9 January 2019

'Security considerations in the Netherlands are often pragmatic, but sometimes naive'

Interdisciplinary research team provides building blocks for future security policy

The Netherlands would do well to learn from Angela Merkel's migration policy and the Israeli cybersecurity approach. This was the conclusion of an analysis conducted by an interdisciplinary research team from Utrecht University, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and Security's Research and Documentation Centre (WODC).

The report, entitled 'Towards a Resilient Open Society', offers building blocks for future security policy. 'Security considerations in the Netherlands are often pragmatic, but sometimes naive,' according to head researcher Mirko Noordegraaf. 'The security situation in the Netherlands has changed for the worse over the last few years. How can we find a balance between making a society resilient, while at the same time protecting an open society that respects democratic values and the rule of law? In an attempt to answer this question, we considered two case studies: German migration policy and Israeli cybersecurity policy.'

Security considerations in the Netherlands are often pragmatic, but sometimes naive

'Wir schaffen das'

The German reaction to the flow of migration that began in 2015 can be summarised by the motto 'Wir schaffen das' ('We can manage this'). The researchers found that German constitutional principles (the liberal democratic basic order) offer a relatively uncontested framework for policy. Germany's leaders are acutely aware that security measures can compromise the openness of German society and are therefore unlikely to dismiss the negative consequences of such measures out of hand.

However, the German government was slow to introduce security measures, such as more efficient registration of asylum seekers. As a result, public confidence in the government was severely undermined. The researchers believe that this may have caused the most damage to the openness of German society, even if indirectly. The image of impotence and a failing government boosted populism and extremism.

Germany's leaders are acutely aware that security measures can compromise the openness of German society


The researchers ascertained that the Dutch are quick to link the asylum and migration issue to societal threats and that this results in pragmatic actions. There are two lessons the Netherlands could learn from the German approach. The first is that everyday security practices should more explicitly take certain fundamental principles into account, such as human rights, privacy and personal integrity. The second lesson concerns the role of public-private partnerships. In Germany, citizens' initiatives and especially businesses are incentivised to engage migrants. This works well.



The issue of cybersecurity threats in the Netherlands is very different to the migration issue, in that Dutch society remains insufficiently aware of the associated dangers. The Netherlands is one of the most ICT-intensive economies in the world, making it an attractive target for cybercriminals, cyberspies and hackers.

In Israel, alertness regarding potential cybercrime threats is very high, and the awareness of cybercrime is further strengthened by Israel's three-year compulsory military service. In these three years, Israeli youths gain a great deal of knowledge about cyberthreats and ways to deal with them. In addition to their compulsory military service, Israeli youths are also taught ICT knowledge and skills from a young age. The Netherlands could learn from this example.


The Israeli case study also shows that, as well as being a threat, cybersecurity can offer an opportunity for economic development. There are now over 300 businesses in Israel that specialise in cybersecurity, more than twice as many as in 2012. As a result, Israel is now one of the leading countries in this field globally. However, it is important that the development of the cybersecurity industry goes hand in hand with proper monitoring of compliance with laws and regulations relating to fundamental rights, including privacy.