Thursday, December 8, 2022

Sochi-delegation debate

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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions.

By Bonnie Klap.

In The Netherlands there is always some kind of national debate going on. Last December it was the debate about “Sinterklaas” and his “Zwarte Piet,” or  Black Peter, whom some viewed as racist and a throwback to the times of slavery. This  time there is a fierce debate going on  about what is referred to in the press as the ‘Sochi-delegation.’  His Majesty  King Willem-Alexander, Her Majesty Queen Maxima, Prime-Minister Mark Rutte and Minister of Sports, Mrs. Edith Schippers,  will  attend the Sochi  2014 Wintergames. The fact that such a  top-level delegation will travel to Sochi does not sit well with some, as they see the attendance of a King, a Queen, a Prime-Minister and one of his Cabinet-Ministers as an act of condonation  toward the handling of gay rights in Russia. Passionate statements are being made on both sides of the issue. Truth be told, The Netherlands is – and always has been – protective of the rights of gay people. Not only do prominent politicians and other dignitaries make it  a point of being highly visible at the Annual Gay Parade in Amsterdam, but The Netherlands has even put  the rights of gays, lesbians and transgenders on the UN-agenda as one of its key points. Moreover, unlike  The Netherlands, its allies  such as the US, Germany and France have made a clear decision not to send a high level delegation to Sochi.   Hence, the opponents of the Dutch delegation attending the Sochi-wintergames argue that, at the very least, The Netherlands is sending Russia mixed signals. Not so, the proponents counter. Sports and politics should at all times remain totally separated and the two have nothing to do with each other. Indeed, so the proponents  argue,  the very fact that this high-level delegation includes  Royalty and a Prime-Minister, will facilitate the dialogue on this heated topic between Prime-Minister Mark Rutte and Russian dignitaries. Prime-Minister Mark Rutte finds himself in a hardly enviable position, certainly now that several well-known VVD-party colleagues of his, such as EU-commissioner Mrs. Neelie Kroes, have  recently openly questioned the wisdom of  his decision to attend. Certainly something can be said for both sides and the Prime-Minister is probably  handling this thorny issue in the best way he can. In part coerced by several vocal Members of Parliament, Prime-Minister Rutte has promised to “discuss” the rights of homosexuals during his trip to Sochi and “if possible” even mention it to Russian President Putin.

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