Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Hans van Koningsbrugge (University of Groningen, Netherlands)

Manuel Waegemans (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium)

Rob van der Ploeg (Chamber of Commerce, Province of Groningen, Netherlands)

Panel abstract: The Russia-Netherlands Bilateral Year: Success or Failure?

About Expectations, Illusions, Misunderstandings and Successes: the Dutch-Russian Bilateral Year 2013

In 2009, the Russian President Medvedev invited the Netherlands to organize a bilateral year in 2013. This offer was accepted by the Dutch government, which was based on three pillars being- economic relations; - cultural relations; political and social relations.

Emphatically is was always indicated that the goal should not only be broadening and deepening intergovernmental relations, but also the bilateral year should provide a broad platform for further development of relations between business partners (private) cultural partners and non-governmental organizations from both sides.

Also the use of local and regional authorities in the framework of cities and county bonds was seen as very important.

The Netherlands-Russia Year took place against the background of a number, from Dutch perspective, worrying developments in Russia since the Duma elections of December 2011. These included restraining the opposition, demonstrations, Russian NGOs (by limiting their foreign financing) and limiting internet freedom.

The Netherlands were also quite worried concerning the anti-gay legislation in Russia which was severely criticized worldwide. The Netherlands and Russia on the eve of the friendship year maintained a constructive and differentiated relationship and the Dutch Government also emphasized a broad program. In The Hague, similar to the French-Russian friendship previous year, a successful event was foreseen. Of course the Dutch side also wanted to promote democratic values and pluralism. Was this achieved? The Dutch efforts of the bilateral year with Russia was to take full advantage of the broad relationships, not only within the three pillars (economic, cultural and political / social), but also to look for as many connections between the pillars. The aim was to encourage emphatically contact and cooperation with the Russian youth. Russian intentions were less clear: of course there was the intention to promote mutual relations but promoting values was less obvious.

This panel will look back at the Netherlands-Russia Year, pointing out the following three aspects:

1) A general review of the Netherlands-Russia Year. What have been the mutual intentions, what was the intent and what were the differences between the Russian and Dutch organization? How did the Netherlands-Russia Year develop and were mutual expectations, including by focusing on regional and local activities, realized?

2) Since it was the intention on both sides to involve young people in the celebration (also aiming at the future) there was a serious demand to intensify the education contacts and promote culture. To what extent can be spoken of a structural cultivation of cooperation?

3) An important pillar in the Netherlands-Russia Year was striving for broadening economic cooperation. Has this been achieved and can we speak in this respect of a success for the Russian and Dutch business communities? By analyzing these three areas, we want to analyse whether the instrument of a bilateral year can be functional in the promotion of international relations and values.