Amsterdam bans foreign street performers !
Created: December 6, 2003.
As of December 1st, 2003 the City Council of Amsterdam doesn't issue licenses to non-EU street performers.
The total number is now limited to 100 licenses.
Musicians remain license-free.
Killing the Art? Violating the Constitution?
Read the latest news
(updated March 31, 2010).
On November 28, 2003 the Partial City Council of Amsterdam-Centre announced the new rules in a
Now, the limit for street performers is set to 100, refering to 103 issued licenses last season.
The licenses are issued on first come, first serve base.
A license for street performing is not new, and maybe it seems just a matter of 'setting some numbers'.
However, for street performers a limitation never applied before.
The limits only concerned the socalled service licenses, meant for portrait painters, jewelry makers, photographers, etc.
Musicians were always, and still are license-free, and regulated by
article 2.16 of the Amsterdam bylaw
Oh ... and NO strangers please.
Quite 'hidden' in the press release, another new rule shows: only legal residents can get a license.
It's still unclear what it means exactly.
So far a few different cases were reported:
- A Polish human statue (non-EU passport) was refused the acceptance of the application form.
- A German juggler (EU passport) was asked for a residency permit before accepting the application form.
So, as it seems now, only legal citizens of Holland can get a license.
Travelling EU-members is unsure ...
(see news update, April 27)
Killing the Art.
We feel all this is killing the Art of Street Performing, with it's travelling, exchanging, adapting and developing.
Street performing is a reason, means and goal.
We believe true street performing is a cultural enrichment, which belongs in a world city like Amsterdam.
Stopping 'strangers' from performing in Amsterdam will degrade the Amsterdam street performing scene.
It will make the streets and squares boring.
We are wondering why this new rule suddenly pops up. We heard some vague reasons here and there.
One reason: complaints.
One of the main reasons for changing the policy is complaints.
But, there aren't (hardly) any complaints about street performers.
neighbourhood survey about noise complaints).
Lately, complaints mostly concern musicians, and the street sellers (the people with the service license).
This is confirmed by the partial city council.
So it doesn't make sense if the street performers get limited.
Another reason: unfair competition.
Another reason seems to be the unfair competition with the established businesses around.
Also here is a confusement between the street sellers and street performers.
Although we can ask ourselves which shop sells portraits or items which are produced on-the-spot, for the first group, technically it could be valid.
But for street performers it's totally different.
Street theater can be only ... on the street!
And on that street or square, there has been nobody, not a single performer, ever, complaining about another performer for being from outside the EU and causing competition.
The performing spots are shared and devided equally and has always been populated by all nationalities.
The self-regulation is based upon mutual respect, no matter where one is from.
So also in this case the reason is no reason.
And another one: working without a work-permit.
And another reason seems to be that 'those' performers are working without a work-permit.
But we are wondering if a work-permit is needed.
First of all, there is no relation like employer-employee.
Also there is no connection between the performance and what the performer gets from the audience members.
One watches for 5 minutes and gives well, the other watches the whole show and pays nothing - yes, it happens ... ;-)
The donations are donations, meaning it's completely voluntarily and up to the audience if, and how much they will donate.
This is for example the reason why local performers are not obliged to pay BTW (VAT) over their income.
See the Tolsma arrest (zaak C-16/93)
[or in English]
by the Court of Justice.
The underlaying law.
Apparently, the new rule, for whatever triggering reason, is a result of the socalled 'Koppelingswet'.
To say it very simple, this law forbids the government to supply an 'illegal' person with any service.
In that sense, issueing a license for street performing is a 'service'.
Violating the Constitution.
Although based upon a law, we believe the new rules are not only 'undesired' but also violating, or at least conflicting with other laws, like the Dutch Constitution.
Art. 5 of the Constitution
gives anybody the right to deposit any request with the authorities.
So anybody should be able to apply for a license. Maybe not get it, but at least apply.
Then, the council must give an official answer, and motivate that decision.
Next, the applicant could go to court to fight that decision.
So refusing to accept an application from a 'stranger' seems illegal.
Art. 1 of the Constitution
states everybody should be treated equally in equal cases.
Of course, the question is: what are equal cases ...
Probably a Dutch person applying for a license will be seen as a different case than a 'stranger' applying for a license.
But, here come the complications ...
For instance, a non-EU person wanting to perform on the street as a clown, will need a license,
according to the Amsterdam bylaw (APV)
- and doesn't get it.
However, a non-EU person wanting to perform on the street as a musician, doesn't need a license according to that APV, and can just do it.
So, how the performer is treated is depending on the contents of the performance, in this example clowning vs. music.
We believe that's in conflict with
art. 7 sub 3 of the Constitution.
This article states that anybody may express any feeling or thought in public, without permission in advance concerning the contents of that expression.
So, the actual result is that anybody can play guitar, but not anybody can make jokes.
But how about a musician making a joke in between two songs? Or a clown using a guitar in his show?
It's getting really weird now ...
And another law.
Article 6 of the Algemene wet gelijke behandeling
forbids any unequality concerning development in, access to, (etc.) the free profession.
Street performing is a free profession, but different people are limited in a different way.
A Russian musician is allowed to perform and develop his profession, but a Bulgarian juggler isn't.
Is it because of their nationality, residency status, or because of what they perform?
In other words: Is this legal, racism or censorship?
But either way it's not very equal.
Maybe some talking and lobbying?
Yes, communicating is always a good idea.
But ... this is what we have been doing for the past two years, since we heard an overall policy change concerning streetperforming is being planned.
The council promised to stay in touch and inform us as soon as things would become current.
So the shock was even bigger to read these new rules in the newspaper.
Maybe these new rules are considered not to be concerning street performing?
Or maybe just a minor, insignificant detail?
Or maybe they are thinking the local performers like the new rules?
We think they're wrong.
We are trying to find out if there is any legal way to stop and reverse all this.
Also we are trying to talk to the council to get their mind changed.
We keep you posted...