Writer, speaker and advisor on Europe

Author: Joop Hazenberg

Living in Brussels: the highs and the lows

It has been six years now. Early 2013 I came to Brussels with a bunch of bags and plans, two phones, a laptop and an iPad to start a nomadic…

It has been six years now. Early 2013 I came to Brussels with a bunch of bags and plans, two phones, a laptop and an iPad to start a nomadic adventure of an existence in two cities at the same time. I rented a room with an acquaintance, set up shop in the Press Club Brussels and started my part-time life here in the capital of the EU. The other half I spent in Amsterdam, my real hometown where my boyfriend, cat and friends lived, where we had a house instead of a room with furniture which wasn’t mine, where cars wouldn’t speed every minute past the single glazed window of my Brussels flat.

Today, the adventure has turned into a new life which is all about Brussels, and where Amsterdam only plays a part in the background. The Amsterdam life elements of relationship, cat and house are gone, followed in Brussels by a new relationship, an apartment and a dog (while in 2018 I had to put down my Brussels-based cat and dog, both due to cancer). I even have a car now, as you are almost supposed to have one here in Belgium. Another step to integrate here is the purchase of an old farm in the Ardennes, which we are converting into a retreat and B&B.

So I find myself firmly based in Belgium – though not fully rooted yet. This country offers a lot of highs and a swell of lows. Here is my top-5 of pleasures and annoyances for those seeking a new life in Brussels.


The highs

My favourite view on the city: the Mont des Arts

1. Brussels is truly cosmopolitan. Around a third of the ‘Brusselaars’ has been born in a different country and you can definitely feel this on the streets. Though French is the dominant language, you will hear a lot of English, Arabic, Italian, Spanish and countless other tongues when walking around. This gives a fantastic international vibe to the city. It is also a place without a strong national identity so this makes it relatively easy to adapt for newcomers.

2. This city is buzzing. You wouldn’t notice it when you walk through the dead streets of the EU quarter or stumble over the tourists on the Grand Place, but Brussels is full of life. Especially in cultural corners there are so many activities that you can barely keep up, whether it is a particular kind of a music scene you’re interested in, modern art (lots of galeries), gay life with the (in)famous parties of La Demence and Revelation, or just the hundreds of free open air festivals evolving around music, beer and food. Brussels is not a big capital with just 1.2 million inhabitants, but it has a lot to offer for its size.

3. Beer. Not so much a beer lover myself, as I grew up with Grolsch, Heineken and Bavaria, I ditched my beer glasses a decade ago. But since I live in Brussels, I have educated myself in the beer business as Belgium just makes the most wonderful beers, full of tastes and contrasts. You can go to several bars here in town where they will have a few hundred different locally brewed beers on the menu. After tasting and enjoying a long list of these, my personal favourites are for example Zinnebir, Westmalle Triple, Maredsous Blonde, Lupulus and La Chinette.

4. Finding work and making friends. I have always been fascinated by European integration and globalisation. But it was really hard to find work on these topics in the Netherlands. In Brussels, mainly because of the presence of the EU and NATO, there are literally tens of thousands of jobs on international cooperation. Since my move, I have worked as a freelance correspondent, a communications advisor for climate NGOs and since 2016 I work for the GSMA, focusing on technology and the digital economy. It has been a great ride until now. Also in terms of meeting people. Apart from all the talented colleagues you can work with, it is very easy to make new friends. For absolute newcomers: try the market drinks at Place du Chatelain on Wednesday and mingle with the EU trainees on ‘Place Lux’ every Thursday.

5. Vicinity. Though Belgium’s infrastructure is falling apart (more about that below), Brussels is extremely well connected. You can travel by train to London, Paris, Cologne and Amsterdam in around two hours or less (the Thalys takes you to the heart of Paris in 80 minutes). Brussels Airport is compact and has direct connections to almost all important destinations in Europe, as well as to Africa, the US and Asia. So if you get tired of the city, a weekend away is organised with a few clicks.


The lows

The sign says in French: Cyclists, go on foot. In Dutch it says: Pedestrians, go on foot!

1. The daily traffic hell. Brussels is one of the most congested cities in the world. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people flock into the city, taking their state-sponsored car or the train on their way to work. Biking in this town is outright dangerous as there are virtually no separate bike lanes, and car drivers are not used to cyclists, leading to a lot of aggression and (deadly) accidents. Even walking is not so healthy as the air is very polluted due to the mass amount of diesel cars on the road. Car is king in Belgium and sadly, this applies to Brussels as well.

2. Chaos in the city. Brussels is badly managed. The city is split up in 19 different municipalities, each with their own mayor. There are a thousand elected politicians, governing the myriad of organisations that keep Brussels running. The municipalities have a lot of trouble coordinating their policies, from traffic to trash collection. Besides the governance problems, there seems to be a gross neglect of rule of law. Rules are simply not enforced, or sometimes they are – it is very random. People park on pavements, on pedestrian crossings all the time without being fined. They dump their old furniture on the streets and then stick a sign to it: ‘A donner’ – for free. Escalators of the metro are out of order all the time. Some roads are being under construction for years, leading to more chaos and irritation. At the beginning of this year, I didn’t have a pavement in front of my house for a month (the workers just disappeared). One of the most bizarre things here are the signs for road works, which express the way people improvise continuously. There is an artist who follows these Belgian Solutions closely and even publishes books full of examples of them, without being judgemental.

3. Je-m’en-foutisme. People care more about their close relationships with family and friends, than about the public spaces (see also the next point). So drinking beer in the bus? The bus driver: Je m’en fou! (I don’t care) Want to buy something in the supermarket ten minutes before closing time? The shop manager: Je m’en fou! Get out! Want to pay by card? The restaurant owner: je m’en fou! There is a cash machine a few streets away. Of course, most Belgians do have a spirit of service, of doing something nice for strangers, but all too often I see another side of the inhabitants: you just have to f*ck off or look away.

4. Lack of a maintenance culture. I know, the Dutch like to be perfect. Everything needs to be clean, efficient and organised in my home country. Contrast that with the Belgians, where uniformity is abhorred. ‘We are real anarchists,’ said the Flemish writer Geert van Istendael once. Crumbling facades, graffiti on buildings, public infrastructure falling apart – the average Belgian wouldn’t even understand what I am complaining about. I once read an unexpected defence to this lack of a maintenance culture. ‘We use our materials until they are completely worn out. This is what sustainability is about.’ The Belgian continued: ‘In any case, there is also a certain charm in decay, right?’ Sounds like Absurdistan to me.

