An extra €70m to €80m a year needs to be spent to bring Dutch embassies up to scratch, the government advisory board for international affairs AIV said in a new report.
The report said increasing global dangers make the tasks of embassies wider and more complex but that there have been sharp cost reductions in the Dutch diplomatic corps in recent years.
Staff levels have been cut by one-third compared to 20 years ago and interns are being assigned to posts formerly held by diplomats, the AIV claims.
The assumption that physical presence is unnecessary with new developments in communications is false, the report says. Dutch companies abroad need help in opening doors, particularly in protectionist countries.
In particular, the AIV said a number of embassies which were closed recently in Africa and South America need to be reopened. And priority should go to countries on the eastern and southern flanks of Europe.
‘We are understaffed in cities that are very important for the Netherlands. In Ukraine, Sweden, the Baltic States – all posts that are important for our relations with Russia – the staffing is minimal,’ report co-compiler Fred van Staten told the NRC.
In addition, more preliminary talks about EU matters take place away from EU official circuits in Brussels,’ he said. ‘If you want to make a mark in Brussels, you must be able to find as many allies as possible in the capitals. Then you must have well-staffed embassies there.’
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