On our way to The Hague

What is a bunch of Europeanists doing moving to the Hague? Shouldn’t we go to Brussels? and what about Leiden?

When we decided to start a blog to share our reactions and, even better, reflections on political developments in Europe and beyond, we discussed our identity as a group. We wanted to use this blog as a group of academics and commentators interested in Europe, the European Union, its members and neighbours and its relationships with others. But we also happen to be colleagues at Leiden University, engaged in the exciting venture of moving with our  institute to a new location in the Hague. We will still be proud members of Leiden University, albeit in a new campus. We will still be interested in Europe even if we focus on the links with political and administrative developments in the seat of government in the Netherlands.

There is, in our perspective, no contradiction as the European Union is the member states, as recent events conspire to remind us. The European Union is Greece and also the Netherlands, Italy and France, Bulgaria and Slovakia. Our research and interest is on how they interact and how the institutions established through decades of European integration mediate in this interaction. As we all communicate through the numerous channels the internet provides for us, it is difficult to get a real sense how our location in real life influences our perceptions of what is important. Even as some may think that young generations are more firmly rooted in virtual reality than many of us have ever been, the reaction of our students to our move convinces us of the opposite, that it does matter where we meet and conduct our classes and where they have a public space to meet and interact as members of the university community. In the same way, it matters that the Netherlands is in Europe and its destiny is tied up with the European project. In recent years it looks as if that political leaders in the Hague have somehow wilfully ignored this fact, out of desire to sympathize with the understandable need of many citizens to emphasize their local connection, feel rooted in the familiar world they know and governed by people who belong to this familiar world. And yet, turning their backs on the big world out there, starting with the European Union, can only be a bad idea.

Whether Dutch leaders (and citizens) like the EU or not, they need to understand it well, to be able to articulate their interests in an informed manner. Everything else is sticking their heads in the sand and hoping that the storm will blow away. Leadership is something else and it requires the articulation of ideas supported by facts.