Decolonialisation (1945 - 1975)
There was a shortage of just about everything after the war. A new coalition government was formed after the war with PvdA (Labour) and the KVP (Catholic People's Party) called the Rooms-rood (Roman Red) coalition. It was the first cabinet with no Orthodox Calvinist members in it, a thing unseen in the political landscape of the Netherlands until then, it included liberals, socialists and catholics alike.
However this government was haunted by all sorts of serious problems from the start. There was a severe shortage of housing in the Netherlands and many cities were still in the midst of reconstruction. Basically the country and its government went from crisis to crisis.
To make matters worse, now the crown colony of the Netherlands was in the midst of a war for independence. The Japanese had shown the Indonesians that the Dutch army was not invincible and all powerful. Fights began almost as soon as WW2 was over. The Japanese who had imprisoned many Dutch families then present in Indonesia during the war, now ironically were forced to guard these families yet again, as this time they were unable to return home, because it often was not safe. Most of the Dutch survivors of these camps had an uneasy choice of staying inside camps, or risk it afterall and return home. Many of these families included the women who were the socalled "troostmeisjes" (translation: comfort girls) who were forced into prostitution by the same Japanese army during the war, that same army that now guarded them against the Indonesian rebels. It must have been a surreal situation to these Dutch colonial families. Riots erupted and fighting ensued in many parts of the then Dutch Indies (later to be known as Indonesia), fighting was particularly severe on the island of Java, the most important of all the islands, as it held the seat of the colonial government and was the richest part of the Dutch Indies.
The political left side of the government did not want a war, especially not now that the Netherlands just had come out of one, they also saw the oppression and exploitation still present in the colony as immoral and basically were not opposed to Indonesian independence. The political right however were severely opposed to very idea of giving up the crown colony, they feared it would financially ruin the Netherlands, especially since the money made there could be well spent rebuilding the country. Drees the first social democratic prime-minister of the Netherlands knew that was faulty reasoning, since he knew a war in the Dutch Indies was very costly, but he also knew he could not get everything he wanted, since any coalition government in the Netherlands demanded a political compromise. A deal was struck between the members of government, the right would get their war and try to keep Indonesia inside the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while in return the left got their social welfare programs. Drees likely reckoned we would lose the war anyway and so in reality he would get everything he wanted anyhow, though it would be costly and it would take time. As it turned out, he was not wrong.
The Dutch people themselves too were divided over the issue. Some, particularly those considered politically right did not want to lose the colony, especially not to a socialist, because one of the most prominent champions of freedom for Indonesia was Sukarno, a socialists at heart, and he would eventually be the first president of the newly independent Indonesia. Consider that this was in a time when the cold war had just started. Many others, particularly those on the political left wanted an end to the exploitation. Although the government called the war of indonesian independence by its euphemistic term of police actions, most people full well realised the harshness and cruelty of this war. As rumours and news began to spread more and more people became opposed to these police actions. Graffiti was sprayed for instance on the train wagons transporting soldiers bound for Indonesia, with phrases like "meat transport Amsterdam-Jakarta", the word meat transport was of course a cynical joke, hinting that these soldiers were nothing more than cannon fodder. Most soldiers who went to Indonesia did not want to go and were force drafted into service, the few that actually did want to go, were often adventurers, or they needed the money, or came from right wing families, who were often fiercely anti-communist.
As time went by the government and military soon noticed how hard it was to keep such a large country under control and occupied. The military increasingly resorted to cruel and brutal measures to try and keep the Indonesian population in check. One of the more severe acts was the forced transportation of many thousands of captured Indonesian freedom fighters in train carriages that were meant to transport cattle, many suffocated and died during the journey. Many Dutch initially refused to believe the story, but when it turned out it was actually true, many Dutch citizens, even the moderate right grew to resent the Dutch government, which became ever more unpopular. It is particularly that police action that made Dutch military and right wing members of the government deeply unpopular at home, because it reminded people of the hardships of the occupation, because the same thing had happened to many jews, who were transported in a similar fashion to the concentration camps.
Though increasingly unpopular, the government only relented, once outside pressure grew, after the United Nations threatened to impose harsh economic sanctions on the Netherlands. Indonesia finally became independent in 1948, but that was not the last of the colonial troubles for the Netherlands that came with decolonialisation.
The end result was that many thousands of people were forced to flee Indonesia after the independence. Particularly the Dutch colonial families and the indigenous people who had fought in the Dutch colonial army. Particularly many Moluccans fled to the Netherlands during and after the Indonesian war of independence. Many of these Moluccans adhered to the christian faith, in what still is the largest muslim country in the world in terms of population. Finding appropriate accomodation for that many people was not easy, especially considering the severe housing shortage, and so many of the Moluccans initially ended up being housed in the abandoned concentration camps inside the Netherlands such as camp Westerbork in the province of Drenthe. Many Moluccans remained hopeful that they would be able to return to the Moluccan islands and get an independent state, as years passed by these hopes were dashed. Some resented the Dutch government for making no efforts for an independent state in Indonesia and resorted to hijackings and hostage taking. The most severe of these hostage situations was the train hostage crisis of 1977, when 9 Moluccan youths decided to hijack a train near De Punt, a small village in the province of Drenthe. The hostage sitution resulted in 8 deaths, 1 innocent passenger, the train driver and 6 of the 9 hostage takers.
Indonesia was not entirely independent after 1948. The Dutch government kept Dutch Papua New Guinea, known in the Anglo-Saxon world as West Papua, until 1963, when it was overturned to Indonesian rule. The eastern part of the island remained in English hands and afterwards became part of Australia, until it finally became independent in 1975. Indonesia also gained the former Portuguese colony of East-Timor, which finally became an indepedent nation in may 2002. East-Timor remains till this day a very unstable country. The Dutch tried to turn this Dutch Papua into a model colony, the government built many schools and hospitals, sought to convert the population to christianity and tried to ban the practice of head-hunting and cannibalism, both traditions then still present on the island of New Guinea, and started to explore the Dutch part of the island as early as 1935. It remained until then the last bit of unexplored territory in the world, that had not been explored by Europeans. It turned out the island was rich in gold and copper and large deposits of gold were found in 1959. By then the United Nations grew concerned, meanwhile the Indonesian military had made insurgencies into the area, which including a force lead by none other than Suharto, the future dictator of Indonesia. Although the European Board was opposed to this incorporation of Papua into Indonesia, as they feared it would simply trade one form of colonialism for another, they were powerless to stop it. The ultimate decision fell the United States which was very influential in the United Nations. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the then president of the United States relunctantly approved the incorporation of Papua into Indonsia. From then on, until the year 2001, the territory became known as Irian Jaya, until the name was overturned to its original name of Papua and the territory was granted a very minimal form of autonomy. The seperatist movement, consisting of the indigenous people of the territory, remains active under the name of Free Papua Movement till this very day. The reason given by members of the Kennedy administration for that decision, was that they feared the island would fall into the hands of the communists, a very unlikely scenario even considering Sukarno was still in power in Indonesia at that time. It seems more likely that Suharto outmanouvred the Dutch diplomats and may have a struck a secret deal of some sort with Kennedy. Because Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas Texas, only a few months afterwards, we may never know what the true reason was as to why Kennedy decided the territory was to be incorporated into Indonesia and Suharto himself died in 2008, never having mentioned a word during his lifetime.