5. Taxes and rules. The tax burden in Belgium is very high (unless you are a fonctionnaire at the European Union). The country has one of the highest employer tax rates in the world. If you’re self-employed like me, you can easily lose up to two-thirds of your gross income. And for what in retun? OK, healthcare is cheap and affordable, but for the rest, Belgium offers a fraction of the service you can get in countries like Sweden and the Netherlands. That is because of the outsized and grossly inefficient public sector in Belgium (there are SIX governments and parliaments in this country of 11 million souls) but also due to widespread corruption, a burgeoning black economy and the aforementioned je-m’en-foutisme. Add to this the enormous bureaucracy of rules and regulations that you have to adhere to when running a business or renovating a house, and you know why Belgium has a certain reputation. One striking example: The European Commission has called the super strict rules for Airbnb in Brussels ‘out of proportion’ and started an investigation.


So dear reader, Brussels really is a mixed bag. There are moments when you will love living in this city, especially during the first few years as you dance in an old factory or in a metro tunnel to the hippest house music you can imagine. But you will also loathe this place when there is another national strike, being organised every year just for the sake of it, and public transport and supermarkets close their activities to celebrate socialism.

Rave in the Hallepoort Tunnel, January 2019. Picture by VICE

There will be times when you are ready to pack your bags and head home. But also moments that you will relish, as you marvel at the fin de siècle architecture in Ixelles, St Gilles and Uccle or enjoy a cocktail on a sun-lit square where nearby food stalls sell cheap and delicious organic food, and everyone around you is relaxed and happy.

In 2017, I seriously considered leaving Brussels. I had enough of it and I started to call this place Hellgium. Not work wise but city wise, also because most of my new friends had left. But then one long-time Brussels immigrant told me that he had the same experience. ‘You think about it, you fight against Brussels, and then you just give up and accept living here.’ I am about to do the same.

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Upcoming book – Technology in charge

I am happy to announce that I will write my fifth book this year, focusing on the upcoming wave of technological innovations that will radically change our world. Since I…

I am happy to announce that I will write my fifth book this year, focusing on the upcoming wave of technological innovations that will radically change our world.

Since I started working at the GSMA in 2016, I have had little time to write (hence the silence on this blog), but all the more opportunities to learn. Though I have always been interested in technology (for instance resulting in a stint at Google), I now have a rare privilege to work directly on future automation of our lives. The GSMA, the trade association of the mobile industry, aims to connect everyone and everything to a better future. This includes in my case preparing the advent of self-driving cars, the roll-out of mobile health services, European drone policies and the list goes on.

The dive has been so deep and fascinating that I almost forgot my background: I am a historian, an observer, a writer and a journalist (it’s all one and the same thing, of course). I love to share insights on how the world functions and operates. After nearly two years working on European mobile communication policies, I feel it’s now time to write these observations down (while continuing to work at the GSMA – it is a great organisation).

Fourth Industrial Revolution

So in September 2019, my new book will be published with a focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is now taking off (Industrie 4.0 is a concept invented in Germany). This involves basically the coming together of a range of technologies and the integration of these into industries and services, leading to first a more automated and efficient economy, but foremost to a complete overhaul of our societies.

As one colleague of mine predicted: “The next twenty years, more will change than in the past hundred years.” And this colleague is not a self-proclaimed ‘futurist’ who daydreams about robots replacing bees, but a very experienced mobile industry expert.

Self-driving cars are just the start of this upcoming Revolution. What to think of millions of drones and unmanned vehicles who will occupy our skies in the not-too-distant future? The 3D printing of organs? Downloading your memories? What will happen then to human workers, as we may no longer be needed? (hint: experiences of previous industrial revolutions disprove such assumptions time and again) And is technology really in charge once we grow old, or can we always ‘pull the plug’ if needed?

In the book, I want to address a range of topics, questions and dilemmas, such as:

  • Quick guide into the main buzzwords such as Artificial Intelligence, 5G, Internet of Things, Robotisation, Big Data, VR/AR, biotech, nanotech, quantum mechanics
  • Are robots going to take over your job?
  • Will computers become smarter than humans?
  • Will the Fourth Industrial Revolution lead to more inequality?
  • Can we stop the blurring of reality and fiction?
  • Can Europe decide to ignore the Revolution?
  • Social acceptance of new technologies
  • Can we solve major problems in the world thanks to the Fourth Industrial Revolution? (Think climate change, food security, ageing populations)
  • What skills are needed in the world of tomorrow?
  • Preparing organisations and businesses
  • The future: a merging of physical, digital and biological worlds

Call for experts / sources

The next months are reserved for research on all these topics. In case readers want to recommend experts to interview, sources to read or innovative factories to visit, please write me at contact@euwatcher.eu.

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The Dutch election: populism loses a round, but democracy still in trouble

European leaders breathed a sigh of relief at the Dutch election results. Nevertheless the results are a sign of the ongoing crisis of Western democracy. The Dutch parliamentary election of…

European leaders breathed a sigh of relief at the Dutch election results. Nevertheless the results are a sign of the ongoing crisis of Western democracy.

The Dutch parliamentary election of 2017 has exposed the ongoing crisis of Western democracy. Not so much in the surge of anti-liberal democratic and populist parties, but rather in the continuing fragmentation, decreasing legitimacy and erosion of the political foundation underneath Western welfare states.

On 15 March, political pundits across the globe sighed with relief, after yet another political disaster in the West was diverted. Last year, Brexit and Trump shook the belief in democratic systems, as lies (‘alternative facts’), fake news and a continuous outpouring of misinformation resulted in the UK population voting with a (slight) majority to leave the European Union, and Americans opting for Donald Trump to be their next President.

Anti-establishment forces rejoiced because of these uprisings. In Russia, Hungary and other autocratic states, the people’s choice was welcomed. In France, the spokesperson of Marine Le Pen tweeted: ‘as their world crumbles, ours is being built.’

Would 2017 be just as bad for liberal democracy as 2016? With elections looming in Germany, France and the Netherlands, a domino-effect was feared that would push the pendulum from TINA (There Is No Alternative) to the Alt-Right.

