State of the Region 2021: speech Femke Halsema

380 years ago, hydraulic engineer Leeghwater argued for the reclamation of the Haarlemmermeer. 'The water wolf', he wrote, would eat the 'Dutch land lion' from within. Villages would be engulfed by the water and food supplies would be endangered. He was right, but it was technically difficult and the Amsterdammers, who were once again stubborn, earned money from shipping on the lake. The viscous Dutch governance structure did not help either. As a result, it took two centuries for our region to gain 18,000 hectares of agricultural land.

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon,

Today we presented the new cooperation agreements between municipalities, transport region and provinces in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. A venture more modest in size than one of the greatest reclamations in our history, yet a modest success, worth raising a glass together. Unfortunately, corona throws a spanner in the works again. We are dealing with new measures and new uncertainty. Our entrepreneurs, the representatives of the people, administrators are naturally concerned by this. Frustration is growing in business and the cultural sector. Healthcare workers are fighting a battle of attrition. And many of our residents are sick or anxious and gloomy. And representatives of the people and administrators feel enormously responsible. Right now we want to keep our cities and villages liveable and safe. Being close to our residents and supporting initiatives. Support our restaurants, hotels and theaters. Calling again on the resilience of our society.

I appreciate even more that you took the time to be digitally present today. We continue to invest in our regional cooperation, in which strength and decisiveness are paramount. Many council and state members point out the great importance of the MRA’s democratic legitimacy. And rightly so, because the MRA should be a voluntary partnership and an instrument in the hands of local democracies. Putting our 2.5 million inhabitants first and always operating with respect for the wealth of history and diversity that the cities and towns of our region have to offer.

We work together based on shared beliefs. We share the belief that through better cooperation we can have the most inventive region with the best educated population in Europe. Together with the post-secondary and higher vocational educations, universities and new education initiatives. Such as TechConnect, which trains hidden talent in various cities of our region in a way that suits a new generation of city residents.

We share the belief that we should be a region for everyone. And that we distinguish ourselves internationally in our conduct on a human scale. This means that we not only build many affordable homes in accessible cities, but that we also continue to care about quality of life and facilities in small town centres.

We share the belief that as a region we must be sustainably connected.

Our digitized economy is leading the way. By working on a data agreement together with governments, companies, knowledge institutions and social organizations, we are also showing that this can go hand in hand, with the protection of digital rights, autonomy and privacy. We can only maintain our position as a logistics hub if we make a major leap forward in the use of renewable energy sources. For example, by investing in the hydrogen economy. You don’t have to be a chemist to understand how important this is for industry and especially for the inhabitants of the IJmond. There are good ideas for this in the North Sea Canal area. As a region, let’s get behind these kinds of ideas and ensure that the EU and the government support us in this. Because they cannot avoid a united metropolitan region. Even more important than government support is entrepreneurship in our region. We are encouraging this with the new Regional Development Agency In West, which already has EUR 130 million available.

Unity, with respect for our rich diversity of histories.

The fight against corona has taught us that a central authority is needed to keep the economy afloat and to distribute vaccines, but that we will not reverse the pandemic if we do not engage all parts of our society, in tolerance and solidarity with all. And that’s how it is with our international top region. They must be able to work together effectively. We can only do this with the support of our inhabitants, from all parts of our region: old cities and growth centers, working-class neighborhoods and towns, business centers and fishing villages.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Despite the difficult start-up, the reclamation of the Haarlemmermeer turned out to be a successful venture. The survival of neighboring towns was assured, and pioneering farmers also worked hard to turn the vacant land into productive agricultural land. The now monumental Cruquius steam pumping station was a technological tour de force with international allure. After a period of economic malaise and political uncertainty, the Netherlands started to believe in itself again and embraced progress. Ready for the industrial age.

Once again we are at the dawn of a new era, once again faced with threats and uncertainties. Fortunately, people today still have good ideas and vision and the most advanced technology makes possible what was once thought impossible. Ultimately, we decide together what we are going to do with it. I look forward to that with hope.

Thank you.

10 December 2021

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