ZuiderAmstel council members ‘not malicious but naive’
15 February 2008 - Despite having attended
two training courses on integrity, a few ZuiderAmstel council members
saw no harm in accepting a ‘courtesy card’ from the
RAI convention centre. According to Jan Kok (GroenLinks),
they were not malicious but naive.
For years, the RAI has been sending cards providing free access
to exhibitions to the local party leaders as well as the members
of the ZuiderAmstel government. Since Kok started a debate about
whether accepting the card is compatible with the district’s
integrity code, most party leaders and all members of the district
government have turned in their cards.
Last week, Gerrit Herders (ZAS) called Kok’s questions ‘nosing’
and Pim Hallensleben (VVD) said he refused to hand in his card to
the district, arguing that his integrity is something that concerns
only him. Earlier, Noortje Smit (ZAB) had said she wants to keep
using the card to stay informed of what goes on at the RAI.
However, council chairwoman Marije Cornelissen says that ‘almost
all’ council members have turned in their card by now and
that she is confident the rest will do so within a week. Meanwhile,
council members jokingly ask each other: ‘was that you at
the Home Exhibition?’
Every year in December, the directors of the RAI hand-pick the
1,500 people to receive a courtesy card. The recipients include
key politicians in ZuiderAmstel, because of the ‘close collaboration’
the centre has with the district. A spokesperson says the RAI has
no intention of influencing the politicians.
Reportedly, Jan van Delden of the SP was the only party leader
not to receive a courtesy card this year. Perhaps the RAI assumed
the SP had ceased to exist after two members were thrown out of
the party and launched ZAS last year. Van Delden did not respond
to a request to comment.
The RAI spokesperson says the centre will not change its policy
because of the controversy: next year, the same politicians can
expect to receive a card. Kok says he finds this very hard to believe:
“this will only be counterproductive”.
Kok thinks that politicians who have been ‘pampered’
by the RAI may create the impression of not being entirely objective
when they make decisions that affect the RAI. For that reason, they
should not accept the card.
This is probably also the view expressed by the municipal Integrity
Office in a written advice that will be sent to the council members.
For unclear reasons, the office has labelled the advice ‘confidential’.
The RAI is the largest economic actor in the district. Currently,
it is building the Expo Foyer, a luxury extension intended to accommodate
parties for 500 to 1,000 people; product launches; dinner parties;
award ceremonies and other events. The extension, expected to be
finished by January 2009, is part of a 105 million euro upgrade
of the convention centre.
The Expo Foyer is sometimes referred to as ‘ballroom’,
but a new name will be announced in April. The upgrade is to help
the RAI compete with centres in Barcelona, Copenhagen, Vienna, Zürich
Image: Artist impression of the Expo Foyer. See also: Council
to hand in RAI courtesy card
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