Yes, you have a choice, people, the populists in the three founding nations of the European project stated. Go for Frexit, Gexit, Nexit. Release yourself of those chains of globalisation and the European super state. Protect your welfare state. Distrust the immigrants.

No wonder that media across the globe watched with great interest what was happening at the next stage for the domino theory: the Netherlands. With the last general election in 2012, the Dutch would be able to have their say on five years of harsh reform executed by a kind of bizarre coalition government, consisting of ‘just’ two parties: the conservative liberals teamed up in the Union for Freedom and Democracy VVD, and the classic social democrats of the Labour Party PvdA. In the meantime, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party PVV kept hammering hard on the ‘dismantling’ of the welfare state, the flux of migrants (‘We want less, less Moroccans in Holland, and I will take care of it’ said Wilders – echoing Joseph Goebbels, and being convicted of racism because of this statement), and of course the bloody EU, eating away our sovereignty. At the end of 2016, he was firmly leading in the polls, though his election programme consisted of just one A4 sheet.

Two elections in the Netherlands

‘There are two elections in the Netherlands,’ tweeted one observer in March. ‘One for the foreign media, and one for the Dutch population.’ Indeed, how the Netherlands was portrayed in the foreign press didn’t really match reality. Only Wilders’ party was in favour of a Nexit referendum, along with a handful of new parties that were completely unknown until the start of the election campaign. So a possible exit of the Dutch from the EU was not a serious political option, also because almost four in five Dutch citizens is positive about European integration. Plus none of the mainstream parties wants to slam the brake on cooperation within the EU.

And then there is Wilder’s popularity. Actually, it never got much beyond twenty percent of the total share of voters, and that is important because the Netherlands does not have an election threshold. A mere 70,000 votes is enough to get you into Parliament as one of the 150 members of the Second Chamber. So twenty percent of the vote will never be enough to get close to a majority.

In fact, in March no parties were polling over 17 percent, which meant that a coalition government would become difficult. The Dutch always have had coalitions, and are used to having ten parties in Parliament (including one for pensioners, one for animals and one for right-wing Christians), but this election seems to have led to an even greater fragmentation of the electorate. More about that later, because for me this is the real crisis and showstopper of democracy.

Geert Wilders, a firebrand in Dutch politics since decades (and since 2004, on his own after he left the VVD to found the PVV), was effectively barred from governing after a government with him, the VVD and the Christian Democratic party CDA collapsed in 2012. It was Wilders who pulled the plug on this coalition which was based on a programme that, according to Prime Minister Mark Rutte, was ‘a finger-licking sensation for the right-wing part of the Netherlands’  (‘waar rechts Nederland zijn vingers bij kan aflikken’).In the ensuing election Wilders was punished with a loss of 9 seats. After that traumatic experience for VVD and CDA, the only two parties potentially interested in cooperating with Wilders, they excluded him explicitly as a coalition partner.

And now in the 2017 election, Wilders scored lower than in 2010, with a mere 20 seats in total.

So the fuss about the Dutch election was much ado about nothing, right? The Dutch economy is one of the fastest growers in the EU, unemployment is very low and the Dutch are the richest population in the Union (after, well, Luxembourg).

Powerless state

‘We’ in the lowlands, with our culture of pragmatism and cooperation, may have halted the rise of populism for now. It seems as if the disaster-scenarios can also be brushed off the table in France and Germany, with Marine Le Pen polling third in the first round of the presidential elections and with the race in Germany being all about a contest between the centrist giants of the Christian Democrats (Merkel) and increasingly popular Social Democrats (Schulz).

Still, our societies are in ever more troubled waters. And that has to do with a range of continuing processes that undermine the nation-state and weaken the foundation for (liberal) democracy. I have written several books on this development, coining the process in Dutch as De machteloze staat (The Powerless State) in 2012. I was predicting an end to the left-right paradigm in politics, to be replaced by a new division between cosmopolitans and sovereignty-seekers. Boy, did I get that right! A bit sooner than expected, though.

So why is the state becoming powerless? This has to do with four ‘megatrends’: globalisation, European integration, the IT revolution and horizontalisation. These trends have gained speed and traction in the last two, three decades, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The advent of internet (in 1994) and the spread of mobile phones (this year more than five billion people in the world will have a mobile in their pockets, half of them being a smartphone) helped to empower people through the massive distribution of information and building new networks, turning borders and old institutions redundant.

The rise of the network society (Manuell Castels / Jan van Dijk) can be regarded as an outcome of these four megatrends, which then slowly but decisively hollowed – and hollows – out national democracies. To throw a third name at you, Dani Rodrik calls this the inescapable trilemma of the world economy. Rodrik stated in 2007 that you can’t combine democracy, the nation-state and globalisation in one system. One of the three has to go.

Yet, politicians in the West still try to combine the three. Once in power, they realise that national capitals can no longer ‘steer’ the economy or society, their central position within the country has evaporated. Remember drastic changes in governments in southern Europe, at the height of the eurozone crisis? Despite the rhetoric of freeing up their states, notably in Greece, they were forced to implement crisis measures, dictated by the EU and IMF (who were themselves, in essence, dictated by the invisible hand of the market).

Floating voters

Back to the Dutch polder. What happened at the latest election? A few notable things, that fit seamlessly in the theory of the powerless state.

First of all, the indecisiveness of the voters. In January, 70% of the electorate didn’t know which party they were going to support. And just before the election, 40% still were hesitating between one, two, even three parties. The programmes of most parties are so much alike, and expectancies of change so low, that for many voters it was hard to form a solid opinion on voting preferences. The ‘zwevende kiezer’ (floating voter) is not a recent phenomenon but in this election they were markedly present, which meant that a party gaining (or losing) momentum just before the election, could enjoy the bandwagon effect.

This is exactly what happened to GroenLinks, a green-progressive-left party that went from 4 to 16 seats, also because it is led by a charming 30-year old with the looks of young Justin Trudeau, who managed to sell out enormous halls of up to 5,000 seats to speak – unheard of in the Netherlands.

Back in 2012, the PvdA had a similar surge, shooting up to 38 seats and nearly becoming the biggest party, while they were polling around 10-15 seats in the months before the May 2012 elections. The social-democrats have now been severely punished though, dropping from the 38 high to a mere 9 low, in fact an all-time low for the party which has been in (coalition) governments for decades and produced a number of statesmen-like Prime Ministers, such as Wim Kok in the 1990s.

