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While the Netherlands achieved a fairly average overall score in InterNations’ new Expat Essentials Index, the country came out bottom when it came to the affordability and accessibility of housing

InterNations Expat Essentials Index 2023 

As part of their annual Expat Insider Survey, InterNations – a network of expats around the world – asked 12.000 expats living in 181 different counties and representing a total of 177 nationalities to provide information on various aspects of expat life. Participants were asked to rate up to 56 different factors split across five different categories on a scale of one to seven. 

One of those five categories is Expat Essentials, which covers four key topics: 

  • Digital Life: Availability of administrative services online, high-speed internet, cashless payment services and unrestricted access to online services (e.g. social media).
  • Housing: Access to affordable housing, ease of finding somewhere to live.
  • Admin Topics: Ease of local bureaucracy, opening a bank account and getting a visa.
  • Language: Ease of living without speaking the language, ease of learning the language.

The survey responses across these four topics were used to put together the Expat Essentials Index-  which only features countries which had a sample size of at least 50 survey participants – in order to determine in which countries and nations it is easiest for expats to set up their new lives. 

Of the 52 countries included in the study, Bahrain came out on top, performing particularly well in the Admin Topics, Housing, and Language categories. On the other end of the spectrum was Germany, occupying 52nd place and ranking lower than countries such as China, France and Kuwait. 

Expats: Dutch housing market is impossible to navigate

On the whole, the Netherlands’ performance in this edition of the Expat Essentials Index isn’t particularly notable. Coming in 25th out of 52, the country scored higher than the likes of Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand, and was especially praised for its digital infrastructure.

The Netherlands achieved spots in the top 10 when it came to the ease of living without speaking the language, as well as the ease of obtaining a visa, the availability of administrative services online, and the accessibility of online services. What will come as no surprise to many living and working in the Netherlands, however, is the fact that the country was seriously let down by the current state of the Dutch housing market, and the overall inaccessibility and unaffordability of housing. 

Out of the 52 countries and nations included in the ranking, the Netherlands came 49th in the Housing subcategory, meaning it is one of the worst countries out of those ranked for finding housing as an expat. According to InterNations, 53 percent of expats in the Netherlands have difficulty finding housing (compared to a global average of just 27 percent), while 69 percent consider property on the Dutch housing market “unaffordable”.

While perhaps disappointing, the Netherlands’ performance in this area is not surprising: despite multiple efforts from municipalities and the Dutch government to build new homes and protect the rental market in cities, the country continues to face a serious shortage of housing. According to recent data, while the cost of buying a house is expected to fall in 2023, first-time buyers can afford just 3 percent of homes in the Netherlands.

Best and worst countries for settling in as an expat

According to the 2023 Expat Essentials Index, the countries in which it’s easiest for expats to set up a new life are:

  1. Bahrain
  2. UAE
  3. Singapore
  4. Estonia
  5. Oman
  6. Indonesia
  7. Saudi Arabia
  8. Qatar
  9. Kenya
  10. Canada

On the other hand, the worst expat destinations according to expats themselves are:

  1. Germany
  2. Japan
  3. China
  4. Kuwait
  5. Italy
  6. Greece
  7. Vietnam
  8. Czechia
  9. France
  10. Malta

For more information, visit the InterNations website.

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21 March 2023, by Egle Kemezyte

When buying a second home, there are more factors to consider than with your first home. These things include your existing mortgage type, interest rate, and mortgage provider. Thus, the question often arises: What should you do with your mortgage? One of the options is to keep your current interest and conditions and transfer it to your other property. Egle Kemezyte from Mister Mortgage explains how to port your current mortgage to another property.

The process of moving or transferring your mortgage from one property to another is known as porting. Moving your current mortgage to a new property can be cost-effective since you don’t need to pay exit fees or early repayment charges. With increased mortgage interest rates of 2% or 2,5% in the last year, porting your low-interest rate can save you money.

