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Greater Netherlands (Dutch: Groot-Nederland or Dietse Staat) is the political movement to unite all Dutch-speaking people in Europe into a single state. The basic scenario entails the reunification of the Netherlands and Flanders in any of a number of political forms, including a confederation, a federation, or a unitary state. Much more expansive versions tend to include the former and currently Dutch-speaking portions of France, the formerly Dutch-speaking areas of Germany, or even the ethnically Dutch and/or Afrikaans-speaking parts of South Africa and Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America.
In its most limited form (a merger of Flanders and the Netherlands), a Greater Netherlands would consist of 23 million inhabitants; would comprise an area of 54,900 km² (equivalent to a population density of 418 persons/km²); and would possess a GDP per capita of $US38,700.
The potential country is also known as Dutchland (Dietsland), which uses the word Diets - an archaic term for Dutch. This label is widely judged to be unfit, because it was degraded by association with the collaborationist movements during the Second World War. The United Netherlands or the United Provinces, the United Dutch Provinces, or simply "The Netherlands", are other alternative names under consideration. "Greater Dutch Movement" or "Greater Netherlandism" (Grootneerlandisme) are other terms used to describe these aspirations, while in literature it is also called the "Greater Dutch Thought" (Grootnederlandse Gedachte).
"Whole-Netherlands" or "Burgundism" (after the historical Burgundian Circle) are other terms that were used for the country, but these names are now used for a movement that aims to combine all of the Low Countries as a single multilingual entity, which would be similar to the former United Kingdom of the Netherlands), also including Wallonia, Luxembourg, and Northern France (most likely Nord-Pas de Calais).
Narrowly defined, the "Greater Netherlands" refers to an aspiration for the unification of the Netherlands and Flanders. This ideology, also known as "Dutch reunification", bases itself on the fact that the Dutch and Flemish share a common history, culture, and language. It emphasizes that a new state unifying most of the Dutch speakers in Europe would create a more powerful political and economic bloc.
Its supporters, especially in multilingual Belgium, also advocate that a monolingual state would prove to be less bureaucratic and more efficient. A union with Flanders has not been a political issue in the Netherlands, and it is on the agenda of only one political party, the right-wing Party for Freedom. But a 21 August 2007, poll indicated that two-thirds of the population would welcome a union with Flanders. The federal union of Flanders and the Netherlands is not as popular among the Flemish population with estimates between 35 to 50% being in favour of unification. While the Dutch often see unification just as growth of the Dutch territory, the Flemish sometimes fear to be culturally annexed into the larger and more populous Netherlands. Given the difficulties experienced in the 2007 Belgian government formation after the federal elections, and the victory of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), in the 2010 federal elections, the likelihood of Flanders seceding from Belgium appears greater than before. The Vlaams Belang[clarification needed] and N-VA parties are the primary advocates of secession in Belgian Flanders, but neither has strong interest in a "Greater Netherlands". The current Netherlands however, is not a monolingual state by itself: besides Dutch, also Frisian, English and Papiamento are spoken and official languages (see Languages of the Netherlands).
Greater Netherlandism is sometimes associated with extreme-right fascist organizations in both the Netherlands and Belgium, and the movement used part of the ideology, and some of its symbols, to achieve their own goals during World War II.
Sometimes, among the Flemish movement and the Flemish nationalists, the term Heel Nederland (Whole Netherlands) is used to define the whole of the Dutch-populated territories (Greater Netherlands). According to them, that is how the Kingdom of the United Netherlands should be. The Dutch nation could then be defined as a unit of Dutch people who use the Dutch language. According to this ideology the Netherlands and Flanders should resurrect the 'Kingdom of the United Netherlands' based on the organic unity of the Dutch people that has existed for centuries.
