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1 December, 2011 - 13:17 By News Desk

A friendly face in the pan-European snarl-fest

Article by Will Mooney, Carter Jonas partner and joint head of its commercial agency and professional services in the eastern region

Imagine a media interview in which a politician, in under eight minutes, managed to not only answer two questions by an interviewer but appeared to be without the yolk of partisanship in clearly setting out how a country could, step-by-step, find its way out of recession through central government policy.

The politician being interviewed came from a Euro-currency country but he bore no bitterness towards his more powerful northern European neighbours, nor grudges toward his southern Euro-counterparts. He was very much not in the blame game.

How refreshing but it’s probably no surprise to anyone who has done business in the politician’s country. It was Mark Rutte, the Minister-President of The Netherlands – equivalent to the UK’s Prime Minister. He spoke clearly and openly about his country’s growth strategy which seemed remarkably similar to what many people in this region and other UK hotspots targeted for growth have been urging as the way forward.

Rutte’s strategy for The Netherlands is to focus on the innovation, creative and technology industries, aligning the universities with business and vice versa at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Dutch Minister-President was being interviewed in Manchester – another great university city with a science focus through UMIST, its university’s institute of science and technology – where his delegation had been visiting a number of SMEs in the creative and innovation industries, as well as sharing thoughts on transport.

Not by coincidence as these things play out, the previous week, 40 business leaders from The Netherlands had been on a fact-finding mission to Cambridge and had met several luminaries including Prof Alan Barrell, Dr Hermann Hauser and the Mayor of Cambridge.

You would think that at such a time of crisis for his country’s currency, that as a political leader, Meneer Rutte would be grandstanding about the need for financial institutional reform, taking a view about the role of the European Central Bank and, as a politician, he surely wasn’t going to resist having a pop at some of his counterparts? Not a bit of it. In fact he admitted he wasn’t a fan of huge institutional debates. Instead he coolly and calmly outlined his roadmap for growth which he summarised as getting public finances in order, taking away hurdles for new business, making government smaller and getting the universities involved as quickly as possible in business life to get development from innovation.

The Dutch leader felt that it was important for him to get in to the thick of what was going on and he couldn’t do that from The Hague. He appeared really pleased to be in the thick of it over here and complimented us by saying the UK’s innovative and creative capability were needed – with 50 per cent of our exports going directly into the Eurozone, he’s got a point.

According to Meneer Rutte, we have much in common with other non-Euro currency countries such as Sweden, Poland and the Baltic states who are all growth oriented as much as his own country – which, after all, is this region’s closest continental neighbour across the North Sea. This politician is just over a year into a role which has no limit to its term in office and based on the interview, he sounds like a person with whom we’d all like to do business.

Article written by Will Mooney, Carter Jonas partner and joint head of its commercial agency and professional services in the eastern region.

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