A sunny start to the Tour de France – 250km north of France
The Netherlands is famous for its cycling culture, with most people owning and using a bike on a daily basis. The Dutch love for cycling extends beyond the practical use of bicycles with many having a big interest bicycle racing. With the Tour the France starting in Utrecht in the Netherlands many came to witness the kick-off and cheer on the contestants.
It’s the 6th time in history that the start has taken place in the Netherlands. Jan Janssen a former winner of the Tour de France who has invested more than 10 years to get the start of the race to the Netherlands said that they were so prepared that all the necessary plans were finished five years ago but the start then took place in Rotterdam instead of Utrecht.
MC Racing Team won the atypical team time trial from Vannes to Plumelec on the 28km long stage that closed the first chapter of the 102nd Tour de France. The other two dominant teams were Sky who only lost by one second after creeping in the Cadoudal hill and Movistar who finished strongly but four seconds down. The Dutch team lottoNL-Jumbo came 9th.
After a Greek ‘Oxi’ a ‘Yes’ from the negotiation table in Brussels
In the begin, many Dutch saw it as a routine – Greece was in desperate need for money for state expenditures and to safe its banks, the Eurozone ministers negotiate and provide money in exchange for an agreement of further spending cuts. What followed, however, was very different from the Eurozone crisis ‘routine’ of the past six years.
While Greece felt the demands of other Eurozone members were unreasonable, the rest of the Eurozone and especially a small group of countries surrounding Germany and the Netherlands started to discuss a possible ‘Grexit’ from the common currency more and more openly.
After weeks of very last minute negotiations, there was confusion, when instead of the expected deal, a referendum by the Greek people was announced. The Greek sovereign decided to turn down the proposal and gave their Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, the mandate to negotiate a new deal.
This deal came at the end of negotiations that lasted almost 17 hours and many believe it goes further than what the Greek people had refused a week earlier. Reactions on the deal have been mixed. Whereas some see, for example the requirement for prior Commission and ECB approval to new policies as a serious threat to Greek democracy, others would have preferred to see Greece leave the Eurozone.
Overall, the Dutch public is supportive of the tough stance of the Netherlands in the Greek crisis and welcomed the re-election of their Minister of Finance, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, to head the Eurozone.
Although not required, the agreement will be put to vote in the Dutch parliament, where it is expected to pass with a narrow margin. Not only many far-right and far-left opposition parties are against the deal, but also the Christian Democrats are likely to oppose the outcome this time.
20 years on – Srebrenica still a dark memory for the Dutch
On the 11th of July the Dutch joined the 20 years Srebrenica commemoration ceremony. During the Bosnian war, a genocide took place in the town of Srebrenica killing 8000 Muslim Bosnians. At the time the town was being protected by the Dutch UN battalion Dutchbat. There has been a lot of critique on how the Dutch handled the mission.
Minister of defence, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, stated that the fall of Srebrenica has left deep wounds for Bosnia and the Netherlands. Adding that many of the Dutch military’s handled the situation as best as they could but weren’t able to prevent the awful drama that took place. Because of this many have unrightfully so been depicted in a bad daylight.
The remembrance ceremony brought up a lot of these remaining wounds for the survivors and the family members. When the Serbian prime minister visited the cemetery an angry mob started throwing stones at him. Aleksandar Vučić has condemned the violence that took place 20 years ago but refuses to call it a genocide.
The minister of foreign affairs, Bert Koenders, who was present at the commemoration ceremony called the genocide a black page in the history of Europe. In his opinion the international community had failed in offering enough protection to people in so called 'safe zones' like Srebrenica.