The members of the largest ever Dutch
, to the eastern side of Spitsbergen, have returned to the Netherlands. They were received on Friday, while still on Spitsbergen, by Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders, who made a commitment to double the budget for polar research.
Expedition leader Maarten Loonen, of the University of Groningen’s Arctic Centre, is very pleased. ‘We achieved all our aims. We conducted very multifaceted research, also using old data. New collaborative links have been established between polar researchers, and we’ve really managed to get Dutch polar research on the map, both at home and in Norway. And if that wasn’t enough, Minister Koenders has made the first ever commitment to more than double the budget for polar research.’
Earlier Maarten Loonen told broadcaster NOS that the changes on the island which was investigated have gone faster than expected. It is, however, too early to draw definitive conclusions as to causes and effects. ‘We’re going home with a lot of work to do’, says Loonen. ‘The goal of the expedition was to look at everything from various angles, and we’ve definitely achieved that. I hope we can put it into an overall picture soon.’
On Friday, the expedition members presented their first findings at a symposium on Spitsbergen, which was attended not only by Minister Koenders buts also Norwegian scientists and the Dutch ambassador to Norway, Bea ten Tusscher. Dick van der Kroef, Director of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, praised the contribution and organization of the University of Groningen’s Arctic Centre to the Minister. MP Stientje van Veldhoven, who participated in the expedition, explained why it was so perfectly timed in terms of the international political agenda. Minister Koenders and his Norwegian counterpart also visited the Dutch polar station at Ny-Ålesund, where the University of Groningen is making a great contribution.
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