Eberhard van der Laan, Mayor of Amsterdam



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Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan
New laws on squatting spoil
mayor’s honeymoon period

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

14 November 2010: Eberhard van der Laan's ‘honeymoon’ period as mayor of Amsterdam was fairly brief. In the autumn of 2010, three months after he took office, the evictions of residents from 300 squatted homes became the major news story in the city. Mayor van der Leen and the mayors of the Netherlands other big cities initially resisted implementation of the new legislation, which criminalised squatting. However, Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said police would clear groups of buildings when possible, but the number of evictions that were to take place would depend on police capacity.

The new criminal offence came in to force on 1 October 2010, but in November a Dutch appeal court stopped the eviction of squatters from 18 properties in Amsterdam, The Hague and Leeuwarden. The court ruled that under the Netherlands' new anti-squatting legislation squatters did not have any opportunity to contest their eviction in court before it took place. As this meant police officers rather than the courts decided whether or not a property had been unlawfully entered and occupied, the new law conflicted with European Treaty on Human Rights.

There are an estimated 1,500 people in Amsterdam squatting in un-used buildings. In the 1980’s there were 20,000.

Eberhard van der Laan became mayor of Amsterdam in June 2010. His last major job had been in the Dutch national government where he served as Minister of Housing, Communities and Integration between 2008 and       2010. Mayor van der Laan served as a Netherlands Labour Party member of Amsterdam City Council between 1990 and 1998. From 1993-98 he chaired the Labour Group on the Council. He has been a member of the Labour Party since 1976.

He has been a lawyer in the private sector for much of his adult life. He qualified in 1983 and established his own practice in 1992 when he was 36. Kennedy Van der Laan grew to become a medium sized practice based in Den Haag. Eberhard van der Laan left the firm when he became a government minister.
 
When he began his term he said he would continue his practice as a government minister of visiting stressed districts and speaking with the people there. He said some people had been left behind despite Amsterdam’s recent prosperity.

Mayor van der Leen said he would try to keep the balance between security and freedom. “Violence is unacceptable and we have to fight it with the tools we have got. Amsterdammers themselves should also intervene when they see others fall victim to harassment.”

Amsterdam has been labelled an arrogant city at times and the new mayor has said that improving this image was an important task.

Prior to becoming a government minister Eberhard van der Laan was a board member of several organisations including the Dutch Resistance Museum, a children’s circus and a weekly magazine – De Groene Amsterdammer.

His approach to the high profile sensitive job as Minister of Integration, which he took on in November 2008 was to be welcoming to new residents and to the need for newcomers to have access to support and services but to also insist on their integrating into Dutch society and obeying its laws. Now, as mayor he emphasises that Amsterdam has always been a city of people from many nationalities but he urges all those living there to learn to speak Dutch. 

Eberhard Edzard van der Laan was born in Leiden in the Netherlands in 1955 and studied law at Vrije Universiteit. He is married and has five children.


The Dutch right-wing government has made squatting a criminal offence


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