Meanwhile the colony of Suriname had no such troubles and remained a peaceful and stable part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but it was still a colony and it was decided that it too should be an independent nation. Indepedence was given without any fight or any form of resistance in 1975. Unfortunately it soon turned out that the newly independent Suriname was left ill prepared. As its economy slumped after 1975, due to the oil crisis, rampant corruption and inadequate financial reserves left by the Dutch government, it became an increasingly unstable country like so many other countries in South America. In the early eighties the military, lead by Bouterse staged a coup d'etat to oust the democratically elected government from power. The same thing happened with so many other South American countries in that period, including countries like Argentina and Chili. One thing where you can still notice how fragile the economy of Suriname was in the beginning of its independence is the fact that it is one of the few nations in the world, that is not a regular member of ISO, but only a subscriber member. Many prominent Suriname politicians were shot and killed at Fort Zeelandia by Bouterse and his henchmen and is what is known today as the december killings of december the 8th 1982. The country became an unstable dictatorship from 1980 till 1989. Afterwards the country stabilised and returned to normal, but Bouterse remains alive and an ever present danger to the fledgling democracy of Suriname. Till this very day Bouterse is wanted by interpol and the Dutch police, due to various crimes he committed, including the smuggling of narcotics. As of 2010 Bouterse was elected President of Suriname.
The only parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that can be seen as effective Dutch colonies till this day remain the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean sea. Of these 6 islands, only the island of Aruba has a "status aparte". The 5 remaining islands are actually still part of the Netherlands and 3 of these 5 islands as of 2010 is a Dutch county in its own right. The remaining 2 will also be given a status aparte.
The main reason for this state reform is, because many of the local governments got into huge debts. Whether this is a form of decolonialisation or counter-decolonialisation I'll let you the reader be the judge of that.
The major reason for the current geographic situation is that these islands are small and financially very dependent on the main land. Aruba the only island with the status aparte and therefore effectively independent, is the fiscally strongest and most succesful of the 6 islands. This is because large cruise ships carrying many American tourists are able to harbor there. The main source of income of these islands remains oil, shipping, banking, and tourism. Most of the tourists are American and Dutch. Many of the inhibitants of the Dutch Antilles are multilingual, and speak Papiamento (a local Creol tongue with a mixture of Dutch, Spanish and Portugues words), Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. English is especially common to be spoken in the Leeward islands, where a large part of the population, particularly on the island of Saba are American citizens (mostly medicine students). The climate and landscape on these islands is hugely varied and ranges, from tropical, subtropical, to desert. If I mentioned in earlier parts that the Netherlands does not have any hills, then I take it back, because due to the state reform those islands will become mere counties and therefore effectively part of the Netherlands proper, which means the highest point of the Netherlands will be Mount Scenery on the island of Saba, a former vulcano that has a tropical rainforest on top of it.
Rampant corruption remains problematic on many of these islands. Some of the islands are also frequently visited by Venezuelan smugglers, who often use it as a stopover to transport Columbian and Bolivian cocaine to the United States and Canada. It is due to these smugglers that a large navy presence is required. Dutch and American navy actually cooperate to hunt down these drugs smugglers, a little known fact that many conservative Americans either refuse to believe, nor even want to mention in the media. Both American and Dutch navy vessels attempt to hunt down these drugs smugglers, though Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez thinks otherwise and he fears the United States and the Netherlands may be planning to invade Venezuela. So what is it? No navy, or no invasion force? An actual invasion force, or a police force? Fox news and Hugo Chavez can't both be right, can they? Or maybe they're both wrong.
Depillarisation (1945 - 1975)
The Netherlands remained a politically and religiously divided nation after the war. Simply put there were 4 large groups in the Netherlands, namely: Protestants, Catholics, Socialists and Liberals. These 4 groups formed what is nowadays known as the 4 pillars of Dutch society. Each group had their own newspaper, their own radio station, their own political party, their own bar, their own shops, their own schools, their own musical society, their own football club and so on.
If you were born a Protestant, you were a member of the NCRV, or if you were a more liberal Protestant a member of the VPRO. You would read the newspaper Trouw and vote for the CHU, or the ARP if you were more orthodox, and you would attend service in a Protestant Church of whatever denomination you and your parents held.
If you were born a Catholic, you would be a member of the KRO and read the Volkskrant and vote for the KVP, and you would attend service in a Catholic church.
If you were born a socialist, you would be a member of the VARA and read Het Parool and vote for the PvdA.
If you were born a liberal, you would be a member of the AVRO and either read the NRC Handelsblad, or read the Telegraaf and vote for the VVD.
However since none of the 4 groups held a majority in parliament, people had to cooperate and form coalitions, especially the political elite. The remainder of the Dutch population had very seperate lives. After the war this situation would slowly but gradually change. During the occupation (see previous part) many people of the different political groups had to cooperate with eachother to try and survive the occupation. A lot of people thus learned that many of us were all alike no matter what political or religious background one had. As the Netherlands started to prosper after the war, people began to buy more and more electronics and consume other goods, this also included the purchase of radio's and above all television sets. Though every group started their own television network, it soon became apparent that many people also watched television programs of other political groups. By the late sixties there were few households left that did not have a television, only the most extreme orthodox Calvinists did not have a television, because their faith did not allow it. The late sixties also brought with it the Hippie movement and Flower Power and this resulted that mixed marriages between Protestants and Catholics became ever more common, a thing previously frowned upon by both sides.
Due to the exposure of television and mixed marriages, the divisions between the 4 groups began to become ever smaller, till eventually more and more people began to stop voting according to the group norm. Church attending numbers also began to drop throughout the sixties and seventies and so the political parties with a religious background ultimately merged and the CDA was formed in 1977. Only the more orthodox Calvinists held on to their beliefs.