So the electorate is very volatile and easily moves from the radical left SP to the radical right (or supposedly so) PVV. Or they switch from PvdA to Denk, a right-wing club of disgruntled pro-Erdogan Turks that gained three seats in Dutch Parliament. Also the Forum voor Democratie got two places in the Second Chamber, its leader being a young intellectual troublemaker, with close links to Trump’s gang in America and Putin’s mob in Russia.

Just as in other Western countries, centrist parties lose their appeal. Just as in recent years, a new Dutch government will only be able to push some handles up and down of the complicated system that’s called the welfare state, but not bring back sovereignty. European integration will continue, more power will go to Brussels to save the euro and to increase our external border plus boost our common security. The real future of the Netherlands lies in the (invisible) hands of the EU, the market and the ongoing technological revolution.

So the margins for national policy makers and national politicians become smaller and tighter. And this cannot remain without a response. The void in power needs to be filled. We can identify some striking examples, apart from the increasing appeal of populists and nationalists who claim that there is an alternative, that there is a third way in our globalising world.

  • The European Commission is doing everything it can to deliver results for Europe’s citizens: abolishing roaming charges for your mobile phone when travelling abroad, free train tickets for 18 year olds to discover Europe, while also putting some-sort-of-halt to enlargement and limiting the amount of new rules coming from of Brussels. By showing the added value of European integration to daily lives of ordinary Europeans, political strategists hope to re-win the minds for the good works being done in Brussels.
  • Increasing assertiveness of cities and regions. Now that of the nation-state is under pressure, citizens look for new identity frames. One way is to ‘buy local’. More and more people now read and watch regional media, cultural festivals of regions are also increasingly popular. Cities realise they can put an end to climate change if they work together, and start initiatives like C40 that aims to make the biggest cities in the world CO2-neutral in the next decades. Not unimportant as one realises that the overwhelming majority of the global population lives in an urban environment – and that is also where most CO2 is produced.
  • Decentralisation of powers. This is a big trend, in which the national government gives a lot of responsibilities back to lower levels – in the Netherlands this process has already taken place in a drastic way, giving municipalities the lead in providing previously nationally planned provisions for the welfare state (healthcare, housing et cetera).
  • Citizens discovering what it is to be a citizen. After most of its citizenship has been taken over by the state (no need to put Grandma in the attic, the government has built elderly homes), now the personal involvement in society is coming back. That can take many forms, from women’s marches against Trump in the US to picnics on roads in Brussels to ask for pedestrianisation of the centre. Or from Cinque Stelle trying to tear down archaic political structures in Italy, to crowd funding for societal projects and raising millions in a matter of days, all over the world.

The show must go on

The decline of the nation-state is a gradual process and we need to wait if it can be reversed. Maybe we’ll look back to this period in thirty years’ time and regard the rise of Trump and Great Britain leaving the European Union, as no more than futile attempts, a swan song even, of politicians to keep in control of the nation. Unless, of course, they reject globalisation fully and go on the path of autarky. ‘Poor but proud of our independence’ would then be their clarion call.

Luckily, no such tendencies exist in Dutch mainstream politics. What the March 2017 election showed, however, is the realisation that politics do not really matter anymore apart from changing accents within the welfare state, or show moral leadership. Redefining what the nation-state is and does, and how it relates to regions, Europe and the world – those difficult questions have not been tackled at all in the Dutch election campaign. They will need to get a proper answer though, otherwise Wilders and the likes may be more successful in their next attempt to gain power.

This article was previously published by the 

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The cosmopolitan ideal is dead

The era of further European integration and continuing globalisation is over. Though many cosmopolitans haven’t realised it, their narrative is as dead as a dodo. Political parties in the middle…

The era of further European integration and continuing globalisation is over. Though many cosmopolitans haven’t realised it, their narrative is as dead as a dodo. Political parties in the middle need to drastically overhaul their programmes and put national interests first. Otherwise they will marginalise themselves further at the benefit of radical parties, and further alienate from voters.

You know what?I hate myself for writing the first paragraph of this article. For years, I have been promoting the good causes of European integration and globalisation. Together with the IT revolution and the sociological process of ‘horizontalisation’ these four ‘Megatrends’ have completely altered the structures in our economy and society, in a span of just three decades. The world, our world, has changed unrecognisably from the time before the Wall fell and the Cold War was ended.

Old borders evaporating
In my books, interviews and speeches I have always explained these radical changes and how they have undermined traditional institutes like political parties, welfare states and labour unions. It was all about the rise of the ‘network society‘ and ever continuing disappearing of old borders – in real life, in the way we organise economy and society, and especially between European countries.

After all the dreadful events of 2016, I still believe in the lightning speed of this transformation and the many benefits it has. We are in the middle of the journey of reinventing ourselves as a human being, as a society, and you shouldn’t stop those processes forcefully just because new technologies are scary or because muslims are throwing bombs and guiding trucks into our weak spots.

But I am now convinced that the era is over for people like me who have an eye for the big picture, and now it is time for politicians and pundits who promote the return to the glorified past. 

And that is because there is a stark difference between me and Trump, Farage, Le Pen and Wilders: these guys offer, and I will write it in capitals so will you remember: AN OUTLOOK, or a vision. 

Cosmopolitans sell you an outlook of tomorrow for sure, but it on the one hand just more of the same and also a largely utopian onethat only frightens people. Not that long ago our lives and the world around us was pretty simple: there was a capitalist West and a communist East, you had a job for life, there were just a few tv channels and two sorts of coffee: black or sugar/milk. Politicians were left or right, that was also easy.

Today, all these cornerstones of life have evaporated in the blink of an eye. And cosmopolitans will want to have the cake and eat it, too. More Europe! More IT revolution! More globalisation! Welcome the Syrians and Afghans! In the meantime, theclass of professionals(be they politicians, bureaucrats or managers) are busy optimising the welfare state, meaning the entitlement of citizens is cut across the board: higher pension age, less unemployment benefits, school tuitions and security taxes going up.

Unfolding dramas
As a writer and founder of a think-tank for young people in the Netherlands (when I was in my late twenties), I was promoting all of this because I found – and find – the current welfare state unsustainable. We live in an age of high debt while Europe’s population is ageing, fast. Without structural reform of the welfare state we will create an enormous generation conflict in the next twenty years.

