Season’s Greetings

Looking back, 2022 was in many ways a return to normal. COVID-19 was slowly no longer a global
health emergency, so after two years of restrictions we were able to get together with family, friends
and colleagues, to travel, to organize joint activities and meetings in groups. Unfortunately, 2022 is
also the year that the world faced more the impact of natural disasters, climate change, conflicts,
wars, economic crisis and migration. For many consuls, like the consuls for Ukraine and the ones
representing countries with a high labour migration this meant more work than usual because more
people needed to be informed adequately and helped if necessary.

For our association 2022 has been a special year. We had the opportunity to celebrate our
115 th anniversary.

In April we held the annual meeting at the premises of the Port of Rotterdam, where we were
welcomed by the CEO mr. Allard Castelein with an interesting presentation about the latest
developments within the Port of Rotterdam and the impact and challenges of the Russia Ukraine
conflict for the port activities. A nice port tour on board of the Maze with a lunch offered by the Port
of Rotterdam followed.

The celebration of the 115 th anniversary of Union des Consuls à Rotterdam on September 9, held
in the at the Depot Museum Boijmans van Beuningen has been a great succes.
Welcomed by the director of the museum, Mrs Ina Klaassen, consuls, ambassadors and all guests
enjoyed together a guided tour discovering the beautiful and valuable art works cherished in the new
building, the Depot, the new architectural icon of Rotterdam. The representative of the City Council,
Mr Said Kasmi, vice mayor of Rotterdam noticed in his speech the appreciation of the city council for
the work of honorary and career consuls as bridge builders between countries, with a valuable
contribution in the economic, cultural and social relations.
We closed the year with our Annual Dinner, on December 2. A warm and cosy event with beautiful
music by the well-known composer and pianist and outstanding musician, Laurens van Rooyen
who played on a special for the evening arranged Fazioli piano.
During the dinner we also held a short annual meeting to vote the new board of the association for
the next three years. All sitting board members were re-elected and we welcomed Kees Jan Rietveld
as a new board member.

In 2022 we welcomed some new members: Mr Eric Geerling H. Consul of Japan, Mr Simon Tan
H. Consul Austria, Ms Sonia Meijer H. Consul El Salvador, and the new appointed career General
Consuls: Ms. Lourdes Escobar – Cuba, Mr El Kobaiti Idrissi Abdellali – Maroc, Ms Rosamel Ordonez
Paredes – Panama, Mr. Ali Erbas – Turkey
To our regret and sadness in 2022 we lost a few of our dear friends and loyal members of the
association: Ehsan Turabaz, Honorary consul of Afghanistan, Baronesses Alexandra Tuininga-
Heemstra, H. Consul of Costa Rica, Freek Warmelink, H. Consul of Burkina Faso. We also remember
Jeliza de Nooijer, the wife of our board member Bert de Nooijer. May they all rest in peace.

Last but not least a special thanks to our colleagues, Ben Melissa (Danser), honorary consul of
Switzerland, Dirk van Wassenaer (M&R De Monchy), honorary consul of Spain, Jan Valkier (Anthony,
Veder), honorary consul of Finland for their support and contribution to the celebration of our 115 th

We look forward to a peaceful 2023 and a successful year for our association and our members.

We wish you all a Happy New Year!

The Board of Union des Consuls à Rotterdam et La Haye:
Eliseo de la Fuente Gonzales, Bert de Nooijer, Alexander Roos, Karin van Rooyen,
Kees Jan Rietveld, Andrea Teunissen. December 2022.

Season’s Greetings

December 2021

Looking back 2021 will be remembered as a year full of challenges and marked by the pandemic. For many honorary consuls this meant more work than usual because all travel in and outside Europe remained problematic and people needed to be informed adequately and helped if necessary. Due to the restrictions and the lockdowns, we had no choice but to postpone some activities. Since working from home and online meetings became the “new normal” we moved to Zoom and Teams meetings. 

In April we welcomed Mr. Klaus Meyer-Cabri, vice-president Eurojust* in an online meeting with a presentation on Cybercrime and current trends, an extremely serious and hot topic.  

In June we started a series of presentations “Members in the spotlight” with the aim of getting to know the members of our association better. In the online meeting, Jan Valkier, Honorary Consul of Finland, CEO of Anthony Veder Group and Bernard Menken, Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka, owner Menken Maritiem were the first in line.

In the summer the lockdown measures were happily eased and allowed us to meet together in a well-attended and pleasant summer meeting at the Jachtclub Hillegersberg. 

We closed the year with our Annual Dinner, in November, just before the introduction of new restrictions. A warm and cosy event with an interesting presentation by Paul v/d Laar, professor EUR, city historian of Rotterdam and with beautiful music by two outstanding young musicians, Anna Majchrzak, soprano and Vera Kool harp. At the end a Turkish delight as dessert on the top, offered by our colleague Aytac Yilmaz, consul of Turkey in Rotterdam. 

The celebration of the 115th anniversary of the Union des Consuls à Rotterdam, founded in April 1906, is due to the pandemic postponed to 2022.  Looking forward to a better 2022 and a successful year for our association. 

On behalf of the Board Union des Consuls à Rotterdam et La Haye:

Andrea C. Teunissen – Oprea, General Secretary 
December 2021.