In the end people began to stray from the groups and basically would do whatever they felt like. If you even read a newspaper, you would probably read one of the local newspapers, or the ones that suited you most. If you were a student you'd probably read the Volkskrant, because it had good interviews and a cheap subscription fee, if you were a blue-collar worker, you'd probably read the Telegraaf, because it had a lot of gossip. If you were poor and young and female, you'd more often vote PvdA, if you were older, rich and male, you'd more often vote VVD, and if faith and family values still mattered to you, you'd vote CDA, if the environment was important to you, then you'd vote Groenlinks, if none of this mattered to you and you only cared about being democratic, then you'd probably vote D66. However this vote was no longer certain, people could change their beliefs and values at any time and decide otherwise.
The end result of the depillarisation proces also meant that there were too many newspapers, bars, shops, musical societies and football clubs. Those that were unable to compete or could not get enough members in time gradually disappeared, due to bankruptcy, lack of successors, or other reasons.
By the late seventies or early eighties it became apparent that the old 4 pillars were gone.
The Reconstruction & the Marshall Plan (1948 - 1951)
Europe was slowly recovering from the war, but the recovery did not go smooth at all. There was a shortage of just about everything after the war. There was a severe shortage of housing in many European countries, like Germany, Poland, Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and many more European nations. Many Western European nations had troubles with their colonies, who were beginning to break away from them. Eastern Europe was in the grasps of the Soviet Union and as Winston Churchill put it, "an iron curtain" had descended between the West and the East. Greece was in the midst of a civil war, with the communists trying to overrun the country. Communist parties grew ever more stronger in countries like France and Italy. There was a fear that the whole of Europe might fall into the hands of the Kremlin. Something had to be done, to relief Europe of its troubles. George Catlett Marshall then secretary of state of the United States of America hatched a plan that would economically aid Western Europe and hopefully keep out the communists. The plan worked brilliantly in every fashion and it started the greatest economic boom of the twentieth century in all free Western European nations. This economic boom lasted for nearly three decades.
Though countries like France and Italy received a large portion of the aid, the largest chunk of the aid of the Marshall plan went to the United Kingdom and Germany. There were several reasons for that decision, (1) the United Kingdom had been a key ally throughout the war and was hence considered a good friend of the United States and naturally also became a key ally against communism, (2) the Allies had learned their lesson from WW1 of imposing sanctions on Germany, in fact it was decided that a good and democratic Germany would also have to be an economically strong Germany, (3) Germany itself was devided and Western Germany was on the frontline against communism in Europe, Western Germany therefore had to be a democratic and affluent bastion in Europe that would halt communism.
The Mariakaakje Legend
Stacked in the middle between then Western Germany and the United Kingdom were of course the low countries, like the Netherlands and Belgium, so naturally it meant that they too should receive a share. Just how big a share remained to be determined. Marshall representatives visited the Netherlands in 1947. Despite severe shortages, most of the industrial production was back to the pre-war level in the Netherlands by 1948, but many city centres still had not been completely rebuilt. This Marshall committee met with then prime-minister Drees. Drees was a social-democrat and though certainly no communist, he was therefore still to be considered politically left, something that soon dawned on the representatives. Although a social-democrat, Drees had had a Calvinist upbringing and was braught up to be a very frugal man, who needed few luxuries. He was also a member of the "blauwe knoop" (blue knot) society, whose members abstained from alcohol. Drees lived at that time in a relatively small rented home in The Hague with his wife. He invited two members of the committee in his home and it is reputed that his wife served them a "Mariakaakje" (a small biscuit) and some tea. Rumour has it that the two representatives were due impressed, that one remarked "if the president of the Netherlands lives like this, then any of our money, will be money well spent".
Though the United States twice threatened to cut off the Netherlands from the Marshall aid, the first time due to Indonesia (see earlier), and the second time due to the refusal to send troops and help out in the Korean war. However the aid only stopped as late as 1951. The Netherlands thus received a lot of money and machines from the United States.
The money was spent on reconstruction, however it's particularly the machines that were duly welcomed. These machines included tractors and bulldozers, the bulldozers were put to good use in clearing the rubble, but the tractors were the most valuable of all. Many farmers were thus introduced with tractors for the first time and it certainly increased agricultural production. In fact many farmers were so impressed that not soon after some Dutch companies started to copy and produce their own. Dutch farms thus became one of the most mechanised and most productive in the world. When the Dutch economy prospered, land prices began to rise significantly, and some farmers in search of cheaper land began to migrate to countries such as the United States. Once they settled in states like Texas and Michigan, they began to compete with their neighbours, who soon noticed prices for all sorts of crops began to drop due to a large increase in agricultural production. Cheap food thus not only became available to many Europeans, but also Americans.
Meanwhile Germany's economy also began to prosper in what became the years of the Wirtschaftswunder (German for economic miracle). Germany began to mass produce all kinds of products and exported them to every part of the globe. Naturally most of these goods were transported through harbors like Rotterdam in the Netherlands, by the early fifties Rotterdam had become the biggest port in the world and the port continued to grow at a staggeringly high rate. People began to consume more and more expensive luxury goods. In the sixties there were few households that did not have a refrigirator, a television and a car of their own. These cars needed petrol and so a large amount of oil had to be transported to Europe too, to be refined into stuff like: gasoline, diesel, bitumen (for road asphalt) and plastics. There was only one suitable harbor near the northsea where these large oil tankers could moor and that harbor was yet again the port of Rotterdam. Dutch refineries thus began to supply most of Western Europe's demand for petrol.
Now that the lives of people in Western Europe improved, they increasingly began to vote for more moderate political parties. Communist parties all over Western Europe suffered humiliating defeats in subsequent elections. The Marshall plan thus was a huge success.
The Great Flood (1953) & the Delta Works
The Dutch government was so busy with the reconstruction, the Indonesian conflict and the Korean war, that it had neglected one very vital thing for the Dutch people, that thing was the dikes. The defenses against the sea had not been maintained during the occupation and they kept being neglected right up to the year 1953. By then it was too late. In the night of the 31st of january and 1st of february 1953, there was a rare combination of a northwestern storm and a springtide, a lethal combination as it soon turned out. Dikes were breached in England, northwestern Germany and Belgium, but the worst breaches of all were in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands. The subsequent flood was so severe, that more than 1800 people died that night, thousands upon thousands of cattle drowned, many towns and villages completely destroyed with more than 100,000 people left homeless, and most of the province of Zeeland temporarily submerged beneath the waters of the Northsea. For the Netherlands it was the most catastrophic flood in centuries, not even the southern sea flood of 1916 came close in terms of losses of lifes.
