In 1998, Wim Kok, president of the Netherlands (1994-2002) introduced Mary Robinson, president of Ireland (1990-1997) at the fifth Europe Lecture. The theme of this lecture was 'Europe, the Need for Self-Reflection'.
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Former social democratic prime minister of The Netherlands between 1994 to 2002. Wim Kok led a coalition of two political opposites: the social democrats of the PvdA and the liberals of the VVD. Prior to becoming prime minister he was minister for Finance. Considered a competent, sincere politician, capable of forging alliances between political and socio-economic adversaries. During his tenure as prime minister unemployment figures dropped and general income levels rose continually, but his governments were unable to stem growing problems in the sectors of healthcare and education. Internationally lauded as proponent of the "Third Way", striking a balance between right-wing economic and left-wing social policies.
Kok entered politics after he made a career in the labour unions. As chairman of the largest labour union Kok was instrumental in forging a pact between labour unions and employer organisations in 1982.
"The Irish and the Dutch get along very well. Two seas separate our two countries, but seas no longer represent meaningful barriers between people. Our contacts have intensified considerably from the moment Ireland joined the Common Market.
Nevertheless we can still do better. That in itself, but not that alone, Madam President, is a reason to be grateful for your visit."