Today more than ever, the Netherlands’ foreign policy is putting Dutch interests first, with a stronger commitment to the pillars of security, prosperity and freedom. International security and stability, energy and raw materials security, the international legal order and human rights, the reorientation of development cooperation, and the commercial and economic interests of the Netherlands and Dutch companies will be at the heart of our foreign policy in the years ahead. In the same period, the diplomatic service will be made more modern and flexible. These plans are set down in the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The government is making tough choices, resulting in a more selective commitment of Dutch resources to international operations, such as anti-piracy efforts and the police training mission in Afghanistan. The government’s full attention will be given to new threats, such as cyber crime, international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The NATO partnership remains the cornerstone of Dutch security policy, but the EU also plays a crucial role in this area. The government will invest in its relationship with Israel. In early 2012 the first Dutch-Israeli cooperation council will be held, with a focus on trade, innovation, technology, education and science.

Economic diplomacy is one of the government’s top priorities. During this government’s term in office, the network of embassies and consulates will be better equipped to promote the Netherlands’ economic interests. This will include safeguarding the supply of energy, raw materials and semi-manufactured goods. The Raw Materials Memorandum marks the start of a comprehensive Dutch raw materials policy. In implementing economic diplomacy the government will concentrate on leading sectors and growth markets where good intergovernmental relations are vital, such as China, India and Brazil. In addition, significant attention will be given to strategic hubs like Vietnam and Panama. The government will work more with the business community and knowledge institutions.

The government’s human rights policy now has a more sharply defined focus, with an emphasis on freedom of expression (including internet freedom), freedom of religion and belief, protecting human rights defenders (especially in the Arab world), combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and promoting corporate social responsibility. Women play a crucial role in economic development and stability; for this reason the government will promote the full participation of women in society, the economy and political institutions. A strong international legal order remains a priority. The Netherlands will also press for the recognition of the jurisdiction of international courts and tribunals, such as International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

As usual, along with its budget documents, the government has submitted its State of the European Union to the States General, looking ahead to the European agenda for next year. The Netherlands remains a constructive yet critical European partner, recognising the EU’s importance for upholding the three pillars of the government’s foreign policy (security, prosperity and freedom). Government policy will take its cue from the following principles:

1. a Europe that keeps its own its strict rules;
2. a Europe that functions as a common area of security and justice;
3. a Europe and an internal market that serve as an engine for prosperity and growth;
4. a Europe that works within its budget;
5. a Europe that carries more weight in the world;
6. a Europe in which the Netherlands actively helps to devise a comprehensive package of measures to secure the continent’s financial and economic stability.

Consular services
More than in the past, consular services will focus on providing assistance to Dutch nationals in dire emergencies, such as natural disasters or other crises. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will set up a crisis centre for this purpose from which rapidly deployable consular teams, military transports or charter flights can be organised. Parallel to these efforts, other services (such as the issue of travel documents) will be streamlined. A greater emphasis will be placed on travellers’ own responsibility for their well-being and ways they can help themselves, such as taking out travel insurance and following travel advisories. Prisoner assistance will be better differentiated and monitored. The Ministry will provide special assistance to prisoners who run a real risk of the death penalty.

Budget cuts
Government-wide budget cuts will also have an impact on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the network of Dutch missions abroad. As announced in a letter to parliament, in the years ahead the network will be made cheaper, more efficient and better equipped to respond to the demands of the present age. In 2015 the Ministry will cut €55 million from its network of missions and €19 million from its headquarters in The Hague. Structural cuts will be implemented to the budget for development cooperation, which will be reduced from 0.8% of GNP in 2010 to an average of 0.7% of GNP as of 2012. Cuts to non-development programmes will rise gradually between 2012 and 2015 to €40 million.

Development cooperation
For more details on this issue, please refer to the separate news release on development cooperation.