A relief effort came about restoring the dikes and aiding the local population. It is estimated that the Dutch in all donated about 136 million guilders to the people affected by the floodings (in today's money about 63 million euro). But relief also came from abroad, the Americans, Germans and French send military engineers to the affected areas. People from all over the world sent household supplies, food, linnen, clothing and building materials. The most amazing feat of relief aid, came from the scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark, who sometimes sent whole prefab houses to the affacted areas. You can still find some of these houses in some towns and villages and these are not hard to miss too as they look decidedly Scandinavian in appearance. In fact so many relief goods were sent that the red cross soon did not know what to do with all those goods. Particularly the clothing had to be sorted out. The Dutch are quite tall and so a lot of the smaller clothes that were sent just did not fit. The Dutch red cross thus ended up with a lot of extra shoes, many of these smaller shoes, ended up being stored and were eventually sent to South Korea, a country then ravaged by war, were it turned out that the leftover shoes actually fitted nicely and were put to good use. Though the strangest shipment of clothing of all, probably came from the French, who sent a lot of bras designed by the then most famous haute couture designer Yves Saint Laurent. Though certainly impressive, it soon turned out that many Dutch women from Zeeland were often bigger in that area than their French counterparts aswell. The ones who could wear them thus ended up with double supplies.
The relief effort both from abroad and from fellow Dutchmen was so impressive, that the local population, many of whom were devout Orthodox Calvinists, eventually joked, "lord give us our daily bread and tomorrow another flood", hinting at the fact that the relief effort had been so impressive that many lives had actually improved after the flood.
The Dutch government set about restoring the towns and villages and the worst affected towns were remodeled in a better and more modern way. The government also used the flood to commence a "ruilverkaveling" project where the splintered ownership of farmlands was traded about to form cohesive new plots, which greatly improved agricultural production and improved many farmers lives. Restoration of the dikes went quite smooth and though the Netherlands was much more severely affected than Belgium, the Dutch dikes were restored in a much shorter timespan.
The Dutch government had learned its lesson, no more would the dikes be neglected, instead many old dikes were heightened and strengthened and the Dutch government embarked on the biggest construction project of defensive works against the sea ever. This construction project of dams, dikes, levees and sluices became known as the Delta Works. The Delta works took nearly 50 years to complete, with the Maeslantkering as the last part to be completed in 1997. The two most impressive feats of the Delta works, are probably the Maeslantkering and the Oosterscheldekering. The first is giant storm barrier, that only closes off the port of Rotterdam in the most severe storms and springtides, this barrier which if put upside, would have the same height as the Eiffel Tower. The Oosterscheldekering is the largest of the series of dams that makes up the Delta works. Though most of it is constructed as a closed dam, it includes a large storm surge barrier, of more than 4 kilometers long with many sluices opening and closing as the tide lowers and rises.
Since its inception, the Netherlands has seen no great floods. The last actual flood was in 2003 at Wilnis in the province of Utrecht, when a small neighbourhood was flooded due to the breach of a peat dike. That peat dike was thought to have been weakened by the burrows of Muskrats and severe drought. Over the years there have been a few close calls for major floods, which fortunately never occured. The last close call was in 1995, when the river Rhine threatened to breach a dike.
Many prominent scientists and engineers however reckon it is only a matter of time before the next great flood. As of today there are two major risks, the first is a combination of springtide and prolonged northwestern storm similar to the one seen in 1953, together with a large amount of rainfall in Belgium or Germany that either threatens to flood the river Rhine or the river Meuse. In such a situation the forced closing of the storm barriers prevents the river water from being carried away into the Northsea. It is estimated that in the best scenario the Netherlands will only be able to hold out the water for a maximum of seven days. However due the fact that the chances of this occuring at the exact same time are incredibly small it seems an unlikely scenario. The Dutch government is undertaking measures to strengthen the river dikes and it is also planning to designate areas as possible flood areas should such a scenario ever take place. In this manner the government hopes to prevent floods in more important areas, that can cause more damage, such as major urban areas.
All the more likely is another storm surge, only this time in another area of the Netherlands. A few years ago some engineers announced that the Afsluitdijk and some smaller dikes in the north of the Netherlands were not up to satisfactory Delta level, this was caused due to global warming and hence rise of the sea. Delta level statistically assumes a great flood once in every 10,000 years, if the water level rises, it can become as little as once in every century, which is too much of a risk. Should a flood take place in areas near the IJssel lake (the former Southern sea), due to a breach in the Afsluitdijk and hence the barriers behind it, then it is estimated that about 6 million people (that is more than 1 out of every 3 Dutch citizens), will be homeless. Due to the poor shape of the Dutch economy after 9-11 and the later credit crisis, the Dutch government is however not taking any measures to bring these northern dikes up to a satisfactory height.
One would hope that current or future governments would not be as stupid, but alas it seems unlikely they will come to their senses. Assuming that no action will take place and assuming predictions of a further rise of 1 meter of the water level within the next 100 years, then it is probable to assume that we will see at least one major flood in the north of the Netherlands before the year 2080, which considering the current or future demographic status of the Netherlands, will likely to be the worst flood ever to have occured in the Netherlands, and probably the third biggest flood in the world, after amongst others the Yangtze river floods of 1998 in China. One continues to hope that, that prediction will never come true.
The European Union
Most people attribute the start of the European Union, or at least the idea thereof to a speech made by Winston Churchill calling for a United States of Europe. Actually that is only the political story, there is also an economic story. Most people would attribute the start of the European Union to the treaty of Paris of 1951, which created the European Steel and Coal Community, comprising of 6 nations, namely the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Western Germany and Italy. That treaty formed by French Minister Schumann created a common market for coal and steel. However while most think that is how the European Union started this is not the actual start. The actual start took place years before and during World War 2.
BElgium, the NEtherlands and LUXembourg each nation had governments in exile in London in 1944. These 3 governments decided to form a customs union in 1944, when all were but partially liberated by the allies. This customs treaty was signed when all 3 realised it could benefit them. Belgium had been economically isolated after the independence from the Netherlands, so Belgium benefitted from this treaty, and the Netherlands benefitted in turn, because custom tariffs became universal to all 3 with this treaty, which meant less smuggling and therefore more and easier predictable income for the Dutch government. Remember part 4, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg had formed a single nation after the defeat of Napoleon and the signing of the Vienna Treaty! Because all 3 countries were relatively small it basically created a bigger market for Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg corporations and thus it was a win-win situation for all. Many European countries would later join the European Union for the exact same reasons.
