Today for The Faces of EU we explore a country perhaps mostly known for bicycles and cannabis, yet actually has so much more to offer – the Netherlands. A Dutch student will tell us more! But first, as the tradition goes, let’s take a look at what Estonian students know of Dutch politics.
“Do you know anything about Dutch foreign or domestic policy?”
“Lots of drug gangs that the government needs to deal with?”
“One of the few monarchies in Europe”
As we can see, Estonian students don’t know that much about Dutch politics, so let’s dive right in.
Tell me about yourself. Are you an active community member? If yes, why do you feel it’s important? Is it a normal thing in your country/community to do so?
Yes, I am quite an active member. In my opinion, it is really important. Being an active member of the community makes you more involved. When you are more involved you can share your opinion more and change things for the better. You can’t make a change when you’re not involved. In my country, it is normal to be involved in the community, for example, by protesting and signing petitions, and every citizen over the age of 18 can vote. However, the level of education and income can greatly influence to what degree the people are involved.
How is youth activism organised in your nation and what is the role of the EU in it?
Youth activism in my country is organised really well. Every province has a youth parliament that can express its opinion. Teens can be part of political parties. And we have an organisation called LAKS that is there for all students, run by students. We also have the NJR where youth can be part of the UN. I’m not exactly sure about what the role of the EU is, but is do know that Erasmus+ sponsors some projects.
How do people in your country perceive the EU? How do politicians?
In the Netherlands, people are quite positive about the EU, and we have several parties that strongly support the EU. They believe that the EU helps with connections and is the best thing for our country. However, there are also parties fully against it that believe the EU costs way too much money and obstructs our trade.
What does the EU mean for you personally?
The EU means for me a bright future. And something that is very useful and I would love to be a part of.
How would you describe your country to a foreigner?
I would describe my country as very accepting of the LGBTQIA community, and cosy. It is a clean and green country. However, we are still stuck on some old traditions, that can be traced back to the time of slavery. This results in, in my opinion, still a trace of racism. The country has a lot of water and is very flat and everyone can share their opinion. But we do have a really bad housing crisis.
What do you hope for your country to achieve or develop in?
I hope that every last bit of racism will disappear, and we will reach out to climate accords and fix the housing crisis.
How will you contribute to achieving this goal?
I try to live as sustainably as possible and help people be aware of racism. I would also love to be part of politics
How can the EU contribute to the prosperity of your country?
It can help the economy by helping trade with other countries. They can also help in making sure we are economically stable.
What do you think the EU will look like in 30 years?
I think it can go two ways. First, the EU becomes stronger and more connected. More countries are part of it and it really does help for the greater good. Or, more and more countries decide to be independent (like the UK), resulting in the EU slowly falling apart and becoming unreliable.
The trademark of the Netherlands in the eyes of Europeans is cannabis. How does it make you feel? Should other countries follow your lead?
This may shock people, but I don’t think it is a problem. The level of addicts in the Netherlands is not higher than in other countries. Also, people can be sure their cannabis is safe because it is sold in coffee shops. There is no illegal trading going around and it is a great boost for our economy. A lot of tourists come for the ‘Amsterdam experience’. However, people take the Netherlands less seriously because of this part of their economy. On one hand, I do think other countries should follow because the results are quite good. On the other hand, it would be bad for the Dutch economy.
Aside from cannabis, cycling is another trademark of the Netherlands. What kind of problems or downsides are there to biking that do not get covered by the media?
There are two times as many bikes as there are people in the Netherlands. There are bikes EVERYWHERE. They often get dumped somewhere, which means unnecessary waste. Also, there are now a lot of e-bikes in the country; they go way faster and people don’t wear helmets. Because drivers often don’t see them, mainly because they are so fast, more people get injured. Also (don’t take this too seriously) people are expected to cycle everywhere, but the Netherlands is super flat and sometimes very windy and it is always raining. So every single day, I am soaked from head to toe when I go somewhere.
Image: Pexels, Chait Goli