Memo to all of our Euro-philic friends who have, over the years, lectured us on the merits of month-long holidays in August, 35 hour work weeks and universal healthcare: Party's over.
The Netherlands' queen and the outgoing prime minister presented an austere annual budget on Tuesday that cuts spending on health care, immigrants, and government workers -- a foretaste of more far-reaching cuts likely to come under the conservative Cabinet now being formed.
The budget cuts about $2.4 billion in spending in 2011 which will reduce the deficit to about 4.0% of Holland's economic output next year.
But with respect to cuts to immigration, here is the paragraph that caught our eye and which puzzled us.
In a nod to the anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent among many Dutch, it also reduces the amount of funding for language and citizenship classes that were made mandatory for immigrants by the outgoing administration. Immigrants will have to cover the gap.
Our understanding of the anti-immigrant issue in Europe is that besides the sheer numbers of incoming immigrants, there was one of assimilation, or lack thereof, as well.
And if that is the case, how does defunding literacy and citizenship classes where immigrants might be taught the Dutch language, Dutch history and Dutch civics, help matters?
What are we missing? If many Dutch are somehow resentful that immigrants aren't acting sufficiently Dutch how does denying them opportunities to learn the lay of the land so to speak, better integrate them into Dutch society. Seems to us, this only exacerbates this growing immigration problem.
In somewhat related news: when we return from our annual late summer/early fall roadie out to Colorado to visit family, we will be looking to do some volunteer work for the San Diego Council on Literacy. Europe just seems to be a bit further down the path than we are currently and we can think of no better tool for assimilation and for integrating new or pending members of this country's citizenry than those folks being able to effectively communicate both orally and in the written word.
And we say this as a way to put us on report so you all can hold us accountable as well as a way to give feedback to you all in case you are interested in doing something similar.