Chairmen in front of a helicopter

This week, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the leaders of political parties in the House of Representatives paid a working visit to the Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën off the coast of Tanzania. They were accompanied by General Tom Middendorp, the Netherlands Chief of Defence. During a patrol along the east coast of Africa, the Members of Parliament were informed in detail about the deployment as part of EU counterpiracy Operation Atalanta. "The work done by Dutch military personnel and their international colleagues commands respect and is important for the region, as well as for the Netherlands. We are impressed by the professionalism of our men and women," said Speaker of the House of Representatives Anouchka van Miltenburg, who led the delegation.

After the commanding officer of the De Zeven Provinciën, Commander Ruud Schoonen, had received the group aboard, his frigate put out to sea. During the two days the delegation spent on board, the ship's crew gave the MPs a comprehensive picture of the mission and how it is being conducted. Various demonstrations were provided by the navy crew as well as by members of the other Services and a Maltese boarding team. These demonstrations addressed all of the aspects of a counterpiracy mission, and also included a highly realistic exercise in which the ship and its crew had to defend themselves against attacks by aircraft and submarines. Another item on the programme was an introduction to the on-board NH90 helicopter. While on the ship, the members of the delegation were also able to form a vivid picture of what life on board an air-defence and command frigate is like. "It is good to see and hear for yourself how and under what conditions our military personnel do their jobs. That is important for our job in Parliament," said Speaker of the House Anouchka van Miltenburg.

Group picture from a helicopter

Prior to the visit to the frigate, the Speaker and the MPs met with the Speaker of the Tanzanian Parliament, Mrs Anne Semamba Makinda, in Dar es Salaam. The topics discussed included Tanzania's relations with the Netherlands and current developments in the areas of politics and government. The Speaker of the Parliament of Tanzania also gave an explanation of the most important challenges faced by her country. She expressed her gratitude for the Netherlands' involvement and support in meeting these challenges. Van Miltenburg thanked her counterpart for her openness and invited Tanzanian MPs to visit the Netherlands to exchange ideas and experiences.

In addition to Mrs Van Miltenburg, the members of the delegation were: Halbe Zijlstra (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy),  Diederik Samsom (Labour Party), Emile Roemer (Socialist Party), Sybrand van Haersma Buma (Christian Democratic Appeal), Alexander Pechtold (Democrats '66), Arie Slob (Christian Union), Bram van Ojik (Green Left) en Kees van der Staaij (Reformed Policital Party). The other leaders of political parties in the House of Representatives were, for various reasons, unable to take part in the working visit. The delegation left Schiphol airport for Tanzania on Monday morning 7 July and returned to the Netherlands on Friday morning the 11th.