Protests in eastern Groningen as anti-government sentiment rises
The closure of the Aldel aluminium smelter, with the loss of several hundred jobs, has proved to be the last straw for many people in the northern province of Groningen, according to the weekend’s Volkskrant newspaper.
Some 1,000 people took part in a demonstration against the closure on Friday but unhappiness is mounting against other government policies as well, the paper said.
In particular, the paper said, locals are concerned about depopulation, earthquakes caused by natural gas extraction, houses which are unsellable and the feeling that the region has been put up for sale.
Everything has come at the same time, Albert Kuiper of the FNV engineering union told the paper.
‘Aldel has to close because there is no cheap electricity,’ he said. ‘But the people who worked for Aldel also have to put up with the effect of the earthquakes caused by natural gas extraction. Their houses are here.’
The protests are growing in strength. On Friday, around 100 people demonstrated outside the provincial council offices in Groningen city about the consquences of the gas extraction, the paper pointed out.
That demonstration was organised by Bram Reinders from the village of Farmsum. By Sunday evening, his Facebook page ‘Groningers in Opstand’ (rebellious Groningers) had nearly 23,000 likes.
The website states: ‘Groningen is being sucked dry… factories are closing… people are being screwed by the government… the Netherlands is getting rich from Groningen gas.’
Reinders knows people who both work for Aldel and have a house damaged by the earthquakes. ‘The Aldel closure is the last straw,’ he told the Volkskrant. ‘Aldel has to close because energy is too expensive. In the meantime, we’ve got gas-related damage. People are beginning to realise that Groningen is being milked dry.’
The Financieele Dagblad quotes 63-year-old Nico Dahler, who worked at Aldel until two years ago. ‘We Groningers have been quiet but now the time is right to be heard,’ he told the paper.
The demonstration against the closure ended with the singing of the Groningen anthem, the FD said.
The Volkskrant points out that many of the Aldel workers come from the east Groningen villages which were communist until the 1990s. The local elections in March will be a real test of public opinion, the paper points out.
‘Unemployment here is rising almost as quickly as the gas is being stolen from us,’ Popko Boerema, from the Appingedam Socialist Party, told the Volkskrant.
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