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Liekuut | Regaining trust in the province of Groningen? It’s time for reliable policies

03 April 2023
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Nienke Busscher

In ‘Liekuut’ which is the Groningen dialect for straight ahead or straightforward, we share the view of one of our academics on a topical issue every month. This is how we show that UG researchers contribute to the societal debate.

A weighty report by the Groningen parliamentary committee of inquiry on natural gas extraction is on the table. The outcome is clear and the dust has settled. According to the committee, the government owes a debt of honour to the people of Groningen. Dr Nienke Busscher, coordinator of the Liveable and Promising Groningen Knowledge Platform of the UG (responsible party), says this does not solely mean fair compensation. In her opinion, it is also time for reliable policies that are close to the residents.

Trust dies but mistrust blossoms

How can a government be reliable and keep its promises? That is the key question. Nienke Busscher: ‘The first thing the government should do is to start listening to people’s needs and problems and respond to those as best they can. This is just not happening, and residents tell me this every time I talk to them. As a result, there is a deep level of mistrust towards the authorities. This mistrust has worsened since the Dialogue Table, where societal organizations and residents’ groups were only allowed to join for the sake of appearance. Our Knowledge Platform conducted research into the participation process. This has revealed that societal organizations have no say at all. They are not included in policy changes, which is detrimental to the residents because they do not see their voice reflected in the new direction set out by the government.’

Practical solutions

‘Broadly announced policy changes proposing the natural gas-free province and hydrogen projects are of course great, but these are not the kind of things residents are immediately excited about. The small initiatives put forward by them are unfortunately not being mentioned yet. Plans that have been made in the Toukomst (Future) project of the National Programme Groningen together with residents are being completely ignored. The people of Groningen need a government that has a clear overview and is able to reflect on what is needed in practice. If the government would take that as its starting point and not let the system be the guiding factor in the solution, I believe it would help a lot.’

Self-reflection and moral compass

‘What the survey perhaps exposed even more is the government’s contempt for the people of Groningen. This has put the safety of the inhabitants of Groningen at risk in a culture that has little self-reflection and lack of a moral compass. Changing that culture will do more good to the Groningen residents than small changes to the system. Make integrity and reliability the spearhead of your policy, including both the views of the locals and the efficiency of the civil service. The government must lay down a clear vision in which residents and societal organizations are given a voice that is being listened to and no more empty promises are made. My hope for a government that becomes reliable once again does remain. In State Secretary Vijlbrief we now have someone who does listen and is sincerely concerned for the people of Groningen. We need more people like him.’

Knowledge Platform

Overview of all 'Liekuut' opinion pieces.

Last modified:12 March 2024 09.21 a.m.
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