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Netherlands proposes law empowering government to block telecommunications mergers

[JURIST] The Netherlands has proposed new legislation that will empower its government to block or undo mergers [Dutch News report] in the telecommunications sector. According to a statement [text, in Dutch] from the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs [official website, in Dutch], the industries covered in this bill include what have been termed as "telephony and the Internet," internet hubs, data centers and hosting and certification services, as they all constitute important segments for the "continuity, reliability and safety of services and infrastructure." As to the rationale behind this proposed bill, the Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp [official website, in Dutch] stated:

Netherlands benefits from the fact that we have an open economy in which the market is doing its job. So we take more business abroad than the other way about. Our country, however, has not benefited from takeovers by foreign companies that are linked to criminal activities, which are classified as financially vulnerable or have a non-transparent ownership structure. Given the national interests at stake, we lay a legal basis for the telecommunications sector in order to prevent such takeovers.
The statement also pointed to the fact that EU law permits member countries to intervene in takeovers for reasons of overriding public interest, such as when national security, public law and order, or security and protection of vitally important industrial sectors in the country are at stake. The draft legislation has now been released for comment by affected stakeholders. Kamp hopes to take the bill to the Council of State in the second quarter of 2017, after which he will take it to the House of Representatives [official websites, in Dutch].

There has been commentary and speculation that this bill has been influenced by the upcoming national elections [Reuters report] next month where the ruling conservative VVD [official website; in Dutch] party is facing a strong challenge from the far-right nationalist Party, Party for Freedom [official website, in Dutch]. Several ethical concerns have emerged with respect to both the parties. Mark Rutte [official website] issued a letter [text, in Dutch] to the public today on the Liberal Party website, saying the Netherlands is "quite a cool country," but those who chose to act anti-social should "act normal or leave." This language is of concern for some who feel that Rutte's political views are normally to the left of the opposing Party for Freedom [official website], whose leader Geert Wilders [official website] was found guilty of hate speech [JURIST report] in a Netherlands court last month. The trial started [JURIST report] in October without the presence of Wilders himself. The Netherlands prosecutor started an investigation [JURIST report] into the allegations in 2014 after receiving more than 6,400 complaints about the remarks made by Wilders.

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