Foreign policy: in the interests of Dutch citizens and businesses

Security, prosperity and freedom for Dutch citizens and businesses depend on a vigorous foreign policy. The government promotes peace, stability and the international legal order abroad in the interests of Dutch security, because it is the foundation of our prosperity. We use economic diplomacy abroad to enhance our prosperity, focusing on promoting our commercial interests and assuring our energy security and access to raw materials. Finally, we increase freedom worldwide by defending human rights. Multilateral cooperation, first and foremost in Europe, amplifies the Netherlands’ voice on the global stage. Development cooperation contributes to all three pillars of our foreign policy. And consular assistance benefits the safety, prosperity and freedom of Dutch people abroad.


Our security depends on the stability of the rest of the world, so efforts to preserve international peace and security remain a priority. New threats such as cybercrime, terrorism, transnational crime and piracy have our full attention. As do disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The NATO partnership remains the cornerstone of Dutch security policy, but the EU plays a major role as well. The Netherlands is becoming more selective in choosing the international operations it takes part in: anti-piracy and the police training mission in Afghanistan continue to be top priorities. In addition we are strengthening the international legal order, for example by encouraging other countries to recognise international courts and tribunals like the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.


Dutch businesses generate a high proportion of Dutch income abroad, so the government is continuing to invest in economic diplomacy. Embassies and consulates are being better equipped to promote the Netherlands’ economic interests. We are promoting exports, attracting foreign investment and working together to boost research and development. Ensuring a secure supply of energy, raw materials and semi-finished products is part of this policy. The government’s economic diplomacy focuses on the Netherlands’ leading sectors and on emerging markets abroad where good contacts with government authorities are vital, as in China, India and Brazil.


The government has sharpened the focus of its human rights policy to highlight freedom of expression (including internet freedom), freedom of religion and belief, support for human rights defenders, corporate social responsibility and equal rights for all (with a special focus on women’s rights and the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders). By assisting with the transition in the European Union’s neighbouring countries to the east and south, the Netherlands is specifically promoting the freedom of their populations.


The European Union helps the Netherlands defend its interests in the wider world, so the Dutch government is working hard to ensure a strong European Union. The Netherlands will continue to be a constructively critical European partner. After all, Europe has a major impact on the government’s foreign policy. The government is working in Brussels to ensure that:

1. Europe can guarantee financial and economic stability in the EU;

2. Europe has a strong internal market that increases prosperity and growth;

3. Europe complies strictly with its own rules;

4. Europe is a place where rights are securely established and respected;

5. Europe has global influence and defends the interests of the EU’s peoples and member states.

Consular services

Consular services are about helping Dutch people in major emergencies, such as natural disasters, social unrest or serious accidents. Dutch travellers bear primary responsibility for their own welfare, and should for example take out travel insurance and follow travel advisories. A leaner network of missions also means that some Dutch people will have to travel farther to apply for a travel document. At the same time, Dutch nationals living abroad will be able, from 2013, to apply for a passport in more municipalities and at Schiphol Airport. The Ministry will also digitise parts of the travel document application process, and the validity of passports and identity cards will be extended from five years to ten. The other side of the story is that some travel documents will become more expensive, because people will be charged the actual cost of their documents. Finally, the government plans to work more closely with our Schengen partners on issuing visas around the world.


Cutbacks are being made at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to the network of Dutch missions abroad. In the next few years we will make the network more efficient, less expensive and better equipped for today’s tasks. Cuts will affect both personnel and material costs, and at the end of 2013 missions will close in Lusaka, Ouagadougou, La Paz, Guatemala City and Managua.

Development cooperation

A fundamental review of development cooperation is in full swing. The budget for 2013 is less fragmented, focusing more on what the Netherlands is good at and on economic development programmes.

Efforts are being stepped up on four key themes where the Netherlands offers exceptional added value: food security, sexual health, water, and security and the rule of law. Budgets for these four priorities will increase, despite the decrease in the overall budget.

A great number of existing programmes are being phased out and stopped, partly as a result of the reduction in the number of partner countries, partly because of the shift from social to economic programmes. By making clear choices, we have now reduced fragmentation by 20%. We will continue this course next year, with an even sharper focus, so as to achieve the best possible results with a shrinking budget.

For more details see the separate news items on development cooperation.