"Netherlands as shining example of integration"
Danish mayor Jakob Hougaard says Dutch integration should serve as an example for the rest of Europe.15 January 2008
AMSTERDAM – Dutch integration should serve as an example for the rest of Europe. If it were up to Danish mayor Jakob Hougaard, more European leaders would visit Amsterdam in future to learn from the Dutch approach to integration issues.
Hougaard met with Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen on Monday and talked with policymakers in Amsterdam and Rotterdam to hear how the Netherlands has succeeded in regaining a balance between the various population groups after the murder of Theo van Gogh.
Hougaard praised in particular the approach to so-called ‘hotspots' in Amsterdam, areas in the city where there is a lot of crime and nuisance. "You are very good at communicating here in the Netherlands," says Hougaard, who is in charge of the integration portfolio in Copenhagen.
"It took a long time after the cartoon riots before a dialogue between the various population groups could be fostered in Denmark. We were very afraid that that we would be kicking Muslims in the shins by explaining to them that freedom of expression is very important to western society."
He praised the way dialogue with the Muslim community takes place in the Netherlands. "With campaigns like ‘We Amsterdam' Job Cohen managed to get everyone looking in the same direction." What Copenhagen succeeds at better, however, is in integrating the various cultures in education. "In that respect you could learn a lot from Denmark," says Hougaard.
"In Copenhagen we do not have any black or white schools, as is still the case in the Netherlands. You have to attack these problems at the root; mixed schools teach children early on how positive it is to live with all religious and ethnic groups in harmony."
The Danish city politician also praised the approach to problem neighbourhoods in Rotterdam. "The renovation and rebuilding of run down buildings there is exemplary," he said. Another Dutch measure that Copenhagen will certainly adopt is the preventative surveillance cameras in the Amsterdam city centre.
"That is something I am going to champion," he said. "The figures show indisputably that this kind of initiative works excellently as a preventative measure."
Hougaard hopes that Amsterdam representatives will soon honour Copenhagen with a visit. "I even think I'd like to expand the initiative to other European cities," he said. "The large cities are almost all struggling with the same problems. In this time of unification and uniformity it can only benefit us to listen to each other closely and be willing to learn from each other."
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2008]
Subject: Dutch news