Text: M. Zisso; Photo: Pavel Matela
On the occasion of King‘s Day, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H.E. Mr Daan Huisinga, and Mrs Anne Huisinga-Paret hosted a reception at the Ambassador‘s residence.
Here are selected parts of the speech H.E. Daan Huisinga delivered on this occasion.
Dear Ministers, Members of Parliament, your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests.
A warm welcome on this cold day at the Dutch residence, where Dutch ambassadors have celebrated this special day for almost 75 years. An especially warm welcome to our guest of honor, the minister for European Affairs of the Czech Republic, Mikuláš Bek, and Mrs Bek. Pleasure also to welcome again the last year’s guest of honor, Minister of Industry and Trade, Josef Síkela.
On King’s Day we celebrate two things:
• our independence as a nation, for which we fought Spain for 80 years and which was formalized in 1648;
• the birthday of His Majesty, King Willem-Alexander. This celebration unites our country every year as people dress up in orange and enjoy concerts, games, special events as well as the many flea markets where kids (and some adults) try to make extra pocket money by selling whatever they can find in their home attics.
In the past year, we have seen what freedom means and what it costs to defend this. I am of course talking about Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine and Ukraine’s admirable courage and resourcefulness in defending itself.
When we gathered here in April 2022, we were still quite anxious about developments in Ukraine, the scale and the brutality of the Russian onslaught. One year later, in spite of the enormous human suffering and destruction, we can be much more confident. The invasion has been brought to a halt, the tables are turned, Ukraine is pushing Russia out.
We must do all we can to help Ukraine. The Dutch government remains committed to support Ukraine, to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes.
In doing this, we cooperate closely with Czechia: 90 T-72 tanks have been modernized here – financed
by the Netherlands and the US in equal parts. The Netherlands also funded 100 vehicles with anti-aircraft guns, which are being assembled here in Czechia.
We also work with Czechia to hold Russian soldiers and their leaders accountable for the numerous war crimes committed in Ukraine. Up to 15 Czech experts joined a Dutch-led multinational team that collects evidence for the International Criminal Court.
In my speech last year, I looked forward to the Czech EU presidency. Today, I can look back on a successful EU presidency. Czechia can be proud of its achievements. Maintaining EU unity on Ukraine; adopting sanctions packages; managing the energy crisis, with meetings until the very end of the Presidency. Our guest of honor, Minister Bek, played a central role in this success, as well as Minister Síkela, on the economic front.
Czechia has made a reputation for itself by being a ‘work horse’ presidency – seen and respected by all of the EU (and beyond).
For our embassy team, this meant 72 incoming delegations. Including our PM and other members of the government. Although they came primarily for the EU Presidency, we managed to squeeze in quite some bilateral business. This included the visits of our ministers of Agriculture, Transport, Legal Protection, Migration and Digitization. The visit of Minister of Defense Ollongren actually led to aforementioned cooperation with Czechia to provide weapons to Ukraine.
I say this not to show-case our efforts, but to illustrate that Czechia is back in the center of Europe as a trusted ally and partner, with the determination, the experience, and the skills to make a difference in the Union – our Union – that is still taking shape.
Besides the war in Ukraine and the Presidency, one might forget all the other work the embassy is involved in. To briefly highlight:
- In September 2022, the LNG terminal in Eemshaven was launched, where Czechia lands more than 1/3 of its annual gas needs. Realized in 6 months, with Minister Síkela as one of the main drivers on the Czech side. It is an example of European solidarity; of what we can achieve in the trusted framework of the EU.
- The Czech Circular Hotspot and the Circular Academy were launched with strong Dutch support, promoting the reduction of waste, re-using valuable materials, and reducing the strain on resources.
- I am also proud of the masterclass on Cities of the Future, being taught at the Technical University by Dutch architect Winy Maas. It embodies the long- standing cooperation in architecture and spatial planning between Czech and Dutch experts.
- Our cooperation on smart industry continues. You saw some examples of Dutch innovation power in the videos on display in the hallway.
- And we continue to work with Czech parties to promote cycling in ways that work for local communities. Just yesterday, I visited mayor Svoboda of Dobříš – also present here today – to witness his bike-to-school project and share similar Dutch best practices with students and members of the town council.
Before I give the floor to our guest of honor, let me thank the Embassy team. Most of them are here, behind me, while some are still on duty at the front door and in the kitchen. Without all of them, our work as an Embassy, including this event, would not be possible.
The other people who made this event possible are our sponsors, representing the thriving Dutch business community in Czechia. Thanks to their efforts and that of their Czech counterparts, the Netherlands occupies a permanent place in the top 10 of Czechia’s economic partners.