Though the treaty was signed in 1944, talks had actually begun much earlier. Belgium and the Netherlands were both founding members of the now long defunct League of Nations (the predecessor of the modern United Nations) and used that political body to commence talks perhaps as early as 1926. It is world war 2 and the subsequent occupation of all three nations that finally made things roll and click into place. Remember that in part 4, it was mentioned that Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg were formed into a single nation by the Vienna treaty with the purpose of forming a counterbalance to nations such as France. Now Germany from as early as 1871 had also become a unified nation.
The Continuing Story
Wherever you put the start year of the European Union, the Netherlands remain an influential founding member of the European Union from the very beginning.
The European Community of Coal and Steel was formed in 1951. Though it initially was just a supranational body (though certainly not the first supranational body as many claim, which is in fact is the Benelux customs board), eventually it grew to encompass more deliberative organs formed by international treaties, such as the European Atomic Agency. By the late sixties it was decided the community should expand. This first expansion was held back by a veto of Charles de Gaulle and it wasn't until he was defeated in the following elections, that Denmark, the United Kingdom and Ireland joined the European Community. Denmark wanted to join, because Western Germany which was its largest trade partner had already joined the community. Ireland only wanted to join once it became apparent that the United Kingdom, still its biggest trade partner, wanted to join. De Gaulle seems to have vetoed the enlargement down, due to personal motives, which basically stemmed from old grudges of events that had happened during World War 2. So by 1973 the European Community (no longer a community of just steel and coal), had grown to 9 members. Greece joined in 1981 and after revolutions in Portugal and Spain which toppled the Fascist governments in both these nations, it was possible for both Portugal and Spain to join the European Community in 1983, bringing the total number of members to 12. The current flag of the European Union contains 12 stars, representing these early 12 member states, though any European official might try to convince you otherwise. The flag hasn't changed since, due to practical reasons. Turkey formally applied to be a member in 1987, which started the longest application process till this day.
Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Germany was reunited, further enlarging the European Community. With a wave of new enlargements on the way, a treaty was signed in Maastricht in the Netherlands in 1993 that reformed the Community and renamed it into the European Union, the European Union we know today. Over the years, 19 more European states joined the European union, including: Sweden, Finland, Austria, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus (the Greek part that is), Romania and Bulgaria. As of 2010 there are 4 candidate states looking to become a full member state of the European union, these are: Croatia, Macedonia, Iceland and Turkey. However monetary and customs treaties exists with many more European Nations such as: Monaco, Andorra, Liechtenstein, San Marino, the Vatican, Switzerland and Norway. The European Union also includes many territories not considered geographically European, this includes Cyprus, and many Dutch, French and Portuguese overseas territories, some as far away as the, the Caribbean, the Indian ocean and Pacific ocean.
The return to normalcy after the war, the American Marshall Aid, were not the only factors that helped to increase the agricultural production. The third major reason for that was the European Economic Community and its agriculural policies and aid plans. This policy started in 1957 after the treaty of Rome was signed. The purpose of the policy was to ensure stability of the markets, to increase agricultural production, and to ensure enough food was available for everyone. One of the most influential makers of this policy, was Sicco Mansholt. Mansholt was a Dutch farmer, active humanist, politician, member of the social democrats, and he had been an resistance fighter in the war. On all he worked as a minister of agriculture in no less than 6 coalition governments. By the late fifties he worked for the European Economic Community and introduced things like subsidies, minimum prices and protectionist measures. It is rumored that initially he wanted to give farmers some kind of welfare pay for increased production instead of subsidies, but he knew he couldn't get that politically done. By the end o his life he regretted many of economic plans and measures he made possible. Quota eventually had to be introduced by the European Community, because the measures he had introduced were so succesful, that there was an over-production of agricultural goods. European farmers produced too much wine, milk, butter and other products which resorted in the proverbial wine lakes, milk seas and butter mountains.
The Swinging Sixties (1960-1970)
Dutch society changed a lot in the sixties of the twentieth century. One major change was the depillarisation process mentioned earlier, but social mores also changed considerably. There are four major reasons as to why these changes of social customs and traditions occured in the sixties: (1) is the depillarisation process, (2) the growth of the economy, (3) the age of the socalled baby-boom generation, and (4) technological advances and discoveries.
As mentioned before the Netherlands was a politically and religiously divided nation. Particularly the religious division had consequences for the Dutch society. The Catholic church demanded of its adherents to have large families with many children and so the Catholic part of the Netherlands had large families. The growth of the Catholic population therefore threatened to upset the balance of the 4 pillars, so in response some Protestants too had large families with many children, all of this meant that the Dutch birthrate before 1965 was very high, though even then still nowhere near as high as countries like Ireland for instance. By 1965 Dutch authorities estimated that the Netherlands might have 20 million inhabitants by the year 2000. A monstrously high figure for such a small nation. If that estimate turned out to be right then it would have meant that the Netherlands would become the most densely populated nation in the world (now it's the second most densely populated nation in the world after Bangladesh). As of 2010 the Netherlands has 16.5 million inhabitants, so how is it possible that this estimate is off by 3.5 million? The answer is that the birthrate dropped after 1965. By 1965 the baby-boom generation, many of whom were born during or after the socalled summer of love of 1945, were in their late teens or early twenties. It is now well known that adolescents are at an age when they begin to distance themselves from their parents and eventually become independent adults on their own accord, it is also an age when people begin to sexually experiment in order to find a meaningful relationship at an later age. So the youth of that time were in a period of change and transition, but their parents however were in no such mood for change. Remember this was the generation that had been through the war and the changes they met in their lifetime often weren't positive ones. So the time was set for a conflict of opposing forces, between young people who wanted change and old people who wanted to keep things as usual. Because the old are the old, it was only a matter of time before the young generation would overcome and get the changes they wanted.
So now you might ask, how did that happen? Well the first thing that happened was that the anti-conception pill or birth control pill was invented in 1962. Many women were in no mood to keep having that many babies, so the birth rate began to drop slowly but steadily. The depillarisation meant that the pressure of the church began to lapse, but the church did actually more than that. When the birth controll pill was invented in 1962, it was primarly used as a medicine that regulated the menstruation cycle for women who had an irregular cycle, the pill had the side effect that it temporarily prevented pregnancy. It is the side effect that caused women to use the pill for family planning. The problem was the pill still had to be produced and distributed. This is where, strange as it may sound the Dutch Catholic church actually helped spread the pill in the Netherlands. A Catholic bishop was concerned both about the high birthrate and the irregular menstruation cycle of some women (such an irregular cycle can cause chronic anemia in some instances, which is the reason the pill was invented in the first place). This bishop had a good and thorough education and was quite liberal and in some ways ahead of his time, so what he did, was to let the nuns in the convents package and distribute the pills. It's likely many of these nuns simply weren't aware of the consequences of their work. This is how the pills were spread on the market in large numbers soon after the discovery. By 1965 the pill was widely used among Dutch women, and this only 3 years after the discovery.
