“Let the voice of international Groningers be heard”

Groningen is home to a growing number of international students. All this international talent offers opportunities to the Groningen municipality, argued D66 city council member Arend Jan Wonink last Wednesday during a meeting of the city council. D66 would like for international students to become more involved with local politics.

“The smart thing for Groningen to do is to invite international students to participate more in what is going on in our city. Both our city and the international students could both benefit from that cooperation” pleaded Arend Jan, “Thousands of intelligent young people from all over the world call Groningen their home. We should do our best to improve their time here, and vice versa internationals could help us improve our policies.”

Get involved
“We ask our local citizens to participate, so why not involve the international Groningers as well?” asks Arend Jan. D66 has undertaken multiple efforts to encourage that involvement in recent years. In 2015 the political party invited international students to city hall to meet with city council members, in a project called Start the Conversation. Hanzemag devoted an article to Start the Conversation in their March 2016 issue.

In 2016 D66 started its own platform of Internationalisation, which now serves as a think tank to the local branch of D66. International students from all over the world and Dutch students try to come up with ideas to improve the city for our international Groningers and debate local issues. “It is also a fun way to meet students from other nationalities and other branches of sciences and studies. We recently organized a guided city tour which drew over 60 participants”, adds Arend Jan.”And we are constantly looking for new members”.

Education innovation
Half of the population of Groningen is in some way involved in education, as a pupil or student, or, for example, as a teacher. The municipality and all layers of education, from pre-schools to university, want Groningen to become the capital of education innovation in the Netherlands. “D66 asked the city council to actively involve international students in that process, make them become part of innovative education projects and plans.” The council adopted a proposal issued by D66 last Wednesday that aims to do just that.

Vote in November
Elections for a new city council will be held on the 21st of November this year. Citizens of the European Union are eligible to vote and can decide the future of Groningen. Also internationals who have lived in Groningen for five years or longer and have been registered at the municipality can vote in November. “D66 wants the international Groninger to have their say in what course the city will take the next four years. So get out  to vote this November, and let your voice be heard”, urges Arend Jan.

To stress the international character and outlook of Groningen, D66 asked the municipality to fly the flag of the European Union every year on Europe Day on the Martini church tower, the tallest tower in Groningen. On May 9th this year, it was flown for the first time. “It may be symbolic, but this is a nice way to say welcome to all our international Groningers. We are glad you are here”, explains Arend Jan.