It is the rule rather than the exception: protests in front of the doors of provincial houses in the Netherlands. Bomb threats, barricades and threats to individual drivers. The measure is full, says Harold van de Velde, chairman of the Association of States Members.
Yesterday, in Leeuwarden, the provincial house was closed and the surroundings evacuated. Officials sat in the basement of the building for three hours as a precaution, officers with bulletproof vests stood on the street. They also have to deal with it in Zeeland.
Not only can the threats have a major effect on the politicians themselves, there is also the fear that the aggression will have consequences for the work. “We fall under the public administration and really need to remain public. Let‘s take a stand, but don’t make a fortress out of the provincial house,” says Van de Velde, who sees that society is hardening.
The chairman believes that a declaration should always be filed. “Intimidation, enforcing statements, we should not find that normal. The latest survey shows that 53 percent of the States members raised violence against the provinces, only 7 percent report it.”
Member of State Jaap Stalenburg from Friesland is seriously concerned about the democratic process:
Van de Velde makes an appeal: “Expressing your influence in this way is counterproductive. Keep it tidy with your representatives. Make sure that the representatives of the people can practice their profession. If something bothers you, you have to make it clear in a normal way.”
Angry citizens are targeting the province because they hope that there will be a different vote. But there is little chance of that, says Van de Velde. “I see Members of the States getting angry that this is happening. They only get brighter in their conviction.”
For solving the nitrogen crisis, the cabinet has indicated the direction, but it is up to the provinces to come up with a plan. Van de Velde: “Due to the nitrogen problem, the role of the provinces has become even clearer. It‘s nice that our work is better known, but that’s why we now also have to deal with annoying types.”
The threshold for threats seems to be getting lower and lower. Van de Velde is concerned that people ultimately do not want to do the work anymore. “Members of the States often step up after four years and I am afraid that this will become more and more if the threats are still added. People get questions from their families: is it still safe?”
A loss of much knowledge, he fears. “These people have bitten themselves in files for four years and know about the hat and the brim, and when they stop, a new Member of State – if we can find it at all – has to read in completely and master the matter.”