Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wopke Hoekstra, at the Van Wittel – Vanvitelli Dialogue, 15 May 2023

[Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to Rotterdam, for this third Van Wittel – VanVitelli Dialogue! Fantastic that you are here.
I always feel very much at home in Italy, that beautiful country. I lived there as a student and still love coming there. I hope you also feel at home here today.
We're going to have a great day, and I look forward to this opportunity to further strengthen our relationship.]

Eccellenze, signore e signori,

Benvenuti a Rotterdam, per il terzo dialogo Van Wittel-VanVitelli!

! Che bello che siate qui.

In Italia, in quel bellissimo Paese, mi sento proprio a casa. Ci ho vissuto da studente e ancora ci vado spesso. Spero che anche voi vi sentiate a casa oggi.

Sono sicuro che sará una bellissima giornata e non vedo l'ora di avere l'opportunità di rafforzare ulteriormente le nostre relazioni".

I’m pleased that we are continuing this relatively recent, but excellent tradition, named after Caspar van Wittel – also known as Gaspare Vanvitelli.

[Van Wittel, rightly famous for his beautiful Italian cityscapes, achieved something remarkable in his art.

His paintings show a strong combination of the quiet dignity of impressive architecture, and the vibrant, bustling life on the streets beneath it.

I think it’s wonderful that these dialogues are named after him; a painter who stands firmly in both our national traditions – and who could draw the eye to both the backdrop and the events in the foreground.

The same can be said of the relations between our two countries.

Solid structures of diplomacy, shared European institutions and extensive trade form an impressive backdrop.

And in the foreground of this diplomatic cityscape, there’s a constant bustle of events, travels and talks.

In that sense, you could almost say we’re in one of Van Wittel’s paintings today.]

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are partners, friends and allies.

The annual trade flow between our countries is worth tens of billions – and we face common challenges.

Challenges like energy security, open strategic autonomy, migration, and international crime.

Let me start with the first topic, energy security.

Russia’s atrocious war in Ukraine has forced all of Europe to address its dependencies.

Energy is a key part of this fight, and we must do all we can to gain the upper hand.

Italy is a gas hub for southern Europe, as is the Netherlands for northern Europe.

We have this in common, and therefore we can learn from one other, and help each other move forward towards a more energy-independent future.

A future in which hydrogen will eventually replace natural gas.

A future of energy self-sufficiency and carbon neutrality – from which both our geopolitical situation and our climate will benefit.

This idea of a more independent future is also a fundamental principle of open strategic autonomy.

Europe currently enjoys great wealth and a high standard of living – and any strategy for the future should ensure that this remains the case.

But the geopolitical climate is getting tougher, and this puts pressure on the open global economy and the rules-based multilateral trading system on which it’s based.

That’s why the Netherlands supports open strategic autonomy for Europe: to reduce unwanted dependencies and strengthen our economic resilience.

To get there, the EU needs to have structurally stronger political and economic foundations. It needs to mitigate and de-risk strategic dependencies, and it needs to expand its capacity for geopolitical action.

Together, these actions will strengthen our continent, and prepare our economies for an uncertain future.

A third challenge is one that Italy is familiar with – and we are increasingly so as well: migration.

It’s a testament to the strength of our economies that so many people want to make Europe their new home – but we must be careful that this does not become too heavy a burden on our societies.

We must be able to cope, and find the right equilibrium between openness and protection.

Our two countries can work together – in a European framework – on finding this balance – and on making it work.

The fourth and final challenge I’d like to discuss is one on which both Italy and the Netherlands have extensive expertise – and where I hope we can learn from one another: fighting organised crime.

Our country is an unwilling, but sadly important actor in the international illegal drugs trade.

Earlier today, Foreign Minister Tajani and I were given a tour of Rotterdam harbour by the police – who had a lot to say about this.

The Dutch criminal industry serves a global market in cannabis, synthetic drugs, and the trade in cocaine and heroin.

These are multi-billion dollar businesses, run by criminal multinationals.

They increasingly use corruption and violence to achieve their goals.

They threaten legitimate businesses, farmers, journalists and politicians.

But we’re hitting back, and we’re hitting back hard: with arrests, drugs seizures and international cooperation.

Our goal is to disrupt and dismantle global criminal networks and destroy their revenue models.

This should limit the deeply corrosive impact that organised crime has on our society.

In today’s dialogue, I hope we can share our experiences in combating organised crime, and that we can learn from Italy’s impressive track-record in this area.

In 2019, when I was finance minister, I travelled to Italy to learn from Italy’s Guarda de Finanza – and was deeply impressed.

The work you’re doing in that area is excellent, and we hope to learn from your best practices.

Because crime truly is a common challenge, something that we should tackle together.

Today’s programme is a forward-looking agenda.

And what better place to discuss a stronger future, than at a dialogue whose name celebrates our rich, and shared cultural past?

What better way to celebrate this tradition, than to build an even brighter future?

Thank you.