Netherlands. Immigration and integration were the
dominant elements of the domestic policy debate during the
year. At the beginning of the year, the center-right
government decided that 26,000 refugees who had refused
their asylum applications should be expelled within three
years. The opposition and a large part of the population
protested vigorously. However, the noises were changed when
the controversial filmmaker and writer Theo van Gogh was
murdered by an Islamist fanatic in early November. The
murder triggered threats against Muslims and attacks on
mosques. According to
CountryAAH, the total population in Netherlands is 17,134,883 people in 2020.
Many also made demands for immigration stops, even
though the Netherlands already sharpened immigration laws in
2001 and the number of asylum seekers has decreased by more
than a third since then. A large part of the country's
Muslims, about 5% of the population, felt unfairly singled
out for the deed they were distancing from. The reactions
became stronger than when the right-wing populist Pim
Fortuyn was murdered in 2002, partly because the perpetrator
this time was a young man of Moroccan origin who appeared to
have committed the act because of van Gogh's criticism of
violence against women in Muslim families. The fortune was
murdered by an animal rights activist.
During the autumn, several strikes were carried out in
protest of planned cuts in the 2005 budget. At one time, at
least 200,000 people demonstrated against the government's
proposal for deterioration in, among other things. health
care, frozen salaries for civil servants and raising the
retirement age to 67 years. The aim was to reduce the budget
deficit and adapt the system to the aging population.
From January 1, the Netherlands received a strict tobacco
law prohibiting smoking in public places, such as train and
bus stations, as well as on trains and in taxis. In
workplaces, smoking may only occur if there are special
smoking rooms with fans, and it is not mandatory for the
employer to provide them. Restaurants, hotels and bars were
postponed until 2005.
At the turn of the year, the Netherlands took over the EU
Presidency from Ireland.