The Values of Europe (Mini-series): A view from the Netherlands

His Excellency Karel van Oosterom Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Kingdom, highlights three values that the Dutch hold dear and seek to promote on a European and a global stage.

This blog forms part of a mini-series on European values, which will comprise of contributions on this subject from EU Ambassadors to the UK and UCL academics, running from 28 June-8 July 2022.

There are three values that we hold very dear in the Netherlands, but which are often taken for granted. This should not be the case and the Netherlands will continue to promote them in Europe. These values are being pragmatic, being outward-looking, and being open-minded.

Firstly, being pragmatic – or in other words, looking for consensus – is immensely important to the Dutch. We are a small country, of which half lies beneath sea level. God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands. By poldering we created more land, but we could not have done this without building consensus first and making sure we find pragmatic solutions. In the fight against climate change, especially for the younger generation, this is also the case. By sharing knowledge and jointly fighting climate change we can find new solutions. This has a practical dimension of sharing technology, but also a political dimension of persistence. This is why we miss the United Kingdom in the European Union. The realistic voice of the United Kingdom was and remains immensely important –  for example at COP 26 in Glasgow where important decision were made. Now we have to make sure we realise these goals, by building consensus and looking for pragmatic solutions together.

Secondly, we have to be outward-looking, specifically in terms of the rules-based international order. As a small country we rely on partner countries for our prosperity. However, we also take responsibility. For example, in the case of the war crimes that Russia is committing in Ukraine. We are building a coalition within the EU, but also with the British government to hold those who break international law accountable. We must make sure that war crimes do not go unpunished. In addition, we are organising a conference on accountability in July. This will take place in The Hague, home of the International Criminal Court. By cooperating, building coalitions and continuing to fight for the international rule of law, we will make sure these perpetrators see justice. 

Thirdly, we should be open-minded and tolerant. Historically the Netherlands has been an open society. We have welcomed religious groups from all over Europe who found a safe haven there. But being tolerant and open-minded is not only about religion. It is also about who we are, such LGBTQI+ or any other identity that you might have. You should be able to be who you are, but, even in Europe, that fundamental liberty is not yet a given. Therefore we promote being open-minded as a European value, because we want to make sure that equal rights are guaranteed for everyone. You have the right to be who you want, and to love who you want. There is no role for the government in that.

I hope you take these points to heart, think about them, and uphold them.

His Excellency Karel van Oosterom is Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Kingdom.

This blog is based on remarks made by the Ambassador at a UCL roundtable on the values of Europe, which took place as part of Quo Vadis, a four day festival convened by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, co-hosted by the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies and supported by the UCL European Institute.

A recording of the full event is available here.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and not of the UCL European Institute, nor of UCL.

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