Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, at the Polish-Dutch Water and Transport Dialogue seminar, Warsaw

Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Mrs. Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, visited with a trade mission EU member state Poland. She was accompanied by 35 Dutch companies. Main topics of her visit were transport, in particular rail transport and inland shipping, and climate adaptation and water.

Ladies and gentlemen,
dzień dobry!
It’s great to be here, surrounded by so much Polish-Dutch expertise.

Today is already the second day of our visit to Poland.
The aim is to deepen and strengthen the ties between Poland and the Netherlands, especially in the fields of transport and water.

Yesterday, in Wrocław, we did so by signing a Letter of Intent on Water Resources. with the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation.
It lays a strong formal basis for four years of further cooperation in many areas.

The launch of the first direct rail freight link between South Poland and the Netherlands also literally strengthens our ties.
A great milestone!

And it’s in keeping with the long-standing ties between Poland and the Netherlands. Ties that go back many centuries, and are even visible in the landscape.

I’m not just talking about polders, canals and willows.
A lot of Dutch words have also entered the Polish language: polder, smaak, kraan, transport…

And our words for ‘water’ are very similar: water and woda.
But that’s pretty much where my knowledge of Polish ends!

Poland and the Netherlands have close ties.
As far back as the sixteenth century, Dutchmen went to Poland to drain swamps and create fertile polders.

Later, those ties were strengthened by the Hanseatic League.
Grain and timber were transported by sea from Polish and other Baltic ports, to be traded in other countries.

This trade greatly boosted economic development − thanks to accessible ports, a good connection with the hinterland and international cooperation.

It’s in that tradition of trade, knowledge exchange and the quest for progress that we stand here today.
With new parties, new ambitions, and similar challenges in the fields of water and transport − the two themes that are central today.

Poland’s investment in rail and water transport reveals its ambitions. By 2030 your country wants 30 per cent of freight transport to go by rail or water. That’s quite a challenge!

But it’s an ambition my country recognises. We, too, are a country of transport and logistics. Take our ports: Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Every year, around 550 million tonnes of freight arrive there.
Most of it then travels deeper into Europe by road, rail and water.

That’s why we’re continually investing in our ports’ accessibility.
Because they’re gateways to Europe, just as they were 500 years ago.

And we’re looking closely at ways to better exploit transport by water and rail.
After all, five thousand kilometres of inland waterways connect our ports directly to major industrial areas and population centres in Europe!

And by means of smart terminals and IT, we can connect road transport ever better with water and rail transport.

When it comes to water, the key question is this: how do you make sure that water’s not your enemy but your friend?
A question my country has grappled with for centuries.
After all, two thirds of my country is vulnerable to flooding. 70 per cent of our GDP is earned in an area that lies below sea level.

We have learnt to view the water issue from different perspectives.
The main aim of our first Delta Plan was to keep water out.
Our new Delta Plan focuses on being better prepared for climate change, and being able to adapt to climate change flexibly.

Better prepared, because we want both to improve flood prevention, and to reduce the impact of flooding.
And flexible because the future is uncertain: we know the sea level is rising, but not exactly how much.
We know that weather patterns will change with the climate but we don’t know exactly how.
Apart from that, we can expect more extreme rainfall and more drought.

I’m not just talking about water security, but also water quality.
Our country has the best unchlorinated drinking water in the world!
But it’s a constant challenge to maintain that quality, because of issues like increasing salinisation from the North Sea.

We saw that this summer.
Our country was hit by a long, dry spell.
As a result, soil salinity increased rapidly.

I had to consider extra measures – like getting tankers to ship in freshwater supplies to prevent tap water from becoming too salty. Luckily it rained just in time, so this measure wasn’t necessary.

We’re always curious to see how other countries tackle issues like water and climate change.

And Poland is no exception! Take your plan to make all Polish cities with more than a hundred thousand inhabitants climate-proof. An ambitious and highly interesting initiative!

For the Dutch, any issue to do with water and transport is right up our street. So we’re happy to make our expertise available – and of course by helping others we’re also helping ourselves!

That’s why I’m here with a big delegation comprising representatives of businesses, institutions, port authorities and cities. They all want to deepen existing ties or enter into new partnerships.

The Netherlands and Poland are no strangers to each other. We already exchange knowledge in a great many areas. We already have many shared projects. And that only gives us a taste for more!

I wish you an inspiring seminar.