The Netherlands is a strong country in an unstable world, king Willem-Alexander claimed on Tuesday in his traditional speech that opens the parliamentary year.
Since there is a general election in 2017, the address did not include any new policies. Instead, the king gave a positive assessment of the state of the country, outlining measures the government has already taken to boost the economy and cut unemployment. The Netherlands, the king said, is a ‘prosperous and attractive’ place with ‘good facilities, good infrastructure and a strong legal system.’
The king addressed the rise of terrorism and referred to recent attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey. ‘We must not let terrorists threaten our freedom, our security and our democratic values,’ he said. Norms and values Turning to the refugee crisis, he continued: ‘It is typical of our country’s character that private initiatives have arisen in many neighbourhoods and municipalities to encourage asylum seekers to interact with society. At the same time, it is understandable that there are concerns in society at large about the arrival of large groups of refugees. We wonder whether differences in our cultures and in our norms and values might be too great, and whether too great a strain might be placed on public services.’ The participation declaration, a document in which new arrivals pledge to uphold Dutch norms and values, will become compulsory next year, the king said. These key democratic values include the separation of church and state, freedom of religion and freedom of expression. ‘In our country, men and women are equal before the law, and we do not discriminate on the grounds of race, belief or sexual orientation,’ the king said. ‘Everyone who wishes to live in our country must respect these values and abide by them.’ No-one, he added, is being asked to renounce their own culture or origins. Nevertheless, norms are inviolable, and intimidation and violence will meet with a firm response.