Formation discussions at the Regional House in Groningen: Guides Johan Remix and Watter Kolmes listen to CdK Rene Paas, November 4, 2021. Photo: ANP/Kees van de Veen
Informants and negotiators met this week at the county government building in Groningen. King’s commissioner Rene Bass invited them to think more about Holland. According to him, solutions to national problems can be found throughout the country. “Northern Holland in particular offers wonderful opportunities to deal with the major crises of our time.”
Most parents will recognize him: He plays soccer early on a Saturday morning. And even if they play in the half-courts, they still run after the ball in a group. All on a small patch of grass. The coach and the parents shout hoarsely: Find the room! Use the wings!
For decades, our national government has acted like f’je. There are many examples of investments accruing in the Randstad community. Always hoping that this will solve the problems. Or from a misunderstanding that this is where the money is made. But the result is more blockage. Traffic jams, congestion and stress on and around the highway. High prices.
How would the country improve if we used the entire playing field. If we think of a small country bigger.
Short and concise coalition agreement
The omens were good this week. Informants and negotiators met at the county government building in Groningen. We understand that they came to Groningen. After all, they want a short and concise coalition agreement. You do it with us. We are known for the need for few words.
While many people are trying to get to the forming table, the formation came to our table this week. Unfortunately, two days in our old administrative center are too short for you to get a different perspective on the Netherlands. To scan the entire domain. Because that is very much needed. I very much hope that there will be a coalition agreement that provides opportunities and uses opportunities for the whole country.
Besides negotiating, politicians from The Hague came to Groningen to talk to the people of our province about the misery of gas extraction. What are their concerns? What have they been through? When did they miss the government? And what can they expect from the new government?
We know that injustice has occurred
I think it starts with acknowledging that people have been wronged. No one asked if the ground under his house could shake, please. It was the right decision to stop the extraction of gas from the Groningen field as soon as possible. So resuming gas extraction is out of the question.
But even though gas production has stopped, the ground is still shaking. A new damage occurs every month. And day by day, people are in a state of uncertainty. Nobody wants to depend on agencies that you have to wait endlessly for. Who rely on incomprehensible rules and calculations but do not solve your problem. Nobody wants to make fun of promises, if in practice they amount to less than they should, it’s too late.
It is a matter of national honor. It begins with recognition. Gas misery is injustice. Minister Wibs described it as “a failure of the Dutch government of non-Dutch proportions”. A country that recognizes this must do everything in its power to undo this injustice. Don’t waste your valuable time building new implementation structures for this, as that rarely leads to success. Don’t make new arrangements, because if we learn anything, major changes always take a lot of time.
Execute your good intentions
It’s simpler: implement your New Year’s resolutions well. Whatever the costs. Make sure the people who do this for us know that their main goal is to help people. Give them the space, budget, and authorization to do so. And a clear mission: go help. Simply.
Arrangements, budgets and procedures are in place to make assistance possible. Efficiency and legitimacy are not central. They are our residents. They should be able to move on with their lives.
But the coalition agreement should offer more than just a solution to the gas misery. It should provide a better view of the Netherlands. A country is learning that solutions to national problems can be found all over the country. Northern Holland in particular offers great opportunities for dealing with the major crises of our time.
The climate crisis, for example. We see huge opportunities in offshore wind and hydrogen. The chemical industry in Groningen and Drenthe is eager to turn to the environment. And this greening is badly needed to achieve national ambitions.
North Holland makes national ambitions achievable
So the North Holland is where national ambitions become achievable. Thanks to the superb natural gas infrastructure. We simply use it again, but this time for hydrogen. This week, Prime Minister Rutte called for “action, action, action” for the climate in Glasgow. Good to know: the road to Glasgow runs through the north. via Eemshaven. We are ready to work.
or a housing crisis. If an additional million homes are needed in the next 10 years, it is good to know that not all of them are necessary in the densely populated Randstad region. Here, too, the northern provinces lend a helping hand. Here there is room for 200,000 homes in the next 10 years.
We made this presentation in our building blocks of the Delta Plan. Of course, these homes should be easily accessible. This requires a better and faster path. Lely’s line, for example, which has tremendous support. Here, too, we are counting on the grand and ambitious intentions of the new government. And on better use of the whole country.
What applies to the climate crisis and the housing crisis also applies to the nitrogen crisis and the crisis of confidence: there is a lot that could be achieved if we played football less closely, if the new cabinet used the entire stadium. Holland sells itself short if it does not use itself 100 per cent. Randstad and other areas. Here, too, lie the solutions to national problems. Solutions that comfort Randstad. That is why this national ambition should not be missing in a compact coalition agreement. The Netherlands is really small. Let’s think enough. We shout our throats hoarsely: Find space. Use the wings!
It is necessary for all Dutch to belong
At the beginning of the formation, some time ago, the Office of Sociocultural Planning warned of the growing differences and contradictions between the Dutch. It is essential that all Dutch belong. The ability to share.
Even a short stay by the negotiators in Martinekirkov and some good conversations can contribute to the realization that the discrepancy between the Randstad and the Holland region does not help either.
I hope that the government will show in everything that it wants to use the power of the whole of Holland. Let’s think more about a small country. Let’s stop the football and start using the whole stadium. Then we’ll see that the new Arjen Robbens will shine on the wings.
René Bass is the King’s Commissioner in Groningen
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