Johan Remkes believes that the parliamentary factions did not do enough for the earthquake zone: “Should we have declared the Free Republic of Groningen?”

Next to the King’s Commissioner Rene Baas and Mayor Koen Schueling, Johan Remkes, a retired VVD politician who is also head of the national program in Groningen, suddenly appeared at the Nieuwspoort in The Hague to draw national attention to the proper follow-up of the parliamentary inquiry into gas extraction.

It has long been said that gas extraction cannot be reduced because otherwise we would get cold feet. But that turned out not to be true at all. You said during the press conference that everybody’s been in lock-down for a very long time. Shouldn’t you say more forcefully that the people of Groningen have been deceived or lied to?

That’s what the parliamentary commission of inquiry says, of course. I found this to be really helpful and for me this was an eye opener. For the rest, of course, there wasn’t much new in the report for me. We already knew that money always trumped people’s interests in Groningen, but I didn’t yet know that the calculations about security of supply were so wrong.

You say the extra money should go to Groningen for at least 25 years.

“No, it’s not just about money, it’s about politics. Think about infrastructure. The criteria that apply to allocate money to traffic is about traffic intensity. Then you almost automatically end up at the busiest points, so in Randstad. You can also ask on whether people do not have an inherent right to movement.”

Last weekend it was also revealed that most of the bus stops had disappeared in Groningen and Drenthe in recent years.

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“Yes, that’s why I don’t call it that for nothing. So something really needs to change. Groningen also have the right to move around.”

The report also contains the blame that the administrators of Groningen were unable to do enough to help the people of Groningen.

I didn’t take that as an accusation. Because what you need to do as a driver in Groningen? René Bass and many other directors have put a lot of energy into it. They did what they could. But you don’t get what you want. What could you do then? Proclamation of the Free Republic of Groningen?

Shouldn’t you be thinking about that?

“I think the arsenal was very exhausted. I thought a lot about ‘what the hell is possible’. There are MPs who have made great efforts. But in more platoons it was meant to be beaten with tougher fists on the table. Also within the VVD group, Let me say that too.”

Has anyone ever seriously thought or philosophized about such a free republic in Groningen?

“As far as I know, it has never been thought of. And you only have to look at some foreign countries to know that these discussions are not very productive. Look at Scotland, look at Barcelona.”

You’ll also come back briefly in the report, because you didn’t take one of the early earthquake whistleblowers, Mint van der Slyes, seriously as a regional official in the 1990s.

“Meent van der Sluis prompted us to investigate. It showed that the chance that the earthquakes were caused by gas extraction was not very likely.”

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All this is followed by you as the driver. And also on our part as media, I must admit we are not immune from responsibility either.

“In general, you can rely on science. You must have a certain degree of certainty in life. You cannot say without any scientific basis: ‘There must be a correlation between gas extraction and earthquakes.’ Looking back, scientific institutes were also wrong, Including administrators and journalists who relied on it.”

Looking back, do you feel you should have done things differently?

,,no. You have to check for yourself whether you can reach these conclusions on the basis of reasonableness. The answer is still “yes”.

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