In August 2015, Ambassador Philip de Heer was replaced by Ines Coppoolse, and upon her arrival she had to start preparing straight away for the EU presidency of the Netherlands (first half of this year). A good moment for discussions on what the Embassy and its staff are doing. Please meet Ambassador Ines Coppoolse and Trade & Innovation Officer Sigrid Westman.
we are trying to punch above our weight ..
What is the main focus of this relatively small but important Embassy?
The Ambassador starts off. Yes, it is a small team: ten people are working together to promote Dutch interests in Swedish society, facilitate business contacts and provide practical consular help to Dutch citizens. The Netherlands and Sweden are two countries that share a historic relation for more than 400 years already. Today the Embassy mainly focusses on European cooperation and trade promotion. Security and NATO cooperation (Sweden is not a NATO member, but cooperates intensively with NATO) are also subjects that require attention. The Dutch presidency of the EU this year is the basis for a lot of extra activities the Ambassador and her team have initiated. The Embassy is used as the eyes and ears of the government in The Hague, so keeping the Netherlands informed on developments in Sweden - in particular regardingSwedish positions on various EU issues - is the main focus of the Embassy team. But the Embassy is also keen on seizing opportunities for Dutch-Swedish cooperation. Furthermore, consular affairs take up some time. The number of tourists from the Netherlands is growing and more than 10.000 Dutch citizens live in Sweden. This means helping out with different kinds of processes and services, from issuing new passports to providing emergency documents and practical help to Dutch tourists who got robbed. Another task is maintaining contact with Dutch probation officers regarding Dutch citizens in Swedish prisons. And of course, like in any other office, there is the usual financial administration and facility management that needs to be done.
The presidency of the EU
During the first half of 2016, the presidency is the driving force behind the agenda. The Netherlands focusses on four main themes: innovation and job growth, migration, a strong Eurozone and climate & energy. If you look at the activities scheduled out on the whiteboard, one notices that all these subjects are covered in meetings and events in Sweden, the Netherlands, and of course Brussels. Quite impressive.
A remarkable fact about our country is that you find Dutch embassies in all 28
EU member states. This is an extensive network which not all EU member states have. It makes it possible for the Dutch government to anticipate quicker, to know the positions of every single country and to understand the main players in Europe better. It also leads to a more efficient and effective presidency.
The Netherlands Embassy in Sweden has chosen to focus on a few important themes: migration & employment (from a political point of view) and trade promotion with a special focus on sustainable mobility and smart cities (from an economic point of view). The Embassy is proud of the leading role the Netherlands has in all aspects of cycling. With their activities they promote the use of the bike as a daily mode of transportation, but also the existence of innovative parking & traffic planning solutions. It’s just one example of how a theme-based approach touches on a lot of subjects and caters for a lot of stakeholders.
The Embassy and the regions - there is more than Stockholm
A strong network is one of the key factors to make it possible to organize well-appreciated high-quality trade missions and events. Every year several trade delegations and study groups come from the Netherlands to Sweden. It is very important to use the wide network within Sweden, including cordial and excellent relations between the Embassy staff and the Consuls in the regions South and West Sweden (mainly focused around the second and third largest cities in Sweden, Göteborg and Malmö). Also the Dutch Chamber of Commerce is of course an appreciated partner.
How to promote Trade
Looking back in 2017: How successful will 2016 have been?
Both Sigrid and the Ambassador laugh, but immediately reply:
“We are definitely striving for a successful EU presidency and we hope to have made a difference and create impact with our focus themes. We hope to be able to look back at some key events that have clear added value for the Dutch economy and we hope to be able to say that our work has had an impact also on the public, both in Sweden and in the Netherlands. Synergy, that is what we have been constantly looking for, and that is what keeps us going!”
Sigrid adds: “Personally, I hope that our cycling events within the sustainable mobility theme can be seen as a successful approach to promote Dutch expertise abroad.”