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.
Strict restrictions are introduced before the weekends
The toughest restrictions so far during the pandemic begin and will include the Christmas and New Year weekend. “The Netherlands will close for five weeks,” said Prime Minister Mark Rutte in announcing the new restrictions on television the day before. Protesters were heard protesting outside Rutte’s office in connection with the TV broadcast. All shops except grocery stores and pharmacies are closing, as are museums, cinemas and gyms. Restaurants may only offer takeaway food. Schools will close from 16 December. Residents are encouraged to stay at home and receive a maximum of two guests a day. An exception is Christmas Day when three guests are allowed to come. The number of deaths in covid-19 has just passed 10,000.
Russian diplomats suspected of spying expelled
Two Russian diplomats identified as spies have been deported, the intelligence service said. The two are accused of targeting the high-tech sector and building an “extensive network of sources”. Russia denies the allegations, calling the expulsion decision “provocative”.
Mouthguard Act enters into force
A law enters into force that makes it mandatory for everyone over 13 to have mouth guards in public spaces indoors. The penalty for anyone who violates the ban is 95 euros, or 38 for those under 16 years. Shops, government buildings, schools and museums are among the places covered by the ban. Prime Minister Mark Rutte presented the proposal for mandatory mouth protection already in October, but it took time to draft the law. In most surrounding countries, similar legislation already exists.