The other reason for the change in customs is that there were many more women than men after the war. Many men weren't there, because many had died during the occupation when they were in their teens. Sexual mores relax in nearly every culture when there is a shortage of men. The same thing had happened before in the twenties in many nations that had fought in WW1. The next reason was that the economy was in an excellent shape in the sixties. A lot of money was made, as trade peaked in Rotterdam and oil began to flow to the refineries. This good state of the economy also affected women's fashion, skirts became shorter, and hair and makeup became more elaborate. A good economy also meant food became more readily available and thus cheaper, this in turn affected the growth of children, with food a plenty the body began to reach puberty earlier than decades before. People also began to grow taller because of the cheap and plentiful food, together with a good welfare state that cared for everyone, and a diet consisting of a lot of dairy products, it meant that the Dutch are nowadays the tallest people in the world. Combine these 4 reasons with the then current situation in the Netherlands and you get an atmosphere ripe for conflict and change. So what happened? Well demographically speaking birth rates went down, death rates went down, and divorce rates went up.
By 1968 students rioted, lead by a group called the PROVO'S. The name comes from the word provocation. Students as a group also had become more powerful, because their numbers had increased considerably. More men and women were attending higher education than ever before.
Feminism also began to rise again and this time it was a far more formidable force than it had ever been in the twenties with the suffragette movement. The Dolle Mina's (Dutch: for crazy or mad Mina's) named after a woman Wilhelmina Drucker, began to advocate for women's rights in the early seventies in what is now known as the second feminist wave (if ever there was a first wave in the twenties). Though many women had the right to vote there was not much of an equality between men and women. Men often had better paying jobs and a higher employment levels than women, a fact that has changed over the years, but differences still remain. However the real issues these Dolle Mina's fought over, were matters of principle, they wanted changes in law. The main slogan of the Dolle Mina's was "baas in eigen buik" (Dutch for: boss in own belly). This slogan centred on the issue that women should have the final say on whether to keep the foetus or not. They advocated that women should have the right of an abortion. The feminists finally got their way as late as 1984, when the socalled "Law Annull Pregnancy" was passed in the second chamber, by a minimum majority of 76 votes (there are 150 seats in the second chamber). The passing of that law allowed women to abort in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Unlike many other countries in the world, abortion is actually considered more of political non-issue these days in the Netherlands. This is because the Dutch abortion rate is actually the lowest in the world and is in fact more than twice as low as the estimated world average. In fact the rate could be lower still, if there weren't so many foreign women who carry out their abortion in the Netherlands. The main reason that this abortion rate is so low in the Netherlands is because many children, both young girls and boys are educated about sexuality and are warned about the dangers of unprotected sex, both at school and by their parents. This education is so effective that the Netherlands not only has the lowest abortion rate, but also a very low teenage pregnancy rate (6 times as low as the United States), and a low prevalence of STD's (twice as low as the United States). The fact that this situation came about may be explained by Dutch culture, where as some countries and cultures choose not to talk and not to educate their children and instead keep them in the dark, the Dutch actually see that ignorance is not a bliss.
This ability to talk and to seek political consensus, can be explained by two features of the Dutch situation. The first reason is the pillarisation and later the depillarisation process, the second reason is that the Netherlands is afterall a country of tradesmen and trade is a big leveler of cultures and trade not only makes money, but also spreads new ideas and new values. So this presence of these open and liberal cultural values is largely due to good and fortunate circumstances. We've been blessed with the knowledge that knowledge is important and that this adaptation creates a better and happier society.
But women, families and students weren't the only groups that started to emancipate themselves in the Netherlands from the sixties onwards. There is also a fourth group that slowly but gradually became accepted and finally were able to get what they wanted. What this fourth group managed to get, was same-sex marriage. The group I'm writing about of course are gays and lesbians. In 1946 shortly after the war and the occupation a Shakespearesociety was founded in Amsterdam, this society was later renamed to Cultuur en Onstpanning Centrum (Dutch for: Culture and Relaxation Centre), more commonly known in the Netherlands as COC. The group advocated in favor of same-sex marriage and against the part of article 248, that outlawed sex between members of the same sex. Same-sex marriage was finally legalised in the Netherlands in 2001. As a group gays and lesbians have become accepted in the Netherlands, but they still struggle in more Orthodox areas. As late as the sixties and seventies many still sought treatment for what was believed to be a mental ailment. This attitude to homosexuality gradually changed, due to a medical discovery made by a Dutch neurobiologist Dick Frans Swaab in the eighties. Dick Frans Swaab, who was doing research for Alzheimer disease and dementia, noticed a difference in the parts of the brain known as the hypothalamus between specimen he knew came from gay men and those that he knew weren't gay. The hypothalamus is near the part that is known to store memories, but is also near the pituitary-gland (Dutch: hypofyse), the part that triggers the hormone cycles in the body. Since he knew there was a difference, naturally it follows that gays and lesbians look at the concept of love differently then heterosexuals. So whatever the cause of that change, since we know they are braincells and that they are different but not disfunctional, then we know that homosexuality is not an infecteous disease, nor a mental illness, but simply a defect similar to something like dyslexia, but with the difference that it doesn't affect the ability to read, but love between members of a different sex. What causes the defect to occur is something that is still not quite known, though with research done on monozygote twins, it seems likely that it is a congenital defect, though the cause of that congenital defect occuring at all may be inherital. The reason why it is technically called a defect is because love between members of the same sex cannot cause procreation, however since it doesn't affect health, it's not an illness, hence it is technically called a defect. Since we know it is a defect in the brain, then we also know that it cannot be treated, because braincells are tissue that can't be repaired or be altered like skin or bone. It is this logic and knowledge that changed the Dutch attitude towards it. Hence to liberals and mainstream Dutch alike those who discriminate are considered ignorant people. So why then the discrimination and prosecution and the unwillingness to allow same-sex marriage? That may be due to a money issue, afterall marriage by law, affects many monetary and fiscal things by law, things like insurance premiums and inheritance. So if someone who claims to be a conservative discriminates, then that person opposes the democratic values of equality before the law and the right to property, hence logic tells us that such a person who practices discrimination of this kind is not acting democratic in the eyes of many Dutch people. A common Dutch person may then try to reason what such a person is, if he or she is not democratic, but then stumbles into another problem, the lack of equality before the law is a trait that person shares with nazism and fascism, the lack of right of property is a trait that person shares with communism. So what is such a person? Many will give it a new label and hence see this discrimination as part of fundamentalistic attitudes. This political view many Dutch have helps explain the acts that occured in foreign relations with countries such as France and the United States from the eighties onwards. A high level advisor of now former President Clinton for instance was send back home after he made comments about the Dutch political stance towards same-sex marriage, this happened when he was due to arrive in the Netherlands for a medical conference. A United States ambassador of former president Bush (junior that is) was publicly reprimanded by the Dutch government after an American general made condescending remarks about Dutch army personnel. Allegedly because the Dutch accepted gay men into the army. That remark was made only days before Dutch parlaiment was due to make a decision on whether to continue the Dutch presence in Afghanistan.