How does mortgage porting work?Porting a mortgage involves transferring the terms of your current mortgage to a new property. This includes maintaining the same interest rate, fixed-rate period, and fees. However, some lenders may allow for modification of the mortgage terms, such as extending the duration or changing it from a joint mortgage to an individual one. While many lenders advertise the option of mortgage porting, it’s important to note that it’s not a guarantee. The lender has the right to reject a request to port the mortgage loan. 

For example

Pros and cons of mortgage portingThere are various advantages and disadvantages of transferring your mortgage onto a different property:

Pros Favourable interest rates and conditions. Lower monthly payments (assuming interest rates have increased). No penalty. Cons There is not a lot of time to complete the process. You need to be lucky to find a new property in time. You might miss out on better rates and conditions. Can I port my mortgage?A few factors can influence the lender’s decision to allow you to port your mortgage. You can generally port a mortgage depending on:

Whether your mortgage lender allows you to port your mortgage: If your current home was eligible for an NHG mortgage and the new home is not eligible for a mortgage with NHG. Sometimes, lenders do not permit changing the mortgage type, duration, or other conditions. Any discounts on the rate related to the current home cannot always be transferred. Your financial circumstances: You should be eligible for the new financing. What if your current mortgage is not enough to cover a new mortgage?If you buy a home that requires a larger mortgage than you currently have, your lender may allow you to blend and extend a ported mortgage. There is no penalty to pay because you are not breaking your initial mortgage.

How does porting my mortgage impact my situation if I move to a cheaper property?When you port your mortgage to a less expensive home, some lenders allow you to make prepayments to reduce your mortgage balance. Most lenders permit porting to a cheaper property and won’t impose any penalties if your mortgage falls within the prepayment privilege limit.

The Mister Mortgage team can help get you a responsible and affordable mortgage, whatever your situation is. Their experienced mortgage specialists are on hand to help you with everything from applying for a mortgage to planning your financial future. Call +31 20 210 1074 or email [email protected] to discover your options with one of the Mister Mortgage specialists.

The Netherlands has only gone and done it again; the country has once again managed to reclaim its position as the fifth happiest country in the world, according to the latest World Happiness Report. 

The World Happiness Report 2023 

Published every spring since 2012, the World Happiness Report ranks 137 countries across the globe according to how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. This year’s theme, “World Happiness, Trust and Social Connections in Times of Crisis”, focuses on how people around the world are able to connect with one another and maintain their happiness in a society that has battled multiple international crises – from pandemic to war – over the past several years. 

As always, the ranking is compiled using data from the Gallup World Poll, in which respondents are asked to evaluate the happiness of their own lives on a scale of one to 10. Using the survey results, the ranking also shows the estimated extent to which six different factors impact happiness:

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita
  • Life expectancy
  • Generosity
  • Social support
  • Freedom
  • Perceptions of corruption

All countries involved in the ranking are then awarded an overall average score out of 10, which is in turn compared to the benchmark set by the imaginary country Dystopia – home to the world’s least-happy people. 

For the sixth year in a row, Finland has claimed the top spot with a score of 7,804. While Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands have also managed to hold onto their spots in the top five, this year sees Israel climb from ninth place into fourth, with Switzerland falling slightly from fourth place to eighth. 

The Dutch remain some of the happiest people in the world

The Netherlands might have seen its position dip slightly in 2020, but 2021 saw the country return to its respectable spot in fifth place – and 2023 sees the country reclaim that position for the third year in a row. This year, however, the Netherlands’ overall score has fallen slightly, from 7,415 in 2022 to 7,403 out of 10.

Interestingly, this year’s report noted that there was minimal inequality of happiness between “the more and less happy halves” of the Dutch population. With a happiness gap of “just” 1,787 out of 10, the Netherlands came in second place behind Afghanistan – a country “where almost everyone is unhappy”, the report explains.

The top 10 happiest countries in the world 

According to the 2023 report, the 10 happiest countries in the world are: 

  1. Finland (7,804)
  2. Denmark (7,586)
  3. Iceland (7,530)
  4. Israel (7,473)
  5. The Netherlands (7,403)
  6. Sweden (7,395)
  7. Norway (7,315)
  8. Switzerland (7,240)
  9. Luxembourg (7,228) 
  10. New Zealand (7,123)

Once again, this year sees Afghanistan occupy the bottom spot, with a score of just 1,859 out of 10. To read the full report, or to see how your home country performed, click here.

