“There is peace even in the storm”
by Jeroen Nijland, Commissioner, Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency
2016 has been a turbulent year, for a number of reasons. Early on, we lost some of our most popular global icons in the world of entertainment, including David Bowie and Prince. Artists that seemed, somehow, as if they would always be around. Then, in June, the UK referendum resulted in a Brexit – with the UK voting to leave the European Union. And, whilst we were busy evaluating the implications of an EU without the UK, Donald Trump swept to victory in the US presidential elections against all odds.
Thanks to these, and other events the world suddenly appeared different and for some a little less certain and secure. The power of personality and persuasion loomed large in many of these outcomes – perhaps symbolic, or symptomatic, of our ever-globalizing world – and we struggled to make sense of the phenomenon.
All for one
Our parliament, in contrast to most, is based on proportional representation. This allows for many individual parties to share the platform, and there are currently 11 parties represented in parliament. The current coalition in the government, since 2012, is of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Labour Party (PvdA). Absolute majority by one party has, in fact, never been achieved and this means that the parties must agree to work together in a coalition, to collaborate, to cooperate and to jointly decide the best course for the economy. Once in government, coalitions are less prone to the effects of ‘policy swing’ and therefore provide a much more stable basis over the longer period, which is crucial for investment which always adopts a long-term perspective.
Checks and balances
In the Netherlands, many businesses hold the belief: “it’s not what we do for you, but what we do with you that counts.” This means that we believe in working together, in consultation, as multiple perspectives often lead to better understanding and optimal solutions for all parties concerned. Our form of government provides a series of checks and balances. This creates a very stable platform for governance and one in which minorities still have a voice. Our renowned affinity for coalitions and collaborative partnering extends not just into the business arena, but also into the sphere of labor relations. Cooperation and pragmatism regularly pave the way to amenable solutions: it’s not for nothing that the Netherlands has the lowest number of strikes in the EU.
This stability allows us to focus on consolidating our position at the heart of Europe, and on providing a solid base for enterprises seeking to establish a foothold in the EU – the world’s largest single market. Combine this with world-class physical and digital infrastructure, stable labor relations, a highly educated and multilingual work force, business-oriented tax system and corporate governance legislation and high quality of life, and one begins to see why the Netherlands is such an attractive proposition for foreign businesses wishing to establish a foothold in Europe.
Viewed through the lens of typical Dutch pragmatism, change often throws up new opportunities. Risk is often associated with reward and, here in the Netherlands, we are used to working together to make the most of every opportunity.
New year – new challenges
We have had to adapt to our ever-changing delta environment in order to survive and thrive. So, as we move forward into 2017, we will adapt once more to new circumstances. We will shape new policies. We will work with new partners and we will continue to adjust to a changing world. This is nothing new – this is what we have done for centuries. So, as the new year fast approaches, we can safely say, it will be very much ‘business as usual’ here in the Netherlands in 2017.
We look forward to a new set of challenges and a prosperous new year!
“There is peace even in the storm”
– Vincent van Gogh