November 19, 2017

Halbe Zijlstra the new Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Halbe Zijlstra, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs.

By Anton Lutter.

After 208 days of negotiating, being the longest period creating a new government program after the march 15 parliamentary elections, a cabinet has been formed by the VVD, CDA, D’66 and CU political parties under the slogan “Trust in the future“, with Mark Rutte as third time prime minister.

For the readers of Diplomat Magazine the new Minister of Foreign Affairs will surely be of prime interest, although every ministry has an international office within its walls. Even for political insiders the choice of Mr. Halbe Zijlstra as Minister of Foreign Affairs has been a suprise. Known as a person who loves straight talk and a confirmed political pragmatist, his heading this most important department will be closely watched with great interest.

Mr. Halbe Zijlstra, the son of a police detective, was born January 21, 1969 in Oosterwolde from the northern province of Friesland. He studied sociology at the University of Groningen earning a masters degree in 1996. Working for Royal Dutch Shell he visited countries like Greece, Italy, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela and Nigeria. His membership of the VVD stems from 1994 entering public office 4 years after.

From 1998 to 2001 he was a member of city council of Utrecht and again from 2003 to 2006, when he became a candidate in the parliamentary elections. Elected in 2006 he became his parties spokesman on care, energy, sports, higher education and sciences and biotechnology. In october 2010 be was chosen to be the underminister (staatssecretaris) for Education, Culture and Science in the Rutte Cabinet I, he served in this post until 5 november 2012. As underminister he was known for initiating budget cuts in the cultural sector, which bolstered his image as person who’s not afraid to take unpopular measures. Before as a member of parliament he also introduced a bill to counter football hooliganism.

He returned to parliament (Tweede Kamer) in 2012 after a no-confidence motion ended the Rutte Cabinet I. As Mr. Mark Rutte became prime-minister for the second time, Zijlstra became the chair of the VVD parliamentary group thereby leading the most important government party in parliament. After being reelected in the 2017 parliamentary elections Zijlstra indicated his interest in a ministerial post, resulting in “Foreign Affairs”.

Ms. Sigrid Kaag, new Minister of Development Cooperation.

He’s married, having one son. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also houses the office of the minister without potfolio for Development Cooperation. For this position D’66 member Mrs. Sigrid Kaag has been chosen. A career diplomat Mrs. Kaag, born in 1961, holds the post of United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL) since january 2015.

She has been working in a variety of positions both for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Dutch Shell and the United Nations. She has earned a masters of philosophy degree in international relations from the University of Exeter and a masters degree in international relations from the University of Oxford.

Mrs. Kaag is married with Mr. Anis al Aq former Palestinian representative to Switzerland, having with him 4 children. She enters the cabinet as one of the 10 female government (under) ministers.

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Mr. Halbe Zijlstra’s Photo from: www.tweedekamer.nl

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