Jeroen Kreijkamp Opening Expat Center
Speech Jeroen Kreijkamp
Welcome to the Municipal Office
Welcome to this celebratory opening of the Expat Center Utrecht!
For some of you this is probably the first time you visit this beautiful, new Municipal Office: the office for Utrecht residents and today with a special welcome to the expats present. Today, together with the Immigration and Naturalisation Service and the Ministry of Security and Justice, I will be opening, the magnificent Expat Center Utrecht, where expats can go with all their questions.
Utrecht international and personal experience
Utrecht is a dynamic city that attracts international students, entrepreneurs, creators and tourists. This is also evidenced by Utrecht being the most competitive region in Western Europe for the second time.
You may wonder what this top position implies. I’ll tell you. All European regions have been ranked on the basis of seven criteria, including quality of education, living climate, labour market and innovation. We’ve come in for the score of ‘excellent’ for two years now, doing better than regions like London, Frankfurt and Paris. Believe me, as the alderman for Economic and International Affairs I’m as proud as a peacock. The Utrecht Science Park also plays a major role in this success. It’s a place where many of you expats work, and it’s a perfect example of the triple helix I believe in: the cooperation between municipality, knowledge institutions and companies — of which the output here in Utrecht appears to be phenomenal.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We’ve gathered here today, because we want to give all expats as well as all international knowledge workers in Utrecht a warm welcome. This carries me back to the days that I worked as an expat in China — in Shanghai, to be precise. It was great, but I found it hard to find my way there. You probably find the Dutch language difficult, but let me be frank with you, Chinese is no picnic either. With the Expat Center, Utrecht wants to make the process of settling in our region easier for knowledge migrants. We create a one-stop-shop, at which one visit to the Expat Center suffices for expats to go home with their social security number and their residence documents, and start work with their employer in our region immediately.
Settling in the region requires a lot more than merely a social security number and residence documents. Information about life, living and recreation in our city is also important to make you feel at home in Utrecht soon. The Expat Center is conveniently located in the Central Hall of this Municipal Office. Feel free to enter and ask your questions. You don’t need to make an appointment.
EBU vision and ISU
In the past few years, the Economic Board Utrecht — I am a member of its International Board — has worked hard on strengthening the international focus of this region and city.
With all partners we work on putting Utrecht on the international map. For those of you who don’t know the Economic Board Utrecht, or EBU for short: the EBU consists of governmental bodies, knowledge institutions and companies — again parties that create a triple helix.
As a board we have three objectives:
- Putting Utrecht in its diversity on the international map and making the international story of Utrecht (Green, Healthy, Smart) more widely known;
- Together with partners, responding to occasions that arise via international networks;
- Strengthening the Utrecht economy, for instance by enhancing economic relations with focus areas in Europe and beyond.
Utrecht has many opportunities to improve its economic position on the basis of a stronger international profile and to improve employment structurally into the bargain. To make this happen, we want to give entrepreneurs from the Netherlands and abroad the room they need, and increase our hospitality to foreign businesses, tourists and students. The Expat Center contributes to this. The International School Utrecht also contributes to this development. I can see Rynette de Villiers among our guests, and we both know that the ISU is coming apart at the seams. It’s a bit of an issue for the accommodation, but for the city it’s good news. Let me also touch on Utrecht’s multilingualism. Some 85% of the Utrecht inhabitants speak three languages ‘well’, by which I mean that they have a sufficient command of the language to be able to work in it. Additionally, Utrecht residents have more than 170 nationalities among them. In short, the opening of the Expat Center is the cherry on the cake of the internationalisation process that is well under way in Utrecht. For me, this is definitely not our ultimate goal. In the next few years, we are going to work on realising the international ambitions, because it’s what our city needs and deserves.
Cooperation IND and Access
Finally, allow me to say a few words about the excellent cooperation between the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (the IND), Access and the Municipality of Utrecht, which have made the Expat Center possible.
The information desk of the Expat Center is staffed by Access volunteers. Access is a foundation that can boast 30 years’ experience with expats and expat communities in The Hague.
I am very pleased that they want to bring their knowledge and approach to bear in Utrecht as well. The Access volunteers — many of them an expat or an expat’s partner themselves — will provide knowledge migrants with information in English and help them find their way in the Utrecht region. With the IND and Access as our partners, we have quite some experience at our disposal to make our Expat Center a success. Add to this the unique character of Utrecht, and you’ll agree with me that we can’t fail in our effort. Thank you very much — all of you.