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Lody Embrechts - Ambassador at Embassy, Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE, and Hans Sandee - Consul General, Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE and Commissioner GeneralNetherlands Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai
Lody Embrechts - Ambassador at Embassy, Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE, and Hans Sandee - Consul General, Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE and Commissioner GeneralNetherlands Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai

The UAE and the Netherlands' partnership has come a long way and is becoming futuristic in character. Excerpts from an interview by Rhonita Patnaik

Lody Embrechts Ambassador at Embassy, Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE

Your views on the UAE-Netherlands bilateral relations today.

The UAE-Netherlands bilateral relation is 49 years old and has proven to be a robust one. Even in times of Covid-19, the UAE and the Netherlands has managed to partner with each other and cooperate on strategic matters like food security. The total export value of agro-food from the Netherlands to the UAE in 2019 was ?569.8 million. Last year, we observed a number of initiatives by Dutch and UAE companies to build smart farms in the UAE.

We very much hope this trend will continue and will broaden with cooperation in R&D and education as well. However, we have also seen an increase in the number of partnerships in more sectors like water, design, health, logistics and finance. Even during a challenging year, 2020 bilateral trade reached approx $6 billion. It is our sincere belief that opportunities for further growth are there. The fact that more than 400 companies and 550 participants from the UAE, Oman and the Netherlands took part in the first virtual 'Digital Trade Mission to the UAE' this year proves this point.

One of the focus areas of the Embassy and Consulate General is education. We hope that, in the coming years, we can see an increase in the number of UAE students in the Netherlands as well as Dutch students in the UAE.

Not only is our bilateral relationship built on a strong economic foundation, we are also working hard to build on our cultural relation. For this reason, together we will organise an online 'Cultural Marathon' from May 30 until June 5, 2021. Each day we will discuss a different aspect of the bilateral relationship. Education, culture and art, female entrepreneurship, agriculture, Expo and more topics will be discussed by the Netherlands and the UAE authorities. I invite you all in advance to join!

How does the relationship between the two governments translate for the Dutch diaspora?

By now, there are around 7,500 Dutch nationals living in the UAE and around 350 Dutch companies are present in the country. This number is still on the rise, even in times of Covid-19. Recently, we are seeing an increase in companies from the service and retail sector setting up in the UAE. Here, the Netherlands Business Council in Dubai and the BeNeLux Business Council in Abu Dhabi play an important role in connecting the Dutch business communities.

Many Dutch people appreciate the support they have received from the UAE in the past year. As the pandemic hit the world, UAE as a nation reacted promptly with the best interest of safety and wellbeing of all its people. The Dutch community were included in the vaccine rollout, which was highly acknowledged.

What sustainability initiatives are the Netherlands implementing across the country, in line with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Sustainability is the core aspect of the Netherlands' economical development. As I mentioned about agriculture before, all our policy and industry initiatives are driven by sustainability: a circular economy is the way forward. What this means, is to minimise the impact on the environment, usage of water and energy in a smarter way. In other words, reduce the footprint on the environment as much as possible. This is also our theme for Expo 2020 Dubai - 'Uniting water, energy and food'. The pavilion is designed as a sustainable biotope, a harvesting machine. The Netherlands pavilion at the Expo is built by using recycled as well degradable materials. When the Expo period is over, the pavilion will be demolished and the building materials will be repurposed. Nothing will go to waste!

What is also worthwhile mentioning is that, Dutch companies in the UAE took the initiative to create the Dutch Sustainability Group. This was done to support the UAE in achieving its sustainable development goals.

Hans Sandee Consul General Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UAE, and Commissioner General Netherlands Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai

What were the repatriation efforts taken by the Consulate and the support provided for expatriates returning to the UAE after the pandemic in 2020?

The Consulate General, in close co-operation with the Embassy, managed to repatriate all the Dutch citizens who requested to leave to the Netherlands when the pandemic started. It was a huge operation, requiring lot of efforts from my colleagues and close liaison with all the relevant stakeholders in Dubai, such as Dubai Airport,  Air France-KLM and Emirates airlines.  I'm so happy that we succeeded and am very proud of my team for making this possible.

The role of the Consulate in contributing to the welfare of the Dutch in the emirates?

The most important factor is that we are always available 24/7 in case of any urgent consular matter. And, also during the Covid-19, we would always be of assistance to the Dutch community including the general public and business officials.

The Netherlands' Expo 2020 Dubai Pavilion's theme is 'Uniting Water, Energy and Food', encompassing a naturally controlled climate. Can you please expand on why this was chosen and what is inside the structure?

The Netherlands Pavilion's theme has been chosen after consultations with key stakeholders in the Expo project, not only semi-government institutions but also the private sector and knowledge institutions. The Netherlands is an important global player when it comes to food security, water management and renewable energy, and the Netherlands is the coherent partner for addressing the global challenges that we face. In order to be able to provide for the growing world population (projected to be almost 10 billion by 2050) with food, energy and clean water, you have to find smart and sustainable solutions. That is what we showcase at the Netherlands pavilion. Our pavilion is basically a biotope, an architectural embodiment telling our story of uniting water, energy and food. We'll do this by bringing in top-notch Dutch technology and innovations.  

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