Published On: Tue, Sep 18th, 2018

Troonrede 2018 – the unabridged translation

King Willem Alexander - Troonrede 2018 - Photo Nu.nl

“Post-war history tells a story of progress and improvement”

THE HAGUE – On Tuesday, King Willem-Alexander opened the new parliamentary year in the Ridderzaal in The Hague with the traditional Troonrede. Below is the unabridged translation:

“Members of the States-General,

The commemoration of 75 years of liberation begins in the parliamentary year that lies ahead of us. In the fall of 1944 the occupier was driven out of large parts of the south of the Netherlands. Above the large rivers it still took a long Hunger Winter before the Wilhelmus was heard there again.

At moments like this we realize how strong the country is that has been built up since then; strong in terms of prosperity, entrepreneurship and livelihood; strong due to the democratic values that are anchored in our constitutional state: equality, tolerance, freedom and legal certainty. And the Netherlands is strong because of the availability of healthcare, education and roofs over our heads. This way the post-war history tells a story of progress and improvement. In spite of periods of decline the direction is upward and forward.

The government intends to make this strong country even better; the economic requirements are there. The economy grows in 2019 for the sixth successive year. The national income is expected to increase next year by 2.6 percent and the surplus on the budget is 1 percent. This way the national debt decreases; this way the Netherlands is better prepared for future economic shocks. Unemployment decreases to a historic low 3.5 percent.

Therefore this is the moment to choose direction again and to make choices that provide space and certainty in the here and now for future generations. More people should concretely experience that things are going well; at home, at work and in the neighborhood. People should also feel that politics is there for everybody. There are questions: can we and our children continue to count on good healthcare, an affordable home, a job, good education, a safe neighborhood, a clean living environment and a decent pension? And then there is the question that does not fit into a calculator: are we living in the Netherlands sufficiently with each other and not too much next to each other? An ever better country is not a given; it required continuous maintenance and innovation. Confidence in the future is a work in progress.

Building a close-knit community concerns us all. Let me say this first: a lot of things are going well. The Netherlands is a country of volunteers, churches and associations that comes together around special achievements in sport and during national holidays. The government wants to take action in sectors were things are not going well. That cannot be arranged in one program or law, because a close-knit society consists of all areas of policy and of all layers of government.

The government is taking measures to combat loneliness among the elderly and to give vulnerable groups a more solid footing. We cannot acquiesce to the fact that more than half of all people over 75 years of age says that they feel lonely. We should also not accept that people with problematic debts or people with confused behavior and an increasing number of roaming youth end up at the fringes of society. Together with provinces, municipalities and local organizations the government intends to establish broad coalitions to take people out of their isolation and to give them another chance.

The government is also investing in historical awareness and cultural diversity. Heritage and culture show us where we come from, they hold a mirror in front of us in the present; this way they are of imminent importance for our country’s future. During this government term 325 million (euro) will become available for heritage. The budget for culture increases with an amount that goes up to 80 million (euro) per year, starting in 2020. This way there will be more space for new artistic talent; it will also become possible for all children to visit a museum during their time at school.

Building a close-knit society is obviously also about integration. In the proposals for a new system of naturalization the status-holders can and must go to work immediately and learn as fast as possible proper Dutch. After all, work and language are the shortest way towards full participation in our society.

For the strength of the community it is positive that people will have more to spend next year – the large middle class of people with an average income as well as the elderly and people relying on social benefits. The wages in our country are increasing. People are finding jobs again; they make a career and start to work more hours. Working will become more profitable due to the modernization of our fiscal system. Taxes on consumption will increase slightly; this creates space for lower premiums on labor. Ultimately households will save more in the coming years.

The favorable economy offers space to strengthen and modernize our country’s social-economic structure. The draft law Labor Market in Balance aims to make it less risky for employers to offer people a permanent contract. The government furthermore wants to combat fake-independence. ZZP’ers (independents without personnel – ed.) who consciously choose for entrepreneurship will not be bothered. Because a modern labor market takes personal circumstances into account, the birth-leave for partners will be extended by two days to a maximum of six weeks. Too many people with a labor-handicap are still unwillingly on the sidelines. The government will start a broad initiative to offer them more chances for a wholesome job. Work must be profitable, also for this group.

