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The Bottom Line: Netherlands, the EU and Cruyff

Ard van der Steur

Minister in trouble

The terrorist attacks in Brussels are possibly going to have big consequences for the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur. He has been heavily criticised after the attacks.

First, there was the news that one of the suicide bombers, Ibrahim El Bakraoui, was expelled to the Netherlands last July by the Turkish authorities when he tried to cross the Turkish-Syrian border. However, as a result of miscommunication between Turkey and the Netherlands, El Bakraoui left the airport unnoticed.

Later, the minister misinformed the House of Representatives that the FBI warned the Dutch police six days before the attacks about the criminal background of Ibrahim El Bakraoui and the radical and terrorist background of his brother Khalid, one of the other suicide attackers.

However, the information wasn’t coming from the FBI, but from the Intelligence Service of the NYPD. The political opposition responded indignantly. It isn’t the first time that the minister has faced strong criticism, but it might be the last.

52 per cent of Dutch people thinks he should resign.

Referendum day

Wednesday was referendum day in the Netherlands. The people of Holland had the opportunity to vote whether they are against or in favour of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

In the end, the ‘No’ campaign won convincingly, throwing the deal into chaos.

The referendum gave the people of Holland the opportunity to block an agreement that has already been signed by all the EU-members.

The referendum was an initiative by citizens who are concerned about the growing influence of the EU. Although the referendum is officially about the agreement, it is also being seen as a wider vote of confidence in the EU.

Voting against the agreement is a way to show that you are against the EU. Even the initiators of the referendum admitted in an interview with NRC Next that they don’t care about the Ukraine deal.

“Thats why we take every possibility to put the relationship between The Netherlands and the EU under tension”, says inititiator Arjan van Dixhoorn.

However, this result doesn’t necessarily mean that the Netherlands will not sign the agreement. 30 per cent of the population did vote, however over two-thirds failed to turn out suggesting this isn’t an comprehensive reflection of the country’s attitudes to the EU.


(Translation tweet: Cabinet is in favour of the treaty. It brings more stability to the external borders, development of rule of law, and good for trade)


(Translation tweet: President Ukraine part of corruption. Do you want a treaty over there?)

A true hero dies

The Netherlands has been mourning. Football legend Johan Cruyff passed away on 24 March at the age of 68 after suffering from lung cancer. The Brussels attacks were by far the most discussed topic in the media for two days, but the death of Cruyff also received a great deal of coverage.

There was no way to put on your TV without seeing people talking about Cruyff and endless replays of his magnificent goals for Ajax, FC Barcelona and Oranje. Number 14, the shirt number Cruyff used to wear, was visible everywhere.

All the games in the national competition were preceded by one minute of silence. Ajax-supporters walked in a special remembrance march towards the stadium before their team had to play against PEC Zwolle.

There has been a great deal of support for the idea that the Ajax stadium, the Amsterdam Arena, should be renamed after Johan Cruyff.

And all this in a country that isn’t very good in honouring its heroes. The level of shock at Cruyff’s death, proves he was a true hero in the Netherlands. Probably the only one.

Words by Caspar Bovenlander

Picture by EU 2016 NL

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