Rotterdam the first large city to completely ban consumer fireworks

Fireworks in Amsterdam Oost, 31 Dec 2017
Fireworks in Amsterdam Oost, 31 Dec 2017Photo: Zachary Newmark / NL Times

Rotterdam will be the first large Dutch city to completely ban consumer fireworks for the coming New Year. After the "umpteenth" incidents and violence this past New Year's, the VVD in Rotterdam decided to support the ban, which means that there is majority support in the city council to prohibit the lighting of consumer fireworks, NOS reports.

The VVD actually only wanted to ban firecrackers and rockets, but as the General Local Regulation makes no distinction between the different types of fireworks, the faction supported the general ban. "As soon as the government decides to ban firecrackers and rockets, as far as the Rotterdam VVD is concerned, permitted fireworks can then be lit again in Rotterdam," the party said. As condition for its support, the VVD wants the municipality to make money available for professional fireworks shows in all 14 Rotterdam districts. "So that every Rotterdammer can still enjoy fireworks."

On its website, the Rotterdam VVD wrote that fireworks cause a lot of inconvenience an injuries every year, and it creates an "atmosphere of lawlessness" in different neighborhoods, where cars and containers are set on fire. The call from police and other first responders also played a role in the party's decision to support the ban. "We stand for the men and women who carry out very hard work for our safety."

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb called the VVD step an inevitable development and is pleased with the ban, but he would still prefer that the government implement measures that apply to the whole of the Netherlands. "That means that the sales and distribution is also prohibited, otherwise only lighting is prohibited," he said to Rijnmond. He also worries that without government action, citizens can go to court to get the ban reversed.

According to Aboutaleb, the Groningen professor of constitutional law Douwe Jan Elzinga told him that fireworks victims can go to court to argue that the government has a duty to guarantee the safety of its people and that the government fails in that duty by allowing explosives to fall into the hands of incompetent people. "I would be excited to see what the judge thinks about that."

Rotterdam is the first of the four large Dutch cities to completely ban consumer fireworks over New Year's, though Apeldoorn was the first of all Dutch municipalities to do so. 

All four large municipalities have been pushing the government to ban firecrackers and rockets since the Dutch Safety Board gave this advice in 2017. The Amsterdam city council already wanted a ban in 2016, and since then the number of fireworks-free zones in the city has expanded. Mayor Femke Halsema believes that this past New Year's showed that things are not moving fast enough, according to NOS. The approach to still allow fireworks in certain areas is also outdated, she said. The Amsterdam city council will discuss this matter on Thursday.

In the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, there is now also a majority support for banning dangerous fireworks. Coalition parties VVD and CDA, and opposition PVV are still against a national ban of firecrackers and rockets. But VVD party leader Klaas Dijkhoff said on Tuesday that he is "not deaf and blind" to the calls from mayors, ophthalmologists, and first responders to take action. He said that the measures taken over the past years to limit nuisance are not enough to prevent "all misery", according to NOS. "After we have considered everything, we will make the decision that we consider necessary. Not before," Dijkhoff said. 

Every New Year's fireworks are at the heart of a large number of incidents in the Netherlands, and this year was no different. A father and his 4-year-old son were killed in a fire started by fireworks in an apartment building in Arnhem. The mother and 8-year-old daughter were critically injured. The Rotterdam Eye Hospital treated a 18 fireworks victims. A total of 1,300 fireworks injuries were treated by emergency rooms and GP posts. Firefighters responded to over 4,300 reported fires. And there were multiple attacks on first responders.