“International cooperation doesn’t always have to happen in a faraway country. Why not seek cooperation closer to home? Because together we can fend off competition from emerging markets in Asia more successfully. And that will benefit both our economies.
As well as the people we are ultimately doing it for.” Said minister Schultz on the 24th of april in Berlin."
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. I would like to thank the organisers of Wasser Berlin for inviting me here today to the opening of this trade fair.
It was very interesting to hear what my colleague from Egypt had to say.
Despite the big differences between our countries, for over 35 years now we have enjoyed close ties in the field of water management, from water treatment to water saving.
Ties that we both benefit from.
And that is my main message to you today.
Because international cooperation is the only way to win the battle for clean, pure water.
And your knowledge, enterprise and ability to work with others make all the difference.
Because clean drinking water can never be taken for granted.
783 million people around the world have no access to clean drinking water.
And 2 billion people only have access to water from dubious sources.
But even in European countries like Germany and the Netherlands clean water cannot be taken for granted.
Every day, new materials are being invented – materials that end up in our water system. The use of medicines, nanotechnology, cosmetics and insecticides demands the latest methods for treating waste water and drinking water.
But that’s not an issue for the market alone.
The Dutch government, too, has a leading role to play here:
- by boosting knowledge and innovation;
- and promoting international cooperation.
A few years ago, in the Netherlands, we adopted a top sector policy, earmarking nine sectors in which researchers, businesses and government are encouraged to work together.
Our top sectors include logistics, agri-food, high-tech and, of course, water.
That’s an obvious choice if you look at the geography of the Netherlands.
One-third of our country is below sea level.
And two-thirds is at risk of flooding.
Perhaps you’re planning to visit the newly reopened Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. As you stand there admiring Rembrandt’s Night Watch you’re actually below sea level.
So we keep our most valuable art treasures in a bathtub!
Being able to live with water is vital to our country. And it’s crucial for us to keep advancing our knowledge of flood control and water technology.
We need the smartest technology, especially in these times of climate change and financial constraints.
I’m pleased to say that our policy is bearing fruit.
And I’m proud to be able to show you the results at this trade fair.
Take Nereda, for example, a new way of treating waste water, using bacteria that grow in compact granules.
It reduces chemical and energy consumption, takes up much less space and drastically cuts costs. The first Nereda treatment plant was opened last year – a world first.
Another good example is Schiphol Airport, which will soon be home to a unique project to extract phosphate from waste water.
That’s good for the environment, and farmers around Schiphol can use the phosphate on their land.
Many Dutch companies have stands here at Wasser Berlin, so I encourage you to go along and learn about their work.
We are keen to apply our knowledge of water in other countries.
In fact, you’ll find us doing business in 73 countries. The water sector as a whole generates 180,000 jobs and exports worth 18 billion euros for our country.
But we don’t claim to know everything.
We also rely on other countries.
Just look at the longstanding cooperation on the Rhine between the Netherlands and Germany.
Only a few decades ago, untreated waste water was regularly discharged into the Rhine. All life in the river disappeared and drinking water became polluted.
In 1986, a fire at the Sandoz chemical plant near Basel sent tons of toxins into the river.
This was the last straw, prompting the countries along the Rhine to set up the Rhine Action Programme, led by Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Pollutants were reduced and waste water cleaned.
The programme has proved a success.
The quality of the water in the Rhine has greatly improved.
And that isn’t only down to advances in environmental technology. The main driving force has been the collective will to share this technology with each other to solve the problem.
And that’s exactly what this trade fair is about.
If I look at the Netherlands and Germany, I see so many opportunities for stepping up that cooperation.
International cooperation doesn’t always have to happen in a faraway country.
Why not seek cooperation closer to home? Because together we can fend off competition from emerging markets in Asia more successfully.
And that will benefit both our economies.
As well as the people we are ultimately doing it for.
That’s why I’m looking forward to this afternoon’s joint German-Dutch symposium.
We will bring Dutch and German water innovators together to look for smart solutions to the problems we both face.
I am convinced that we can do more for each other!
And that’s exactly why this international trade fair is so important.
Ladies and gentleman, Wasser Berlin is all about water.
Or is it?
It’s actually about much more than water.
It’s about safeguarding life,
and improving international cooperation.
I wish you an inspiring time here at Wasser Berlin.