Speech from the Throne 2005

20 september 2005

The Hague, 20 September 2005

Members of the States General,

Here in this chamber, the symbol of our democracy, on 30 April, the beginning of my jubilee year, you held a most festive reception for me and my family. That set the tone for a year of heart-warming celebrations, in which all the Dutch provinces as well as the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are taking part, each in its own way. I am most grateful for the enthusiasm with which I am being received by everyone this year. All these festivities give me strength to meet the demands of the proud office entrusted to me and to devote myself to fostering unity in our society.

The strength of the Netherlands has always lain in its ability to respond collectively to changing circumstances. These times are putting our adaptability to the test.

We are experiencing just how fast the world is moving. It seems the pace of change keeps quickening. Young, dynamic economies are on the rise. Ten new member states have acceded to the European Union. In our own country, the integration of ethnic groups is not unproblematic. We are persistently confronted with the impact of climate change. The threat of international terrorism is growing ever more palpable. These developments have presented people with major questions.

All these changes have brought a sense of insecurity. The disappointing turn that the economy has taken in recent years has only strengthened that sense. True, most people are satisfied with their lives, but many have growing concerns about society. Confidence in public authorities has weakened. These facts have not escaped the Government's concerned attention.

In every case, the Government is expected to find solutions. One of its chief tasks is to work towards both security and social and economic health for the Netherlands. With that aim in mind, the Government has taken a large number of far-reaching measures in a short time. Wage costs have been moderated. Early retirement is no longer promoted. Changes in the social security system encourage the unemployed and those who are partly capable of work to return to the labour market.

The health insurance system is being reformed to preserve good, affordable care for the future.

To be sure, this is a painful process. The government realises that a great deal is being asked of people. But these and other measures are necessary so that future generations in our country will have sufficient opportunities to build good lives for themselves.

The initial results of these policies are gradually becoming visible. The employment situation is beginning to improve, and businesses are turning greater profits. In the areas of safety and public health, there are also positive developments. Crime is on the decline. People feel safer. Waiting lists for care are shrinking.

Solid solutions take time. The government expects the effects of many of its actions to become more apparent in the years ahead. For now, it intends to give priority to careful implementation of the agreed measures, in the hope that this will lead to marked improvements in everyday life and a renewed balance in society.

We are deeply interconnected with the world around us. Events beyond our borders influence our economy and our security. International trade is the source of much of our prosperity. We are seeing Asia assume new importance in international and economic affairs. For centuries, migration has played a part in shaping our population and our culture. In view of this interdependence, we must continue our cooperative efforts at European and global level.

Our country's future is closely tied to Europe's future. We share the values of freedom, democracy and human rights. Our prosperity and security are in large part dependent on European cooperation. The outcome of the referendum on a new treaty for the European Union has underscored the need to reflect on what the Union has brought us and what we expect from European cooperation. Citizens should be able to feel more engaged with that process of cooperation than they have in the past. With your help, the Government will work to make that possible.

Solidarity does not stop at Europe's borders. The Netherlands believes that sustainable development is not possible without stability and justice. No country in the world can take effective action on its own. The United Nations and strong transatlantic ties thus remain crucially important.

Our country will continue to contribute generously to poverty reduction, the conservation of ecosystems and international crisis management operations. In reconstruction activities in Afghanistan and Africa, military measures and development assistance will be optimally coordinated with one another. Thanks to the commitment and effort of everyone in the armed forces, our national defence system is rapidly being adapted to meet today's standards.

The Government will devote its full attention to cooperation with the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba in the fields of law enforcement, better governance and the restoration of sound public finances. On this basis, a sensible new balance will be sought in relations within the Kingdom.

In domestic policy, the government sees four main objectives:
·         greater national security;
·         more people in the workforce;
·         fewer rules and higher quality in public services;
·         and more mutual respect in our society.

 The budget for next year contains proposals aimed at moving further along this path.

