Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Dutch Diplo Talk

New Diplomacy: Change of culture or practice?

19 Jun 2015

King Alexander, Queen Maxima in the White House (ANP)

The Netherlands is renewing its approach toward diplomacy, but what does that mean precisely? Will we behave more diplomatically than before? Will we improve the diplomatic training of our staff? Or is there more to it?

I know the cultural picture of the Dutch, in part, is that we speak many languages, especially the blunt ones. The Economist once compared different European cultures, including in the positive column for the Dutch that “They know it all.” However, in the negative column, The Economist also listed for the Dutch that “They know it all.”

A little kingdom, not a power player

We could indeed become better listeners, engage in small talk, and be more polite, cautious, and clever. But in my opinion, we have to realize that in the end our little kingdom by the sea cannot be a power player. And we should focus on not losing other cultural assets that are attributed to the Dutch: predictable, trustworthy, and transparent.

As the ancient Greeks taught us, diplomacy is the discipline, art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups, mostly states. The issue could be war and peace or human rights, but the topic of diplomacy between the Netherlands and the United States is economics and trade, of course.

Most of our work is informal, though we sometimes need endorsement at the political level. Our goal is to improve prosperity and sustainability in the Netherlands. We make this possible through our American network geared toward innovative entrepreneurship. Apart from a few professional diplomats, all supportand local staff as well as (semi-) private Dutch partners — like knowledge institutions, matchmakers and founders networks — will play their role. This is an essential part of our new diplomacy.


This blog was posted earlier in

Share Button
  • 19 Jun 2015, 8:15
  • Posted in Diplomacy
  • No comments yet

About the author

Hugo Von Meijenfeldt
Written by Hugo Von Meijenfeldt

Consul-General in San Francisco

Hugo von Meijenfeldt was appointed as representative for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 13 westernmost United States in August 2013.

Prior to his current position, Hugo was Deputy Director General at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. He also served as Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2009 until 2013. In this capacity, he led Dutch participation in global diplomatic activities to reach a climate agreement.

Previously, Hugo was Director for Soil, Water and Rural Environment. For several years he held the position of Deputy Director for International Affairs, Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Policy of UN-ECE Geneva, and Head of the European Policy Division (including the EU Presidency in 1997). From 1982 until 1991, he was Legal Counsel to the soil clean-up division.

Hugo earned his Masters in Public Law and Policy at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1981. He is member of the WorldConnectors and the Sustainability Challenge Foundation.