Scheveningen and imaginary speechwriting

Our hotel is situated a short way inland from the seafront at Scheveningen. This evening the Dutch SER hosted a dinner at a seafront restaurant. We walked there in the early evening, with a promisingly reddish sunset out over the sea to the west and a bracing breeze helping us on our way. I had the honour of sitting at a table notably with the SER Chairman, Alexander Rinnooy Kan, and the Secretary General of the Bulgarian Economic and Social Council, Anton Lazarov. Inevitably, we discussed political and societal change. Alexander set us a challenge. He has to deliver a speech in a few weeks time to Dutch business representatives. How could he convince them to facilitate a return to the collegial, consensual domestic political arrangements that had served the Netherlands so well for so long and, equally, how could he get them to encourage a return to the traditional basically pro-European attitude that had for so long characterized and well served the Dutch people? We spent much of the rest of the evening writing segments of an imaginary speech. It was an interesting and illuminating exercise, with representatives in the discussion of ‘Brussels’, ‘old Europe’ and ‘new Europe’. There was an underlying point: how to provide a positive ‘narrative’ when, if not wisely defended, Europe will increasingly be portrayed as being part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.

2 Comments

  1. I think the first step to a good speech in this regard actually is to figure out where “Europe” is part of the problem and where it is part of the solution.

    I’m also not convinced that “consensus” is a good decision-making mode for all kinds of tasks. In some situations it may be better to have well-organised conflicts, fostering a climate of critical thinking and thought-through arguments instead of trying to agree where no meaningful agreement is possible.

    So if you want to defend consensual decision-making or “Europe”, you’d first have to clearly state the goals that you would like to reach and that you cannot reach without consensual approaches or without “Europe”. If you can’t come up with that, probably you are overestimating “Europe” or consensus. Or both.

  2. Martin

    16/05/2011 at 15:46

    Thanks, Ronny. The consensual model referred to Dutch domestic politics. But I take your point. Some political arguments in Europe, as opposed to about Europe, would not be a bad thing.

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