Unsurprisingly, as an Honorary Consul of the Republic of Lithuania, I am very connected with the events in Belarus. As all Lithuanians do, as well as the populations of other Central European countries. This is because the history of Lithuania and Belarus have much in common. Not only in recent history, referring to the cruelties in the 20th century in the area of Central Europe where we find now Lithuania, Belarus and adjoining territory. A region heavily terrorized by Hitler and Stalin. Timothy Snyder writes about this barbarism in his book “Bloodlands”. The most impressive book I ever read about this period in Central Europe. 

But the connectedness between people in Belarus and Lithuania has its roots further back in time. One of the biggest countries in Europe from the 16th till the 17th century was the Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth. But even before this Commonwealth, Belarus was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

No wonder Lithuanians feel a big solidarity with their cousins in Belarus.

The members of the Union have learned more about this when Ivo van de Wijdeven was keynote speaker on the annual dinner three years ago in Rotterdam. See his book “De rafelranden van Europa”.

I am following the events with the biggest interest. A very dangerous situation in which Putin will try to restore the old sphere of influence and the West is acting very cautiously having in mind the events in the Crimea. 

Journalists and specialists on foreign politics are more qualified to write in more detail about the situation than I am. Therefor I will focus on an item which triggered me seeing the protests. The EU is not playing a role in the protests in Belarus. Main goals are honest elections and reform. Therefor protesters are banning the EU flag in the streets. Rather, we see an abundance of white-red-white flags, small as well as huge. 

Does Belarus have two flags? 

Supporters of the opposition are waving white-red-white flags, which differs very much from the official state banner which is red and green. See pictures.

The white-red-white flag was used in 1918, before Belarus became a Sovjet Republic. After Belarus regained its independence from the Sovjet Union in 1991 the white-red-white flag was reinstated for a couple of years and was official banner until 1995. 

The official state banner (in red and green) was introduced in 1995 after a controversial referendum. It is a modification of the flag which was used when Belarus was part of the Sovjet Union. In Sovjet times the red and green flag also showed the hammer and sickle and red star.

The pattern on the left side is a traditional ornament commonly used in garments and woven cloth use for ceremonial events. You can recognize professional Belarusian sportsmen and women, who are using the same pattern.

The white-red-white flag is used by the opposition as a symbol. The colours are based on the Pahonia coat of arms and an official emblem of the Republic in 1918 and 1991 – 1995.

My colleagues from Lithuania immediately will recognize this emblem, because the Pahonia was originally a symbol of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, of which Belarus was a part. Mrs. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya knew she was very welcome in Lithuania.

Gert Zandsteeg, Honorary Consul of Lithuania, August 2020

A LOCKDOWN IN SPRING by Karin van Rooyen, Honorary Consul of Slovenia / May 2020

May 2020

It was strange and rather ‘eerie’ when, on Thursday 12th March 2020, we all heard that we should stay home because the virus Covid-19 was among us.
Stay home, stay safe became the new keywords. As the Honorary Consul for Slovenia I received a lot of messages of Slovenian citizens wondering if they were able to fly home as all over Europe countries were going into Lockdown. Problems arose for Slovenian citizens in the Netherlands wishing to return home either by car or by plane. Which borders were closed, which were still open?  Direct flights to Ljubljana required at least one stopover and no one could say how long the airlines would still be flying. So the main question was: will I reach home or will I be quarantined in one of the “stop-over” countries.

Like most EU countries Slovenia too suffered from a lack of protective medical equipment, so each time I heard of possibilities, either private (mostly) or government, of 3D printers making masks, shields, goggles or respirators I passed on the information to our Slovenian Ambassador in the Netherlands, H.E. Ms Sanja Štiglic. 

With the lockdown now firmly upon us my husband and I promised ourselves a glass of champagne every day if only to celebrate that we were Corona free and ALIVE!. After two weeks we stopped this indulgence and decided we would do our best to remain healthy by walking and enjoying nature as much as we could. And so the lockdown deepened. We developed a routine working from nine to five, allowing ourselves a long walk during our lunchbreak. As April dawned the weather became so beautiful that the garden began to draw us into pottering around, cutting back hedges, planting seedlings and mowing (lots of mowing) the lawns. The birds sang their daily symphony and were busy nesting. Normally we would have missed their hidden homes, but now we saw how they built their nests in the most unlikely places.

As I work for a museum that was hit pretty badly having to close its doors to 200.000 families and schoolchildren that visit us on a yearly basis. The future of some 54 people working there, the rent, the lack of income forced us to come up with a plan for the post corona period. How to draw back the public? After thinking aloud, talking through the phone or via video, we decided the best thing to do was to renew the whole museum. A venture that would entail intensive fundraising. That said the business plan we wrote in the sunshine of lockdown became a visionary paper combining the audacious to the pragmatic. 

We were now deep in May and still there was no let-up, though newspaper headlines told us that Slovenia was the first country in Europe to formally call an end to its Coronavirus outbreak. 

The month May passed as silently as it had come and now June sees us finally opening up schools, museums, fitness centres and of course restaurants and terraces. A sense of freedom is in the air and the first requests are reaching me of Dutch citizens planning their travels to Slovenia for a holiday. 

What does fill me with sadness is that many Slovenians –  having studied in the Netherlands, married and raising their children here – have decided to return home for good. During the Corona restriction they realised how much they missed their Slovenian family ties. Homesickness got them in the end. With a heavy heart I wave them goodbye as they pack in their belongings and move back home to Ljubljana.

I wish them all well and hope we will meet again. Some day!

We are now online

May 2020

UdC is now online