Measures to promote safety and security are essential for the proper functioning of our society and legal order. Our security programme will continue to be energetically implemented. The Government will strengthen cooperative relationships between ministries and between the police, the justice system and the security services, and it plans to merge the Dutch police into a single organisation. A bill has been presented to expedite the use of special investigative methods so that potential terrorist activity can be combated more effectively. Tougher measures will be taken to counter violence, drug dealing, antisocial behaviour and degeneration. The capacity for detention of offenders under a hospital order and recidivists will be expanded. The police, the public prosecution service and the judiciary will deal with cases quickly and carefully. Citizens and civil society organisations will also have to assume a share of the responsibility for enhancing safety and security in the Netherlands.

The Government wants to have more people in work. It is therefore important to strengthen and modernise our country's economic base, promote innovation and knowledge exchange, and instil sufficient flexibility in the labour market.

The security of a job for life is becoming less common. In the future, people will change jobs more frequently. That means that investment in personal skills is needed at every level. To meet this need, the Government will make additional resources available for education and knowledge. Working people will have more options for combining work, care and education. From 1 January 2006, the life-course savings scheme will give employees the opportunity to save for long-term leave. Families with children are receiving special attention, with extra funds to be made available for childcare. Limiting the financial burden borne by citizens and businesses will create scope for further economic recovery.

Investment in infrastructure and mobility is helping to strengthen and modernise the economy. Our cities are becoming better places to live, as old neighbourhoods are renovated and new homes are built.

In our densely populated and water-rich country, special attention is needed to ensure that our living environment is healthy and safe. Improvements in air quality, cleaner transport, sustainable energy and the development of our landscapes and natural environment are priorities. In addition, our coastal areas and dunes will be strengthened.

Cutting back on rules creates scope for talent and professional initiative. This will make our economy more dynamic and improve the quality of our public services.

The Government wishes to create a climate that encourages entrepreneurs in the service sector, industry and agriculture. Corporation tax will be further reduced. The administrative burden on companies will be cut considerably by the end of next year, and it will become easier to obtain permits.

Education and care professionals need greater latitude to perform their work as they see fit. The educational system will be less constrained by rules, giving teachers, school managers, parents and pupils the freedom to make their own choices. Pupils, rather than procedures, should take precedence. Teacher training programmes will be improved, which will further enhance the quality of education. The Government will provide additional funds to develop community schools and practical training classrooms in pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO).

Quality and better service are also priorities in the care sector. As of 1 January 2006, there will be one basic health insurance package for everyone. There will no longer be a distinction between public and private insurance. Insurance companies will no longer select clients on the basis of their state of health. In order to make health insurance affordable for everyone, certain households will be eligible for care benefit. In addition, the Government will make additional resources available in 2006 for nursing homes and youth services.

Municipalities, provinces and water boards hold a share of the responsibility for improving the quality of public services. The Government sets great store by effective cooperation with subnational authorities.

Our country has a diverse population with equally diverse views. The right of every person and every organisation to its own identity is fundamental to our legal order. That right is based on the conviction that we must have respect for others, and it leaves no place for discrimination, extremism or violence.

Cooperation, understanding and knowledge of our history and culture are forces that bind our society together. We need to acknowledge that with rights come obligations. In order to foster a tolerant society, the Government will continue to give its full attention to social cohesion. It will continue to pursue its civic integration policy and combat radicalisation.

Culture, art and sport enrich our lives and strengthen social bonds. The Government supports the preservation of our national heritage and will make additional funds available to promote participation in sports.

The Government will also present additional proposals to you for strengthening the relationship between voters and elected representatives.

Members of the States General,

In her farewell address to the entire Dutch nation twenty-five years ago, in 1980, my mother said:

"It is my privilege to serve the public good; to offer a haven amid the turbulence of social currents; and to help strive towards a society where people respect what is important to others, towards harmony in diversity."

These words are just as relevant today and will remain so in the years ahead.

As members of parliament, you represent our country's vast and rich diversity. The Government is counting on a productive dialogue with you. You have a responsible and difficult task. You may draw succour from the knowledge that many are wishing you wisdom and join me in praying for strength and God's blessing upon you.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005