Greater Netherlands (Dutch: Groot-Nederland) or Dietsland ("Dutchland") is a hypothetical monolingual polity formed by fusing the two Dutch-speaking regions of Flanders and the Netherlands. The concept was originally developed by Pieter Geyl, who argued that the two only separated during the Eighty Years' War against Spain in the 16th century.
Although Geyl was strongly anti-Nazi and argued from a historical and cultural perspective, Nazi Germany built upon the idea during the Second World War with a focus on ethnic nationalism, still prominent among some in the political far right.
Despite the name, such a process was to be done via a merger of the two countries into a new entity rather than a Dutch annexation. The Greater Netherlands movement has long been divided on the political form the polity would take, considering among others a confederation, a federation, or a unitary state. More expansive and less common versions may include the additional fusion of Westhoek, Suriname, formerly Dutch-speaking areas of Germany and France, or even the ethnically Dutch and/or Afrikaans-speaking parts of South Africa.
The potential country is also known as Dutchland (Dietsland), which uses the word Diets - an archaic term for Dutch. This label was popular until the Second World War, but its associations with collaboration (especially in Flanders), mean that modern supporters generally avoid using it. "Greater Dutch Movement" or "Greater Netherlandism" (Grootneerlandisme) are other terms used while in literature it is also called the "Greater Dutch Thinking" (Grootnederlandse Gedachte).
"Whole-Netherlands" or "Burgundism" (after the historical Burgundian Circle) are other terms that were used for the country, but these names are now used for a movement that aims to combine all of the Low Countries as a single multilingual entity, which would be similar to the former United Kingdom of the Netherlands, also including Wallonia, Luxembourg, and Northern France (most likely Nord-Pas de Calais).
The Prince's Flag is sometimes used by Greater Dutch groups, because in the Eighty Years' War it was used by supporters of William I of Orange, seen as the leader of the revolt. It was also used as the flag of the Dutch Republic and United Kingdom of the Netherlands but today is generally associated with the far-right in the Netherlands.
The Greater Dutch movement emerged at the end of the 19th century. In Belgium, some Dutch-speaking citizens opposed towards the privileged position of French-speaking bourgeoisie, and the corresponding subordination of the Dutch, in government and in public life which led to the formation of the Flemish Movement in which some called for the fusion of Flanders and the Netherlands, similar to that called for by the Orangists after the Belgian Revolution of 1830. Nationalist from both Flanders and Netherlands created the Dutch General Union in 1895.
World War I further sharpened the conflict between Dutch and French speakers in Belgium. For instance, the Flamenpolitik of the Germans, involving the administrative separation of the Dutch and the French-speaking parts of Belgium, was influenced by the Flemish Movement, which they wanted to use as an ally.
The Dutch General Union was joined, at the end of World War I, by a considerable number of people in the Netherlands and Flanders.[quantify] It also enjoyed some popularity among students, leading to the creation of the Diets Student Association.
During World War II, both Belgium and the Netherlands were occupied by Nazi Germany. It was believed in nationalist circles that a Greater Dutch state could be created through collaboration with the German occupiers. The Nazis however did not value this idea, and desired either a Pan-Germanist fusion of the racially Germanic Dutch speakers with Germany or a New Order in which both Belgium and the Netherlands would continue to exist as notionally independent German satellite states.
After the war, however, the Greater Dutch movement was stuck with the stigma of collaboration, notably the Flemish National Union (VNV) in Flanders and the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands.
While less common after the war, proponents of a Greater Netherlands do exist on the far-right of Belgian and Dutch politics.
The Belgian far-right party Vlaams Belang said they supported this idea, because they saw the formation of a "federation of the Netherlands" as a logical and desirable consequence of a Flemish secession from Belgium.
On 12 May 2008, the Dutch politician Geert Wilders (PVV), who was previously quoted as arguing that a Greater Netherlands was "a Nazi and old-fashioned policy", said in De Telegraaf that he was interested in the possibility of a merger between the Netherlands and Flanders. Wilders proposed that, in accordance with previous polls, referendums would have to be held in the Netherlands and Flanders on the merger. He was quoted as saying that "the Netherlands must print the Flemish Lion on its chest and say: welcome home, we have never forgotten you." He argued that he was not planning to impose unification on the Flemish, but stated that then-Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende needed to talk with his Flemish colleagues on the subject. Balkenende responded by saying that "the fate of Belgium is not for us to decide".
Yves Leterme replied on 13 June 2008, in The Times that a merger between Belgium and the Netherlands was "science fiction" and that Wilders was thinking simplistically about the Belgian Crisis. Leterme said that, instead, he supported further cooperation within Benelux. On 7 July 2008, Wilders with Martin Bosma, wrote a follow-up piece in the NRC Handelsblad.
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Sometimes, among the Flemish movement and the Flemish nationalists, the term Heel Nederland (Whole Netherlands) is used to define the whole of the Dutch-populated territories (Greater Netherlands). According to them, that is how the Kingdom of the United Netherlands should be. The Dutch nation could then be defined as a unit of Dutch people who use the Dutch language. According to this ideology the Netherlands and Flanders should resurrect the "Kingdom of the United Netherlands" based on the organic unity of the Dutch people that has existed for centuries.
This term is also used by those who support a so-called "Whole-Netherlands" (Heel-Nederland) combining all the Low Countries into a single multilingual entity, also called "Whole-Netherlandism" or Burgundism. This would unite not only the territories in which Dutch people live but all of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (which would be similar to the former United Kingdom of the Netherlands) and Northern France, most likely Nord-Pas de Calais, along the lines of the historical Burgundian Circle. This should not be confused with the Greater Dutch Movement, since it advocates the inclusion of French-speaking people.
Yet another minority form is contemporary Orangism, which seeks the restoration of the Dutch royal family in Flanders, either within the Netherlands or as independent state with strong links with the Netherlands. Many Orangists are Greater Dutch and vice versa, but not all Greater Dutch are monarchist Orangists, as some want to structure the state differently. Orangism has become more popular since 1980, when the term was used to refer to the Greater Netherlands projects, with a focus on the restoration of the Dutch royal family to the entire Dutch-populated part of the region.
The popularity of the House of Orange-Nassau in Flanders is partly based on the francophile tendency of the Belgian monarchy. Contemporary Orangism in Flanders and Netherlands is distinct from the Orangism of the 19th century and earlier.
A union with Flanders has not been a political issue in the Netherlands, and it is on the agenda of only one political party, the right-wing Party for Freedom. But a 21 August 2007, poll indicated that two-thirds of the population would welcome a union with Flanders. Another poll published by RTL4 found that 77% of respondents living in the Netherlands would support a Greater Netherlands.
The union of Flanders and the Netherlands is not as popular among the Flemish population with estimates between 35 and 50% being in favour of unification. While the Dutch often see unification just as growth of the Dutch territory, the Flemish sometimes fear to be culturally annexed into the larger and more populous Netherlands. Given the difficulties experienced in the 2007 Belgian government formation after the federal elections, and the victory of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), in the 2010 federal elections, the likelihood of Flanders seceding from Belgium appears greater than before. The Vlaams Belang[clarification needed] and N-VA parties are the primary advocates of secession in Belgian Flanders, but neither has strong interest in a "Greater Netherlands".