As EU Watcher, based in Brussels since 2013, I have witnessed several European dramas unfold, from the inability to really curb the eurocrisis to the rising antagonism towards Russia and the cynical, powerless policies regarding Syria. The EU institutions have proposed numerous solutions for many of Europe’s problems, but more recently, the member states have started to put the foot on the brake.

And right now, the cosmopolitans I meet here – in the European Parliament, at receptions, at work or in my gym – all share a certain amount of pessimism. “I really feel that the whole thing can fall apart,” said an influential member of the European Parliament to me, at a congress of Europe’s liberal parties in Warsaw in November. “Everything in Europe is going wrong.”

Who travels too fast, travels alone
Though you can’t blame ‘people like me’ for the current anxieties in our societies, we are an easy target. Basically because those involved in the organisation of society – including journalists and writers – have lost touch with ordinary citizens. In the EU, this is recognised in statements like ‘We need to make Europe work!’ and as an answer, by trying to increase the EU’s output legitimacy through ‘populist’ measures like the abolishment of roaming surcharges for mobile phones and free Europe train passes for 18-year olds.

The cosmopolitan, ruling class may well have acted in an autistic wayin the last decades by stimulating further European integration or allowing for large-scale immigration. The backlash of this was already witnessed in the Netherlands with the rise of, and the murder of, Pim Fortuyn in 2001, as well as the current high polls for Geert Wilders with his racist, xenophobic, anti-EU and anti-establishment rhetoric. As a result, Dutch parties have all moved to the right, promoting to curb EU cooperation, impose stricter rules for immigrants and limit the role of the state – for instance by lifting red tape and reducing taxes.

But all the shit that has happened this year, made me realise that even a softened cosmopolitan narrative has no future.For too long, we have traveled too fast and therefore are now traveling alone.

  • ‘We’ built a welfare state that made people politically passive, by institutionalising societal relations (grandparents used to take care of the grandchildren, now they get subsidies for doing that, for instance);
  • ‘We’ abolished national currencies and replaced it by the euro that lacks to have any cross-European political and societal underpinning;
  • ‘We’ expanded the EU from 12 to 28 Member States in two decades and unleashed waves of unchecked movement of people;
  • ‘We’ are creating a European political sphere that lacks the power to nourish, because there is no European demos;
  • ‘We’ promote ever more globalisationwith a marked role for big North American companies, continuing to press for ‘neo-liberal’ trade deals with Canada (CETA) and the United States (TTIP).
  • ‘We’ have let inequality risewhile real-wage incomes of the middle class haven’t increased since the 1970s.

In the United States, similar processes have been going on: in the first decade of this century, over 11 million people came into the US as legal immigrants (and millions more as illegal). Unchecked globalisation has turned the rust belt into a dead belt, countless Americans are in a ‘working poor’ condition – working in multiple jobs but without sufficient money to have three meals a day, while the credit crisis, initiated by radical liberalisation of the finance sector in the 1990s, has basically destroyed America’s middle class.Oh and the political institutions in Washington have been in a fierce political deadlock for over a decade now, and then there is the culture war raging on.

Our world is crumbling 
In my book Next Europe, published in 2014, I addressed these issues already. I suggested to redefine the relation between the member (nation) states and the EU,to put a halt to the ever-closer-union narrativethat was still upheld here in Brussels.

One particular measure was to end the accession talks with Turkey: that is one of the best examples of where ratio is ruling. Turkey is key to our geopolitical security, there are deep historical ties between Turkey and Europe, and the country is economically more advanced and dynamic than let’s say Bulgaria and Romania. But the pathos towards Turkey amongst Europe’s people is close to zero. As a diplomat I would fully subscribe to the idea to keep Turkey close to Europe, but as a realist I concluded in 2014 that it will only estrange people further and further from the European Union.

I was proved right by the Brexit referendum. The Brexiteers successfully used the talks with Turkey as a (false) argument to conclude that Europe was getting bigger and bigger – and more muslim as well. (This is highly ironic, because it has always been the United Kingdom that promoted the accession of Turkey, because it would make the EU weaker)

Even an Association Agreement, which by no means is a first step towards EU membership, is a daunting challenge. We saw this in the case of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreementwhich was voted down in a referendum in, again, the Netherlands, in March this year. Only with an annex that underlines that Ukraine will NOT become an EU member and that stipulates that we do not have to defend that country from the Russians, can the Dutch prime minister Rutte probably get the treaty ratified at home.

And then came November.‘While their world is crumbling, we build ours,’ was the jubilant tweet of the spokesperson to Marine le Pen, the leader of the French Front National party, after Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States. Not by Americans per sebecause in the popular vote Hillary Clinton got a whopping 2.8 million votes more. No, it was the forgotten class of people that voted against more ‘professionals‘ like Clinton, especially in the more rural and hard hit areas of the United States. If it was up to the more cosmopolitan West and East coast (and the young people), Clinton would have walked over Trump with a landslide.

Post-truth, liquid society and global trilemma
Much has been written about the post-truth reality of today. No matter how much debunking goes on to expose the lies, falsified data and misleading narratives of those wanting to make America great again, or give the Brits their country back, people still buy the narratives of the populists. Even openly displayed misogyny and racism doesn’t scare away female and coloured voters. Trump violated ALL of the rules of the textbook How To Become a President of the USA and still won.

Of course you can point at the power of social media, notably Facebook, that helped to spread fake news reports en masse. But I think the problem runs deeper and for an answer we have to go to the liquid societyconcept of the Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman. His vision on society is rather pessimistic; even before the advent of social media he published his book Liquid Modernity in 2000. In modern society, every relation that we build is flexible and disposable, from divorcing to speed dating, from blogging to consumerism, from The Weakest Link to Big Brother. Change is accelerating, making everything around us ‘liquid’ and therefore of little value.

Connect this concept of Bauman to the political debates and decisions in the ballot box, and there is definitely a match. They will value a report from an unknown source on Facebook, for instance on pedophile networks around Hillary Clinton, equal to a background piece in the New York Times. Britons enjoy traveling to Europe with EasyJet for 10 pounds, but reject the Polish supermarket around the corner. Dutch see the bombing of Aleppo on the television, but then protest against a refugee centre being constructed near their town.

This goes much further and deeper than NIMBY behaviour. It is sheer irrationalism. Maybe we should bring Dani Rodrik into our considerations, a worldwide known economist who is famous for his theory of the Trilemma of the world economyIn a nutshell his theory boils down to this: you can’t combine a globalised economy, national souvereignty and democracies in one system.

