A proposal by Dutch Social Affairs Minister Lodewijk Asscher to impose good citizenship contracts on all foreigners, including European Union citizens considering residency in the country, has ignited heated debates. Some do it away as the umpteenth time that -in its attempts to fix its immigrant integration issues- The Netherlands throws out the baby with the bathwater. Others say contracts are simply not possible for European citizens because Holland signed EU free movement treaties. Asscher, they say has borrowed a page from infamous anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders; and the Liberal/Labor coalition Government is said to make norm out of the exception.
Minister Asscher -from the PvdA (Labour) party- suggested the contracts in parliament last week, opting them as a means of ensuring people abide by “clear and tough” integration rules. “If we don’t take steps, we will pay an enormous price for our informality. The cultural integration is breaking down and we’re even seeing a decline in the way people view homosexuality, Jews and women. We need to be vigilant about what makes this country great: the freedom to be yourself,” he told the Volkskrant newspaper.
Asscher’s proposal has found quite some praise among conservative online communities, but met with resistance from others who say it appears a weak and disguised attempt to bring the Muslim residents of the country in line. Holland has over the past decade furiously debated Muslim immigration; Muslims, mostly immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, represent about 1 million of the 17 million population, and in recent years several lawmakers -most notoriously anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders- have called for measures that demand Muslims fully assimilate into mainstream society. Holland was also the first European country to propose legislation banning the burka.
To many this constitutes an undemocratic invasion of privacy, blessed by the all-healing western notion of democracy. A political move that didn’t really help in improving the problems with the problem youth in the country, many of whom are indeed misguided young Muslims.
But Asscher’s proposal merges matters, blurs their adjoining edges and throws out the baby with the bathwater; it is argued that the Minister’s aim is misguided, as most European immigrants who the contract would apply to are not the problem youth, but actually highly trained professionals hired by Dutch companies. Requiring from them that they take out time to present themselves at the Census Office to sign a good citizen contract could be considered a bother and would possibly harm Holland’s knowledge economy.
Either way, the Good Citizen Contract is probably not possible anyway. According to Jorrit Rijpma who teaches European Law in Leiden, such a contract would not be allowed. “We have ratified the EU free movement treaties. As an EU member country, you may require that all your country’s residents register at your census office, but that in fact is but a confirmation of EU citizens’ rights to move. All a member state may require is a passport and proof that the person in question is an employee, student or independent contractor.”
And then there’s the issue of people from the Dutch Caribbean, the five islands in the Caribbean once colonized by the Netherlands. Citizens from these islands still hold Dutch passports, but recent VVD draft legislation proposed in Parliament, still suggested that they would only be allowed to live in the Netherlands if they speak Dutch, have secured a starters qualification and income, and are no danger to public order. The Dialogue Organ Caribbean Dutchmen OCaN poked all sorts of holes in the VVD proposal; OCaN called it racist, arbitrary and “certainly not airtight.”
The legislation didn’t pass the Council of State, but the OCaN is not calling that a victory.
The Organ suggested what sounds like a proper solution to the problem: Holland should invest in economic resilience, education and human rights of its citizens. Not a bad idea to consider with regards to the good citizenship contracts.
HUXX is Marvin Hokstam, a Caribbean journalist who is rapidly going from reluctant to increasingly amazed by Amsterdam