Mr Wilders’s heartland

Mini-column ‘Alison in Wonderland’, published in the Observant, Maastricht

The Economist recently published an article called ‘Return to Maastricht: Twenty years on, the euro’s birthplace has become suspicious of Europe’. First, it highlights Dutch Euroscepticism: “The Netherlands has moved from a cosy pro-EU consensus to a sceptical, even antagonistic stance”. And second, it describes Dutch politics as “dysfunctional”, with a liberal-led coalition government that is “propped up” by Geert Wilders’s right-wing PVV party. The article goes on to say that, naturally, all this is slightly awkward for Maastricht. Closer to Brussels and Cologne than to Amsterdam, Maastricht “thinks of itself as a most European city”. The university in particular has a major European Studies curriculum, teaches primarily in English, and half its students are non-Dutch. “And yet”, the article points out, “the town, and its province of Limburg, are Mr Wilders’s heartland.” Touché.

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