping on the redcoloured windows, policemen making their rounds, students drinking the nights away in the pub right on your doorstep and the occasional local looking for some hanky panky. Cosy, all right. So forget that expensive housing agency. Forget Craigslist and all those ‘please pay us two months rent and we’ll find you a great place - guaranteed!!!’ websites. Befriend your noisy student neighbours, do some business with my boss, bump into your fellow internationals at the borrel and spam your friends on Facebook like a lunatic. Go forth and mingle. Welcome neighbour - see you at the Keizersgracht.
FENNA FERWERDA works as a corporate lawyer for an international firm at theZuidas, Amsterdam’s financial heart. Sometimes amused, sometimes bewildered, she observes the comings and goings in this square kilometre of Dutch high-rise. Fenna is not her real name.
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Published on May 22, 2012
The International Correspondent is the business magazine for the international community in The Netherlands. It offers quality reports on fi...