News - March 10, 2011

As good as their word

Six months ago I wrote in this column that miracles really happened. I was responding to the news that the Provincial Council of North Brabant had decided to call a halt to the building of mega farms. I hung the newspaper clippings on my wall so that they could give me hope in low moments. Now I know that I might as well take them down again, and that even in the Catholic south of the country, miracles are few and far between.

What is wrong with our politicians? The more they talk about being as 'good as their word' - following in the footsteps of the oracle of the 'Proud of the Netherlands' party Rita Verdonk - the clearer it is that their word is worth very little. The Ecological Main Structure has been swept off the map along with its robust connection zones, And now it's the turn of Natura 2000. State secretary Bleker announced in the week running up to the elections that he wants to scrap four of the designated areas. Court cases will follow and the court will find against the government: for economic reasons these areas cannot be scrapped. But by that time the votes will long have been counted and the new upper house will be installed. It is always a good idea to plan for moments for stock-taking. That was so for the EMS and it is so for Natura 2000. The current government has a point there. But it should take into account all the interests involved and consult all the regional players: agriculture, entrepreneurs, recreation and nature. Collaboration instead of polarization, looking for the right solutions and alternatives within the frameworks agreed on. Then you can talk about being as good as your word.