Like all European nations, the Netherlands is experiencing massive societal changes and has been strongly impacted by several global developments within the last decade. The Netherlands has been especially hard hit by the energy crisis. Despite possessing large gas fields, inflation has hit 17% in 2022. As a result, a large number of the population are dissatisfied with many aspects of public life. Here are several examples of interesting developments in the Netherlands over the course of 2022:
Dutch Farmers’ Protests Flaring Up Again During the Summer
In the summer of 2022, the Dutch farmers’ protests flared up again. These protests, which started in 2019, are against the Dutch Government’s climate plans. According to these plans, farmers will have to use less fertilizer and reduce their livestock numbers in order to reduce CO2, nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions. This would hit the Dutch agricultural sector – the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter – very hard and would mean the end for many small-scale agricultural businesses. In addition, many farmers feel that their profession and rural lives are not respected well enough by neither the Dutch Government nor the general population. This makes the protest movement interesting from a nationalist perspective.
The trigger for the new protests was a new CO2 reduction plan, targeting a CO2 emission reduction of around 70% in areas close to protected natural areas, which would mean that many farming businesses would have to close. Most of them do not want to accept the buy-outs offered by the Government. In response, several farmers’ interest groups (Agractie and the Farmers Defence Force, as examples) decided to take action again. On several days over the course of June and July 2022, the farmers blocked highways and railway tracks, and organised demonstrations, with one of them attracting tens of thousands of participants.
Unfortunately, the effect of the protests on the Dutch Government’s stance seems to have been rather limited. The population is also divided, as a majority of the population still supports the movement, but many motorists are also unhappy with the effect that the highway blockades are having on their own lives.
A Yearly Occurrence: Zwarte Piet
In Dutch folklore, Zwarte Piet – which translates as Black Pete – is the companion of Saint Nicholas, who, in turn, is called Sinterklaas in Dutch. Giving gifts on Saint Nicholas’ Eve on the 5th December is a long-standing tradition in the Netherlands, and many small children believe that Sinterklaas actually exists. However, as his companion is often depicted as someone of black heritage, many people consider the Zwarte Piet figure to be racist and a reminder of the Netherlands’ history regarding slavery. Since the early 2010s, with the emergence of the “woke” culture, this has generated endless discussions and protests by opponents during public arrivals of Sinterklaas. In response, some cities decided to introduce a different version of Zwarte Piet, wearing only streaks of dark make-up to represent soot marks.
Even the United Nations felt obliged to respond. In 2015, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination wrote in a report that “the character of Black Pete is sometimes portrayed in a manner that reflects negative stereotypes of people of African descent and is experienced by many people of African descent as a vestige of slavery,” and has urged the Netherlands to “actively promote the elimination” of racial stereotyping.
In actuality, the reason for why Zwarte Piet has a black face is very simple – he is supposed to deliver presents to children by climbing through chimneys, which, of course, leaves a layer of soot on his face. Persons representing Zwarte Piet often wear black makeup to simulate this, but, for practical reasons, black people from Suriname or the Dutch Caribbean are often chosen for this role.
The good news, however, is that in spite of the yearly protests and alternative representations becoming more common, a large majority of the Dutch population do not consider the Zwarte Piet figure racist and want to keep his traditional appearance. Let us hope it stays that way.
Nationalist Parties & Groups
On the party front, 2022 was relatively quiet. No major elections took place. As a matter of fact, the Netherlands still lack a genuine nationalist party that can exert a significant amount of influence. In the 150-seat House of Representatives, two right-wing opposition parties are represented – the populist, anti-Islam Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), led by the well-known Geert Wilders, and the national conservative Forum voor Democratie (FVD), led by Thierry Baudet. Together, these parties have 22 seats.
Actions from nationalists were also relatively scarce. One thing worth mentioning, however, is that an event took place in the heavily multicultural city of Rotterdam during New Year’s Eve, where nationalists projected slogans on a pillar of the Erasmus bridge. This attracted significant attention.
Finally, the nationalist scene lost an important member – Joop Glimmerveen, one of the most famous Dutch nationalist leaders since the 1970s, passed away at the age of 94.
Maarten (Guest Writer)
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