East Anglia’s new Honorary Dutch Consul wants to renew centuries-old links with Netherlands
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For solicitor Andrew Wood, his appointment as Honorary Dutch Consul is the culmination of a career's work.
After decades building and promoting stronger links between East Anglia and the Low Countries, he has been sworn in as the official representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for a region which covers Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.
As consul, Mr Wood – a solicitor at Birketts in Norwich – will have administrative responsibilities which include providing emergency consular assistance to Dutch nationals, legalising documents and replacing lost passports.
But it is in developing the business links between the two countries – links which date to medieval times – that he feels he can have the biggest impact.
Mr Wood said: 'I am absolutely delighted to take on the role of Honorary Consul and I look forward to representing the Netherlands in Norwich, which has much shared history with the Low Countries.
'This is the pinnacle of many years working to develop strong links between the UK and the Netherlands.'
He believes that the two countries have much in common, and can work together to their mutual benefit, particularly in areas such as offshore energy, tourism, scientific research and agriculture.
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But there are cultural overlaps too, and with English widely spoken in the Netherlands, there is potential in fields such as education and the arts.
'I prefer to see the North Sea as a bridge rather than a barrier,' said Mr Wood.
'There are already strong links with Schiphol airport, of course. Norfolk is not the end of the road and rail network, but is in fact the gateway to the world.'
As a founder of the East of England Energy Group, Mr Wood thinks companies around East Anglia's ports – including Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft – could forge stronger links with Dutch companies and potentially win offshore energy contracts off the coast of Europe.
'There is a great demand for services and shipping and supply of materials that cannot be served by just one port, so I think we will see much more cooperation,' he said.
Meanwhile, the Aurora link between nine European universities, including the University of East Anglia and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, could also offer scope for 'greater links and greater research', he added.
Mr Wood developed his fascination with Anglo Dutch history after specialising in 17th century history at the University of East Anglia, and is a member of groups including the Commercial Anglo-Netherlands Society, the Anglo-Netherlands Society and the Norfolk, national and Dutch branches of the Institute of Directors.
He hopes to use his five- year term to fully research Dutch-East Anglian relations, which could form the basis of a history.
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