AMSTERDAM–A politically neutral organisation to advocate the interests of Dutch nationals living abroad will be launched in Zürich, Switzerland today, Tuesday.
The organisation, launched by Eelco Keij and others, counts among its tasks the providing of information to emigrating and emigrated Dutch citizens, serving as an advocacy function toward political The Hague, and the setting up of a database of Dutch citizens abroad.
The estimated 700,000 to 1.2 million Dutch nationals living abroad have been facing multiple issues where it comes to the dealings with the Government in the Netherlands, and so far they have nowhere to turn.
For Dutch people abroad, a major issue has been the lack of the option for dual nationality. But, it is not the only one; voting, pension regulations, Dutch education abroad, a digital ID (DigiD) to communicate with the Dutch Government, access to consulates and embassies, explained Keij, who has lived in New York for nine years.
In 2014 Keij published the “Fortunate Connections” political manifesto on the economic added value of Dutch people abroad in which he made a case for new political representation of Dutch nationals abroad.
“Through many ways, the Dutch Government does a fine job in making its own citizens feel second rate and regarded with a combination of disrespect and ignorance,” said Keij on the eve of the launching of the organisation.
Keij decided that enough was enough. Time to start a new, international era in which the interests of the Dutch citizens abroad will be properly served. Although he is a member of the Dutch Democratic Party D66, Keij emphasized that he is operating party-neutral on this issue.
One of the most pressing issues is the dual nationality. “Whereas most of European Union (EU) countries today accept dual nationality as a practical consequence of globalisation and increasingly internationally moving people, the Dutch government fiercely continues to resist this path of 21st century common sense, together with Austria,” said Keij.
According to Keij, this is partly because of electoral fear, partly because of a lack of understanding of the practical negative consequences for Dutch citizens abroad, and partly because of the lack of a strong lobbying organisation based in the Netherlands that represents that Dutch abroad.
With between 700.000 and 1.200.000 Dutch citizens living abroad, 4 to 7 per cent of the total Dutch population, one would expect some kind of existing structure to bridge these groups, at home and abroad.
The Dutch people abroad constitute a strong economic added value to the Dutch treasury, explained Keij. Based on macro numbers, such as incoming tourist resources and main trading countries, in combination with the location of the strongholds of Dutch citizens abroad one can clearly see a correlation between the geographical location of the Dutch abroad and the international resources coming in from those countries.
Keij said that in Europe several countries have recognised the added value of their citizens abroad and have started forming different kinds of international political structures to keep them on board and to make use of their connections and skills. Some countries, such as France and Portugal, even went as far to introduce parliamentary seats specifically for their citizens abroad.
Previous Dutch governments and the current government have made clear that they don’t have any intentions to change things. “It is clear that the Dutch abroad need to take things into their own hands. We need to create an organisation that represents our interests, while being able to advocate in The Hague among Members of Parliament, members of government and policy makers alike,” said Keij.
Keij’s initiative is making use of an existing organisation in Switzerland, the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). Founded in 1916, it is now supported by 750 expat associations and recognised as the representative organ of the Swiss abroad. Hence, the launching of the Dutch initiative in Zürich on Tuesday.
Among the main tasks of the new organisation will be the providing of information to emigrating and emigrated Dutch citizens, and connecting them to the right agencies on, for example, nationality law, pensions, accessibility of embassies and consulates, Dutch education abroad and voting rights.
The organisation further wants to set up a powerful advocacy function toward legislators/Parliament on behalf of Dutch citizens abroad, to construct and maintain a database of Dutch citizens abroad so that they can be reached promptly and efficiently whenever needed, and to set up and maintain an internet forum where Dutch citizens abroad can share their experiences and ask questions.
The launching event which starts at 6:15pm European time can be viewed on https://livestream.com/accounts/16262006/.
Source: The Daily Herald Interest organisation for Dutch nationals abroad