Beyond Mainports: a new perspective

In  July 2016  the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Raad voor de Leefomgeving en Infrastructuur, Rli) published the report Beyond Mainports. The Rli-council advises the Dutch government and Parliament on strategic issues concerning the sustainable development of the living and working environment.

The Council is independent, and offers solicited and unsolicited advice on long-term issues of strategic importance to the Netherlands. Through its integrated approach and strategic advice, the Council strives to provide greater depth and breadth to the political and social debate, and to improve the quality of decision-making processes.

Beyond Mainports is a critical report about the economic role of Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam for the Netherlands. ‘Mainports are not the key engines of the Dutch economy’ is the title of chapters 2, for example.

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In conclusion

With its recommendation to ‘relinquish mainport policy’, the Rli-council sounds a critical note in the current discussion on mainports, while at the
same time acknowledging the continued importance of Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam for the Netherlands. As part of the core economic areas, they remain a crucial part of the Dutch business climate.

The Rli-council also understands that the government may be under considerable pressure to maintain the current mainport policy from various interests and organisations that stress the importance of Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam. These groups lobby the government to pursue a consistent policy, create a level playing field, stimulate and support the energy transition and promote lifelong learning. The Rli-council agrees with some of these points in its recommendations in this advisory report, but feels these activities should take place within the context of a Business Climate Development Strategy rather than a mainport policy.

The Rli-council’s recommendations to conduct research into the critical mass of volume flows for Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam and to initiate a debate on a number of urgent policy issues are made with the aim of allowing the next government to take a broader view of Schiphol Airport and the Port of Rotterdam as components of the core economic areas.

You can read here the full report in English.