Restyled bilateral NL-UK conference very well received
The first NL-UK North Sea Neighbours Conference, on Monday 2 March 2020 in The Hague, brought together British and Dutch policymakers, business leaders, academics and civil society representatives to pool ideas, expertise and best practice. This year's theme was cyber security, focusing on issues around accountability and capacity building.
The North Sea Neighbours Conference builds on the success of the Apeldoorn Conference. In the restyled set up there is more focus on the role of government and civil service, but still with input from business leaders and representatives of think tanks and NGOs from both sides of the North Sea.
It immediately became apparent how valuable it is to bring parties together that work on a similar problem but that don't interact with one another on a day to day basis, and to encourage them to have an open discussion in which everyone is free to speak their mind. Particularly interesting were debates where solutions proposed by one group were viewed differently by another. What's good for business is not necessarily good for civil society and vice versa. What role can government play in regulating in those instances? Is stricter government regulation even desirable? Cyber interference of regimes elsewhere in the world can have a negative impact on the cyber security of citizens and businesses in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, too. These were just some of the topics that were tabled at the many discussions. There was plenty to talk about, and the debates were rich.
New set up was well received
The main aim of the North Sea Neighbours conference is to build and maintain lasting relationships and networks between parties from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. "I can honestly say: mission accomplished", Dutch Ambassador to the UK Simon Smits said afterwards. "The conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the dinner at the Rolzaal were very well received by all speakers, participants and alumni from previous conferences." Ambassador Smits co-hosted the conference with his British counterpart: Peter Wilson, British Ambassador to the Netherlands.
Next year in the United Kingdom
This year, the conference was organised at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the help from the British Council, the British Embassy in the Netherlands and the Dutch Embassy in the UK. Next year, the North Sea Neighbours Conference will take place in the UK, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Dutch Embassy in the London will again be very closely involved in organising that 2021 edition.