Koenders to strengthen diplomacy efforts in response to instability on Europe’s borders
In the light of the current international situation, it is essential to strengthen foreign policy. Security, migration, conflict and diplomacy and are closely interconnected issues. Foreign minister Bert Koenders is therefore boosting capacity at the Dutch embassies in the arc of instability around Europe. The relevant departments at the ministry will also be enlarged. ‘Current developments in the world require a strong foreign policy,’ Mr Koenders said in a letter to the House of Representatives.
This is made possible by a reverse in cutbacks totalling €20 million, following a motion submitted by MP Bram van Ojik. ‘This turnaround in the funding of our diplomacy efforts has come not a moment too soon,’ said Mr Koenders.
Eastern and southern flanks
Chargés d’affaires ad interim will be assigned to Belarus and Moldova. ‘These countries are of key importance to stability on Europe’s eastern border,’ said the minister. ‘The Netherlands doesn’t have embassies there, but will now be represented permanently by diplomats in Minsk and Chişinău.’
Existing diplomatic missions on Europe’s southern flank are also to be augmented: Algiers, Amman, Ankara, Beirut, Doha, Muscat, Rabat, Ramallah, Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Tehran. The Dutch representation to NATO is currently the smallest ever, but will now be expanded. The ministry will receive extra capacity for units focusing on Russia, Ukraine, Iraq/Syria, Libya and Yemen. There will also be a greater focus on international counterterrorism efforts and an early warning unit will be set up to enable a quick response if a country is on the verge of destabilising.
The increasing migration flows and the human tragedy unfolding as a result also pose great challenges to our diplomatic efforts. ‘The EU must act in unison in this respect,’ said Mr Koenders. To facilitate a joint approach in the Horn of Africa and the western Balkans, more staff will be assigned to the missions in Skopje and Addis Ababa. The embassies in Ankara, Athens, Rome and Nicosia will also receive more capacity. At the ministry, the migration task force and the migration and development department will both be expanded. Greater efforts are also needed in the 3D approach and the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
‘In addition, we’re constantly adapting the diplomatic service, so that we can seize opportunities for Dutch businesses as they arise,’ the minister wrote. ‘In that light we’re expanding our diplomatic missions in Yangon (Myanmar), Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) and Almaty (Kazakhstan).’ Yangon will have a fully fledged embassy instead of the current economic mission. The trade office with its ‘laptop diplomat’ in Abidjan will also be scaled up to an embassy. And the current economic office in Almaty will become an embassy office.
This investment in people is necessary according to Mr Koenders. ‘A strong foreign policy requires a flexible organisation and excellent diplomats promoting Dutch interests in strategic locations,’ he said. ‘Our strength lies in our people. They gather information, build networks, influence partners, call governments to account, support and monitor partner organisations and identify and seize opportunities. That is precisely what we are looking to strengthen.’