Fallout from June's elections in Holland, where the center-right Christian Democrats, the free market VVD, and the wildcard Pim Fortuyn List swept to power nine days after Fortuyn fell victim to an assassin's bullet, is beginning to spread toward Holland's famous coffeeshops and its thriving club scene. The coffeeshops, where cannabis products are sold and consumed under license as authorities turn a largely blind eye, have been a staple of the Dutch approach to soft drugs under consecutive governments since 1976. The incoming government, however, has announced moves to impose new restrictions on the establishments long popular with Dutch and foreign travelers alike. It is also moving to end testing of ecstasy tablets, a well-established harm reduction practice, at Dutch night clubs.
According to the center-right coalition's "policy summary," released last week, the new government plans to tighten restrictions and enforce regulations on coffee shops more stringently than the outgoing center-left government of Wim Kok. "The criteria governing coffeeshops will be enforced more strictly, and coffeeshops will no longer be tolerated in the vicinity of schools and national borders," said the policy summary.
The move is in part a sop to the governments of neighboring countries, particularly France, which have protested the ease with which their nationals could avail themselves of cannabis in Holland. But it also reflects a more thoroughgoing aversion to liberal drug policies in the new government.
The incoming government will also end the ecstasy "testing station" program introduced by Dutch authorities last year, the policy summary said. The "testing stations" were designed to prevent people from getting drugs laced with toxic substances and were part of a broader harm reduction approach to ecstasy by Dutch authorities, which also included regulations designed to force clubs to provide free water and "cooling rooms" for ecstasy users.
The tightening of Holland's liberal drug policies has been a prominent theme for Christian Democrat leader Jan Peter Balkenende, who will most probably be the new prime minister, but it is only one of a bundle of rightist planks laid out by the new government. Balkenende is also an opponent of euthanasia, which became legal earlier this year, but the Dutch right rode to power largely on the back of sympathy for the slain Fortuyn, who articulated apparently widespread Dutch fears of being swamped by a tide of immigrants (but who ironically favored liberalization of drug laws -- a fact the surviving members of Pim's list prefer to ignore).
It was immigration that largely drove the election results, and much of the policy summary is devoted to anti-immigrant moves. Some of the language is breathtaking in the frankness of its racism and dispiriting in what it says about the current state of Dutch and, more broadly, European politics. Among other anti-immigrant moves, the policy summary blandly notes, the Dutch government plans to "make it more difficult for members of ethnic minorities to bring a partner from their home country to the Netherlands."