In 2012 I published a book in the Netherlands called De Machteloze Staat (The Powerless State)and I included both aforementioned authors. I disagreed with Bauman, concurred with Rodrik. Now I think both are right.

Wake-up call 
For me, 2016 has been one big wake-up call. I continue to ponder about the right response to the many, many heavy blows that the mindset of ‘my kind of people’ has got, but here are already a few conclusions that I wish to draw, and that I want to expand – and crystallise into a book, a film, a set of debates,anything substantial – in 2017. Happy to discuss.

  • The cosmopolitan ideal is dead.It is no longer appealing to people. Their lukewarm support for European integration can collapse in the blink of an eye.
  • The populists have answers, have a perspective, and we don’t.We offer just more of the same. And people don’t want the same. They want to have more security, to maybe have lesschoice, lessresponsibility, be less informed.
  • In a globalising world, what populists offer may be a false dream. Putting up border controls and killing trade deals won’t stop the robotisation of our industries. Populists will not find the money and other resources (like people) to uphold the welfare state. There are many more pressures to our society, like the lack of future skills and demographic buildup.
  • People are angry, lost and anxious. We need to respond to their worries. Maybe to such an extent that it will harm us. Like what the British Prime Minister May said something like the following about the need for a hard Brexit: ‘This will hit our economy. But we want a Brexit nonetheless.’ An American voter knew very well that Trump was not good for her country. But she was just so desperate for ‘change’ that she voted for the billionaire.
  • Voters are fed up with smart people doing nice things on their behalf. They want to be in control again. Of course this doesn’t make any sense. But in a world that has gotten so incredibly complex to govern, it seems that people who promote easy solutions win the day.
  • Take care of the vulnerable. Yesterday I saw the movie ‘I, Daniel Blake’, and it hit me in the gut. People get squashed by the state institutions that don’t have any eye for the person, just for being efficient and by following the rules. And this is not just about lower class people, it can also happen to ‘Jam’ people who are ‘just about managing‘ as they feel the continuing pressure of mortgage, job and taking care of their children.
  • Reconsider the benefits and the woes of globalisation. Take an example to the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, who acknowledged that ‘globalisation isn’t working for ordinary people‘.
  • States have to become much more active in protecting and guiding citizens through the next decade(s) of change.In the Netherlands, around half of young people have trouble adapting to the borderless world (while the other half enjoys being a freelancer or having 12 different jobs in the first twenty years of their work life). If there is one institution that can help people with education and training, it is the state, but we also shouldn’t exclude ‘socialist’ measures like fixed contracts. Even if that damages economic dynamics in a country.
  • Education, education, education. If there is one task for the post-modern nation state, it is just this one. And not just training (digital) skills in lifelong learning programmes. I am talking about digital savviness, being able to decyphering right from wrong, listening to people who are not in your tribe.
  • In a network society, there is no place for vertically organised political parties with a large membership constituency. Already membership has declined dramatically over the last decades. But what do we see? We are increasingly governed by people with a diminished experience of the world beyond politics, according to the LSE. Instead of building a career in society itself, members of parliament and ministers have been locked up in their political bubble right after the school benches.
  • You can argue that our Western democracies work surprisingly well in response to societal preferences.Trump, Brexit and the Ukraine referendum were no accidents. They reflect a changing mood within the electorate; now it is time for new winds to blow. No need to compare Trump to Hitler or make general references to the 1930s; those claims are preposterous.
  • You can also happily conclude that as time progresses, cosmopolitan thinking can become popular once again. This has to do with the next generation. Young people voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, against Trump, in favour of Ukraine.But the problem here is that the millennials are politically absent as their turnout at the polling stations is historically low.
  • Finally, the decline of the power of the nation state will continue. I predict this on the basis of a further erosion of borders – a process that can be slowed down but not stopped. Look at the migration crisis, at the ongoing digital revolution, at the end of business models in many industries. See how assertive regional and city administrations have become, for instance on tackling climate change in the C40 forum (you undoubtedly have heard about the excellent book If mayors ruled the world, by political scientist Benjamin Barber). In other words, even if the populists get into the hot seat and impose radical change and protection of the nation state, maybe it’s all too late, and all in vain.

Responses welcome on contact@euwatcher.eu or on Twitter: @joophazenberg

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Europa in 2016: de leugen regeert

Column uitgesproken voor de Opleiding Ambtenaren Internationaal Beleid / 30 november 2016 Vorig jaar had mijn column voor uw voorgangers van OAIB 2015 het thema ‘de geschiedenis als een losgeslagen…

Column uitgesproken voor de Opleiding Ambtenaren Internationaal Beleid / 30 november 2016

Vorig jaar had mijn column voor uw voorgangers van OAIB 2015 het thema ‘de geschiedenis als een losgeslagen paard’. En die column werd welgeteld twee dagen voor de beslissende aanslagen van Parijs uitgesproken. Laten we het thema van het losgeslagen paard dit jaar maar eens dunnetjes overdoen, zou ik zeggen, en er een losgeslagen olifant van maken. Onze kwetsbare samenleving is als een porseleinkast, en daar slaat de olifant nu zijn slagtanden op stuk, bij wijze van spreken.

Op Twitter, het veelgeprezen opiniemedium, smeken de digitale pundits aan ‘2016’ of het alsjeblieft over mag zijn, dit jaar. We vallen van de ene in de andere absurditeit. Op 22 maart gaan hier op een kilometer afstand de bommen af in een metrotunnel, terwijl vlak daarvoor de metalen pennen door de lucht vlogen in twee explosies op de luchthaven van Zaventem. Onlangs werd een mobiele telefoon van een van de betrokken aanslagplegers teruggevonden op een politiebureau hier in Brussel, verloren geraakt onder een stapel documenten. Ik verzin dit niet.

Ik verzin ook niet dat ik op een ochtend met de hond wandel, het nieuws check en lees dat acht uur eerder een vrachtwagen over een menigte heen is gereden, 2 kilometer lang, in Nice. 86 doden, een derde moslim.

De Leugen Regeert
Een paar weken daarvoor waren de Britse vrienden op mijn housewarming in een collectieve depressie, omdat hun landgenoten voor een Brexit hadden gestemd – volstrekt irrationeel, zelfdestructief, en de tegenstemmers namen het echte succes van de ‘post truth’ democratie van vandaag met genoeg tot zich. De Leugen Regeert, zou Beatrix zeggen.

