Former editor of Girugten Jan R. Lunsing wrote together with Priscilla Zetstra the exciting book “Het Verzet Van Haren” about the most contested municipal amalgamation of recent years.
Despite fierce resistance, the municipality of Haren was added to the municipality of Groningen. The argumentation of the provincial government did not convince the majority of inhabitants of Haren. Also, the majority of the council of Haren did not agree that the amalgamation was absolutely necessary. The hidden reason for the reclassification was that Groningen would get better access to the ministries in The Hague. Furthermore, the city of Groningen would get a more balanced population structure. This is a euphemism for: the municipality of Groningen gets more taxpayers.
The book is interesting for geographers because amalgamations are about the identity of civilians and their connection with a local government. After all, a municipality is nothing more than a region whereof the inhabitants jointly promote the public interest through elections and a municipal organization. The book shows that governments in the Netherlands, some politicians have a fairly distant attitude toward the inhabitants of the public.
Proponents of the amalgamation demanded that Haren must remain Haren. In itself, not much seems to have changed after the amalgamation. Roads, trees and buildings were unmoved, but Haren does miss important symbols that help shape the identity, such as a municipal council, a town hall and a mayor.
The book shows how the resistance hopes to till the bitter end to convince politicians to stop the amalgamation, while the proponents of the amalgamation keep coming up with new arguments that they believe demonstrate the need for reclassification. Halas, none of these arguments is supported by scientific research.
Please note that the book is written in Dutch and that a good knowledge of the Dutch language is required to understand it.
Jan R. Lunsing studied social geography from 1980-to 1988 and was part of Girugten from 1982 until 1988.