VVD: ‘Closing the Assen barracks should not cost Drenthe employment’

The possible closure of the Johan Willem Friso barracks in Assen should not cause Drenthe to lose a lot of employment. That is what MPs of the VVD say during a visit to the provincial capital of Drenthe.

Two weeks ago it was announced that State Secretary Christophe van der Maat (VVD) may want to close the barracks in Drenthe in 2027. The management of the buildings and grounds is too expensive. That message did not go down well with provincial and local politics, not even with the Drenthe and Asser departments of his own party.

‘Don’t take jobs away’

The concerns that the region will lose a lot of employment if the barracks are closed have now also reached The Hague. “You can’t just remove employment here,” says Member of Parliament Peter Valstar. “Other files also play a role in this, such as the announced departure of the NAM from Assen and the discussion about pediatric heart surgery in Groningen. The State Secretary must also include this in his plans.”

The possible closure of the barracks in Assen is part of larger cutbacks in Defense areas. It is not yet known which other barracks in the Netherlands are nominated to close. It is clear, however, that Defense wants to dispose of about 30 to 40 percent of its real estate.

To Havelte

The barracks provide Assen with about a thousand jobs and another five hundred training places. State Secretary Van der Maat is considering transferring staff and activities to Havelte. This should prevent employment from disappearing from Drenthe. But the VVD is not convinced that a relocation within the province is a good solution.

“Functions can be transferred from Havelte to elsewhere in the Netherlands and employment is a problem,” says Willemien Meeuwissen, the VVD party leader in the States of Drenthe. “In the Randstad, people think that Havelte and Assen are close to each other, but there is 45 minutes between them,” Valstar notes. If the barracks in Assen nevertheless close, then as far as the VVD is concerned, the same amount of employment should be returned.

On the coffee

The hope of the VVD members of Drenthe is partly based on VVD MP Mark Strolenberg from Hoogeveen. As a Drent, he could possibly easily transfer the concerns from his home province to the State Secretary.

Strolenberg: “I don’t have a coffee date with him yet, but I do think it is important that the cabinet pays attention to the regional aspects of the coalition agreement. I want to keep them to that.”