The whole day had been rife with twitter rumours. Mostly they’d been about military armoured cars driving around on a weekend and trucks being commandeered.
I was out walking the dog for his late night walk, when I saw a police car roaming the streets of our village.
That was odd. The police don’t bother with our village, because hardly anything happens here. There is the occasional minor car accident. Last year a motorcyclist got himself killed launching his bike off the dike in an ill-considered overtake manoeuvre. I think that’s the last time a police car was spotted: screaming through the village, sirens, lights and all.
This one was cruising along, both passengers looking slightly tense, I thought.
When I got home, my wife told me there was going to be some announcement. She was a bit miffed too, because the announcement, apparently broadcast on all stations, was interfering with the latest episode of ‘Rizzoli and Isles’.
All stations interrupted their program at about the same time, with a journalist (a different one from each station,though all of them from the same location. You could even see the others in the background of the shot of one) telling us about an emergency press conference. Speculation there was a lot of, but flipping through the channels it became clear that not one of those present had any idea what was about to happen.
After a couple of minutes of inane MSM chatter, the conference room was entered by a government press officer and the prime-minister, followed by the ministers of foreign affairs, the interior and finance, as well the the director of the Dutch National Bank (DNB). All of them looked haggard and a bit frumpy, with crooked shirts and badly knotted ties.
The press officers started the meeting with a “Ladies and gentlemen, the prime minister will make an announcement. Afterwards there will be a brief opportunity for asking questions. Please keep all of your questions until after the announcement”. The camera shifted jerkily to the prime-minister, as he arranged his papers and cleared his throat. My, but did he look ill at ease when he started.
“Ladies and gentlemen, fellow citizens of the Netherlands,
The European debt crisis, which started in Greece, is spreading and is now seriously affecting the Dutch economy. A loss of trust in the European single currency and European capability to honour its obligations is hampering, even blocking, Dutch businesses from earning money. The continued crisis is now threatening to destroy pension funds and institutional investors to the point that the Dutch welfare system is under threat of collapse.
Let me stress that we value our neighbouring countries. We value continued cooperation within Europe. The Netherlands is a trading nation and we will commit ourselves to continue fostering close relations with befriended nations across Europe and the world.
But when an economic system threatens to destroy what we have been working for, for over 60 years, we must ask ourselves if that system is the right solution. Continued participation in such a system threatens to leave many hard-working Dutch without a well-earned pension. It is even threatening all Dutch with loss of all their savings. Not because of something we did ourselves, but because of the irresponsible behaviour of banks and governments within what was supposed to be a union of responsible and dedicated member countries. When confronted with such a dire situation, a government is left no choice but to honour the responsibility bestowed upon it by the people that have elected it.
For all of these reasons, your government has come to the conclusion there is now no other alternative, but to withdraw from the monetary union and the euro. Starting at midnight all national transactions, accounts and deposits will be denominated in new guilders. Initially they will be exchanged on parity. This means that one new guilders will be equivalent to one euro.
As we speak, all financial institutions are working to ensure a smooth transition. But this is a big project, which will take more then an evening. Therefore, this government has declared tomorrow, Monday, a bank holiday. Businesses and shops will be closed, you will not have to go to work. This affords our country the time needed to finish the transition and ensure all businesses, shops and banks will have sufficient amounts of the new currency to facilitate normal, day-to-day transactions. As of Tuesday, you will be able to shop for your evening dinner as you did before, be it with a new, and at the same time old an familiar currency.”
The PM went on a little while longer, mainly to stress the friendly relations he was convinced could be maintained with the rest of what used to be fellow EUnion member states. But I stopped paying attention. The neighbours were out, ringing doorbells, opening champagne bottles and toasting anyone who’d come out.
We were free again. We were a country again. It was a long and unforgettable night.
Sorry about that. I just had to indulge a little. With EURef I hope that something like the above will come to pass.
But I just saw the Sarkozy speech, and I am not optimistic. In nine days time, we may be find ourselves part of something truly awful. Something which, if the signs don’t lie, our own government will not protect us from. If that is the case, I will keep the above as a reminder of what could have been. Of something that should have been.