H.E. Mr. Govert Jan Bijl de Vroe, Ambassador of the Netherlands - interview
FinnCham interviewed H.E. Mr. Govert Jan Bijl de Vroe, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Finland in April 2022. Businesses and sustainability are at the heart of the new government’s coalition agreement. The aim is to make the Netherlands ready for the future – climate-neutral, fossil-free and circular – with a clean energy supply and green industrial policies.
Businesses play a key role in the transition.
FinnCham interviewed H.E. Mr. Govert Jan Bijl de Vroe, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Finland in April 2022.
In January 2022, the fourth government led by Prime Minister Mr. Mark Rutte was sworn in. How does the government program influence the economic development of the Netherlands?
Businesses and sustainability are at the heart of the new government’s coalition agreement. The aim is to make the Netherlands ready for the future – climate-neutral, fossil-free and circular – with a clean energy supply and green industrial policies.
Businesses play a key role in the transition. The government wants to take aboard companies of all sizes (entrepreneurs, startups, SMEs as well as large corporations), so that future industries will run on clean energy and bio-based raw materials, and will produce circular products.
The Netherlands emphasises international collaboration in transitioning to a sustainable, green economy. In addition, the current geopolitical situation is accelerating the energy transition as well as highlighting the importance of cyber security. These are areas where the Netherlands and Finland can join forces.
What are the business collaboration opportunities for Dutch and Finnish companies?
There are currently lots of opportunities – particularly related to the green and digital transition. For instance, both countries are stimulating the supply of renewable energy, and exploring the production and use of sustainable hydrogen.
In addition, moving from a linear to a circular economy offers (literally) endless business opportunities. Innovative Dutch and Finnish businesses already pioneer in circular solutions, and opportunities arise in circular design & textiles, the bioeconomy and the built environment – just to name a few sectors.
Furthermore, both the Netherlands and Finland are in an excellent position to make the most out of the economic opportunities that arise from digitalization. Both countries are frontrunners in research and development of new technologies, and are countries with open and international markets as well as world-class digital infrastructures. Therefore, there are enormous opportunities in our markets.
As the Dutch digitalization strategy states, the Netherlands aims to become a digital frontrunner in Europe – a testbed for companies from all over the world, where they can develop and test new applications and where successful innovations are then rolled out on a large scale. The same can be said for Finnish goals on the digital front, and therefore, both countries are home to companies and knowledge institutions that are very advanced in creating various digital solutions and digitalizing the society. The fast-growing sectors include, but are certainly not limited to, digital health technologies, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, smart logistics and cities, cloud computing, and telecommunications.
How would you briefly advise Finnish enterprises going to the Netherlands and Dutch companies coming to Finland?
Explore the market and get connected. Think together. Be open to new opportunities. Dutch and Finnish businesses get along pretty smoothly – both countries have an open and direct business culture, with low hierarchy.
Sustainability and responsibility are much used words today. How are they taken care by Dutch businesses? Would there be opportunities for Finnish-Dutch cooperation in achieving sustainability targets?
We see that companies in both the Netherlands and Finland are taking the initiative to make their business more sustainable and responsible. Every day companies come up with new cutting-edge solutions that keep our planet a safe and pleasant place to live.
The Dutch government is also supporting businesses to become more sustainable, with a special focus on SMEs. This can include knowledge sharing, networking opportunities, public-private partnerships and financing. For instance, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO gives advice for businesses on how they can contribute to Sustainable Development Goals.
Sustainability is also at the core our embassy’s trade activities: this is where we expect most of the business opportunities arise in the coming years.
Mr. Ambassador, please tell us which kinds of aims as the Ambassador of the Netherlands do you have in Finland during your stay in Finland.
Obviously my aim is, first of all, to connect. I am using every opportunity to meet as many Finnish people as I can. People have been very welcoming and willing to share information. I had heard about the cliché of Finns being quiet and withdrawn, but that has not been my experience at all.
I have been building up my network in Helsinki, meeting government officials, business people and people from all kinds of other walks of life. But I have also visited a number of the important hubs elsewhere in the country, from Mariehamn to Rovaniemi. Naturally, a lot is happening in the capital, but there are so many places out there that generate interesting trends and developments in business, science and culture. That’s why Dutch decisionmakers should come and see Finland for themselves. Me and my team are working to connect Dutch and Finnish representatives from both the public and private sector. And I am happy to say that the Dutch and the Finns simply ‘click’!
On substance, our Embassy focuses on Finnish-Dutch cooperation in the EU and other international organizations, security policy and economic diplomacy. In all these domains, my aim is to offer Dutch ideas and views to Finnish counterparts. We are like-minded, skilled and innovative and we can co-create solutions for many of today’s challenges -like, indeed, the green transition in Europe.
Travelling in the Netherlands – favourite places to visit and spend free time – and why – any pfannkuchen?
Now that travelling has become easier again, do come and visit! Amsterdam is an obvious destination and it is indeed very much worth it. A place that is easy to explore on foot or by bike, yet with a definite city vibe.
Of course there is more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam alone, so go and see some of the other vibrant inner cities, like Rotterdam, Utrecht, Groningen or Maastricht – the list is endless, but let me also mention the historic city of Haarlem, my home town.
Even in our densely populated country, you will find beautiful spots where you can go for a hike or where you can go cycling. The Netherlands has an extended network of bicycle routes, the country is flat and distances are limited. So hop on your rental bike and go! It is easy to get around, thanks also to the excellent public transport system. And you will find that most people speak English. Finally, Dutch cuisine is accessible, with a taste for local produce but with flavours from all over the world. It is about time to start booking…!
Questions Ms. Anne Hatanpää, Liaison Manager, Finland Chamber of Commerce
Pictures provided by the Embassy of the Netherlands