WUP 12/6/2012 - Final Year student Noma Mabandla (Zimbabwe) reviews last week’s seminar given by Wittenborg’s Honorary Professor (Lector) Mr Fred de Graaf, President of the Dutch Senate (Voorzitter Eerste Kamer).
Seminar Review: Fred de Graf
On the 5th of June Wednesday afternoon, Wittenborg students received a special seminar from the President of the Dutch senate and Honorary Wittenborg Professor, Fred de Graf. Mr. de Graf’s seminar was on the history of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from the 16th century to the present day.
The focal point of the seminar was the power struggle through the years to the present day system of governance. He explained that in the 16th century, the Netherlands (Including Belgium) was part of King Charles V of Spain’s empire. Under the leadership of Willem van Oranje, the Netherlands revolted from the King’s rule and became a republic in 1581. Having declared independence, the Dutch provinces formed a confederation and each had a representative that sat in The Hague’s States General (Presently the House of Representatives and the Senate).
Mr de Graaf discussed the current issues facing the Netherlands and Europe at large such as the banking crisis, high unemployment(particularly for young people) and the way Europe has dealt and will dealt with these issues. This section of the discussion generated many questions from Wittenborg's students. There were also questions raised regarding the relations of China and the EU and a future free trade agreement, which Mr de Graaf said was a possibility within a year. Also of concern, was the austerity measures taken by the EU to reduce debts and its effects on the economy. Mr. de Graaf was gracious in answering the students’ questions, on what are essential very current discussions within his government.
Overall it was a very interesting afternoon, especially for the none Dutch students who got to learn of the history of the country and also a brief addressing of the current issues facing Europe and by extension the students themselves. The students commented that it was a fascinating seminar.
Some background on the historical context of the seminar’s content:
The 17th century was a prosperous time for the Netherlands. The empire was expanded to include New Amsterdam (present day New York) Australia, Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), New Zealand and a host of Islands in the Caribbean. The Netherlands was still being led by the House of Orange as well as the “stadthouders” though the time though it was not a kingdom.
After the French revolution, in 1795, Willem V of Orange fled to England as the French troops stormed the Capital. From 1806-1910, Napoleon set his brother as the King of the Netherlands, thus turning the Netherlands from a Republic to Kingdom. After a fallout with his brother, the Netherlands was briefly part of France from 1810 to 1813. In 1815 Willem 1(Son of the last stadtholder) returned to the Netherlands and raised the status of the Netherlands to a Kingdom. The King appointed his state representatives and held more power than the monarchs who would come after him. In 1830, Belgium gained independence from the kingdom.
In 1848, the constitution of the Netherlands’ was changed to make parliament the true power. The Kings’ role was reduced in government. The Netherlands parliament had 2 houses, the lower house of representatives and the upper house of the senate. That remains to the present day. The House of Oranje Nassau continued its role as the Monarchy of the Kingdom however their role is largely ceremonial with no real power. The Kingdom of the Netherlands currently consists of the Netherlands, Aruba, Sint Maarten, Curacao, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba.
After the 2nd world war, European powers decided to form a union in order to avoid future wars. The European Community was the basis of the present day European Union. Its founders were the Netherlands,(West) Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg. Over time it grew to the current 28 member block of the EU. Which brings us back to the introduction of this review!
Noma Mabandla, from Zimbabwe has studied at Wittenborg University for 3 years and is an active member of the Student Representatives