On Saturday 27 April, the Dutch celebrated the birthday of our King William Alexander. With 52 years and 6 years on the throne he is a relatively young monarch. But he and his beautiful family knows how to give a modern touch to a centuries old tradition, in a way that this royal institution remains highly respected and accepted in the turbulences and uncertainties of today’s world.
The Dutch have a long history of creativity and innovation, but in the meantime we are proud of our longstanding traditions. One of the companies that stirs up a lot of this national pride, is the Dutch national airline.
This year, KLM celebrates its 100th anniversary, which makes it the oldest still operating airline in the world. And for more than half of this time, KLM has had direct flights to Kuwait. Another longstanding tradition in the Netherlands is the use of our Parliament. As some of you might know, our Parliament is not seated in our capital, Amsterdam, but in The Hague. Our Parliament building dates back to the Middle Ages and therefore it is the oldest still functioning parliament in the world. The last longstanding tradition I really have to mention is our national anthem. It was written in 1570, 450 years old. We have the oldest national hymn in the world still in use.
It was written as a tribute to William of Orange, the leader of our fight for independence, and has ever since been highly popular. In addition to the traditions in my country, we should not forget the longstanding relations between the Netherlands and Kuwait. Dutch tradesmen arrived in the Gulf over 250 years ago looking for business. This business has continued until today, in 2018 we were again the number one trading partner of Kuwait among the 28 countries of the
European Union. Kuwaitis love our fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese. And what about Dutch flowers: no wedding without beautiful flowers from Holland! In order to boost the Kuwaiti agricultural production our engineers are setting up greenhouses and are assisting with all kind of equipment. Kuwaiti potatoes are delicious and have their origins in Holland, the same goes for most Kuwaiti dairy products.
For an ambassador it is a great joy to see so many examples of Dutch-Kuwaiti cooperation. Our bilateral relations are strong and diverse. Over the past year our countries have not only strengthened their economic ties, but the political ties as well. In 2018, both Kuwait and the Netherlands were members of the UN Security Council, and therefore our ministers were in close contact with one another.
In December, Foreign Minister Stef Blok visited Kuwait to discuss the relations with H.E. Sheikh Sabah al Khaled al Sabah, and he paid a courtesy visit to H.H. the Amir. Furthermore, in March Prime Minister Mark Rutte had a bilateral meeting with HH the Emir during the EU-Arab League summit in Egypt. Apart from these high level visits I like to mention the people to people contacts. Holland is very popular among Kuwaiti’s as a tourist destination. Many Kuwaitis visit Amsterdam, but I would like to invite you to travel to other charming medieval cities and green country-side landscapes. In addition to tourism, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kuwait together with the Kuwaiti Embassy in The Hague have organized the Diwaniya Project.
Through which students from both countries sit together and discuss a broad range of topics, comparing their cultures and traditions, and sharing their hopes and ambitions. The project was such a success, it will be expanded to the whole Gulf region.
The coming years the Dutch focus on the Gulf-region and Kuwait will be centered on three connected spearheads, in which the Dutch are world- leaders: Water, Energy and Food. For the development of Kuwait, and the ‘vision 2035’, these three themes are crucial. But these are interconnected, so the approach should be comprehensive. By working on these themes we are also serving the Sustainable Development Goals as formulated by the United Nations.
Kuwait, with its humanitarian tradition, is certainly a partner in achieving a cleaner, sustainable and better world. Further cooperation between Kuwait and Holland is possible on many different levels. One of which is the construction of the ambitious Silk City project. Our engineering companies are eager to start the works. Currently we are waiting for the tenders, but we would like to transform the paper drawings into reality.
I am sure that Dutch-Kuwaiti cooperation will be fruitful for many years to come. On behalf of my wife and the staff of the Embassy, I like to underline what a pleasure it is to live and work in Kuwait. The hospitality, the generosity and the frankness of the Kuwaiti’s and all the people we are working with is striking. I hope the relations between Kuwait and the Netherlands will continue to expand in the upcoming years.
BY FRANS POTUYT
Ambassador of Netherlands to Kuwait
Special to The Times, Kuwait