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Will you be spending time in the Netherlands this spring? Then there’s one Dutch attraction that’s probably on your bucket list: Keukenhof. 

The tulip gardens at Keukenhof are undoubtedly one of the most popular – and most unique – sights in the Netherlands, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world every year. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Keukenhof in 2023.

About the Keukenhof gardensKeukenhof – which directly translates as “kitchen garden” in English – wasn’t always the major attraction it is today. Today, the park welcomes over 1 million visitors every season, but it started its life as a relatively unassuming kitchen garden on the grounds of a castle.

The history of Keukenhof HollandKeukenhof is located on the former grounds of Teylingen Castle – more specifically, the hunting grounds and castle kitchen, which incidentally is how the park got its name. Teylingen Castle dates back to the 13th century.

In 1641, the estate was purchased by Adriaen Maertensz Block, who at the time was the governor of the Dutch East India Company. Block had a manor house constructed on the grounds. At the time, he named the manor Keukenhof – nowadays, it’s known as Castle Keukenhof (Kasteel Keukenhof). The castle is located to the southwest of the Keukenhof gardens.

The park opens to the publicThe estate changed hands several times over the following years but in the 19th century it was purchased by Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt. In 1857 they hired David Zocher and his son – the landscape architects responsible for the Vondelpark in Amsterdam – to restructure and redesign the gardens in the English style. 

These designs remain the basis for the park today, which first opened its doors back in 1949, when a group of Dutch bulb growers and flower exporters came together to showcase their products. The park didn’t open to members of the general public until 1950, when it received a total of 200.000 visitors. 

Neirfy via Shutterstock.com.

See a sea of flowers in HollandNowadays, Keukenhof covers an area of 32 hectares, featuring around 7 million flowers – everything from daffodils to roses as well as the iconic tulips, of course.

If you’re in the Netherlands, you don’t have to go to Keukenhof if you want to get a glimpse of some gorgeous flowers, but a trip to the gardens offers you a magical chance to experience a sea of beautifully cultivated blooms.

Each autumn, a team of 40 gardeners work to plant the 7 million bulbs, which are donated to the park by over 100 growers. The planting season, which lasts from October until the beginning of December, is unsurprisingly a major task, as the planters use various tricks in order to ensure the gardens are in bloom for the entire time Keukenhof is open. 

Keukenhof features a couple of different gardens, all centred around different themes. The Topical Beach Garden, for example, replicates a tropical atmosphere with palm trees, sand, and hammocks, while the Green Tea Garden has a huge selection of herbs and edible plants. 

What flower is Keukenhof best known for? As much as Keukenhof does showcase a variety of different plants and flowers, the gardens are undoubtedly known for one flower, and one flower in particular: tulips. Of the 7 million flower bulbs, there are a whopping 800 different varieties of tulips. 

But, aside from the tulips, on a trip to Keukenhof you can expect to see plenty of other beautiful flowers, including roses, lilies, carnations, irises, hyacinths, and daffodils, which all come together to create a truly enchanting experience for all visitors, no matter how far they’ve travelled. 

Kasteel KeukenhofWhile Keukenhof is only open eight weeks a year, Castle Keukenhof and the castle gardens are open all year round. And the good news is that the castle gardens are completely free to visit! Every summer, the castle hosts a dahlia festival, showcasing this gorgeous flower in all its glory. On the castle grounds, you’ll also find a petting zoo, which offers great fun for the whole family.

DigitalPearls via Shutterstock.com.

Keukenhof opening 2023Keukenhof is open throughout the year for private events and festivals, but is only open to the public for a short eight-week period in the spring, typically from mid-March to mid-May. In 2023, the Keukenhof gardens are open from March 23 to May 14. The best time to visit the garden depends on the Dutch weather – but generally the peak visiting times are in April.

There’s more to do at Keukenhof than just look at the flowers! If you’re visiting with little ones, then there are some fun activities to keep them occupied, including a scavenger hunt, a maze, and a playground.

