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18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

18/1 What is the right size for a district?

17/1 PvdA Oost against fewer districts

16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

14/1 Youth for Christ to republish vacancies

13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

13/1 New Youth for Christ contoversy

11/1 Social cohesion initiative raises eyebrows

10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

9/1 Supermarket coupon fraud thwarted

9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

7/1 Snow

7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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Mayor critical of personal freedom

2 January 2007 – During his second term in office, Mayor Job Cohen wants to focus on education and sustainability, he said in his New Year’s speech. More individual freedom is unnecessary according to the mayor: what we really need is more social cohesion.

The city marketing machine is going at full speed: after the Rembrandt Year and the introduction of Amsterdam Top City, we just entered the Feel the Rhythm Year and the Michiel de Ruyter Year. Cohen apparently wants to add one more theme: ‘Amsterdam: duurzame stad, Amsterdam, sustainable city’, he said in his New Year’s speech.

The mayor acknowledged that the city did not exactly earn a positive reputation by allowing the Probo Koala, a ship carrying toxic waste, to sail to Ivory Coast last year. However, he does see opportunities, for example regarding the research capacity of companies such as Shell, and the development of cargo trams. He stayed clear of controversial issues such as the idea to introduce a congestion charge.

Cohen further wants to focus on education. He sees this as a ‘tool for emancipation’ as well as a necessary condition for the city to function as a Top City and a creative knowledge city. The knowledge city should not only offer employment for the high educated, but also for the low educated, for example in SME’s, at Schiphol Airport and at the Aalsmeer Flowers Auction.

He further said that freedom is to be highly valued, but that people must be able to deal with the responsibilities that come with it. “And many people are unable to do so; especially when the social structures to deal with the pressures of freedom are lacking”.

At the authority of a German philosopher, the mayor said that ‘fear of freedom’ can lead to conformism, totalitarianism and fundamentalism. He said it is a challenge to do something about these ‘downsides of freedom’.

“A challenge that should not be approached from the perspective of more personal freedom or more autonomy, but which requires people to show more engagement and attention to each other, to society, and last but not least, to the environment”.

Perhaps one should not make too much of this. Still, a discussion of the dangers of freedom does make one feel somewhat uneasy, coming from a mayor who in 2005 sent riot police to squats to remove banners criticizing Minister Rita Verdonk after a fire that killed eleven immigrants at a Schiphol detention centre.


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