De ‘post truth’ realiteit hield natuurlijk ook in eigen land huis, met dat stomme Oekraine-referendum dat met geen mogelijkheid te winnen was. Tja, als je 50.000 euro kunt vangen door wc-rollen te drukken met verdragsteksten… Nou ja, gelukkig is Europa niet in een crisis gestort door het Nederlandse Nee, zoals Juncker destijds had voorspeld, we bestaan nog steeds en de Russen staan nog niet aan de grens. Wel jammer dat de krijgsmacht de Leopard tanks heeft verkocht. Aan de andere kant ook weer fijn dat diezelfde krijgsmacht in november een eenheid voor cyber warfareheeft opgetuigd.

En dan Amerika. Tja. Ik herinner me nog dat in januari de NRC-correspondent vol overtuiging schreef dat Trump geen enkele kans maakte om kandidaat namens de Republikeinen te worden. En ziedaar, acht maanden later, Trump is duizenden, duizenden! keren afgeschreven – door de media, door Republikeinen, door Democraten natuurlijk, maar ook door meer onafhankelijke politieke analisten en opiniepeilers. En toch, en toch, was daar de tenenkrommende, misselijkmakende uitslag. President Trump. Daar gaan de handelsverdragen, de klimaatafspraken en de internationale koers van de Verenigde Staten door de plee. Oekraine-wc papier niet nodig, de Amerikanen gebruiken hun eigen made-in-America-rol wel.

Iets ten noorden van de Verenigde Staten ligt Canada. Canada, niet zo’n belangrijke handelspartner van de Europese Unie. 27,5 van de 28 lidsaten van de Unie hadden ja gezegd tegen het CETA verdrag. Maar een klein dorpje in het Gallische gebied bood dapper weerstand. 4.5 miljoen mensen tegen 504 miljoen mensen. De democratie overwint. Intussen sluit de EU ook een verder gaand handelsverdrag met Japan, Japan dat een grotere handelspartner is dan Canada, maar daar hoor je niemand over want Japan is geen land dat dicht bij het kwade, neoliberale Amerika ligt.

Het grote sterven aan de grens
En intussen sterven duizenden mensen aan de grens met Europa. In Aleppo en elders. What is A Leppo? Zouden sommige Amerikanen vragen. Dat herhalen de Europeanen hopelijk niet, al ben ik waarschijnlijk de enige hier in deze ruimte die daadwerkelijk ooit in Aleppo is geweest en daar de schitterende citadel heeft beklommen. Aleppo, het kruispunt van beschavingen, al duizenden jaren lang, nu aan puin geschoten, een kwart miljoen mensen in de val, en Europa doet niets. Misschien is dat wel het echte drama. Maar Syrie is van onze radar verdwenen sinds we de deal met Turkije hebben gesloten, de deal die de vluchtelingenstroom deed opdrogen, nou ja, die gaat nog steeds door maar wordt gestuit in de Griekse eilanden en het Turkse vasteland. En duizenden gelukszoekers sterven in de woeste golven van de Middellandse Zee, maar ja, die beelden hebben we nu ook wel genoeg gezien.

Turkije, daar is trouwens een mislukte coup geweest, en pakweg honderdduizend mensen zijn hun baan kwijt of zitten in de gevangenis, hoogstwaarschijnlijk volstrekt onschuldig. Maar Europa blijft maar praten met de Turken over een EU-lidmaatschap, ook al weet iedereen al decennia dat Turkije nooit nooit nooit lid van de EU gaat worden, maar we willen de dialoog niet stilzetten omdat we anders niks meer hebben om invloed mee uit te oefenen. Minister Koenders spreekt inmiddels van het ‘tijdelijk formaliseren van de comateuze toestand van de toetredingsgesprekken.’ Wat een taal. Ik weet er alles van want ik heb lang geleden een hele mooie scriptie over het Nederlandse Turkijebeleid geschreven. En het perspectief van uitbreiding als een middel om een land mee te stabiliseren en democratisch te maken, daar zijn we nu wel klaar mee. Turkije is een brug te ver. Toch gaan we door met praten, door met onszelf en de Turken voor de gek te houden, en het cynisme over Europese samenwerking te voeden. Hubris is helaas geen zeldzaamheid in deze EU-hoofdstad.

Zijn er dan helemaal geen lichtpuntjes in die Europese samenwerking? Wel degelijk. Al moet ik gelijk daarbij zeggen dat heel veel zeer goed ingevoerde waarnemers hier in Brussel nu openlijk spreken over het mogelijk einde van de Europese droom. Timmermans is daar niet alleen in. De verkiezing van Le Pen en vervolgens een succesvol Frexit referendum is bijvoorbeeld een mooie gelegenheid om het licht uit te doen.

Doortrappen bij tegenwind
Maar hier is het wonder van Europa dan toch echt een stip aan de horizon, het einde van een donkere tunnel. Europese integratie, dames en heren, gaat gewoon door. De Commissie heeft de afgelopen maanden ingrijpende voorstellen gedaan voor het invoeren van een digitale interne markt. Er is een Europese grenswacht gekomen. Lidstaten praten over vergaande defensiesamenwerking waar miljarden aan investeringen mee zijn gemoeid. Een Europees OM ligt in het verschiet. De uitbreidingsgesprekken met Balkanlanden gaan door. Griekenland zit nog in de euro. Het eurobestuur breidt langzaam uit met invoering van de Bankenunie. En wie de Nederlandse verkiezingsprogramma’s naast elkaar legt, ziet daar – in het politieke midden – een duidelijke lijn: dóór met Europa.

Weer of geen weer, de eurocraten blijven op de pedalen staan. En zoals ze dat in Nederland zeggen, bij tegenwind ga je gewoon harder trappen.

Wel hoop ik tenslotte dat 2016 snel voorbij is. Ik heb behoefte aan een kleine adempauze, voor we 2017 in gaan. Verkiezingen in Nederland, Frankrijk, Duitsland en mogelijk Italië, opnieuw benauwende momenten in Griekenland, de start van de Brexit onderhandelingen, de continue dreiging van aanslagen, een poolkap die twintig graden boven de normale temperatuur is. Maar voor mij is 2017 in ieder geval al een hoopgevend jaar, omdat er geen kampioenschap voetbal op de rol staat. Laten we daar het glas op heffen en een kaarsje opsteken!

