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Azmani and de Groot about mobility and market forces in international train connections.

Security, economy and asylum were central during the VVD meeting in Veldhoven, held in D'n Burgemister. These themes are of great importance to Malik Azmani, the VVD's party leader for the upcoming European elections. An extensive discussion about Europe and the impact on Brainport, with two prominent candidates, attracted a lot of interest. In addition to Azmani, Björn de Groot was also present, the eleventh man on the list and a well-known face from Brabant for the Renew faction of the European liberals.

Azmani emphasized the need to strengthen international cooperation within Europe, with a particular focus on mobility between countries. “It is essential that we improve connections, both with trains and buses,” said Azmani. He pointed to the upcoming doubling of the number of train journeys between Brussels, The Hague and Amsterdam from January 2025 as a positive example.

Björn de Groot, who represents Brabant, also spoke about the improved international connections. “The connection between Eindhoven and Aachen is high on the agenda,” says De Groot. Since 2003, work has been underway on a faster train connection between these cities, but travelers still have to change trains in Heerlen, which significantly increases the travel time. De Groot underlined the importance of this connection for the region, despite the current restrictions.

Another point raised during the meeting was the role of competition on international train routes. Azmani noted that the current market is dominated by a few players such as Thalys and Eurostar, which does not always work to the advantage of consumers. “More competition could lower prices,” Azmani said. “Now sometimes you really pay way too much for a ticket, so we should definitely focus on that.”

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Photo: © Pitane Blue - Malik Azmani -Daan de Kort - Björn de Groot (from left to right)

During the VVD meeting in Veldhoven, the gap between European politics and local citizens also came to attention. Danielle Stijntjes, councilor for the VVD in the municipality of Eindhoven, expressed her concerns about this and asked critical questions to the politicians present, Malik Azmani and Björn de Groot.

Stijntjes noted that the European elections are far removed from the citizens in the region. This became painfully clear to her while handing out flyers on Saturday. “I am shocked by the reaction of the people on the street who want nothing to do with Europe at all,” Stijntjes said. Her question to Azmani and de Groot was how they plan to bring Brussels closer to the people in the Netherlands in the coming period.

Stijntjes emphasized that this problem not only applies to Europe, but also to local politics. “We have to focus very strongly on this, because Europe is so terribly important for our future,” she added. She advocated more direct communication and contact between the European institutions and Dutch citizens. “I would like to see much more contact from Brussels with the residents of the Netherlands.”

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Björn de Groot, a native of Brabant and active in the European Parliament for the VVD and Renew Europe, responded in agreement. He emphasized the importance of evenings such as these for strengthening the bond between the different political layers. “I would like to be your Brabander in Europe, as I already was, but not only now, but also in the coming years,” said de Groot. “Because I think that contact between all those different layers, politics in Brussels, national or local, is important, evenings like this are of great importance.”

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Photo: © Pitane Blue - Björn de Groot

Member of Parliament for the VVD and moderator of the evening, Daan de Kort, asked Björn de Groot how economic developments translate to Brabant and Brainport, and what the role of Brussels is in this. De Groot, who is eleventh on the VVD list for the upcoming European elections, started on a positive note: “To just start simply, I see that my colleagues know the region. They know what is important here, whether it concerns universities or companies such as ASML.”

De Groot emphasized that since the whole Beethoven story – a code name for a major project at ASML – there has been a lot of attention to how processes and investments take place in the region. “We also heard from ASML today how that process went,” says de Groot. He noted that a lot of attention is paid to attracting international talent, but that the potential within the region itself must also be looked at. “The Brabant economy is really the engine of the Dutch economy and, I believe, ranks third in the top five of the most competitive regions in Europe. In the Netherlands, only Amsterdam is still above us," de Groot joked, and he did not mean football.

He hopes that through smart investments and more focus on innovation, this region can maintain and strengthen its competitive position, with support at European level. Malik Azmani agreed with this and emphasized that the Netherlands must also play a role in supporting the Brainport region. “Also important for Europe. It is not without reason that Ursula von der Leyen was here about 1,5 years ago, at ASML. Thierry Breton has also been here, so everyone goes to ASML,” said Azmani.

However, Azmani also warned about the downside of all the attention that ASML receives. “It's about much more than ASML. I also think that ASML has already received a lot of attention. When I visited ASML, I had the feeling that they think so too, that they receive a lot of attention and that that also means something to them. I don't know if that's always a good thing,” Azmani concluded.

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The meeting showed that there are strong regional and international ties that are of great importance for the future of Brainport and the broader Dutch economy. The debate highlighted not only the need for local and national support, but also the crucial role Europe plays in encouraging security, innovation and economic growth.

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Photo: © Pitane Blue - promo bus Malik Azmani (VVD)

Since 2019, Azmani has been party leader of the VVD delegation and first deputy party leader of Renew Europe. In these positions he has worked hard for a strong Europe on the world stage. He has made efforts, among other things, to reach new migration agreements at European level and to make agreements with third countries. He has also advocated strong European sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine. Together with the European liberals, he has enforced a rule of law mechanism, with which EU countries that violate the rule of law can be cut from European funds.

Malik Azmani, born and raised in Heerenveen as the son of a Frisian mother and a Moroccan father, studied law in Groningen. In 2010 he was elected as a Member of Parliament and combined this with a council membership in the municipality of Ommen until 2014. During his nine years as a Member of Parliament, he focused on the themes of migration and security. Now he is a candidate party leader for the European elections in 2024.

Björn de Groot, a native of Brabant living in Brussels, has been working in the European Parliament for the VVD and the European liberals of Renew Europe since 2017. He regularly travels between Brabant and Brussels to see family and friends and to get VVD members enthusiastic about European politics. De Groot emphasizes the importance of close ties between the region and the European institutions, given the economic and social benefits that flow from this.

The meeting in Veldhoven was not only a platform for debate on the important election themes, but also an opportunity to underline the region's involvement in European politics. The close ties between Brainport and Europe were clearly highlighted, as were the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. The evening was organized by VVD BOV – VVD Brainport – VVD Den Bosch and Sint-Michielsgestel.

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