New Year’s Greeting 2022 from Ambassador Horinouchi

Dear everyone,

Let me start by wishing you a happy New Year.

It is my third time to celebrate the 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.

Last year, like the year before, was a year of struggle against the Covid-19. The lockdown until early spring and the difficult situation since autumn still had a major impact, but there was a ray of hope with the long-awaited progress in vaccinations. In Japan, the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games were successfully held, although a year late, providing a cheerful subject for the world. I am particularly proud of the performance of the Japanese and Dutch teams, who achieved their best ever results. The fight against Covid-19 will continue this year as well, and you will face various restrictions in your life and work here, as well as in your travel to Japan. The embassy of Japan will continue to do its utmost to assist you, and we sincerely hope that the day when you are not subject to such restrictions will come sooner.

As for politics, just before the elections of the Dutch House of Representatives in January last year, the cabinet resigned to take responsibility for the unjustified crackdown on child benefit schemes, but in the elections in March, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte retained its position as the leading party. The coalition negotiations were so tortuous and it was a year of harsh turmoil in politics, with the resignation of ministers due to poor health, taking up new positions and in September the Foreign and Defense ministers also took responsibility for the handling of the evacuation from Afghanistan by resigning. It has been the longest period necessary for forming a coalition cabinet in the post-war era, but a coalition agreement was reached in December and the 4th Rutte cabinet will be formed.

On the topic of bilateral relations, the former Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi held a face-to-face meeting with the former Dutch Foreign Minister Kaag on the occasion of the G20 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting in June of last year. The former Foreign Minister Motegi spoke of the desire to further strengthen the relationship with the Netherlands, a strategic partner with whom we have had a historical relationship for over 400 years and share fundamental values. Moreover, he expressed his heartfelt appreciation for the strengthening of the engagement of the Netherlands in the Indo-Pacific, including the publication of the Dutch Indo-Pacific Guidelines. Finally, the two former Ministers agreed to strengthen their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Regarding the economic ties between our two countries, they remain strong thanks to the efforts of Japanese and Dutch economic actors, despite the continuing significant constraints imposed by the Covid-19. During the summer and autumn of last year, I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with many of people for the first time in many months, and I was reminded of the resilience of Japanese companies and the strong ties between the Japanese and Dutch business communities once again. I will continue to support the economic activities between Japan and the Netherlands this year as well so that they might progress smoothly.

The cultural and PR activities of the Embassy of Japan have continued to be severely constrained over the past year, but we have been able to find new ways to promote our culture, including an online Japanese essay video contest and through our social media (Embassy’s Facebook).

Meanwhile, during the past year, we saw several worrying situations. For instance, there have been a number of arrests on suspicion of terrorist plots, and there have been incidents of violence triggered by the Covid-19. We have also received reports from Japanese residents of general crimes such as telephone fraud. To us as the Embassy of Japan, ensuring the safety of Japanese residents in the Netherlands is a matter of the highest priority. To ensure their safety we will continue to work closely and strengthen our cooperation with the Dutch security authorities and provide information reliably so that everyone can spend their time in the Netherlands with peace of mind.

Moving to the topic of international organizations in our region, both the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have seen changes in their presidents and the appointment of new Prosecutors. Japan, which has made the rule of law one of the pillars of its diplomacy, will continue to make positive contributions in the field of international justice this year, in cooperation with the new executive committees of each organization.

With regard to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Investigative and Identification Team (IIT) issued its second investigation report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria in April of last year, and there were active discussions towards the prohibition and elimination of chemical weapons. We will continue to contribute to the international efforts and endeavours for the banning and non-proliferation of chemical weapons.

In 2022 as well, we will set out 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