Now in its nineteenth season, the TV programme En route to the Lower Chamber by VARA public broadcasting organisation seeks out the most talented debaters and speakers of the Netherlands. This year more than two hundred secondary schools from across the country will compete for the title of best debating school in the Netherlands. The preliminary round in the Province of Limburg will take place on Thursday 23 February 2017, starting at 10.15 a.m. Young debaters will attack or defend provocative positions. The themes in Limburg include the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty and the importance of cooperating with neighbouring countries. Regional Minister Marleen van Rijsbergen will give the opening address and judge the finale.
The origins of En route to the Lower Chamber
The youth debate competition is associated with a popular TV programme from the 1990s, The Lower Chamber (Het Lagerhuis). Although the programme’s final regular broadcast aired in 2010, the youth edition, En route to the Lower Chamber (Op weg naar het Lagerhuis) has been broadcast by VARA every year since 1999. This season VARA is once again cooperating with the Province of Limburg, HOPE XXL youth organisation and the National Fund for Peace, Freedom and Veterans Care (vfonds). The aim is to give adolescents an opportunity to improve their debating techniques while at the same time letting them see what politics in the province actually involves.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of a very significant moment in European history: the conclusion of the Maastricht Treaty. In honour of this occasion, the Province has developed a major programme of events known as ‘Europe Calling’. Brexit and the refugee problem appear to have weakened Europe. Limburg is proud of its European connection but cross-border cooperation remains difficult. After a period of initial enthusiasm, many cross-border projects fizzle out. Nevertheless, new attempts are being made with the emergency services. Will the people of Limburg continue to focus more on the Netherlands than on neighbouring countries? One of the positions to be argued on 23 February is: Limburg must make cooperation with neighbouring countries a top priority.