The 50 most important research questions for the Netherlands
How does the migration of people, objects and ideas influence the development of cultural identities?
Migration is familiar territory for Dr. Maarten Vink, senior lecturer at the department of political sciences. He studies and compares the migration policies of European countries (such as asylum policies, labour migration, family reunification, nationality laws) and personally experiences what it is like to be a migrant every day. He works in Maastricht, met his wife in Florence, and now lives with her in Portugal.
He starts off by saying that “a historian would answer this question differently to a philosopher, or an art scientist or - like me - a political scientist”. “Besides, it is really four questions, and my expertise lies in the field of the migration of people.” Continuing: “Cultural identity is about the common system of values, it is about civilisation. Man is originally a migrant being; he is originally from Africa and has spread across the whole world. Without this migrating nature, there would never have been such cultural diversity.
“Migration, combined with openness, is a condition for development and progress. At the same time, nations and organisations also need a certain degree of closeness. We have borders, passports, citizenship, voting rights, all set up to protect privileges. In Europe, however, the line between open and closed is getting more complex. Where does a Turkish guest worker belong, for example? What position will his children have, who were born here, the so-called second generation?”
Since the nineties, there have been heated debates in the world of political sciences about the question to what extent national citizenship – ‘I belong to this state’ – is still a useful concept. “In classical Athens, there were citizens of city-states, later on there were burgherships, and national citizenship has only existed since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Since the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, we recognise the existence of EU citizens. After all, the Dutch received rights in other member states. At the same time, a countermovement arose: Populism, voicing the sense of threat that citizens experience when facing this cosmopolitisation. Regional and local identity have gained strength since the nineties.”
Things are not moving so fast with this European political identity, concludes Vink. “We have a collective coin, but without a shared political identity supported by the citizens.” He thinks that the cause is migration, or rather, the lack of migration. “There are too few people like me who live in one country, work in another and thus benefit directly from European collaboration. There are too few people like the foreign students who study at the UM at the cost of the Dutch taxpayer, but at the same time contribute to the intellectual climate.
“European integration is still too much of an elite project. On average 2.5 per cent of all EU citizens live in other member states, and often they are highly educated. There are always trendsetters. If there hadn't been so many adventurers venturing out to America since the seventeenth century, the United States would not have been a world power today.”
The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has listed the 50 most important research questions for the Netherlands. The 50th is the result of a competition, which was won by two UM researchers.