CONSUL GENERAL HANS HORBACH
ADDRESSED NETHERLANDS LUNCHEON CLUB
-by Theo Luykenaar-
Club President Tim Hogenbirk welcomed the some 75 members and guests to this first luncheon meeting of the new year, extending a special welcome to consul general Hans Horbach, guest speaker and Sonja Horbach. Tim also introduced Jan Boomsma, the Club’s newest member and thanked Hans Soer of Global Fruit for his ‘Appeltjes voor de dorst’, as following the lunch Hans presented bags with six large Red Prince apples, grown in Ontario by Global Fruit to all present. To learn more about these great tasting apples please visit www.redprinceapple.ca. Tim also announced the Club’s program for this year. The next Luncheon Club meeting will on Wednesday, March 16 also at the Novotel Toronto Centre, when guest speaker Karel G. ter Brugge, M.D. will speak about: ‘New medical discoveries promising for the Aged’.
The staff of Novotel Toronto Centre had arranged for an excellent buffet style lunch, with various salads, great tasting ribs, salmon, mixed vegetables and an outstanding dessert table. Following lunch Tim introduced Consul General Hans Horbach who is also an honorary Director of the Club. Hans was born in Gulpen. After he studied law in Brussels, he completed his studies in European law at the Europe College in Bruges in 1978, after which he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs The four years prior to coming to Toronto Hans was Ambassador in Port of Spain in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, representing The Netherlands also in Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada, Dominica, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda, Guadeloupe and Martinique. This following an impressive diplomatic career, which commenced in Luanda, Angola, in 1981. Hans diplomatic postings saw him serve in Buenos Aires, Hanoi, Lisbon, back in The Hague and at the United Nations in New York. Hans en Sonja were also in Brussels, where he served with the Dutch delegation at NATO and the Western European Union, as head of Defense Policy and Planning.
Hans commenced his speech by giving his definition of a diplomat as ‘Someone who can juggle a steaming hot potato long enough for it to become a cold issue!’ He briefly talked about his diplomatic career, his service in bilateral and multilateral embassies and missions on four continents, sometimes in wartime situations, like the civil war in Angola and the Falklands conflict in Argentina.
The Consulate in Toronto is responsible for the provinces Ontario, Manitoba and Nunavut and focuses predominantly on economic and consular matters. Hans pointed out that Canada is among a selected number of countries in the world that offers great potential for enhancing and intensifying the bilateral economic and trade relationship. “We focus on sectors where we think we have leading technologies and experiences. Water, soil and waste management, sustainable energy, urbanisation and green building are sectors of interest where we think we have a comparable advantage”, he said. “But we focus also on the creative arts, design, landscaping and even fashion. These are also sectors where we think we have added value and where realistic business opportunities are present. It goes without saying that more traditional sectors like agriculture, horticulture, agro-industry and export of food and chemical products continue to be important for our export.”
With over 31 billion Canadian dollars in investment, The Netherlands is the third largest investor in Canada and also among the top ten destinations of Canadian exports. “I see the Consulate very much as a general service provider to all economic actors, in the private, corporate and public sectors.” The Consul General talked further about the political situation in The Netherlands and its minority government of CDA and VVD, supported by the PVV of Geert Wilders. Prime Minister Rutte has summarised the following key objectives for his government’s policies: “A stronger economy, a safer country and a smaller public sector.”
“The Netherlands continues to be among the top ten competitive economies in the world and the sixth largest economy in Europe! Not bad for a country with 16 million inhabitants and almost the size of Nova Scotia!”, Hans said with pride. He concluded his speech with an anecdote from the beginning of his career, when he visited a Dutch detainee in a British prison, who wanted to prolong his sentence in order to enjoy Christmas Eve in prison. Hans was able to extend the prison term to January 15th of the following year…a diplomat was born!
A very lively question and answer period followed, with questions among others about education; drivers’ licences; the situation in Egypt, if the closure of foreign representations could affect Toronto, how to obtain Dutch citizenship, if Geert Wilders was going to visit Canada and why Dutch diplomats are required to visit the now more than 2000 Dutch detainees in foreign prisons. As a true diplomat Hans Horbach fielded all the questions with ease. Henny Groenendijk-Baljet thanked Hans for his most interesting and informative speech and Frits Begemann presented Hans with a photo book about Canada. This concluded a well-attended and presented Netherlands Luncheon Club meeting.