After Holland – Groningen as
test case for autonomy
Research Project HPM
Urban Research
Wouter Vanstiphout
The North of The Netherlands had always a peculiar position in the country. Because of the geographical location of Groningen, this area was often isolated from the administrative and governmental centre of Holland. Even today, effects of this isolated position can be noticed. In 1959, gas was found in the eastern part of Groningen and this transformed the area. Derricks were built and in a huge operation almost everyone in The Netherlands was connected to a gas network. Inhabitants of Groningen were talking about a ‘gift from God’ and the bright future that was ahead of them because of the discovered gas. However, today there is dissatisfaction in Groningen about the gas exploitation. Groningen has almost no share in the gas drillings, because the profit is going to the Dutch State and the NAM. Besides, the exploitation of gas is causing earthquakes.

Different ways and different scales of dependency can be noticed in the region of Groningen. First of all, Groningen was and still is dependent on the Dutch State, because of its ‘victim position’. Thus, the area received ‘compensation money’. Besides, the hinterland surrounding the city of Groningen has been dependent on this city in the past and even today one can still observe the effects of this dependency. In addition, even a single family in Groningen is dependent on the Dutch Sate.

Today we can see the retreat of the state sector in Europe. The political aspiration to provide, control and own large parts of the economy and social ideals is declining. Simultaneously, such conditions bring a potential for new kinds of autonomies to emerge. In this context and in the setting of Groningen – where there are different levels of dependency and distrust –  speculative, possible scenarios or utopias for different autonomies on different scales haven been investigated. Groningen could be a test case for independency and be a model for other areas. However, there must be acknowledged that new autonomies simultaneously come with new dependencies.