H. E. Gilles Beschoor Plug, Ambassador of the Netherlands: There are many things to be done in battling the coronavirus

We will all be able to work from home and we have trials, with all members of the staff joining at the staff meeting from home

We interviewed selected persons from the economic and diplomatic community, as well as public life, and found out how embassies, institutions, companies and public figures have organized diplomatic and business activities and themselves during the state of emergency, how they contribute to the fight against the COVID-19 virus, as well as, how they spend their free time and what they will do first when the state of emergency is over. Today, we interviewed the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H. E. Gilles Beschoor Plug.

How did you organize your diplomatic activities?

Thank you for this question, which a very interesting and relevant question. I would say there are two aspects. One is our traditional work of representing the Netherlands in Serbia, and to be honest, that almost came to a standstill because of the measures taken – physical distancing, the curfew – and, obviously as diplomats, many of our activities take place in the evening. To be honest, people think of other things nowadays in the crisis. Still, there is work to be done, as an example I would say the accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, which have been approved now. That was hard work for us as well and that went almost unnoticed in the press here. This was funny to see, but I understand it very well. Obviously there are things to be done regarding combating the corona crisis and repatriating Dutch people from Serbia the Balkans. In that respect we have a lot of work to do, but the situation changed very much. The second aspect I would like to mention is the internal organization at the Embassy. There we had a major change because the Embassy is closed and we are all working from home. Here we have to be thankful to our Ministry in The Hague who provided us all with infrastructure, tablets with which we can work at home. The whole staff has a tablet and can continue working at home. It doesn’t depend on infrastructure only – one has to have a possibility to work from home, one has to have a separate room, preferably no kids around, so it is a bit difficult for some. I certainly understand this, but in principle we would be able to work from home. Twice a week we have a staff with all members of the staff joining the meeting by video conference. On Mondays that is on business, on Tuesdays we do that on a more social basis in which we check on one another, whether we are still ok. So in that aspect internal organization changed enormously.


How are you spending your private time during the pandemic?

We are still discovering what to do and how to do it, but in general I would say that we are finishing our storage. That doesn’t only mean eating all the food we had for a long time, but also reading the books that I didn’t yet read, or watching movies on DVD’s which I didn’t yet see, or making music. There are lots of things which I always planned to do, and finally I have got the time to do them. I have to be honest, it is not only fun at home, it is not only free time, we have to continue working from home, so we have to be disciplined. I find that a very important aspect of working at home – you have to have the discipline to rise early, to start working, and to have some free time in-between, obviously. Still, The Hague expects us to report on certain things, and we are busy doing that.

What will you do first after the state of emergency is cancelled?

I would have to think about that because we are not sure how long all this will take. Probably when we are allowed to go out again it will be nice weather in summer. Who knows, it might be freezing next winter, but we won’t hope for that, obviously. I think I would like to celebrate my new won freedom by taking out my motorcycle, riding into the country, meeting people, seeing what Serbia looks like, a lovely country. We would like to see our friends and colleagues, and throw a party maybe. I think my family would like to visit us to see how we are doing, we would like to see how they are. There are lots of things to do and I think it is important to realize that every cloud has a silver lining. This is a crisis, a terrible crisis, but I think there are good opportunities after the crisis as well. I think it will be nice to already think about how to rebuild society, how to make it better, cleaner, more inclusive, greener… Anyway, there are lots of opportunities as well, so I will surely spend my time during the coming weeks in thinking how to do things better in the future after this crisis is over.

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