The Dutch economy may be flourishing but not everyone is feeling the impact of economic growth sufficiently, king Willem-Alexander said in his traditional speech to mark the opening of the parliamentary year. ‘More people are finding work. More people are buying homes. Businesses are investing more. And after a number of difficult years we are again seeing a flourishing economy and healthy public finances,’ the king said. ‘But not everyone is feeling the impact of this economic growth sufficiently in their daily lives. It is important that more people profit from this prosperity.’
The king’s speech, which was written by the outgoing government, contained little in the way of new initiatives. Instead the king largely focused on events abroad, including the impact of hurricane Irma on the people of Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius. ‘Our hearts go out to them,’ the king said. ‘It is precisely in difficult circumstances like these that the bonds of unity within our kingdom come to the fore.’
The king also spoke about international instability, a trend, he said, ‘which seems to be gathering momentum and which is affecting people’s lives, directly and indirectly.’ Referring to the ‘fear, grief and human suffering’ caused by terrorist attacks, the king said: ‘We must not allow our lives to be ruled by fear. The best response to terrorism is to continue living our lives the same way.’ Shared values ‘The strength of our way of life in the Netherlands lies in the fact that everyone, regardless of their origin or beliefs, can be themselves within the shared values of the rule of law,’ the king said. ‘The government is investing, in numerous ways, in social cohesion, integration, observance of the law, and the strengthening of our shared norms and values. Above all, building a united society is a shared responsibility and an ongoing task for families, schools, associations – in short, for all of us. We each have our own important role to play.’
Political leaders had mixed reactions to the speech. Alexander Pechtold, leader of D66 – one of the four parties working on forming a new coalition – said the speech was ‘optimistic’ and that the outgoing government was leaving a clean slate for the new one.
Prime minister Mark Rutte, who is set to be prime minister in the next government, said the speech was both ‘fine and appropriate’ and highlighted the enormous contrast with the situation when his government took office.
But Socialist MP Sadet Karabulut said the king had failed to mention anything about tackling the growing problem of inequality. And Marianne Thieme, leader of the pro-animal PvdD, raised the issue of food scandals, which were not mentioned in the speech. The section on climate change was also ‘more of the same’, she said.