Opposition insists that Groningen earthquake reinforcement not be postponed

Eric Wiebes (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons)Eric Wiebes (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons)

On Thursday opposition parties in parliament insisted that Minister Eric Wiebes of Economic Affairs reverses his decision to postpone the reinforcement of 1,588 homes in the province of Groningen, NU.nl reports.

The homes need to be reinforced because of damage caused by gas extraction earthquakes. Wiebes recently announced that the advice on how the homes will be reinforced will come before July 1st, instead of the previous promise of April. This postponement resulted in Hans Alders resigning as National Coordinator for Groningen. Wiebes is waiting for the results of a new investigation, because the situation has changed now that the government decided to stop gas extraction in Groningen by around 2030, he said.

According to PvdA parliamentarian Henk Nijboer, these reinforcements are "not a favor to the Groningers, but a right", he said in a debate on Thursday, according to the newspaper. "Why postpone? Wasn't there already a compromise on the table", GroenLinks MP Tom van der Lee wanted to know. SP parliamentarian Sandra Beckerman said: "It is painful to see how much is being destroyed in Groningen." According to her, nothing has happened over the past year. PvdD MP Lammert van Raan called this postponement "new and unnecessary uncertainty".

GroenLinks, SP, PvdA, PvdD and 50Plus submitted a motion to make Wiebes cancel the postponement, but coalition parties VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie refused to support it. The motion therefore did not get a majority vote. 

According to the coalition parties, Wiebes is trying to prevent Groningen residents having to leave their homes unnecessarily. Though the coalition had difficulty defending the postponement, especially to the full public gallery. Buses brought Groningen residents to The Hague to follow the debate. ChristenUnie parliamentarian Carla Dik stressed that the reinforcement operation has not been halted. "The question is not whether the houses will be reinforced, but how."

For the time being, Wiebes is sticking to the postponement. "I am committed to having other experts look at it", he said. He added that he "misjudged" the complexity of the reinforcement operation.