Religion & Church Attendance
All of this mentioned has to do with politics, public opinion and diplomacy, but I haven't mentioned yet how this medical discovery affected religious life in the Netherlands. Moderate protestants tend to pretty much tolerate and accept homosexuality. The more extreme branches, jevoha witnesses and evangelicals on the whole don't tend to accept it, in fact some don't even tolerate it. This is especially the case in the socalled bible belt of the Netherlands. Counties in the socalled bible belt still have problems over the issue, as remember marriages occur by law and therefore have to be ratified by the government, in the Dutch case that's the local government. Muslims who live in the Netherlands, some of whom are repatriated citizens, but most are relatives of the socalled guestworkers, tend to have the same stance on it as protestants, where moderates tolerate it and orthodox condemn it, though the difference is that a conservative stance tends to be more common, this is mainly due to the fact that their origins lie in often rural and poor areas, where higher education is a more uncommon thing. For Dutch Jews it is the same thing as protestants. In contrast to Protestants, Dutch Catholics have a bigger religious issue with it, which is down to the papal infalability. Officially the Catholic church condems it, so naturally this also includes the Dutch branch. Unofficially many bishops and priests today also condemn it, this is because the drop in the church numbers also affected the number of ordained priests in the Netherlands. The few priests left these days often have conservative attitudes and views themselves, this is because many of the more progressive members either have long left the church, or are already dead and buried, or worse still they are excommunicated by the pope. Many Dutch Catholics believers and layman save for those who inhabit conservative areas in for instance the deep south in rural counties in the province of Limburg don't feel that way and so there is often a big differene between the official stance and the unofficial stance. This stance not only differs on homosexuality, but also on many other issues such as the use of condoms and the ordaining of women priests. This is what made for instance the old Polish pope John Paul II and the current German pope Benedict deeply unpopular with many Dutch Catholics, most of whom can't accept the official church doctrine, because they feel the doctrine is unethical. For the Netherlands this has had some historic consequences in the late twentieth century, more on that in the section of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Which begs the question why do some moderate protestants accept it both officially and unofficially? The points some Dutch moderate Protestants make is that the bible doesn't in fact condemn homosexuality. The usual story where more orthodox Calvinists say the bible condemns it, is of course the story of Sodom and Gomorra in the book of Genesis. Coincidentally the Torah and the Quran have the same story albeit it is worded differently. Some moderates say the story condemns loose sexual mores, but does not in fact condemn homosexuality itself. So orthodox Calvinists interpret the story differently. So in essence for many Protestant believers it becomes an issue on how to interpret the bible.
Drugs & Prostitution
The Netherlands are nowadays known for their liberal views and tolerance towards things like homosexuality, drugs use and prostitution. This current situation had not always been that way. There already had been small scale drugs use in the Netherlands before the sixties and an "opium law" had been made as early as 1919, that banned the use of drugs. Things however began to change in the early sixties. Due to a large increase of trade in ports such as Rotterdam and places like Amsterdam, the Netherlands began to see the negative side effects of this increase in trade, when illegal goods and substances began to enter the Netherlands. By the mid sixties this began to be a serious problem. The police and government particularly noticed the negative effects of the large amount of heroine that was being imported into the Netherlands. Crime and violence was on the rise in the city centres. Combined to this drugs problem was the serious problem of prostitution. The initial response was to crack down on this crime and try to stamp it out, but law enforcement noticed this wasn't working, they had neither the manpower nor the resources and with the cold war on, manpower even became more limited. If the authorities stamped it out in one place, it would return at another place, there really was no end in sight. Some social democrats and liberals decided that this simply wasn't working and that it was time for a different approach. They decided it was time to give up on the idea that we would ever be able to rid ourselves of drugs and prostitution and so instead of trying to eliminate that, why not eleminate the excesses and negative effects? Slowly but gradually the government began to change and prostitution was legalised and a condone policy was introduced regarding drugs use. From then on a difference was made between harddrugs (which remained illegal) and softdrugs (whose use became legal in the sense that law enforcement would undertake no effort to arrest the user, permitted the use was limited, while trade and production of the softdrugs remained illegal). The primary reason behind this was that the government believed it to be better to focus on the dealer instead of the user. Prostitution became legal as long as the prostitutes paid their taxes and as long as the trade remained in the designated areas condoned by the city counties. The primary reason behind that policy was that it might be better for the prostitutes if the trade network remained on the surface instead of the shadowy underworld, where it was harder to help them, if or rather when they ever got into a problem.
Initially this liberal condone policy seemed to work well, the exposure of youth to drugs remains about 10% lower in the Netherlands than in any other country. The lives of the drugs users and prostitutes did somewhat improve, the Dutch drugs-using population nowadays has the highest average age, because they tend to get a lot older than their foreign counterparts. Unfortunately this is where the effects ended. By the ninetees it became apparent that the difference between harddrugs and softdrugs wasn't that big anymore. Apparently Dutch coffeeshop keepers found ways to make marijuana more addictive and more powerful through the practice of plant-breeding (plant-breeding is a large industry in the Netherlands ever since the introduction of the tulip bulb). By the nineties most prostitutes weren't Dutch anymore, but instead came from African countries like Nigeria, or former Eastern Bloc countries like Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. Many of whom were smuggled into the Netherlands illegally,
with the help of for instance Bulgarian maffia and the lives of these prostitutes were significantly worse off.
The Oil Crisis (1973)
The Dutch economy boomed for nearly three decades after the war. For many Dutch it lead to the belief that society was maliable (in Dutch: maakbare samenleving), if you just put enough money and effort into it. This mistaken belief that you could fix anything came to a crushing halt with the oil crisis.
