The third Tuesday in September is “Prince’s Day” in the Netherlands. After a two-year break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebrations were once again open to the public. There were admirers in the crowd, but also demonstrators who held the Dutch flag upside down.
This holiday opens the Dutch parliamentary season. However, it is also an opportunity for the reigning monarch to outline the government’s plans for the coming year.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander opened the new parliamentary year with a speech from his throne at a joint session of the country’s States General (Senate and House of Representatives), where he acknowledged that the country is currently going through “a period of conflict and uncertainty”.
“We live in a time of contradictions and uncertainty”, 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 the government, which is 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 focusing mainly on low- and middle-income households. “Even with a package of this magnitude, not everyone can be fully compensated for all price increases,” he declared.
Some of the measures are intended to be short-term and the government’s aim is to introduce an energy price cap so that people can continue to pay their energy bills, he said.
He said the fuel tax cut and energy allowance would continue in 2023, and the health care allowance and basic stipend would increase the following year.
“These measures will be partially financed by a temporary additional contribution from oil and gas companies,” he declared.
The king called “unity and resistance” at the time when “People are losing faith in the decision-making power of politics and government”.
Princess Amalia, present for the first time
Princess Amalia, daughter of King Willem-Alexander and destined to become the next Queen, who turned 18 last year, attended Prince’s Day events for the first time.
She joined her parents in a glass carriage for the journey from Noordeinde Palace to the Royal Theater where the King read his speech.
It has been a turbulent year for the Dutch, with farmers organizing repeated protests against the government’s nitrogen policy, and on Tuesday there were also demonstrators waving the upside-down flags that have become their symbol.
The royal car was greeted along the way with a loud mix of cheers and boos.
“People’s uncertainty about tomorrow and the more distant future is growing”King said, acknowledging public concerns about declining purchasing power and the housing crisis.
“But also about the big changes that are coming in areas such as the labor market, climate, energy and nitrogen”, he declared. “All these topics will determine how we and our children will live, work, do business and live together.”
The king cited past examples of ways to overcome the crisis. He was referring to the words of his grandmother, the former Queen Juliana, during her investiture in 1948.
“During these years of uncertainty, our parents and grandparents have shown unity and resilience,” he declared. “Today, although in very different circumstances, we are being asked the same thing.”