Interview with Vice Mayor Karsten Klein
The Hague, the international city of peace and justice, has just about everything nearby – government agencies, commercial enterprises, international schools, knowledge intuitions, business centres and international organizations. So connections are easily made; it’s a place where you can readily expand your network and exert influence. Our close stakeholders give you an insight to why The Hague is this vibrant city to work and live in. We were honoured to speak to Vice Mayor Karsten Klein about his view on working and living in The Hague.
Where are we?
On the top floor of the town hall in The Hague, from where the municipal administration has a sweeping view over the city and beyond. You can even see Rotterdam from here. It’s a panorama that encapsulates just how short the distances are in The Hague metropolitan area and how easy it can be to find talent and business partners.
Who is our guest?
Today, we’re interviewing deputy mayor Karsten Klein, whose portfolio includes Urban Economy. Due to his role, the alderman has a close relationship with The Hague Business Agency. Their common goal is to communicate as clearly as possible what The Hague region has to offer international organisations and companies. But you can’t be all things to all people, and both the municipality of The Hague and The Hague Business Agency realise this. The city has therefore chosen to profile itself as the City of Peace and Justice, with a clear emphasis on cyber security, governance and global affairs, international cooperation and social impact.
What is The Hague’s appeal?
Karsten Klein explains: “I was recently at a tourism fair in Berlin where I spoke with a number of tour operators. They told me that The Hague is definitely on their radar as it is a place that combines many elements. The city is not yet overrun by tourists, for example, and we have the beach, many parks and green spaces, the parliament buildings and the palaces of the royal family. Due to the strong presence of UN agencies and of course the various embassies and consulates, the city has a high international profile. All these qualities make The Hague picture perfect. It’s vibrant and liveable, and the prime minister and mayor can still safely walk or cycle through the city. In other countries, this would be highly exceptional. You could compare it with Washington – the seat of national government and somewhere with a lot of history, yet without the rushed pace of many other cities. The Hague is a tranquil city in a world that seems increasingly turbulent. We not only have a strong civil society, but there is also relatively little polarisation in the Netherlands. I’m very grateful for that, and we are keen to preserve the tranquillity.”
“The various embassies and diplomats help give The Hague a distinctive international flavour.”
International organisations and companies are not tourists. Does The Hague have enough to offer them?
“Certainly! We offer extensive international networks, also in collaboration with Leiden University, which is becoming increasingly visible in the city and already has three locations here. Although it may not be apparent in the mainstream media, we are definitely on the radar for the right communities. We have moved on from being a stuffy city of officials. University students are keen to live here, and we have intensified our focus on becoming a prominent international business city, a city dedicated to global security and justice. Under the motto ‘Building a Better World’, we also have our sights set on the ‘impact economy’, innovation and start-ups. We aim to appeal to businesses that have a social impact, which means that, for instance, The Hague is an attractive prospect for an organisation like Samasource, a data-oriented social enterprise that seeks solutions to end poverty. Samasource was founded in Silicon Valley, operates in Africa and has opened its European headquarters in The Hague. I think that’s significant. In addition, we’ve traditionally had very strong energy and finance and legal clusters in the city, and companies in IT and telecom are still strongly represented. Take a company like Huawei, for example, which has more than 200 employees in Voorburg; or T‑Mobile, with more than 2,000 employees in the city.”
Why is The Hague not more assertive in its communications?
“It’s just not who we are. We believe in the power of steadily building solid networks. We prefer substance over form. Of course, we also work hard to bring the likes of Bruce Springsteen or the Volvo Ocean Race to the city. But make no mistake, you can get a lot done through quiet diplomacy as well. For example, our former mayor Jozias van Aartsen was previously Dutch minister of foreign affairs. This helped in our successful bid to host the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit. We tend to work by developing meaningful relationships and communities. For instance, we have extensive contacts with India, partly because of the large Indian community in The Hague. Again, we don’t make headlines with this, but it’s certainly effective.”