Frits Bolkestein meets Honours Programme Delft

Thursday 30th of June 2016

Posted by Honours Association

On the 9th of June we had the honor of a visit of Frits Bolkestein during the last get-together of the academic year ’15-’16. It can be said that Bolkestein is a man who has a wealth of experience in politics, business and academics under his belt. Initially Bolkestein studied mathematics at the Oregon State University in the United States and subsequently at the University of Amsterdam. After this his academic career spans the studies philosophy, Greek, economics and subsequently law.

One of the first themes that comes to notice is the amount of traveling Bolkestein has done during his life, be it his trip to Oregon after high school which had to be done by train from the east coast of the United States in 1951 or the traveling done during his work for the Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. Bolkestein seconds this and says that it is very important for ones development to travel a lot to come into contact with other languages, cultures and ideologies because “language is the window to another civilization. Make a long career in Europe but I cannot stress enough the importance of traveling.”

After his studies Bolkestein started working at Shell, majorly being employed abroad. In 1976 Bolkestein held the position of board member of the chemistry department. In 1977 Bolkestein left this position to pursue his political career at the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). After the fall of the cabinet den Uyl-van Agt Bolkestein made his debut in parliament. When asked, Bolkestein mentions that his motivation for joining Dutch politics came from his dissatisfaction with the cabinet den Uyl-van Agt on climate change and development assistance. As stated before, Bolkestein held the position of Foreign Affairs, having an influence on the trade agreements of the Netherlands with Iran. When asked about his achievements during that period, Bolkestein remained humble, stating that one should not overestimate one’s own influence.

Eventually the subject changed to climate change. Bolkestein is, as he himself said, a climate skeptic. By which he does not mean that there is nothing to worry about, he is in favor of other forms of energy besides coal, gas and oil. When asked if his time at Shell has colored his vision on oil, Bolkestein stated: “yes, it is black.” Also current political issues such as the upcoming elections for parliament in 2017, Dutch contributions to the European Commission and European Union passed under review. Brexit was on the verge of happening. About nationalism in the United Kingdom Bolkestein remarked “don’t underestimate the feeling of winning the Second World War. You are laughing now but they aren’t.”

The evening ended with very funny story about Bolkesteins time at ASVA and a trip to communist Prague where he spoke for a group of student leaders in a discussion about colonialism eventually leading to a trip to Poland, coinciding well with his traveling mentality. We want to thank Frits Bolkestein for this amazing evening.