The whole crisis started due to the Yom Kippur War. Arab members of OPEC plus Syria, Egypt and Tunisia embargoed the United States and many other European nations part of the NATO alliance, this of course included the Netherlands. Moreover the port of Rotterdam and its refineries also depended on mostly Arab Oil (usually Kuwait and Saudi Arabia), so the Netherlands was in fact hit twice as hard by the embargo compared to many other countries. The Netherlands were also specifically targetted by the embargo, because the Dutch government was largely pro-Israel. The fact that the government was pro-Israel was down to two major reason: (1) guilt over events that happened in the occupation of WW2, and (2) the government had a pro-NATO and pro-western stance, and since most of the Arab enemies of Israel were funded and supported by the Soviet Union, then naturally the Dutch government had to support Israel. The government did indeed offer support to Israel unofficially. Army records showed a surprisingly high amount of small arms missing from the army depots.
The end of cheap oil meant the end of the economic boom. Depression finally hit the Netherlands in 1975 and not until the nineties would the Netherlands see another economic boom period.
Den Uyl, a social democrat and Prime-minister of the Netherlands from 1973 till 1977 probably stated the mood best: "never again will it be as it once was".
The oil-crisis triggered an economic depression in the Dutch economy which lasted for years. The Dutch economy stagnated throughout the late seventies and early eighties. Inflation also rose during those years. Combine stagnation with inflation and you get a serious economic problem called stagflation. Normally speaking inflation follows growth and deflation goes along with economic decline. With the rare circumstance of stagflation that is not the case. With stagflation prices go up, because production shrinks, usually when companies downsize. Because the Netherlands is also an oil and gas producing nation you get an extra rise in unemployment, due to, what is called the Dutch Disease by economists. So what in times of growth are the strengths of the Netherlands, actually become serious weaknesses during a decline. So the Dutch economy is more likely to boom compared to other European nations, but also more vulnerable in bad times.
Stagflation can be combatted with lower taxes. While lower taxes in itself can be popular measures, it ultimately leads to government cutbacks, usually coinciding with a rise in unemployment and hence in the long term deflationary measures are unpopular measures. Needless to say these measures caused poltical upheaval in the Netherlands. Extreme political parties were on the rebound and by 1984 parliament saw a return of right-extremist neonazis known as the Centrum-Democraten (translation: Centre Democrats). The name is an allusion to the Christian democratic party, known as the CDA which was founded in 1977, out of the Catholic KVP and the Protestant CHU amongst others. The name was likely chosen to trick demented elderly into voting for them, because in reality they were anything but moderate and certainly no democrats. When the economic stagnation finally ended in the nineties the right wing extremists lost their last seat and by 1998 the party disappeared,
having completely failed to reach any of their intended political objectives.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
The cold war era finally came to an end when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The Netherlands played a small, but significant role in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. This paragraph describes some historic events in the context of the cold war and what role the Netherlands played in the collapse of communism in Europe.
The Prague Spring was a name for failed riots that occured in 1968 in the now former nation of Tchecoslovakia. When it dawned on the rioters that the Russians were restoring communist power, many who were able to flee, fled across the border and the iron curtain, into Western Europe. Some of these refugees also ended up in the Netherlands. Often these people had no more belongings then the clothes they wore, and not only were they cut off from their country of origin, often they were also unable to see their friends and family, whom they left behind. The refugees who arrived in the Netherlands had a profound effect on Dutch public opinion towards communism. For some Dutch citizens this was the first time they saw with their own eyes the wrongs of communism and for some it became quite obvious that communism was as tyrannical as nazism.
The Goelag Archipelago is the title of a book written by Alexander Solzjenitsyn about the horrors that occured in the labor camps or concentration camps under the communist Soviet regime. The book was first publicised in Western Europe in 1974 at a book fair in Paris, many of these early copies were printed in 1973 in the Netherlands with the help and funding of Dutch enterpreneurs and publishers. The most common print in the Netherlands is the 1973 print by the publisher Baarn, nowadays a subdivision of the PCM group (primarily a publisher of national and regional newspapers and dictionaries).
The Dutch Catholics & Polish Solidarity
Probably the most unusual and least known and most shadowy role is the events that transpired in the Netherlands in the eighties with amongst others the Catholic Church and its followers, is the papal visit of 1985 and the events that followed from it.
As was mentioned earlier in this part, the Polish pope John Paul II was deeply unpopular in the Netherlands. Church attendance had dropped up to the point where less than 20%, sometimes even less than 10% of the believers still visited a church on a regular basis. This matter wasn't helped by the fact that John Paul II had some very conservative views about the use of condoms, ordained women priests, and homosexuals.
The pope got a cold reception on his arrival to the Netherlands, very few people stood there waiting for the papal visit, which basically meant most ignored him. The few moments when a large crowd did show up at the events related to the visit, they were often rioters. Large scale riots erupted in Utrecht during his visit in the Netherlands in may 1985, that were primarly lead by the Dutch squatters movement. A group of catholic believers founded the 8 may movement, due to their dissatisfaction with the official church doctrine, only days before the pope was due to arrive. Even the then Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, who was himself a Catholic, questioned the pope's arrival, and in a rather diplomatic and euphemistic way said that there was a great deal of incomprehension of church doctrine. Many of the Dutch Catholic bishops were hugely embarrassed by the things that happened during the visit. The pope met with various social workers, diplomats, and entrepreneurs during his visit, and eventually left on his way to Luxembourg, the next stop on his journey.
The events that transpired during the visit made it all too apparent on how the mood had changed in the Netherlands over the decades, since the sixties. A few hardliners, formed the hardcore of the believers, whilst the remainder had long since ignored the official doctrine of the church, and while nominally still a member, in many practical terms they basically weren't. For most of the hardliners this left them a feeling of embarrassment towards the Vatican. In more practical terms the church had also changed, because the church attendance numbers had dropped, the Catholic church in the Netherlands had actually become very poor, a fact not helped by the situation that there were now many churches in an ill state and needed repair. Some tried to remedy the situation and strange as it may sound, the visit may have actually helped to increase the funds of the Catholic church, when a rich entrepreneur bequethed a lot of money to the church in his will, allegedly, because he too felt embarrassed by the poor show during the visit.
By the nineties it became apparent to the government that these funds had been inadequate, and sometimes not even appropriately used, and even the Dutch state government needed to step in to save some churches. So now you might begin to wonder where did this money of the eighties end up? There is an obscure and controversial theory, that the money was used to fund the solidarity trade union, which eventually lead to the dismantling of the Eastern Bloc and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Continue to PART 9