Reforming diplomacy: clear choices, new emphases
Following proposals from foreign minister Uri Rosenthal, the cabinet has reached a decision on reforms to Dutch diplomacy. The main thrust of the reforms is to promote Dutch interests, with special focus on economic diplomacy.
Rather than making cuts across the board, choices will be made within the mission network. The closure of missions is subject to the approval of the Council of Ministers for the Kingdom.During the next few years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is having to cut €74 million: 55 million at embassies and consulates and 19 million at the Ministry in The Hague. Savings will be made on terms of employment and accommodation. An extra saving of €8 million per year will allow investment in areas like economic diplomacy and consular assistance to Dutch nationals abroad.
The workforce will shrink from 2,800 at present to 2,500 in 2015. The embassies and consulates will lose 200 jobs; the Ministry in The Hague will lose 100. The opposite pattern was seen in the previous round of cutbacks. Other ministries will also be economising. The current number of 356 attachés will be cut substantially.
The Ministry will move away from the traditional image of an embassy as a building with a flag and mission staff. There will be roving ambassadors, based in The Hague. More embassies will represent the Netherlands in more than one country. Some missions will close, and some will open. New embassies will open in Panama and South Sudan, and a consulate-general will open in western China. The embassies will close in nine countries: Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ecuador, Eritrea, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Zambia. The consulate-general in Barcelona will also close.
Consular services need to be 100% reliable. We will intensify assistance to Dutch nationals in distress, for instance in disaster areas. Regular consular services will be streamlined and slimmed down. With a smaller Dutch mission network, Dutch nationals will sometimes have to travel farther to apply for a passport abroad, and that passport will be more expensive. On the other hand, the validity of passports will be extended to ten years, and Dutch nationals residing abroad will be able to apply for a passport in more Dutch municipalities.