Opinion round-up: This week’s best newspaper columns

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Voting, regulating marijuana cultivation, literacy and final student year dissertations all came on board in the Dutch papers this week.

Trouw published a piece by GroenLinks member Jelis van Leeuwen, in which he called for voting to be made mandatory. The turnout for the European elections, 42% in the Netherlands and 51% across the EU, was bad news for elections in democratic countries, and that ‘exactly because the Netherlands is a consensus democracy, it is crucial that as many votes are cast as possible,’ he said.

Van Leeuwen argued that reintroducing mandatory voting, which was abolished in 1970, was the simplest and easiest way to get people to vote. Not voting, he said,  should be punished with a fine of up to €240, but people should have the option to hand in a blank voting form.

In a column in the Volkskrant, college lecturer said that universities should get rid of the final dissertation required for students to graduate. ‘Learning to write a readable, structured and supported dissertation with sources, on the basis of research and in correct Dutch or English, is often not even part of the curriculum, putting the average student in an impossible situation,’ Keuning said.


Students are often given pass grades out of pity, and many teachers are not capable of grading or supporting the writing of a 50-page dissertation, Keuning said. The writer offered another solution: allow students to choose between a presentation or a dissertation.

The Telegraaf honed in on the government’s plans to experiment with regulated marijuana cultivation, with an opinion piece by former police chief Jan Blaauw. Blaauw argued that ‘in the end, legalising is surrendering to the drugs trade.’

Instead of legalising, the government should be doing more to fight drugs, the former police chief said.. ‘In my opinion, drug-related crime should be punished harshly. I’m not impressed with our country’s punishments. If you poison society, you shouldn’t get away with community service.’


The Financieele Dagblad published an article by a number of people involved in vocational training, and including Mariette Hamer of the government’s advisory group SER, in which they called on the government to do more to combat illiteracy.

‘How is it possible that, in a prosperous country like the Netherlands, 2.5 million people are falling behind because of poor language, maths and digital skills?,’ the column asked.

The writers called for more effort to be put into solutions, such as educational programmes, and was critical of the budget put aside by the government. While the government added €2m more per year, it should be doubled at least, the writers said. ‘It’s high time for an attacking and integral approach, with a budget that really gets results.’

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