This term has been hijacked by the Belgicists, who created the "Whole-Netherlandism" ideology or Burgundism, whose aim is a so-called "Whole-Netherlands" (Heel-Nederland) combining all the Low Countries into a single multilingual entity This would unite, not the territories in which Dutch people live, but all of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (which would be similar to the former United Kingdom of the Netherlands) and Northern France, most likely Nord-Pas de Calais), along the lines of the historical Burgundian Circle), creating a Greater Belgium. This should not be confused with the Greater Dutch Movement, since it advocates the inclusion of French-speaking people.
Yet another form is contemporary Orangism, which seeks the restoration of the Dutch royal family in Flanders, either within the Netherlands or as independent state with strong links with the Netherlands. Many Orangists are Greater Dutch and vice versa, but not all Greater Dutch are monarchist orangists, as some want to structure the state differently. Orangism has become more popular since 1980, when the term was used to refer to the Greater Netherlands projects, with a focus on the restoration of the Dutch royal family to the entire Dutch-populated part of the region.
The popularity of the House of Orange-Nassau in Flanders is partly based on the francophile tendency of the Belgian monarchy. Contemporary Orangism in Flanders and Netherlands is distinct the Orangism of the 19th century and earlier.
The Prince's Flag is sometimes used by Greater Dutch groups, because in the Eighty Years War it was used by supporters of William I of Orange, seen as the leader of the revolt. It was also used as the flag of the Dutch Republic and United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Greater Dutch movement emerged at the end of the 19th century. In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking citizens increasingly showed opposition towards the privileged position of French-speaking bourgeoisie, and the corresponding subordination of the Dutch, in government and in public life. The fear of a Flemish desire to return to the Kingdom of the Netherlands was the main reason that the Belgian government restored Dutch as the language of education and administration (but not of the university and the military) in Flanders. Nationalists from both Flanders and Netherlands created the Dutch General Union in 1895.
First World War
World War I further sharpened the conflict between Dutch and French speakers in Belgium. For instance, the Flamenpolitik of the Germans, involving the administrative separation of the Dutch and the French-speaking parts of Belgium, was influenced by the Flemish Movement, which they wanted to use as an ally.
The Dutch General Union was joined, at the end of World War I, by a considerable number of people in the Netherlands and Flanders.[quantify] It also enjoyed widespread popularity among students, leading to the creation of the Diets Student Association. During the wars, the Greater Dutch idea remained popular in the Netherlands and this popularity was widely accepted by most of Dutch society's demographic segments ('columns').
Second World War
The Second World War brought not only Belgium but also the Netherlands under German occupation. Consequently, it was believed in nationalist circles that the Germans would allow the creation of a Greater Dutch state. The Nazis however did not value this idea, and desired either a Greater German or a Greater Germanic empire, in which the differences between the German and Dutch populations would be ignored.
After the war, however, the Greater Dutch movement was stuck with the stigma of collaboration. Throughout the war numerous, Flemish and Dutch supporters of the movement[who?] believed that, to realize the reunification of Flanders with the Netherlands, it would be necessary to collaborate with the Germans (although some pan-Dutch groups such as Nederland Één! and some members of Verdinaso were in the resistance against the Nazis), particularly in the Flemish National Union and the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands. At the same time, the Flemish National Union hijacked the term "Diets" and abused the flag for its own political ends. As a consequence of this, the Greater Dutch movement carried a significant post-war stigma, in both the Netherlands and in Belgium.
However, a few decades after the war, the number of politicians suggesting this idea grew significantly, and is still growing,[quantify] first only among Flemish nationalist parties, but later in the moderate parties too.
In the national and provincial political realm, the last few years more efforts are being made to have a more close working together between the Flemish and the Dutch. There is proof that on high political level attempts are being made (on both Flemish and Dutch side) to grow at last to a Confederation.
Out of several polls among Flemish and Dutch people came the following results (2010): more than 2/3rd of The Dutch people are positive about a fusion between Flanders and the Netherlands and more than 1/3rd of the Flemish people think that this will be possible in about 30 years.
