Once in a while King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, like many of their European colleagues, pay a visit to a part of one of their provinces. The Netherlands has twelve provinces and on Tuesday 17 February they spent the whole day in the peat-colonies of the Provinces Groningen and Drenthe, in the northeast of their country. As usual they learnt to know the area, its history, initiatives and problems.One problem wasn’t really heard during this visit, however the King had already spoken to people about it earlier. In Groningen there are earthquakes regularly, because of the exploitation of gas, and they become somewhat heavier and more regularly nowadays, causing damage to peoples houses and make that people don’t feel safe anymore.
Groningen and Drenthe don’t see that many royal visits yearly, and certainly not these parts of the provinces. The enthusiasm among the locals was therefore big and many people showed up everywhere to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. Sometimes they even stood there for some hours, although the weather was awfully grey and in Stadskanaal even a bit rainy. The people thought it was wonderful that the royal couple visited their part of the country and took the time to hear about what is going on in the area. And they much admired Queen Máxima for managing to brave the cold weather without wearing a coat.
The visit started at 10am in the town of Veendam, where many people waited on the square in front of the museum. In the “Veenkoloniaal Museum” the King and Queen learnt about the history of the area where peat was gathered since the 16th century up till the 20th century. They were also told about the co-operations between the municipalities in the east of the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe, especially in the inovative co-operation AVEBE, that unites Dutch and German farmers, and processes potatoes.
In Stadskanaal Willem-Alexander and Máxima visited the social workplace Wedeka, that helps people with some distance to the labour market to get a regular job, by offering them courses and intermeditation. The unemployment in the north of the Netherlands is pretty high at the moment. The royal couple toured the company and spoke with people working there. Outside again they took their time to greet the public.
Around lunchtime a private meeting was arranged with as theme the wind energy. Not all people are happy about having windmills spoiling the landscape. The meeting must have been very interesting and the food too good, as the royal couple arrived in Emmer-Compascuum almost half an hour late. Lots of schoolchildren, people and even the local carnival society were waiting patiently. The children sang the “Koningslied” (which was very much criticized in April 2013) and Prince Carnival offered the royal couple some herring, which by the way was refused, as they had just eaten. The Multifunctional Center De Deele does have a municipality shop and also offers day care for little children and old people. The visit started in the library with a film about the participation and initiatives of citizens.
The visit ended in the town of Emmen, where the couple visited the Stenden Hogeschool, a school that is very important for the area and offers education in technical science, tourism and hospitality, logistics and commerce. The royal couple met with children of a primary school who with help of students of the school learn about technical science. They also met with entrepreneurs who told about their companies. The visit ended with a short reception. It had been a long and interesting day for the King and the Queen, who left Emmen more than one hour after the estimated time.