The Lowlands and Europe

22nd July 2003, Comments 0 comments

The Dutch: a "simple peasant folk, low brows who are only interested in what happens within Holland's wretched and puny borders", or a major player in European integration?


It is always interesting to read about the way the Dutch think about their culture, their ways and typical behaviour. A week ago, two articles were published in NRC Handelsblad, one of the country's leading newspapers. The author of the first article was fairly negative about the Dutch, and Dutch soccer to be more precise. He compared the Dutch to simple peasant folk, low brows who are only interested in what happens within Holland’s’ wretched and puny borders.

The author of the second article praised and admired Dutch achievements, culture and ways, and briefly touched on what seems to be the favourite Dutch hobby of all times: complaining and bickering.

It is true that a majority of the Dutch people like to complain about almost everything. It is also true that most Dutch people are not openly proud of their country. Nationalistic tendencies are usually frowned upon.

Maybe this has to do with the German occupation during the Second World War. Or, maybe with the fact that the Dutch living in a very small country located between the British Empire, the German Reich and the French, and in the meanwhile defying a dangerous and unpredictable sea, instinctively felt (and feel) that it pays to be inconspicuous. In that respect, moderate self-loathing and a bit of sarcasm and complaining paved the way.

In general though, most Dutch people are proud of who and what they are. The current prosperity, Dutch history and international stature of the Netherlands are items most Dutch citizens are particularly proud of.

These days the Dutch government is not too timid about making its voice heard. Recently, it was reported that the Dutch government remains in favour of setting up refugee camps outside of the European Union (EU), even though a vast majority of other EU states does not approve. And this brings me to the actual subject of this column: new developments within the EU and related EU policy.

In mid June, the EU ministers of Justice and Home Affairs decided in Luxembourg that a non-EU citizen who legally resides in one of the 15 EU states for a minimum of five years, shall be eligible for a (local) permanent residence permit.

For this, the non-EU person will have to prove that (s)he has sufficient financials means, has adequate health insurance, and has successfully passed an integration course.

And here is the real good news: the permanent residence permit entitles the holder to move to another EU country following a (relatively easy) standard procedure. In both EU countries, the holder of the permanent residence permit will enjoy approximately the same rights as regular EU citizens.

There are exceptions to be considered. A few examples: in Germany the holder of the permanent residence permit/new arrival may be excluded from freely entering the German labour market if his/her presence in Germany is regarded as "disruptive" to the German labour market. Italy and Austria are allowed to maintain their current quota for the number of non-EU employees within their borders.

All in all, the plan is good news. In theory it means that e.g. a South African national who has legally lived and worked in Brussels for six years and is offered a job in Amsterdam, can pack up, move to the Netherlands and start work without having to worry about the regular red tape jungle (such as a Dutch work permit and the usual entry visa/MVV hassle).

The only thing (s)he would have to do is go through a (relatively easy) standard procedure. As always it will take a while before the dust settles and the particulars concerning this arrangement are made clear, but I am certain that this will prove to be wonderful news to all you globetrotters and continent hoppers out there. Now that is something to be proud of.

In my next column I will inform you on recent and ‘exciting’ developments concerning employment related rules and regulations for the Low Countries.

24 June, 2003

Patrick R. Rovers,
Consultant with Van Velzen CS

This column is for informative purposes only, is general in nature, and is not intended to be a substitute for competent legal and professional advice. Dutch rules and regulations regarding foreigners, government or EU policy, work permits, visas and residence permits are continuously subject to change.

Subject: Ask the Experts

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