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Dutch maintain disproportionately large diplomatic service

Equals that of Germany

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - The Netherlands has a disproportionately large and expensive diplomatic apparatus. The number of embassies is much greater than in countries of similar size, concludes a confidential report by the Finance Ministry, which was leaked to a leading Dutch magazine.

The Dutch, who traditionally are globetrotters, maintain 112 embassies. This number is 25 percent larger than the average of 89 for countries such as Canada, Spain and Australia, which all have much larger populations. In comparison, Australia has five embassies in Latin America, while the Netherlands has 18. Germany, which is five times larger than the Netherlands, has a diplomatic network hardly larger than that of the Netherlands. The Dutch diplomatic network includes a large number of embassies in developing countries. The Netherlands is well represented on all continents, even if there are no apparent business interests, the report notes.

According to the report, the number of embassies could be reduced by fifteen to twenty if the Netherlands focused on fewer countries with its development aid, which is currently invested in 36 countries. Representation at international organizations could also be combined with embassies in the same capitals.

UN sponsor

The Netherlands currently is represented in nineteen international organizations. Many are those under the umbrella of the UN, and are located in cities where a Dutch embassy is present. In comparable countries, the number of representatives is ten.

Currently, the Foreign Affairs Ministry employs a staff of nearly 6,000 in The Hague, including the embassies and consulates-general abroad. The Finance Ministry discovered that the size of the diplomatic service had expanded by nearly 14 percent between the years 1997 and 2005.

Experts explain the over-representation abroad as a frenetic attempt by The Netherlands to be seen as a 'medium-sized power.' It was suggested that this also could explain why The Netherlands rates as the fifth or sixth largest donor of development aid and one of the largest sponsors of the UN. The Dutch economy is about the sixteenth largest in the world.