The current pension system decreasingly meets people’s collective expectations. The increased life expectancy, changes in the labor market and the incessant low interest have brought vulnerabilities to light. Together with the social partners the government wants to work on a pension system that does not have these vulnerabilities and that maintains at the same time strong elements like the collective execution.

Traditionally the climate for establishing a business in the Netherlands is good and this has to stay that way. This is why we continue to invest the coming years in education, innovation and science, as well as in an attractive living environment. For catch-up efforts in infrastructure there is an additional 2 billion euro available during this government term. With this money traffic bottlenecks will be addressed, traffic safety will be improved and public transport will be strengthened.  With fiscal measures we will increase the attraction of our country for large and smaller businesses. Corporate tax will go down and the tax on dividends will be abolished. We want to reward true business activity and only bring companies to our country that add something to the economy. The government will combat tax evasion, like with letterbox companies.

The favorable economy also creates space for investments in facilities and professionals who form the basis of a strong country. We will do that with an eye for nurses and their patients and clients; with improvements for teachers and students; with attention for more officers and safety in the streets; with the acknowledgement of the significance of the work of our soldiers at home and abroad; and with appreciation for our farmers, horticulturists and fishermen who provide our food – at times under difficult circumstances.

The cabinet comes with targeted measures to connect agriculture and nature with one another. Furthermore there will be a fund for young farmers who want to take over the company of their parents.

In the previous budget year additional money was already freed up for elderly care, so that they can rely on sufficient time, attention and proper care, at home or in a nursing home. That trend continues. The additional amount for elderly care increases during this government term to around 3 billion euro per year. Our children and grandchildren are also entitled to proper and accessible healthcare. We have to work on that now, because the group of elderly citizens is growing and the development of new medical techniques and medication does not stop.

In the collective expenditures currently 25 cent of every euro goes to healthcare. That is why new agreements have been made with hospitals, general practitioners, district nurses and the GGZ (branch organization for providers of mental healthcare and addiction care – ed.) about the quality and a moderate increase of the costs.

To be able to better meet the large demand for technical staff, VMBO-schools with a technical profile will get additional money. Furthermore the cabinet invests strongly in pre- and early school education to make sure that children with the risk of falling behind get more attention. To tackle the pressing shortage of teachers, money has been made available for higher salaries in primary education, a reduction of the work load and a 50 percent cut in the tuition fees for the first two years of teacher training. The shortage of teachers requires also in the coming years action and cooperation from all parties in education.

Combating large-scale and organized crime requires more attention. The Netherlands is a constitutional state where criminals do not lay down the law. We do not acquiesce to degeneration, to criminal settlements and to drugs criminality that has taken on industrial proportions in some parts of our country. The police force will get an additional 1,100 officers; the majority of them will go to work in the neighborhoods. An increasing problem is the mixture of upper- and underworld. We will combat this so-called undermining with a special fund. Furthermore additional money will become available for cyber security, because it is necessary to protect the digital infrastructure of our country.

Our soldiers have an important task within and outside our borders to keep the Netherlands safe. After years of budget cuts the deviation from the trend of higher expenditures for defense continues stronger in 2019 and in the years after that. The amount increases to an additional 1.5 billion euro per year towards the end of this governing term. This is an increase of the defense budget by 17 percent. With this necessary investment the defense forces are better able to execute their constitutional task of protecting the Kingdom.

A large problem is the overheated housing market. Especially in the large cities affordable homes are hard to come by; starters hardly stand a chance to enter this market. There is a large demand for homes with rents between 700 and 1,000 euro per month. The government joins hands with municipalities, housing corporations and construction companies. The joint objective is to make better use of the existing supply of homes, to combat excesses in the rental market and catch up with the construction of new homes. The ambition is to build an average of 75,000 homes per year. It is however obvious that these problems cannot be solved with the touch of one button. But it is necessary to turn the tide.

The same is true for climate policy. Just like this generation is not allowed to burden future generations with an untenable national debt, we are also not allowed to pass on an environmental debt. The reality is that the climate policy touches upon our whole way of housing, working and living. At the same time an ambitious climate policy offers opportunities for the innovative power of the Netherlands. This summer representatives of the industry, energy sector, agriculture, nature organizations and logistic companies presented a proposal for the main contours of a climate accord. Predominant in the execution of this proposal is that a switch to cleaner energy sources and production methods must be feasible and affordable for everyone in our country. We can only take this large bend together. The parliamentary initiative for a climate law shows that this is possible.