If you’re no longer considered a child but are still very much into fun activities, then check out the various art installations dotted around the park, rent a bike or book a boat trip to explore the tulip fields around Keukenhof, or go on a guided tour of the gardens to learn more about Keukenhof and the flowers. 

Olena Znak via Shutterstock.com.

Practical information for your visit to Keukenhof 2023Are you planning to visit Keukenhof in 2023? Here’s what you need to know.

Keukenhof opening times 2023Between Thursday, March 23 and Sunday, May 14, 2023, the Keukenhof gardens are open every day from 8am to 7.30pm. 

Getting thereDespite what many non-locals might believe, Keukenhof isn’t in Amsterdam – it’s actually located in the town of Lisse in the province of South Holland. The address for Keukenhof is: Stationsweg 166A, 2161 AM Lisse.

If you’re planning to visit the gardens, there are a number of ways to get there. You could of course drive – the park is located between the cities of Haarlem and Leiden, so is accessible via a number of major roads, and there is plenty of space to park your car as well as a couple of charging stations for electric vehicles. Parking costs 6 euros and the Keukenhof car park closes at 7.30pm. There are also parking spaces for coaches and camper vans.

Alternatively, you could travel by bike or by moped. There are bike racks at both entrances to the park, and there’s even the option to rent bikes at Keukenhof if you’d like to explore the local area after visiting the gardens.

Finally, you could take public transport – if you choose to do this, there’s a combi ticket option that covers the cost of entry and public transport travel. There are buses that run to Keukenhof from most of the major Dutch cities, including Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden and The Hague.

Z. Jacobs via Shutterstock.com.

How far is Keukenhof from Amsterdam?So Keukenhof isn’t in Amsterdam – but luckily it isn’t too far from the Dutch capital. As mentioned above, you can take one of the shuttle buses that run between Amsterdam and Keukenhof, but it’s not your only option for travelling to the park. 

Keukenhof is only around a 50-minute drive from the centre of the city. If you’re in the mood for a workout, you could even decide to bike to Keukenhof! If you cycle via Hoofddorp, it’s a 34-kilometre route and will take around two hours in total.

Visiting the Keukenhof restaurantIf you’re planning to spend the day at Keukenhof, you might be happy to hear that you’re allowed to bring your own food and drink into the park. But, if you don’t bring any snacks with you then don’t worry: there are various restaurants and cafes dotted across the park. There are also a couple of stalls selling ice cream, coffee, and other similar quick snacks and drinks. It’s worth noting, however, that all the food and drink outlets in Keukenhof are cash-free, meaning you can only pay by card.

For a slightly more sophisticated dining experience, check out Restaurant de Hofboerderij at Castle Keukenhof, where they serve coffee and cakes, as well as sandwiches and small bites. 

Keukenhof ticketsYou can buy your tickets online, via the Keukenhof website. When booking, you’ll purchase your tickets for a specific timeslot on a specific date – the timeslot indicates your arrival time, but once you’re in the park you can stay as long as you like. You can also buy tickets in person at the Keukenhof ticket office (once again, you’re only able to pay by card), but pre-booking online is slightly cheaper. 

In 2023, ticket prices start at 19 euros per person for adults, and 9 euros per person for children aged four to 17. Childen aged three and younger can enter for free. In addition to the combi ticket for admission and public transport, you can book tickets for groups of between 20 and 200 people, with each ticket priced at 18,50 euros. There are also group tickets available for schools. 

Keukenhof: Ready for your visit! So there you have it: absolutely everything you might need or want to know about Keukenhof. You’re certainly ready for your trip. So, what are you waiting for? Book your tickets today to make sure you’re able to experience the beautiful flowers in person and in bloom!

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19 March 2023, by Victoria Séveno

In an effort to reduce the amount of single-use plastic seen in Dutch supermarkets, this week one of the country’s major chains, Albert Heijn, announced it was gradually phasing out the use of plastic clips, and that the clasps used to close bread packaging would instead be replaced with ones made out of recyclable paper.

