Dutch-Palestinian Cooperation Forum Concluded Successfully
The first edition of the Dutch-Palestinian Cooperation Forum held in Bethlehem on 7 and 8 December yielded promising outcomes for both sides. The two-day forum was attended by senior Dutch and Palestinian officials including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. PM Rutte was accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen as well as by Bernard Wientjes, president of VNO-NCW employers union. In addition, 70 Dutch companies attended the forum.
The two governments decided that the forum’s principal objective will be the strengthening of bilateral relations by increasing cooperation in the field of innovation and by bringing together relevant representatives from the government, private sector, knowledge institutions and civil society to explore new fields for mutual benefit.
The forum was also aimed at strengthening the already close relations between the Netherlands and the Palestinian Territories, particularly in the areas of agri-food, energy/gas, IT and water sectors. Government authorities, businesses, knowledge institutes and civil society took part in the forum that was also attended by around 460 people, including dozens of Dutch and Palestinian businessmen.
In addition to taking part in the forum, PM Rutte and Ministers of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen visited a number of Palestinian economic ventures and businesses such as Rawabi City, Al-Jebrini cheese factory in Hebron, and Nassar Stone Group in Bethlehem, Dead Sea Salt Works and Thimar Horticulture Company in the Jordan Valley, and ASAL Technologies in Ramallah. They also held bilateral meetings with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad Malki and Minister of National Economy Jawad Naji .
At the end of the forum, the Dutch and Palestinian prime ministers, and all the ministers involved attended a session in which the four sector working groups presented their findings. Eight partnership agreements between Dutch and Palestinian knowledge institutions, government authorities and businesses were signed.
They included a letter of intent on institutional capacity development as part of which a sanitary and phytosanitary framework within the Ministry of Agriculture and other Palestinian institutions will be establishment in order to facilitate international trade in Palestinian food and food products.
As for water, two agreements were signed. The first one was an Operational Partnership Agreement between the Palestinian Water Authority and Vitens Evides International concerning a water operator partnership. The second document was a Joint Declaration on the Establishment of a Dutch government-funded Academic Cooperation Program on Water between five Palestinian universities and five Dutch academic centers.
The Mayor of Rawabi, Mr. Abdulfattah, and the Mayor of the City of Deventer and member of the Board of the Associations of Netherlands Municipalities, Mr. Heidema, signed a memorandum of understanding to support Rawabi in developing its organization, building its capacity, and learning from ‘Dutch best practices’.
The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and the Netherlands Institute of Foreign Relations Clingendael a.o. signed an agreement in the field of joint academic and scientific activities, joint publications and exchange of students, researchers and staff.
Another important outcome of the forum was the establishment of a Palestinian–Dutch Joint Business Council by the Palestinian Federation of Business Associations and the Netherlands - Middle East Business Council
As for private businesses, the Palestinian company Super Nimer, reached an initial agreement with Merford Special Doors B.V. from the Netherlands on exchanging knowledge in the production of doors. Merford will help Super Nimer in producing bullet, fire and gas proof doors, while the Palestinian company will provide knowhow to the Dutch company on the production of house security doors.
The two companies are also mulling the possible establishment of a new company with the capacity to export doors to Arab markets.
The closing session was concluded by the signing of a Joint Statement on the Dutch-Palestinian Cooperation Forum by the two Prime Ministers that underlines the friendship and longstanding partnership, that provides an excellent basis for future work and that further strengthens bilateral ties.
The bilateral forum will be held every two years, and the second edition will be in Holland in 2015.