Ambassador to Việt Nam Elsbeth Akkerman. — VNS Photo Khánh Chi
Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte will pay an official visit to Việt Nam from April 9 – 11 at the invitation of Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc. The country’s ambassador to Việt Nam, Elsbeth Akkerman, speaks to Việt Nam News about the visit and the bilateral relationship between the countries.
What is the significance of the visit to Việt Nam by the Dutch Prime Minister?
In addition to PM Rutte, his delegation will include the Minister of Infrastructure and Water, Vice Minister of Agriculture, State Secretary of Finance, and more than 100 business representatives representing 70 companies in a number of areas in which the Netherlands and Việt Nam have close ties. And the purpose of the PM’s visit is to strengthen and broaden these ties.
The purpose of the visit also allows us to underline the economic relationship that goes way beyond 45 years. These economic ties have so far been in the field of agriculture, food security, water and climate change. These are topics that are very close to the hearts and minds of both Dutch and Vietnamese people because we are both open economies and delta countries, so for the large part the Netherlands and Việt Nam are below sea level and that very much heightens the impacts of climate change.
The visit will be an opportunity for him to underline the importance of the partnership with Việt Nam in a broader context. We are both committed to achieving the sustainable development goals and our ambitions in climate change. I found that Việt Nam is very focused on this, very dedicated and committed to this. I assume that our Prime Ministers will also talk a lot about these very important ambitions, not only for the Netherlands and Việt Nam but also for the rest of the world as these are global issues that matter to everybody.
Will the Netherlands share with Việt Nam new ways to better adapt to climate change?
Wholeheartedly, yes. The Netherlands is and will continue to be partner of Việt Nam in climate change, both in mitigation as well as adaptation. And in relation to the latter, Prime Minister Phúc and Prime Minister Rutte will have a dialogue on agricultural transformation and the lessons that Việt Nam might take from our experiences. In that context, we will very closely work on circular approaches of agriculture and the adaptation of smart technologies so we are a partner for Việt Nam in that. It is so necessary that we exchange these experiences because this is part of global development and global challenges that we both have to face.
The Netherlands’ PM has initiated a movement to start an alliance of countries that are very much dedicated to climate change adaptation and the Prime Ministers and the ministers of both sides will have dialogue on Việt Nam being one of the partners in this coalition for climate change adaptation.
Could you please highlight focal points in bilateral ties?
Water and agriculture are the most visible. We have worked with the Vietnamese government, research institutes, provinces and localities on the drafting of the Mekong Delta Plan. And PM Phúc ordered Resolution 120 for the implementation of that plan, and that’s a great joint achievement. We are looking forward to taking on board the implementation of both the plan and the resolution. Other topics we are currently working on include maritime issues. You can see both in Hải Phòng and in HCM City, there are large facilities on shipbuilding, port management, inland water transport. If you use inland waterways instead of road transport, the impacts on the environment will be less. So in that sense we are working on smart ways of transport, and also achieving mutual ambitions to lessen negative pressure on the environment.
The population of Việt Nam is big and growing and there is an enormous flow of people from the countryside to urban areas. The Netherlands is a small country and we don’t have as many people as Việt Nam but we also know about dense population and urbanisation so here we seek cooperation with Việt Nam as a whole and with large cities like HCM City and Hà Nội. So we talk about lighting, urban mobility, and access to services. These are also the future fields of co-operation where we can find help from smart technologies.
What are your priorities during your term to further promote the bilateral relationship?
It’s very important of course to foster the bilateral relationship, but in such a way that companies and private actors contribute to public goals. The explicit policy of the Dutch Government is that companies do their business in a sustainable way. There is nothing wrong with making profit, but not at the cost of people and the planet. So do it in a balanced way and make sure that when you earn your money you take care of the environment, both the natural and societal environment.
This will be the cause of my involvement. It is very necessary to engage businesses, research institutes, Government officials, representatives of civil society organisations so that we come up with smart and sustainable solutions.
For me as an ambassador, I have an eye for talent and skills development of young people to ensure that young people can use their talent and creativity to contribute to the further development of Việt Nam; and an eye on inclusiveness and diversity. Also, I will have special eyes for the participation, equal treatment, and empowerment of women, and the LGBT community. VNS