His Excellency Simon Smits
23 May 2018
The annual Ambassadorial Lunch will be taking place at the Marriott Hotel on Wednesday 23rd May 2018 at 12pm.
We are delighted that Dutch Ambassador Simon Smits will be joining us.
Simon Smits was appointed as the Netherlands Ambassador to London in 2015. He was formerly Vice-Minister for Foreign Trade, Director-General for Foreign Economic Relations at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Director-General for European Cooperation (DGES). Prior to that, he was secondment to Royal Dutch Shell as Senior Government Relations Adviser, Shell HQ. During his diplomatic career he was posted in Belgrade, Bangladesh, Geneva, Zagreb, The Hague, South Africa, and Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels.
On being asked how he is finding Britain’s capital since his appointment, His Excellency Simon Smits responds with Samuel Johnson’s famous comment that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Smits first saw the quotation on a poster at his grammar school in the Netherlands in the early 1970s. Since that time, he notes, London has become much more international in its make-up, but the city has lost none of its power to astonish and inspire.
Smits grew up in an internationally oriented environment, a factor that he believes contributed to his eventual career as a diplomat. His father was a German teacher, and he himself taught English. He first seriously considered the diplomatic service while completing a Harting Fellowship at Oxford University. “I got to know a lot of foreign students and was heavily involved in student life – so I thought if I tweak my studies to English and International Law I might have a chance of getting in.”
The Presidency and Smits’ role in London is also be taken up with talks on Brexit. “We will wherever possible, help, facilitate and inform the debate and will also act as an honest broker” he says. Smits sees one of his country’s main challenges as helping steer the bloc “through turbulent waters.” Set up in the wake of two devastating wars, the EU has largely succeeded in its original aim of keeping the peace, but Smits says that as time has gone on that dividend has worn thin, and countries have begun to take a more “transactional view.”
“Everywhere in Europe you see critical voices being raised and these voices should be taken extremely seriously,” Smits says. He also speaks about how “there is a very limited view of Europe because if you look at the responses to ISIL, we are about a set of traditions, norms and values that bind us as Europe.” There are no simple answers here, but Smits says that it is vital that the continent does not lose sight of its shared past, both good and bad: “If you don’t know your history, I am convinced that you cannot really have a sense of where you are going.”
Smits, who is an avid fan of the Rolling Stones, describes his favourite hobby as spending time with his family (his wife Astrid and their four sons). Despite – as he says himself – regularly being outpaced by Astrid, he also enjoys running and playing tennis.
Back to all Events