Dutch supermarkets trying to be more sustainable

The amount of unnecessary plastic packaging that is used in supermarkets is shocking to many. Regardless of what it is you’re looking to buy, chances are at least part of its packaging is made using plastic.

While some Dutch supermarkets are trying to implement small changes to help make a difference – in the last few years, some have stopped offering free plastic bags for fruit and vegetables, while others announced they’ll only sell free-range chicken – critics argue that progress has been fairly slow.

The latest step by Albert Heijn, one of the most high-profile supermarket chains in the Netherlands, is to swap out some plastic packaging elements for paper alternatives. This week, NU reported that the company was replacing so-called plastic bread clips – of which it uses 125 million a year! – with more sustainable alternatives made out of recyclable paper. 

AH to replace plastic clips with paper ones by summer 2023

The small square-shaped clips are used to fasten bags containing bread, buns and other baked goods, and help ensure the food stays fresh for as long as possible, but a spokesperson explained to NU that the clips are too small to recycle. By this summer, they’ll be completely replaced by small paper clips

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18 March 2023, by Victoria Séveno

Have you ever been at a festival and thought “hey, this is great, but it would be even better if it was on water”? If so, this is probably the event for you: this summer, the city of Rotterdam will be hosting a free festival on three floating barges in the Maashaven in honour of Rotterdam Architecture Month. 

Celebrating the future during Rotterdam Architecture Month

Pinkpop, the Amsterdam Tulip Festival, TREK  – the Netherlands is certainly known for its extensive and varied selection of festivals, celebrating everything from music, theatre and dance to flowers, art and food. This year, the country is set to add another new and unique event to its festival calendar. 

Rotterdam Architecture Month celebrates and explores the future of architecture in the city. Every June, the month-long festival includes one showstopping event – last year, that was the pink Podium on the roof of Het Nieuwe Instituut (a museum and cultural centre in Rotterdam). This year, organisers have announced something equally impressive: a floating festival. 

Festival shows how city’s infrastructure works with and around water

2023’s theme for Rotterdam Architecture Month is Natte Stad (“Wet City”), focusing on the city’s surroundings. The idea of a floating festival is therefore certainly on theme. Located on the Maashaven, the so-called floating festival heart will consist of three large barges, each with a different theme and focus. 

On one barge, visitors will be able to “enjoy the greenery in a temporary park and immerse themselves in lectures, debates, films and other events,” while another will be “devoted to urban sports such as freerunning and callisthenics.” The barges will be connected by a footbridge, which organisers explain will act “as one elongated vantage point” that “offers a unique view of the Maashaven and the rest of the city, and shows the possibilities of the water.” 

Organisers explain that the location of the festival heart not only bridges the gap between various development projects currently under construction in and around the Maashaven, but also helps to showcase some of the innovative solutions that are already being used by the municipality, designers and architects to tackle challenges related to water and climate change.

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18 March 2023, by Victoria Séveno

Yes, the Netherlands is about to add yet another night train service to its ever-growing rail network! On April 21, 2023, GreenCityTrip will launch a night train that connects three Dutch cities with Prague. 

The Netherlands to add two new night train services this spring

Over the past year, European Sleeper and GreenCityTrip – two Dutch start-up companies – have made considerable progress when it comes to expanding the Dutch public transport network, connecting the Netherlands with cities across Europe through various new night train services. 

Much has already been done – but the work isn’t over yet: over the course of the next few months, both will be launching brand new routes that connect Dutch cities with cities in Germany and Czechia. A night train between Amsterdam and Berlin will launch in May but, before then, GreenCityTrip has announced that its new service to Prague will be running from April 21, 2023. 

Return tickets to Dresden and Prague starting at 149 euros

Tickets are already available online, with prices starting from 149 euros for a return ticket. The service departs Amsterdam at 7.30pm, stopping at stations in Amersfoort and Deventer before travelling through the night and arriving at Dresden in Germany at 7.50am the following morning. The train is scheduled to arrive in Prague by 10.30am and, on the return trip, departs from Czechia’s capital at 8.35pm.

