By Håkan Emsgård, Ambassador of Sweden to the Netherlands.
2014 is a very special year for me as Swedish Ambassador in the Netherlands. This year we are celebrating 400 years of diplomatic relations between Sweden and the Netherlands. A milestone in the relations between our countries, but also an excellent opportunity to look forward together.
On April 5, 1614 a treaty on defense, trade and shipping was signed between Sweden and the Netherlands. As part of this treaty, it was decided to exchange resident ambassadors, which makes the Netherlands the first country with which Sweden exchanged ambassadors in this way.
Relations between the countries have since then remained close. The extensive trade has linked our counties throughout the centuries. During the Dutch golden age in the 17th century trade with the Baltic region was a main source of wealth and prosperity for the Netherlands. Today, a large part of the Swedish foreign trade passes through the port of Rotterdam. Bilateral trade stands for close to seven billion euro per year. Sweden and the Netherlands rank among each other’s 10 largest export markets.
The celebrations in 2014 will focus on the excellent relationships that exist between our two countries. Rather than looking back, we are focusing on areas of mutual interest and where both countries face similar challenges – in order to shape our common future. Business between our two countries is central in this respect.
For me, there are three sectors that are particularly interesting when it comes to the bilateral relations. One of these sectors is innovation and research, with particular focus on sustainability – both Sweden and the Netherlands ranking high on the Global Competitive Index. What can we do in order to maintain these positions? Secondly, a very interesting sector is the creative industries sector; film, music, fashion, design. And thirdly we focus on public sector challenges, such as healthcare, ageing populations, education, local government, labor market participation. These are all challenges our two societies share and where joint solutions are needed. To learn from each other is a key.
One highlight of the celebration year took place in the beginning of April when the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia paid an official visit to the Netherlands, accompanied by the Swedish Minister for Trade, Dr. Ewa Björling. This two-day visit was a huge success, and showed also the close relationship between the Royal Families.
In addition to this, I am looking forward to a number of activities, ranging from a Swedish Month in The Hague, focus on Swedish film for a young audience at the international Cinekid festival in Amsterdam, business events in cooperation with the Brabant region and the Royal School of Technology, a digital bridge between The Netherlands and Sweden and much, much more. If you want to know more about the celebration year, please visit www.swe400nl.com