Netherlands Year in Review: NL Times picks top stories of 2017
2017 was a busy year for the Netherlands, with parliamentary elections and a new government forming, a hurricane hitting three islands that form part of the Kingdom, and a number of murders that rocked the country. Here follows a summary of the biggest stories of the year.
The parliamentary election was held on March 15th. The election ended with major gains for anti-Islam party PVV, and massive losses for former coalition party PvdA. Geert Wilders' PVV went from 15 to 20 seats in parliament, making the anti-Islam party the second largest in the Netherlands after the VVD with 33 seats. Despite the PVV's gains, the fact that the party did not come out of the elections on top put an end to the global populism trend following the UK deciding to leave the European Union, and Donald Trump being elected the U.S. president.
Then followed the longest government formation process in Dutch history. After over six months of negotiations, the new Dutch government coalition of VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie was finally presented on October 26th.
Early this year Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan shook the Dutch capital when he announced that he had been diagnosed with metastasized lung cancer. Despite his visibly declining health, he stayed on as long as he possibly could, only stepping down on September 18th. A few days later thousands of people gathered outside his home, to show him support and thank him for everything he did for the city. Van der Laan passed away on October 5th. His death was met with sorrow from Amsterdam residents and people all over the Netherlands. Thousands of people visited his public memorial, some waiting in line for hours to get a chance to say goodbye. His private funeral had over a thousand attendees.
On September 7th category five hurricane Irma hit the islands of Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius, which all form part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The hurricane left a trial of destruction on the islands, hitting Sint Maarten the hardest and damaging the vast majority of homes, business and other infrastructure on the island. An optimistic estimate is that Sint Maarten will take two years to recover from the effects of Hurricane Irma.
Earlier this month, snow storms across the Netherlands brought parts of the country to a standstill. Dozens of schools and businesses had to close early, hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled at all airports, and motorists were repeatedly warned to stay off the roads. The snow storm caused the worst traffic jam of the year, and cost the Dutch economy around 35 million euros.
At the start of June, the entire Netherlands was shocked by the murder of two 14-year-old girls less than 20 kilometers from each other. Romy Nieuwburg from Hoevelaken was found dead in a watery ditch in Achterhoek on June 2nd. A 14-year-old boy was convicted for raping and killing her and sentenced to a year in juvenile detention and institutionalized psychiatric care - the maximum sentence a juvenile can get in the Netherlands. Savannah Dekker from Bunschoten went missing on June 1st. Her body was found on in a watery ditch on an industrial terrain on June 4th. A 16-year-old boy is suspected of murdering her. His trial is yet to happen.
The fact that these two young girls were murdered in the same area, possibly within hours of each other, had everyone concerned that a serial killer was targeting teenagers. The Netherlands breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that their murders were unrelated.
Another murder that held the Netherlands in suspense for weeks, was that of Anne Faber. The 25-year-old Utrecht woman went cycling on September 29th and never returned home. Her body was found in a wooded area in Zeewolde on October 12th. Michael P. is suspected of raping and murdering the young woman. His arrest caused quite an uproar, as at the time he was institutionalized in a psychiatric clinic serving the last part of a prison sentence imposed on him for raping two underage girls.
Ransomware - a type of malware that blocks access to an infected computer and then prompts the user to pay a ransom to regain control of his computer - was a big problem in the Netherlands this year. In June a ransomware cyber attack brought APM container terminal in the port of Rotterdam, pharmaceutical MSD and package carrier TNT to a standstill. It took the companies days before they were able to function again. A survey revealed that at least 15 Dutch hospitals were infected by ransomware over the past three years. The ransomware problem prompted the Dutch police to take extra security measures against cyber attacks on their systems.
In January a power outage caused by a component failure left 350 thousand Amsterdam homes in the dark. The power outage caused chaos within the city, especially affecting public transit. Three people died during the power outage, two of which because their loved ones could not get hold of the emergency services.
The collapse of Ajax footballer Abdelhak Nouri, 20, during a friendly match against Werder Bremen stunned the football world. The young midfielder was apparently suffering from cardiac arrhythmias in the 72nd minute, causing him to lie down on the pitch before losing consciousness. He was transported to an Austrian hospital where he was diagnosed with severe and permanent brain damage. Nicknamed “Appie,” Nouri was still in a Dutch medical facility five months later, where he showed slight signs of improvement. What happened to the young footballer propmted FIFA to call for mandatory defibrillators on all football fields.
In happier football news, Feyenoord won the Eredivisie title in May. Some 150 thousand frenzied fans celebrated with the team in the Rotterdam city center. And the Dutch women's football squad, Oranje Lionesses, won the European Championship for the first time ever. The team was celebrated in Utrecht, a big win for Dutch football in a year that saw the men's squad eliminated from World Cup 2018 tournament qualification.