GreenCityTrip also offers package trips for five-day trips to both Dresden and Prague, with prices starting from 259 and 229 euros respectively. One of the company’s co-founders, Maarten Bastian, told SpoorPro that in the future, GreenCityTrip will continue to focus its expansion efforts on cities in Eastern Europe.

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The motto “sex, drugs and rock & roll” has clearly stuck with the generation that partied during the 1970s, as data published by the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reveal that people over the age of 75 are having more sex than ever before. This is in spite of the fact that on the whole in 2022, people in the Netherlands were less sexually active than they were seven years previously. 

People in the Netherlands had less sex in 2022 than in 2014

The Sexual Health and Lifestyle Survey, conducted by CBS and the RIVM among Dutch people aged 16 and over, found that 70 percent reported having had sex in the past 12 months, marking a slight drop compared to 2014 (74 percent), when this study was first conducted. 

Talking to RTL Nieuws, Rutgers researcher Hanneke de Graaf speculated that nowadays, between their jobs, social lives and, yes, their mobile phones, people are simply too busy to have sex: “Making time for each other is really good for your sex life.”

CBS and RIVM: 35 to 45-year-olds the most sexually active group

The sharpest decrease was seen in the 16 to 25 age group: while 63 percent reported being sexually active in 2014, this figure fell to 56 percent in 2022. Interestingly, a decrease in sexual activity was observed across all age groups – apart from those aged 75 and older. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 35 to 45-year-olds are the most sexually active group – 87,9 percent reported having had sex in the past 12 months, down from 91,8 percent in 2014 – which CBS points out is likely due to the fact that many in this demographic live with a partner or spouse.

Differences were also observed between men and women: while 16 to 35-year-old women are having more sex than their male counterparts, this swaps around after reaching their mid-30s and, from the age of 35 onwards, men report being more sexually active than women in their age group.

When it comes to their sex lives, the seniors are alright!

Maybe they’ve retired and have grandchildren of their own, but baby boomers apparently still like to get hot and heavy. CBS and the RIVM found that, compared to 2014, the proportion of men and women aged 75 and above that report having had sex in the past 12 months rose from just 16,4 percent to 26,7 percent. 

While this age group remains the least sexually active, the increase is notable. “We see that people are becoming fitter and healthier, even at an advanced age. That is simply good for a sex life,” NOS quotes De Graaf as saying. “Moreover, these 75+ people grew up in a different time: it matters whether you come from the conservative 1950s, or from the 1960s and 1970s, which had more freedom.”

Once again, the figures differ when it comes to men and women in this age group. “Men are slightly more likely to be sexually active than women, especially among the over-55s,” CBS says. “This difference increases with age, and is greatest among the over-75s” – while 37 percent of men said they’d been sexually active in the past year, this figure was just 18 percent for women. Why? “A factor here is that older women are more often single than older men,” CBS explains.

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On Wednesday, expats and Dutch citizens across the country went to the polls to cast their votes in the 2023 provincial and water board elections. Here’s a quick rundown of what happened. 

High turnout for 2023 Dutch provincial elections

Every four years, the Netherlands holds elections so citizens and residents can vote for representatives on their Provincial Council and water board (waterschap). The results of the provincial elections can have significant effects on the governing and policies of the country, as the results also determine the makeup of the Senate (Eerste Kamer). 

This year saw the highest turnout for provincial elections the Netherlands has seen in 36 years, with 62,1 percent of the Dutch population turning up to cast their votes on March 15. In the provincial elections four years ago, turnout was just 56 percent. According to NOS, around 89 percent of the votes have been counted so far. 

BBB set to claim 16 seats in Eerste Kamer, coalition parties to lose 9

The high turnout led to big wins for the BoerBurgerBeweging, or Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB). According to the latest projection published by ANP, the BBB, led by Caroline van der Plas, has won 16 of the 75 seats in the Senate, making it one of the biggest parties in the Eerste Kamer. It’s estimated that the party claimed 19,4 percent of the national vote.

BBB shares that achievement with the political left, as together, GroenLinks and the Labour Party (PvdA) have 15 seats. Meanwhile, the four coalition parties – People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), D66, Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Christian Union (CU) – have seen their number fall from 32 to just 23.

