Germany and the Netherlands held their second bilateral intergovernmental consultations on Thursday (21 April). Chancellor Merkel, Foreign Minister Steinmeier, Economics Minister Gabriel and State Secretary Schütte from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research travelled to Eindhoven for the consultations. The intergovernmental consultations reflect the considerable importance of the close German-Dutch partnership, which is based on mutual trust. The talks focused on innovation. During working sessions, the Cabinet members discussed ways of fostering innovation in the spheres of energy, sustainability and the transition to a digital economy.
On arrival in Eindhoven, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed Germany’s “close and cordial” relations with its neighbour. “During my tenure as Foreign Minister, our cooperation with the Netherlands has been closer than that with almost any other country”, stated Steinmeier. He went on to say that he was “extremely grateful” that as one of the founding states and holder of the current EU Presidency, the Netherlands was endeavouring to “steer Europe at this difficult time”. In particular, the issues discussed included the “many conflicts and crises around us”. Steinmeier added that although the drop in the number of refugees brought about by the agreement with Turkey had not yet solved the problem, this fall in numbers had given Europe time to agree on joint solutions.
Strengthening Germany and the Netherlands – cooperating on innovation
The High Tech Campus in Eindhoven was the ideal venue for consultations on the main focus of the discussions. The Government members talked about how to further strengthen the two countries’ ability to innovate. Germany and the Netherlands are already among the most innovative countries in Europe. The two countries agreed to step up their cooperation in the spheres of innovation and energy. Specifically, German-Dutch cooperation is to be intensified on innovations for the transition to a low-carbon energy supply by 2050 and in the sphere of Industry 4.0/Smart Industry.
Promoting the German language in the Netherlands
The intergovernmental consultations were held on German Language Day in the Netherlands. Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his counterpart Bert Koenders visited Christaan Huygens College in Eindhoven together. The two Foreign Ministers discussed topical political issues such as the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement with the pupils. Steinmeier said that he “would have preferred a different outcome”. Nevertheless, the referendum had to be taken seriously: it was now up to the Netherlands to decide. “Deciding means carrying out a discussion process between the Government and Parliament and then deciding together how to deal with the outcome of the referendum”, stated the Foreign Minister. He went on to say, however, that he was certain that this process would succeed in the Netherlands.