On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, Their Majesties King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands accompanied by Their Royal Highnesses Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands attended the 2016 Prinsjesdag held at the Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) in Den Haag.
Prinsjesdag (Prince’s Day/Budget Day) is the opening of the new parliamentary year of the Staten-Generaal (Dutch Senate and House of Representatives). During today’s opening His Majesty delivered a speech highlighting the budget and policies of the Dutch government for the coming year (hence 2017).
After his speech, Their Majesties and Their Royal Highnesses Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands returned to Paleis Noordeinde where they waved to the crowd from the balcony.
Below is a rough translation of His Majesty King Willem Alexander’s speech from the throne:
“Members of the States General,
Netherlands has in recent years been under the feet again solid ground. The financial and economic crisis is behind us. We live in a prosperous and attractive country, also in comparison with other countries, and have good facilities, good infrastructure and a strong rule of law. We have a lot to be proud of and to build.
At the same time in the maelstrom of everyday anxiety and unease characteristics of the times. With everything that is going on worldwide, it is understandable that we worry as a society and will adhere closely to the familiar and well-known. The international threat of terrorism, instability on Europe’s external borders, the refugee issue and the economic uncertainties in the global market are indeed real problems with a major impact on daily life.
It is not the first time in the history of our country that we have to address threatening and unpredictable developments. It is also not the last time that we will find solutions together. The recently deceased former prime minister Piet de Jong, who almost art to elevate the sensible handling of turmoil and change, spoke in his time regularly on the need for “progress-resistant. He once said: “It is a duty of the government to look forward to what the future should be and as timely as possible to bring about modifications needed to seize the opportunities of the future.”
This cabinet period starts from the conviction that sound public finances and a strong economy are the foundation of a good and inclusive social system, good health care and good education and a high quality of other public services for future generations. For all major changes that have occurred, the objective of government policy remained unchanged: to ensure a future where progress, innovation and economic growth can continue along with protection, solidarity and look after each other – in the best traditions of our country.
Several years ago, these achievements were under pressure. The economy contracted, the budget deficit was nearly 4 percent and the number of people seeking employment peaked at 700,000, about 8 percent of our workforce. In addition, housing prices had fallen sharply, the cost of care year the AOW threatened to be priceless and rose on year faster than the national income.
That our country is now significantly better position than a few years ago and again participate in the leading group in Europe, is a collective achievement. Political differences were bridged and different social interests are united. Never before have so many great reforms were once put in motion, often with the support of opposition parties and civil society. That happened in health care and education, employment and housing, and in the state pension, energy and financial sectors. It is much sought after by everyone. Many brought financial sacrifices and there is a large demand for the willingness to accept changes in everyday life. Without perseverance, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of the Dutch population was the result has been less positive.
For several years, the Dutch economy is stable again. The expected growth for 2017 despite the brexit, to 1.7 percent. The housing market is attracted and the cost of care are limited. The budget deficit drops to 0.5 percent next year and the national debt is falling rapidly towards 60 percent of our national income.
That comes back room to move. With fewer people, the mortgage underwater, making moving easier. Tenants get more financial space by increasing the rent allowance. Entrepreneurs who have confidence in the future, to invest more in workers and in the renewal of their business. And families get to spend more.
More and more people find work. After 2014 there were more than 225,000 jobs in our country when. Step by step, reducing unemployment to 5.8 percent. It is positive that more job seekers find jobs over 45 years. The number of young people work, is at the highest level in seven years. The agreements with employers on more jobs for people with occupational disabilities are energetically performed. The labor force is growing as more and more Dutch willing and able to actively participate in the labor market. This means that the number of unemployed is declining more slowly than hoped. Therefore, the approach to unemployment – especially long-term unemployment – remains a high priority.
With the social partners, the government has agreed a number of specific measures. Thus the rules for seasonal work to be relaxed and get unemployed people over 50 intensive support in finding work. The minimum wage over 21 years will be abolished in two steps, because young people deserve a full wage. Employers are receiving compensation to counteract negative effects on employment.
The risks and uncertainties for our open and internationally orientated economy are mainly from abroad. Lower growth in major emerging markets like China and Brazil have an impact on us. There are the announced brexit also new uncertainties in Europe, which directly affect the Netherlands. The UK is an important trading partner and the brexit cost jobs in our country. The aim of the government is that economic relations remain strong.
Cooperation is essential in Europe for the open Dutch economy. Netherlands continues to focus on the European Union’s growth and jobs. A stable euro, a strong and effective banking union and a strong and fair internal European market, with equal pay for equal work in the same place, directly in the interests of our country.
The positive financial and economic developments, slowly but definitely room for growth of incomes and for targeted investments in the future. It is gratifying that the purchasing power is growing again this year and next year for workers, the elderly and people on benefits. Thus, the Government is again a balanced spending power distribution. The care allowance goes up. With a boost of 200 million euros lowers the threshold for young parents to use childcare, making it easier to combine work and family. It is important that children at risk of growing up in poverty can participate in school trips may be a member of a sports club and the opportunity to go to music lessons. For this, 100 million euros. Proposed cuts in long-term elderly and disabled are deleted the size of half a billion euros. In schools, extra money available to promote equal opportunities. The allowance for specific school fees in secondary vocational education, such as clothing, tools and software, is going up.
