ENERGY, TECHNOLOGY, EDUCATION AND HUMAN INTERACTION
THESE ARE JUST SOME OF THE AREAS OF COOPORATION IN QATAR-DUTCH RELATIONS THOUGH THE MOST VALUABLE OF ALL THESE, ACCORDING TO HER EXCELLENCY YVETTE VAN EECHOUD, THE NETHERLANDS' AMBASSADOR TO QATAR, IS THE YOUTH INTERACTION.
The ties between Qatar and the Netherlands originate from the energy sector, but they have come to encompass the social, economic and cultural spheres of both nations. There are around 1,400 Dutch nationals in Qatar at present and their numbers are growing with each passing year, as more and more Dutch companies begin to take an active part in the country's economic growth.
The bilateral investments are built around more than a dozen companies and more firms are expected to launch their operations parallel to Qatar's ambitious programmes that are being implemented as part of the Qatar National Vision 2030 as well as the World Cup 2022.
“The history of relations between the two countries is quite significant. Its momentous period began when Royal Dutch Shell starting its operations in Qatar following the discovery of oil and gas,” says Her Excellency Yvette van Eechoud, The Netherlands' Ambassador to Qatar.
The Royal families of both countries are close and their ties were cemented further after the 2011 state visit of the then Queen Beatrix (now referred to as Princess Beatrix), who handed the title of Monarch to her son Prince Willem-Alexander last year.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Missned confirmed the friendly bonds by visiting the Netherlands in 2012, and for the investiture of King Willem-Alexander in April 2013.
“An interesting coincidence is that The Emir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Prince Willem-Alexander, both members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), took over the reign of their respective countries the same year,” she says, adding that The Emir and King Willem-Alexander have been meeting regularly and share a passion for sports.
The discovery of oil and gas had strengthened the relations between the countries and with an investment
of QR76.44 billion ($21 billion) by Shell, the Netherlands became the biggest investor in Qatar after the United States in terms of trade, and is ranked fifth among the European Union nations.
“Though Qatar imports most of its products from Asia, we are strong in very heavy and sophisticated machinery and equipment and of course, agricultural produce,” the Dutch Ambassador says.
One of the major Dutch companies that is playing an active role in Qatar's maritime development is Damen Shipyards Group, who have established a joint venture with Qatar Gas Transport Company (Nakilat) and is now Nakilat Damen Shipyards Qatar (NDSQ) in the Port of Las Raffan in 2010. While Damen Shipyards holds 30% of the shares, the remaining 70% is held by Nakilat.
“Damen is known for its reputation as being the biggest yacht builders in the world and NDSQ has supplied patrol vessels and tug boats which guide the big ships to the port. It has recently entered into an agreement with Qatar's armed forces to supply seven patrol boats and diving support vessels to the value of around QR3.1 billion,” she says.
Qatar, whose New Port Project is expected to be completed by 2017, is looking at the best practices adopted by Dutch logistical and port management companies at the Port of Rotterdam in The Netherlands. “In addition, one of the Dutch dredging companies has been appointed to do the work for the Economic Zone 3, which is coming up in the New Port Project's vicinity,” she says.
In another area of infrastructure, urban designers and architects from the Netherlands have been involved in several projects that are being implemented in the country. “The rapid expansion of the urban areas in Doha needs careful planning and synchronisation in order to make the city future-proof.” She adds: “Some of the best urban designers and architects of the Netherlands are designing as many as 30 metro stations for the Qatar Rail Metro, a big challenge considering the time constraints and construction complexities.”
Dutch engineers are also working on one of the most ambitious project in Qatar – The Sharq Crossing. Two major companies – Royal Haskoning DHV and Arcadis/EC Harris – are involved in the Sharq Crossing Project. “It is a very complicated and complex structure and if it is not done properly, will pose high risks. We have to engage the finest engineering and construction experts to carefully examine the design with a lot of attention to safety and security. Dutch engineers are used to working with water structures and are particularly well placed to do just that,” she says.
One of the most successful Dutch architects –Rem Koolhaas – has been commissioned to design the headquarters of Qatar Foundation, the new National Library – and the new airport city close to the Hamad
International Airport. “There is lot of interest on both sides to work together on urban designing and architecture,” she says.
Philips, one of major innovative companies in The Netherlands, which is, apart from consumer goods, known for lighting design and state-of-art medical equipment, is setting up office in Qatar. The company is already active and has its representatives working in the country.
“Philips is very much focused on the consumer experience. They innovate not only technologically, but also find innovative ways to assure the best client experience. Especially in the sterile environments of hospitals and clinics, it is important that clients can feel at ease. A case in point in the way Philips has designed the Dutch breast cancer screening programme. It is definitely a best practice for Europe,” Yvette van Eechoud says.
As far as sport is concerned, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee has appointed Amsterdam ArenA as Operations Consultants for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, to be held in Qatar. Amsterdam ArenA is one of the few stadiums in the world that have defined a legacy concept and are profitable as a multi-purpose venue.
Some 80 Dutch companies in design, construction,
public safety and security and event management have grouped themselves together and are visiting Qatar on a regular basis, selecting a specific theme for each mission. They are keen to showcase their best practices and high quality products. “The same Dutch companies are currently involved in the Russia and Brazil World Cup events and will be able to offer the latest insights into organising such mega events as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar,” the Ambassador says.
Education is another important area where cooperation is high on the agenda of both countries. Stenden University, which has set up its campus in Qatar, has been focusing on the hospitality, business and tourism sectors. Students from Qatar stay in The Netherlands for half a year to study the various bachelors' courses offered by the Stenden University, while the Dutch students come to Qatar to do their internships.
The University of Groningen has just signed a MoU with Qatar University and many more Dutch universities are visiting Qatar on a regular basis. She says that the Leiden University in the Netherlands has been working on a unique project to commemorate 400 years of Islamic Studies. “Those working on the project have made very high quality reproductions of 40 Islamic manuscripts, which are not only beautiful but also educational in nature. Qatar University will be exhibiting this extraordinary collection for a month later this year,” she says.
Citing an example of how the students have benefited by cooperation between both countries, Yvette van Eechoud recalled her meeting with a group of Qatar University students who went to study journalism and mass media in Utrecht. “They made a video on what they experienced in the Netherlands and I was very much pleased to see they had learned so much and had a lot of fun too,” she says.
“One of my main missions is to facilitate communication between the younger generations of both countries. Be it for economic, touristic or educational purposes, it is human interaction that makes us realise we have much more in common than we think, regardless of our culture or religion,” she adds