Political leaders generally do not like broaching controversial or difficult questions, but Frits Bolkestein in the Netherlands is an important exception. In his capacity as leader of the Liberal Party, he argued that the subject of immigration in the Netherlands was a broad and fundamental issue that required a nationwide debate. After an initial storm of protest, this debate did indeed happen. This is a case study of a breakthrough in making a difficult issue debatable. When governments force through large-scale policies in the absence of a national debate, it can lead to a backlash from the voters and undermine the legitimacy of the government. Frits Bolkestein, a former government Minister and European Commissioner, articulated a clear vision and pioneered a debate that continues to this day. The very initiation of the debate was a breakthrough, but the policy changes that followed the debate have averted large-scale social problems. A true statesman, Frits Bolkestein describes the events in his own words.
An extract from Opening National Debate: Islam and the Netherlands by Frits Bolkestein in Breakthrough: From Innovation to Impact.