Major investments are needed in energy, sustainability, accessibility and education. The SMEs should be able to get funding for new growth. The government to make proposals for such investments where needed better support.
Investing in the future also means addressing problems as they occur in the earthquake zone in the province of Groningen. The consequences are far-reaching and the government will work with all affected Groningen solutions. By halving the gas at strengthening compared to 2012 and houses and other buildings are security risks limited.
The effects of climate change require substantial investments and innovations in renewable energy sources such as wind, water and sunlight. Agreements on an affordable and clean energy are set out in the Energy Agreement. This development is not only good for the environment but also creates jobs and opportunities for Dutch businesses.
Because of the security situation, nearby and elsewhere in the world, the government in 2017 again draws extra money for the armed forces, the police, the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor. Since 2014, the defense budget increased stepwise, structurally rising to 870 million euros in 2020.
The crime rate in the Netherlands to decline steadily and the government continues to invest in improving safety. The budget for 2016 was for security though a structural amount of 250 million euros available. From 2017 there is a structural 450 million euros. This allows the people who again committed every day for our security get more space for the performance of their duties: the local policeman to special counterterrorism units from the prosecutor to the jailer.
In the year behind us, the world was again shaken by horrible jihadist attacks, which cause untold grief and human suffering. Including France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey were hit hard.
We can not and will not allow in any way that terrorists threaten our freedom, our security and our democratic values. The Action Programme Integrated Approach Jihadism has a mix of preventive and repressive measures. The government wants to eliminate the breeding ground for radicalization in the Netherlands, including by promoting active citizenship in schools. Exits will be difficult to put stop jihad goers and their benefits. They are prosecuted and risking revocation of Dutch citizenship after a conviction.
Cooperation in Europe in the fight against terrorism is crucial. Within the European Union, our country works intensively to improve the exchange of information between European intelligence and investigative services, joint border management, tackling financial flows and improving cyber security.
Outside Europe, the Netherlands military, humanitarian and political means to contribute to the fight against ISIS in hotbeds Syria and Iraq. Our soldiers and aid workers there and elsewhere in the world perform in difficult conditions, important work in the service of international stability and people in distress.
In close cooperation with the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom, the government has conducted successful campaign for temporary membership of the United Nations Security Council. Reform of the United Nations is an important issue for the government. In terms of content, the priority is an integrated approach to peace, security and development in conflict prevention and protection of civilians.
War and terror driving innocent people from their homes, facing an uncertain future. much put in motion during the Dutch Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2016 to bring the flow of refugees from Syria and other vulnerable countries under control. That policy is based on three pillars: elimination of reasons to flee by improving living conditions and combating violence on the spot, reception in the region, and combating smuggling through perilous sea routes. Netherlands helps include 260 million euros for improving reception in the region.
In March 2016 the Turkish government agreed to stem the flow of refugees and better regulate. The number of people drowning in a horrible way to makeshift crossings between Turkey and Greece and the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe, is thus declined substantially. Continued implementation of these agreements demands in the coming period due attention.
The Netherlands is a country that everyone who qualifies for it, offers an opportunity to integrate into our society and everyone who lives here to feel at home. Asylum seekers who come to the Netherlands, is a decent but austere care provided. Last year, they succeeded thanks to the efforts of local authorities, aid agencies and many volunteers. Who wants to build a future in the Netherlands, must be willing to learn the language and to make an active contribution. We expect that everyone undertakes consciously and positively to our country and our way of life. The mandatory participation declaration enters into force in 2017. Participation and integration be more facilitated by the applicants the opportunity to volunteer.
It suits the character of the Netherlands to be taken all kinds of private initiatives in many districts and municipalities to involve applicants in society. At the same time it makes sense that society concerns as to the arrival of large groups of refugees. We wonder whether the differences in culture and values are not too big and facilities not too come under pressure.
In the Netherlands, long fought for a number of democratic values, including the separation of church and state, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. In our country men and women are equal before the law and we make no distinction as to race, creed or sexual orientation. Anyone who wants to live in our country, should respect these values and comply. No one is asked to deny their own origin or culture, but to constitutionally defined standards can not be questioned and against intimidation and violence crackdown.
Members of the States General,
The Netherlands is a strong country in an unstable world. In the last few years are collectively results have been achieved which make that we can look forward with confidence. It is not wise to underestimate the difficulties and uncertainties which the Netherlands international is facing. But history teaches us that “steady progress” is possible by working together for solutions, at home and with our international partners.
It also draws your work during the parliamentary year which begins today. You may not know they are supported by the knowledge that many are wishing you wisdom and join me in strength and God’s blessing pray for you.”