Government to tackle nuisance caused by fireworks

In the Netherlands, many people usher in the New Year with fireworks. The Minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, and the State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment, Wilma Mansveld, want to reduce the nuisance caused by fireworks and improve safety, so that everyone will be able to enjoy the New Year's Eve celebrations. As of this year the window for purchasing consumer fireworks will be restricted from three to two working days, and fireworks may not be used until 18.00 on New Year's Eve (instead of 10.00). A permit system is also being introduced to control the import of illegal and heavy-duty fireworks. The government has agreed to these measures.

Setting off fireworks to herald the New Year is a deeply rooted Dutch tradition. That is why the government opposes a complete ban on consumer fireworks. However, many people strongly object to the nuisance and damage. After the last New Year's celebrations, local authorities asked the government to take measures to reduce the nuisance. While local authorities do a lot to make sure that New Year's Eve is a festive occasion, additional measures are needed.

Stricter rules on buying and lighting fireworks

As of this year, to reduce nuisance and risks, people may only light fireworks from 18.00 on New Year's Eve until 2.00 on New Year's morning. In previous years, this had been allowed from 10.00 on 31 December. The new time window takes account of the fact that shops are closed and fewer people have to be out of doors in the evening. It leaves plenty of time for enthusiasts to use their legally purchased fireworks. In addition, the sale of consumer fireworks will be restricted to two working days, rather than three.

Enforcing the new rules will require extra effort. That is why the measures have already been discussed with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), local administrators, the Public Prosecution Service, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT), the police and the customs authorities. These organisations support the proposed measures.

Combating illegal and heavy-duty fireworks

Consumers are still able to purchase illegal and heavy-duty professional fireworks. Combating this is a long-term process, requiring a coordinated European and international effort. The Netherlands works with exporting countries and transit countries to tackle the problem at the source. A memorandum of understanding with China on fireworks has produced positive results, as Chinese fireworks manufacturers now only supply their products to professionals.

A new permit system will take effect in the course of 2015, regulating imports at national level. The system includes a code of conduct which makes the fireworks sector responsible for ensuring that fireworks are safe and legal, from the moment of import until the final point of sale. The government expects that this will reduce the volume of illegal fireworks and prevent heavy-duty professional fireworks from falling into the wrong hands.

Finally, the government wants to further restrict the import of professional fireworks by private individuals by tightening the EU Pyrotechnic Articles Directive. The Dutch government will use every opportunity to convince a majority of member states of the need for such measures. Another step is the introduction of a European Pyrotechnic Expert's Passport as of 2017. Importers and manufacturers will only be allowed to sell professional fireworks to holders of such a passport.