It is time for major reforms to European development cooperation. Fortunately European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs is taking steps in the right direction, but more is needed. This was the response by Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation Ben Knapen to the presentation of the annual report on European development programmes.
Foreign minister Uri Rosenthal has welcomed the news of the Syrian Prime Minister’s defection. ‘This shows that there are cracks in the regime,’ he said. ‘Army officers and diplomats had already defected; now Assad is losing the support of trusted leaders. The more officials who give up their loyalty to Assad, the better. This weakens the regime from within. The Dutch government would encourage other officials to follow this example.’
Foreign minister Uri Rosenthal is pleased with reports that the Syrian prime minister has now defected. ‘Cracks are appearing in the regime. Assad is now losing the support of his confidants. We’ve already seen the defections of diplomats and members of the military.’
The Netherlands is giving an extra €1 million in aid to victims of the conflict in Syria. The Red Cross will use the money to provide 200,000 Syrians with food and medical help.
If Europe wants to be effective when it comes to foreign policy, it ‘first needs to put its own affairs in order’. This was foreign minister Uri Rosenthal’s message following the fourth Future of Europe Group discussion on EU foreign policy, attended by Mr Rosenthal and 10 of his European counterparts. Mr Rosenthal believes that, at the moment, the emphasis should be on enhancing competitiveness and thus economic growth within the EU.
In September the Netherlands will be hosting the fourth meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People International Working Group on Sanctions. This coalition of like-minded countries meets regularly to discuss sanctions against Syria and ways of getting more countries to join in them. During the meeting in the Netherlands, the main focus will be on improving the sanctions against the Syrian regime. ‘I hope that by that time the situation in Syria will have changed for the better. But now we need to step up pressure on the regime,’ said foreign minister Uri Rosenthal.
The female condom manufactured by Cupid Ltd has been placed on the United Nations’ list of prequalified condom manufacturers. This means that there are now two brands of female condoms that can be purchased around the world by major international donors and by UN programmes like UNFPA. ‘This is the first step towards increased competition and a drop in prices,’ said Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation Ben Knapen.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to reorganise its cultural activities in France. In the future, its work in Paris will be more closely coordinated with that of the Dutch diplomatic representations in other major cultural centres such as New York, London and Berlin.
The Dutch government is making €5.3 million extra available for humanitarian aid to Mali, where a food crisis is affecting over 4 million people. A conflict is also raging in the northern part of this Sahel country. As a result, around 160,000 people have become displaced in Mali itself, while over 180,000 Malian refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.
‘For years the Netherlands has been committed to promoting people’s right to decide for themselves whether, when and with whom to have children, and to determine the size of their own families. And we’ve been successful, both in the Netherlands and in developing countries.