‘Loyal to the tricolour’ Changing regimes of belonging in the Netherlands

vendredi 19 février 2010, par Pieter Dronkers

Thèmes : multiculturalisme

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Since 2006 attending a naturalisation ceremony is part of the official pathway to Dutch citizenship. In 2009 signing a Declaration of Solidarity became also a required element. Although this sort of symbols of loyalty had long remained suspect in the aftermath of World War II, today these seem to have lost their associations with a troubled past. During the parliamentary discussion on these rituals the urgency and feasibility of their introduction was almost beyond dispute. The debates centred on the proper form of the ceremony and the wording of the oath.

The almost unquestioned approval of the ceremony illustrates the current popularity of the figure of citizenship. It is perceived by many as the ultimate remedy to fight the increasing fragmentation of Dutch society. One of the most ardent supporters of the binding power of citizenship is Ms. Rita Verdonk, Dutch Minister of Integration from 2003 till 2007. When she took office, she criticised the multicultural policies of her predecessors. These had resulted in unwanted forms of cultural competition. According to Ms. Verdonk, civic integration was the only real option to bridge the widening gap between different groups in society. Citizenship education became a new element in the curriculum of primary schools and dual nationality was discouraged. Naturalisation ceremonies were introduced to symbolise that being a citizen of the Netherlands implied a wholehearted loyalty to the Dutch tricolour, to Dutch society and to Dutch values (Kamerstukken II 2003/04, 28 689, no. 17, pp. 7-9).

The analysis of the socially devastating effects of multiculturalism is not unique to the Dutch minister of Integration. In current political debates, the Netherlands often figures as a classic example of a failed multicultural state. At first, this negative evaluation came as a bit of a shock, since for quite a while the Netherlands had been praised as the guiding light of successful multicultural politics. The Dutch self-image was shattered. However, it seems that the Dutch have quickly recovered from this ‘seismic shift’ in the outside perception of the Netherlands. Today, Dutch politicians pride themselves in their role as European forerunners in strict integration policies. For instance, the Netherlands was one of the first to introduce a Civic Integration Examination.

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par Pieter Dronkers

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