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6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

5/2 The truth about integration

4/2 Wilders has little support on Amsterdam

3/2 Elite involved in neighbourhood

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31/1 Wooden rowing boats to disappear from Amstel

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27/1 A few were still coughing, but that was an act

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24/1 Action groups call for Carmel and Jaffa boycott

24/1 PvdA members dismiss plan for districts

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21/1 Merge districts

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20/1 Cleaners welcome new Schiphol director

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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‘We shouldn’t run away from each other’

17 March 2008 - When Geert Wilders publishes his anti-Islam film, young VVD members will go to Slotervaart to debate with Moroccan youth. “You can have a nice debate about that. We shouldn’t run away from each other”, says Jan de Geus, the new chairman of the Amsterdam branch of the JOVD, the youth organisation of the VVD.

During the past years, the Amsterdam branch has been inactive. De Geus, who studies business economics and political and social philosophy, was approached by the JOVD to revive the branch. Last week, a new board was elected.

Like the Amsterdam VVD, the JOVD will have a more progressive profile than the national VVD. For example, De Geus finds that the VVD is not doing enough on environmental policies, a popular issue among young people.

This is not to say that he agrees with Amsterdam’s plans to make parking more expensive and to ban old cars from the city centre. “That’s more harassing car owners than making a contribution to air quality”, De Geus says. He prefers a positive approach.

“I think it’s great what [former astronaut] Wubbo Ockels is doing on sustainable innovation, in collaboration with universities. We have to find ways to become sustainable without having to make sacrifices. Amsterdam should market itself as Energy City”.

Other priorities include student housing, the quality of education, legalising soft drugs and a less panicky response to magic mushrooms. De Geus also calls on the Amsterdam government to participate in the Gay Pride, just as Minister Ronald Plasterk has promised to do.

An important issue for the JOVD branch are disadvantaged neighbourhoods such as Slotervaart. De Geus is not in favour of getting tough on problem youth. “There is no point in tougher punishments. If someone has been in jail for two weeks, people will only think this is cool”.

Instead, it’s better to involve young people in the work of the police and in politics, De Geus says. The JOVD wants to organise political debates at schools, in collaboration with other youth organisations of political parties. “Many young people think: I can’t make a difference. That’s not right. We have to make them understand that they can make a difference”.

De Geus admires Chairman Ahmed Marcouch (PvdA) of the Slotervaart District. “Because he is straightforward and because of how he deals with things: stop fussing, things must change”. However, he disagrees with Marcouch about the issue of so-called street coaches (social workers) refusing to shake hands with women.

Marcouch finds it acceptable that religious street coaches refuse to shake hands with women. De Geus: “Liberalism stands for freedom; in principle you don’t go about telling people that they have to shake hands with each other. But here it regards people who have a function that requires them to do so”.

He finds the situation comparable with that of civil servants who, because of their religion, refuse to marry gay couples. “They too must simply do their job, as far as I’m concerned”.

In addition to visiting schools, the JOVD branch is going to organise political skills courses and excursions to the Port of Amsterdam, the Bijlmerbajes prison and the El Tawheed mosque (which according to secret service AIVD played a role in the radicalisation of Muslim terrorists).

Political youth organisations are often a springboard to a political career, but De Geus does not know yet what he will be doing in a couple of years. “I find politics very interesting, but the same applies to the government and business”.

JOVD Amsterdam (in Dutch). Image: preparation of a political evening on problem neighbourhoods with anthropologist and criminologist Hans Werdmölder; De Geus to the left (photo JOVD)


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