Friday: The journey, the warm welcome and a nice
Friday morning 19 November we left with 13 men/women. Destination? Breklum, North-Frisia, Schleswig-Holstein, Federal Republic of Germany. After a short break in Drachten we travelled over the Germen Autobahn in a northerly direction. At around 16.30 hr someone was waving a North-Frisian flag in the middle of the road in Breklum; we arrived at the conference venue. After we all installed ourselves in the hotel rooms, we had a nice evening together in Husum, the capital of North-Frisia. A town of 25,000 inhabitants, with its own brewery. Some of us were very much at home there. Enjoying some drinks we got together with the people of SSW, including Flemming Meyer (the former president) and Sybilla Nitsch (vice-president). At around 23.00 hr we called it a day. With the knowledge that we had a full programme on Saturday, we went back to the congress venue again.
Saturday: Culture and the conference.
Saturday morning was dedicated to culture. It started with a visit to the Frasche Rädj (the North-Frisian Cultural Council), where we received a comprehensive presentation on how the work of the various cultural associations. Most of us could well understand the speeches in Low-German and North-Frisian. Very interesting, all these similar words. The second stop was at the Nordfriisk Instituut, the scientific institute of the North-Frisians. The small sister of our own Fryske Akademy. Soon it became clear to us that we in Fryslân are privileged in regard to our language and culture. Of course, things can still be much improved, but in comparison with North-Frisian we have a good and solid fundament. The showpiece of the institute was a guestbook from 1837 with the first written mentioning of the Frisian text/slogan: ‘Livre düed as Slaav'. Which we in Fryslân also know very well.
Around noon we were back at the conference venue. The tension was on the rise for most of us. The technical equipment was built up, the room was prepared and at 14.00 hr we were ready to start: the conference could begin and was streamed live through the social media of both parties. Janneke de Boer and Jochum Meester made sure that everything went well with the media. The first panel consisted of our own Frank de Boer and Flemming Meyer, the former president of SSW. The election systems of both Germany and the Netherlands were explained. Flemming Meyer told that no less than 40% of the votes for SSW did not come from their traditional area and that all across Germany people sympathised with SSW and had wanted to vote SSW. But becaue of the German system that was not possible. Only the inhabitants of Schleswig Holstein were able to vote. The potential of SSW in fact was even bigger than the 55,000 votes that they received.
The second panel consisted of the new member of the Bundestag- Stefan Seidler and FNP-leader Sijbe Knol. Seidler was travelling to Copenhagen and joined us digitally. With SSW's effort to arrange things and to do things more on their own terms we ended up very fast at the s-called Frisian approach of doing things our way. One size fits nobody. Fit for the scale of the Danish and Frisian minorities, but also in our own region of Fryslân in the Netherlands. Answering the question of how others respond to Seidler in Berlin, Seidler said that he was received with open arms by the other parties in Berlin. SSW has now just one seat in the middle of all those big political groups with some tens of MPs up to hundreds of MPs. It was soon clear that participating at the national stage has a the largest advantage that you can let people feel and educate them what the world looks like from your own perspective. With 60% to 70% of Dutch MPs from the Randstad-region in the Netherlands that is something that is also very much needed for Fryslân. Other national parties also have candidates from Schleswig-Holstein, but they always have to make concessions, said Seidler. That is no different with the Frisian MPs in the Netherlands. According to Sijbe Knol we are the real thing, we FNP are the real deal: no doubt about it! FNP was invited to visit Seidler in the Bundestag in Berlin next year. Of course the invitation was gratefully accepted.
The last two panels were about campaigning and about the conclusions that we were able to draw from the conference. Tsjerk Bouwhuis and Marcel van der Wal discussed with SSW-PR specialist Per Dittrich about the campaign. SSW brought their own message and style to the campaign with a playful reference to the past. According Neffens Dittrich you cannot be móre social than the socialists or móre Christian than the Christians. You have to start from your own strengths and use your own core messages. With a Viking ship and a great campaign film attention was raised (see video: SSW Wahlspot zur Bundestagswahl 2021 - YouTube ). Within one week time SSW received 200 requests for an interview, from all across the globe. To give the press a feeling of the region at a certain moment in the campaign the press was invited to a location somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Schleswig-Holstein. With dirty shoes and dirty clothes the press arrived at the SSW-press moment. Dittrich: ‘It was fucking amazing'. It was also clear from the moment that SSW expressed its ambition to participate in national elections, SSW grew strongly in terms of number of members, but people also wanted to be candidate and young people became active for the party. Answering the questions of FNP what is needed first, having the numbers of voters for the party and then take the step or the other way around, taking the step and then getting the number of voters because you have expressed the ambition, Per Dittrich was very clear: it is certainly the latter.
At around 17.00 hr the very interesting conference came to an end. On the tables were wurst, schnapps und käse. In the evening we had dinner with and said goodbye to our (new) friends at the seafront restaurant at Slütsiil. Next year FNP will be celebrating is 60 anniversary and then a delegation of SSW will visit us.
Sunday: Travelling back.
On Sunday we travelled back to Fryslân and took the ferry boat across the river Elbe. With much inspiration, energy, several ambassadors and a great sense of being one team together. All together, it was more than worthwhile!
*Why a new discussion? At the latest regional elections something strange happened. The number of peoples that voted for the Frisian Parliament was almost half of those who voted for FNP in the Water Authority elections at the same time, 23,000 vs. 39,000 votes. The discussion was not about the region itself anymore, but about the issue of taking away the national majority for the Rutte Administration in the Senate, which is elected by the members of the regional parliaments. The battle for the Senate cast a major shadow over the regional elections. In that struggle FNP lacks a clear line to The Hague. That was also the conclusion from the evaluation made by Jannes van der Velde at the end of 2019. FNP is represented everywhere, including in the European Union, but is not represented in the most important chamber of the Dutch parliament. FNP discussed this several times already and often the conclusion was that the numbers do not add up. Right now, the FNP Presidium ordered a new working group to investigate the subject once again. As it should be in a democratic party, in the end the members of FNP, our base, will decide on the matter.
**The conference is made possible with the contribution of the European Free Alliance (EFA), the European party of which both FNP and SSW are members. This event received financial support from the European Parliament . The contents of the project/conference are the sole responsibility of FNP, SSW and EFA, and the European Parliament cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.