Relative newcomer Van der Plas has been making waves in the Dutch political scene since launching her party at the end of 2019. As a result of the 2021 general election, the BBB occupies one seat in the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). Now, following this historic win, it is likely to become the largest party in all 12 provinces.

Van der Plas’ historic win could spell trouble for Rutte’s cabinet

In the past three elections, the BBB’s campaign has largely focused on the cabinet’s nitrogen policy, rising up the polls as a representative for farmers who feel betrayed by the government’s 10-step plan, designed to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50 percent in the Gelderse Vallei, North Brabant and Limburg by 2030.

In response to the exit polls published after voting closed last night, Van der Plas said the high turnout and results show how dissatisfied Dutch citizens have become with politics: “Normally, people stay at home if they no longer have confidence in politics, but today they showed that they no longer stay at home. They have made their voices heard.”

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, on the other hand, had an altogether less successful night. Not only does the BBB’s success spell trouble for his coalition and nitrogen policy, but with his party (the VVD) set to lose two Senate seats and his coalition partners CDA set to lose four, the coalition’s mandate in the Senate is in jeopardy. 

CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra described the results as “a landslide in size, an extremely bitter pill”, but when talking to NOS, Rutte was confident that, while the outcome was “not the profit [he] wanted”, it would have “no immediate consequences for the country’s governability” and “the cabinet would remain stable in the coming years.”

The Netherlands still awaiting results of water board elections

Non-Dutch citizens (i.e. expats and internationals living in the Netherlands) are only eligible to vote in the water board elections. The Dutch water boards are extremely important, as they are responsible for water management in the Netherlands – managing the country’s polders, dikes, and other waterworks – but have fewer knock-on effects on the makeup of the Dutch government.

The results of the water board elections are due to be announced on Friday, March 17.

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The Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) and Christian National Trade Union (CNV) have announced a temporary suspension of the national public transport strikes so that negotiations with employers can be resumed. For now, Wednesday, March 15 will mark the final day of strikes. 

Regional strikes in the Netherlands halted from March 16 to 24

The current six-week period of public transport strikes kicked off on February 28, with FNV and CNV announcing that a total of 15 strike days would take place between the end of February and April 7. With unions fighting for higher salaries, better work contracts and reduced workloads, a representative for FNV explained at the time that industrial action was the only way for workers to get their message across, and that operators were the only ones with the power to stop the strikes. 

Since February 28, the Netherlands has seen a total of seven strike days, including Wednesday, March 15. But those who have been affected by the walkouts will likely be relieved to hear that an end could be in sight, as FNV and CNV have halted the strikes for eight days so that negotiations with employers can be resumed. 

March 15 therefore marks the final day of strikes, at least for the time being. The strike days that were scheduled to take place on March 20, 22 and 24 have been cancelled. “[On Monday] we sat down with the employers for the first time in almost two months. That was an important first step,” Hanane Chikhi, a CNV negotiator, said in a statement. “Now we would like to give the process with the negotiators a fair chance.”

Decision to strike on election day met with serious backlash

While city-wide operators like the GVB in Amsterdam, RET in Rotterdam and HTM in The Hague aren’t affected, passengers outside of the major cities have faced significant disruption to regional public transport services as a result of the strikes. In fact, Arriva has announced that hardly any of its buses and trains are running on March 15, affecting public transport services in Groningen, Friesland, Limburg and Gelderland, and in parts of Brabant and South Holland. 

The decision to go ahead with Wednesday’s strike has faced significant criticism, with parties pointing out that many will depend on public transport in order to get to the polls for the provincial and water board elections on March 15. Unions, however, argued that it was impossible to cancel Wednesday’s strike on such short notice, as not enough employees were willing or able to work.

Dutch Interior Minister Hanke Bruins Slot was one of the many people who voiced their frustration with the situation, calling it “really annoying and disappointing”. “[Striking is] of course a fundamental right…[but] casting your vote in a democracy is also an extremely important fundamental right.”

Thumb: Bjoern Wylezich via Shutterstock.com.

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