The third Tuesday in September is “Prince’s Day” in the Netherlands. After a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebrations were once again open to the public. The crowd included admirers but also protesters, who were seen holding the Dutch flag upside down.
This festivity marks the opening of the Dutch parliamentary season. But it is also an opportunity for the reigning monarch to outline the government’s plans for the coming year.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands opened the new parliamentary year by addressing the joint session of the country’s States General (Senate and House of Representatives) from his throne, where he acknowledged that the country is currently going through “a period of contradictions and uncertainty”.
“We live in a time of contradictions and uncertainties”, said King Willem-Alexander. “It is contradictory that livelihoods are under pressure and poverty is increasing in a period of economic growth and low unemployment.”
He said that the government, faced with the need to restore purchasing power hit by the energy crisis, is planning an “unprecedented” package of measures worth more than 17.2 billion euros and aimed mainly low and middle income households. “Even with a package of this magnitude, not everyone can be fully compensated for all price increases,” did he declare.
Some of the measures are intended for the short term and the government aims to put in place an energy price cap to allow people to continue paying their energy bills, he said.
He said the fuel tax reduction and energy allowance would continue in 2023, and the health care allowance and basic scholarship allowance would increase in the coming year. .
“These measures will be partly financed by a temporary additional contribution from oil and gas companies,” did he declare.
The king called for “unity and resilience” at a time when “people are losing faith in the resolving power of politics and government”.
Princess Amalia, present for the first time
Princess Amalia, daughter of King Willem-Alexander and destined to be the next Queen, who turned 18 last year, attended the Prince’s Day events for the first time.
She joined her parents in the glass carriage for the journey from Noordeinde Palace to the Royal Theatre, where the King read his speech.
It has been a turbulent year for the Dutch, with farmers staging repeated protests against the government’s nitrogen policy, and protesters were also present on Tuesday, waving inverted flags, which have become their symbol.
According to several opinion polls, Dutch people’s trust in their government and in politicians in general is at historically low levels.
According to an EenVandaag poll, only 15% of the 30,000 respondents still have confidence in the government.
High inflation, rising energy prices, housing shortages and anger over the government’s climate plans have contributed to this drop in confidence, polls show. The Dutch have been stepping up anti-government protests in recent weeks.
The royal car was greeted with a loud mix of cheers and boos along the way.
“People’s uncertainty about tomorrow and a more distant future is growing”the king said, acknowledging public concerns about declining purchasing power and the housing crisis.