New Year’s Greeting 2021 from Ambassador Horinouchi

Dear everyone,

Let me start by wishing you a happy New Year.

It is my second time to celebrate New Year here since I took office in the Netherlands. In my New Year’s Greeting I would like to take the chance to reflect upon the past year and discuss my ambitions for the coming year as well.

Our lives have been changed completely by the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, which is still rampant throughout the world. Let me first of all express my sympathy to everyone who has become a victim of the Novel Coronavirus and my utmost respect to all the medical personnel that are working tirelessly on the front lines. The Netherlands was hit by an unprecedented spread of the infection and has been fighting the Novel Coronavirus by taking strict measures such as the ‘intelligent lockdown’ in March, the ‘partial lockdown’ in October and the strictest ‘lockdown’ in December. I believe many people have been struggling due to the impact it has had on their work and daily lives during this time. It is my sincere hope that the day where everyone can lead an unrestricted life will come as soon as possible.

As for politics, the Dutch political world is working towards the elections planned for the 17th of March this year and each party is preparing to elect a party leader and to  consolidate a party programme.  I will closely follow the process after the elections.
On the topic of bilateral relations, Prime Minister Suga held a summit telephone talk with Prime Minister Rutte last December. As strategic partners,  with common basic values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the two leaders shared the view to work together to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”. They affirmed that both countries would strengthen their cooperation in a wide range of areas including the economic sphere  and in the international fora. In addition, in May last year Foreign Minister Motegi held a conference call with Foreign Minister Blok to exchange ideas.

Regarding the economic ties between our two countries, they remain strong thanks to the efforts of both Japanese and Dutch companies and organizations that support trade and investments. This year marks the 25th year since the Japan-Netherlands Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement was signed. I am looking forward to the further development of collaboration in the field of innovations. We will also continue to do our utmost to let the economic activities between Japan and the Netherlands progress smoothly.

The Novel Coronavirus had a big impact on our cultural and PR activities as well and we had to give up on many of them last year. Even under these circumstances, however, we participated in the online edition of the Embassy Festival 2020 and we posted videos introducing Japan regularly on our SNS (Embassy’s Facebook). This way we have engaged in new forms of introducing Japanese culture and sharing information. Additionally, the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games is planned for this summer. Taking this opportunity, the local municipalities of Japan and the Netherlands are accelerating international exchanges with a focus on sports.

Meanwhile, in November last year a shooting incident occurred at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in The Hague and the prosecution announced that it had a terrorist motive. Several arrests have been made of people suspected to be related to terrorist activities and the serious threat of terrorism in the Netherlands continues. Furthermore, in December a stabbing incident occurred in the centre of The Hague and the security situation in general is highly unpredictable. To us as an Embassy of Japan, ensuring the safety of Japanese residents is a matter of the highest priority. To ensure their safety we will continue to work closely and deepen the cooperation with the Dutch security authorities and to provide information reliably so that everyone can spend their time in the Netherlands with peace of mind.

Moving on to the topic of international organizations, there was very good news since incumbent Judge IWASAWA Yuji was successfully re-elected to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with the majority of votes. For Japan the Rule of Law is the pillar of diplomacy and we will continue, this year as well, to actively contribute to the field of international justice.

With regard to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), there was unfortunately a new case of chemical weapons use last year. Even under the current circumstances debates regarding the prohibition and abolition of chemical weapons have continued and Japan has also actively participated. Through discussions we will continue to contribute to the international initiatives for the disarmament, banning and non-proliferation of chemical weapons.

In 2021 as well we will endeavour to fulfil the duties of the Embassy together with its staff and we will keep a close eye on the future developments surrounding the Netherlands and Japan.

Hereby I would like to express my best wishes, praying for your happiness, success and most importantly good health in the new year.
Ambassador HORINOUCHI Hidehisa