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Europa in 2015: de geschiedenis als een losgeslagen paard

Op 11 november sprak ik de volgende column uit voor een groep Nederlandse rijksambtenaren, die hier in Brussel op werkbezoek waren. De geschiedenis als een losgeslagen paard We leven 26…

Op 11 november sprak ik de volgende column uit voor een groep Nederlandse rijksambtenaren, die hier in Brussel op werkbezoek waren.

De geschiedenis als een losgeslagen paard

We leven 26 jaar na de val van de Muur en dit is een tijdperk waarin de geschiedenis niet voorbij is, maar juist als een losgeslagen paard ruiterloos door Europa draaft. Telkens weer worden we overvallen door historische gebeurtenissen op ons continent en bij de buren. Dachten we dat vorig jaar een krankzinnig jaar was, met Russische agressie, een neergeschoten verkeersvliegtuig en oplaaiende oorlogen in het Midden-Oosten, 2015 doet dat nog eens dunnetjes over. Een greep uit de gebeurtenissen van dit jaar die de Europese Unie tekenen/bepalen:

Een miljoen mensen zullen dit jaar naar Europa vluchten,een verviervoudiging van 2014. Nu al zijn er minstens 750.000 vluchtelingen geteld – en dat is niet het hele plaatje.

De eurozone heeft op een haar na een lid verloren, na een onvoorstelbaar scenario inclusief een referendum over een miljardenpakket, een in het geniep opnamen makende minister van Financien, een uitgeputte Merkel en een speech in het Europees Parlement van Guy Verhofstadt die miljoenen keren is bekeken. Griekenland heeft het drama uitgevonden, zo weten we, en die kunstvorm houden ze hoog.

Terreuraanslagen op en rond Europaschokten onze samenlevingen. Zijn we Charlie Hebdo nu al vergeten? Misschien wel, door alle bloederigheid die sindsdien heeft plaatsgevonden.

Oekraine staat nog steeds op de rand van instorten, maar intussen lukte het een burgerbeweging in een van de rijkste lidstaten van de EU om een referendum over het Associatieakkoord te houden.

De Britse premier Cameron dreigt met een stemadvies voorvertrek uit de EU,voor dat andere referendum in het VK, als de Unie niet instemt met ‘hervormingen’ als beperking van sociale rechten voor migranten, schrappen van de ever closer union clausule en het beter respecteren van het verschil tussen eurozone en niet-eurozone lidstaten binnen de EU.

Een van de meest gerespecteerde bedrijven uit de wereld, uit een van de meest rigoreuze landen ter wereld als het gaat om de rule of law, blijkt massale fraude te hebben gepleegd met emissiestandaarden voor motoren. Wat blijkt nu: de lidstaten die een grote autoindustrie hebben, zijn er in geslaagd de EU buiten de deur te houden voor onafhankelijke testen voor auto’s. Het zijn de Amerikanen geweest die de zaak aan het licht brachten, ondanks hun quote unquote neo-liberalisme.

Over de Amerikanen gesproken: die hebben een vergaand handelsverdrag gesloten met Oost-Azie terwijl Europa zeer aarzelt over TTIP. Gaan we onze ‘way of life’ opgeven, de markt openen voor chloorkippen en gemodificeerd voedsel? De campagnevoerders tegen TTIP zijn dermate succesvol met hun doemverhalen, dat het verdrag onderhand echt in de gevarenzone komt. Terwijl het aandeel van Europa in de wereldeconomie jaar in, jaar uit krimpt en dit handelsverdrag de laatste kans is voor het Westen om standaarden te bepalen.

De Commissie spreekt zelf over de ‘laatste kans’ die Europa heeftom bijeen te blijven. Onze eigen commissaris Timmermans is somber en voorziet een mogelijk falen van het project. Intussen is het ijzeren gordijn in Midden-Europa terug van nooit weggeweest. Maar ditmaal staat dat gordijn tussen de lidstaten, en niet tussen het Westen en Rusland.

De geschiedenis herhaalt zich ook in Syrie.Daar bombarderen Russen rebellen die met Amerikaanse wapens vechten. Waar hebben we dat eerder gezien? Precies, in Afghanistan in de jaren tachtig. Een paar jaar geleden was het opheffen van de NAVO nog als een serieuze optie gezien. Nu ja, die optie is onderhand wel van tafel.

Er is ook goed nieuws te melden, not all is lost.De eurozone groeit weer. De werkloosheid daalt,soms spectaculair, en dat is heel belangrijk omdat een verloren generatie dreigt, vooral in zuid-Europa. Het vertrouwen van burgers in de EU neemt overigens toe.

De Commissie heeft duidelijk een nieuwe weg ingeslagen.Echte resultaten laten op zich wachten maar er is veel grondwerk gedaan om Europa sterker en ook leaner te maken. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan de Digital Single Market Strategy, aan het hervormen van de interne markt en het uitbouwen van het buitenlands beleid. Maar ook de inzet voor de aanstaande klimaattop in Parijs staat bol van de ambitie, al kan dat natuurlijk wel een tandje hoger want het bestrijden van klimaatverandering gaat lang niet snel genoeg.

Ik woon nu drie jaar in Brussel en het tempo van de historische veranderingen is adembenemend. Zelfs in deze hoofdstad van Europa staan we niet stil: deze buurt was ronduit verwaarloosd, maar nu is er een Apple store om de hoek, de weg voor de deur is eindelijk vernieuwd en er is zowaar een grote voetgangerszone in het centrum gerealiseerd. Zelfs de bouwwerven van de metrostations Arts-Loi (Kunst-Wet) en Schuman zijn bijna voorbij, na jarenlang argeloze bezoekers van Brussel te hebben geterroriseerd!

Maar ook hier zien we het conservatieve Europa de loef opsteken: duizenden migranten mochten maandenlang in een park slapenwaarbij de overheid weigerde te helpen. En onder druk van de taxilobby is Uberpop in deze stad verboden.

2015 is bijna voorbij. Wat zal 2016 ons brengen? Ik hoop over een jaar weer een verhaal te houden voor deze groep. En ik hoop dan ook dat Europa en de wereld in iets rustiger vaarwater komt. Het galopperende paard zonder ruiter mag van mij wel eventjes in de stal.

Joop Hazenberg is EU Watcher.

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