In the post-war politics, people of various political shades have, once or more, spoken highly of this idea:
- Bert Anciaux (spirit)
- Bert Bakker
- Frits Bolkestein (VVD)
- Siegfried Bracke (N-VA), former Belgian political journalist
- Axel Buyse (Flemish Representative in the Netherlands)
- Bart De Wever and Matthias Storme (N-VA)
- Filip Dewinter (Vlaams Belang)
- Jan Derk Domela Nieuwenhuis Nyegaard, freethinker
- Derk Jan Eppink (LDD), MEP
- Sven Gatz (Open Vld)
- Erik Jurgens (PvdA)
- Willy Kuijpers
- Marcel Minnaert
- Hilbrand Nawijn (Partij voor Nederland), in the past and present
- Andries Postma (CDA)
- Hugo Schiltz
- Jan Terlouw (D66)
- Louis Tobback (sp.a)
- Geert Wilders (PVV), although he formerly withdrew it
- Several members of the Nederlandse Volksunie and the former Nationale Alliantie.
On 12 May 2008, Geert Wilders (PVV), who previously saw the reunification of Netherlands as "a Nazi and old-fashioned policy", said in De Telegraaf that he was interested in the possibility of a merger between the Netherlands and Flanders. Among the advantages he mentioned were the acquisition of the port of Antwerp, the good state school system (Gemeenschapsonderwijs) in Flanders, the Antwerp International Airport, improved employment and lowered taxes.
Wilders proposed that, in accordance with previous polls, referendums would have to be held in the Netherlands and Flanders on the merger. He was not planning to impose unification on the Flemings, but stated that then-Prime Minister Balkenende needed to talk with his Flemish colleagues on the subject. Balkenende responded by saying that "the fate of Belgium is not for us to decide".
The Vlaams Belang (a political party formerly demonized by Wilders), said they supported this idea, because they saw the formation of a "Federation of the Netherlands" as a logical and desirable consequence of a Flemish secession from Belgium.
Yves Leterme (who applauded Wilders's former scorn towards the Greater Dutch and Flemish Movement, as a defender of Belgium's integrity), replied on 13 June 2008, in the Times, saying that a merger between Belgium and the Netherlands was 'science fiction' and that Wilders was thinking simplistically about the Belgian crisis. Leterme said that, instead, he supported further cooperation within Benelux. On July 7, 2008, Wilders with Martin Bosma, wrote a follow-up piece in the NRC Handelsblad, in which they made clear that action must be taken because "the artificial state on our southern border is done quickly".[clarification needed]
Later he revised his story, to emphasise that he would consult the people before any concrete steps were taken. Wilders exclaimed, "The Netherlands must print the Flemish Lion on its chest and say: Welcome home, we have never forgotten you."
Greater Dutch organisations
- Baarle Werkgroep (for the unification of Flanders and the Netherlands)
- Benev (Netherlands & Flanders)
- De Pacificatielezingen vzw (Flanders)
- Deltastichting (Flanders)
- Open Orthodoxie/Bitter Lemon
- Die Roepstem (Flanders, the Netherlands and South Africa)
- Partij voor de Vrijheid (Netherlands)
- Het Pennoen (Flanders)
- Die Roepstem
- Vlaams Belang (Flanders)
- Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (Netherlands)
- Voorpost (Netherlands & Flanders)
- Werkgemeenschap de Lage Landen Netherlands and Flanders)
- Zannekin (Flanders)
- Bakker-Schut Plan
- Burgundian Netherlands
- Flemish movement
- Low Countries
- Partition of Belgium
- Rattachism- A similar movement in Wallonia aiming for unification with France
- Seventeen Provinces
- Union of Utrecht
- "Dutch Would Reunify with Belgium's Flanders." Angus Reid Global Monitor. 25 August 2007. Accessed 10 January 2008.
- De Schaepdrijver, Sophie (1997). De Grote Oorlog (in Dutch). Antwerp, Amsterdam: Atlas.