The urgency of the energy transition has only become more important after the decision to scale down the gas-mining in Groningen as soon as possible to zero. With this decision the government wants to do justice to the inhabitants of the earthquake area. Of course not all problems have been solved at once with this decision. That is why the government is taking concrete follow-up steps to compensate the damages and to strengthen the regional economy.

The country, provinces, municipalities and water boards are able to achieve many objectives only together. The energy transition, the safety in the streets, the care for a vital and livable countryside, but also the combat against domestic violence and child abuse – it all requires administrative cooperation. The role of the fellow governing bodies increases and becomes more important.  The growth of the municipal and provincial funds helps them to execute all tasks properly.

Members of the States-General, the post-war history proves that building a strong Netherlands cannot be done without looking outward. In the embedding of our country in international structures lies the basis for continued prosperity and safety. Based on this guiding principle the Netherlands is an active member of NATO, the UN, the EU and organizations like the World Trade Organization.

The multilateral world order that was built up after the Second World War is under pressure. The threats to the international legal order and the free world trade are numerous, in the ring around Europe as well as further away. It is a direct interest of the Netherlands to contribute to a stable international environment. The Dutch soldiers, who are doing this under the most difficult circumstances, have our unconditional support.

Until January 1, 2019 the Netherlands is a member of the Security Council. In that role we emphasize among other things the modernization of the UN-organization and UN-missions and more attention for the prevention of conflicts. The Dutch development aid is based on the well-tried combination of help and trade. There will be additional money and attention for help to refugees, for shelter in the region, for education in developing countries and for support to realize the climate objectives.

The closest are our partners in the European Union, with whom we work together on safety, stability and prosperity for the inhabitants of all member states. The membership of the European Union makes our country stronger in a world where the balance of power is shifting and where old alliances are no longer obvious. It is in the interest of the Netherlands that the European Union continues to take a stand for free global trade and against the threat of import tariffs and other trade impediments.

For the European Union 2019 will be an intensive year with a new European Commission and a still unpredictable Brexit. The Dutch government continues to strive with a positive agenda for a stronger EU that is focused on core tasks and that lives up to agreements.

Together we have to deepen the internal market and make the euro stronger. Together we stand for the constitutional state. And only together are we able to effectively tackle the unrest at the outer perimeters of Europe.

In the context of the Kingdom the reconstruction of St. Maarten, Statia and Saba had high priority after two devastating hurricanes in 2017. The coming years more than 600 million (euro) will be made available for this. The Netherlands is working on concrete improvements with the governments of Curacao and Aruba; for instance by interesting more Dutch companies in investments in Curacao and by supporting the improvements of assistance to the youth in Aruba. The joint coastguard plays a crucial role in managing migration and maintaining law and order. The government is taking concrete measures to combat poverty in Bonaire, Statia and Saba. Social premiums for employers will be lowered by 5 percent; therefore, the minimum wage and social benefits can go up by 5 percent. Furthermore there is 30 million (euro) available to combat poverty, for infrastructure and for economic development. This way we keep shaping a kingdom together wherein we are helping each other.

Members of the State-General,

A hundred years ago the first elections took place in the Netherlands after the introduction of a general right to vote for men and a system of proportionate representation. Traditional tendencies have lost ground. The separation of the socio-religious compartmentalization was sharper than before. And on the left and the right side new, often small factions emerged. The confessional cabinet –Ruijs de Beerenbrouck that took office in 1918, in the aftermath of the First World War, was supported by exactly half of the number of seats in the Second Chamber.  Nevertheless it managed to implement crucial improvements with the introduction of the 8-hour working day and the general right to vote for women. This is why we celebrate in 2019 one hundred years of voting rights for all Dutch people.

Every era is unique. But maybe we could draw one parallel with the present. The cabinet is aware that there are no obvious large majorities for the execution of the governing accord. There is however a strong tradition that together we are making a strong country step by step better. In that tradition this government wants to work, together with you and with everyone in our country.

In our democratic system you, members of the States-General, have a special responsibility. You may find support in the notion that many are wishing you wisdom and are praying with me for you for strength and God’s blessing.”

Queen Maxima - Troonrede 2018 - Photo by RTL

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Photo captions: King Willem Alexander & Queen Maxima. Photos by NU.nl en RTL.