Strengthening Diplomatic Ties



H.E Frank Mollen – Ambassador Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Abu Dhabi

Shereen Shabnam

Born in  the Netherlands, Franciscus Johannes Maria (Frank) Mollen has had an impressive academic life and a dynamic career in diplomacy before he joined the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi. We met him to find out more about his life’s journey and efforts to strengthen the ties between the Netherlands & the United Arab Emirates and the rest of the world.

Ambassador Frank studied at the cycle court CPRF at Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), Paris (France) and did his Post-academic European Law Programme at the College of Europe, Bruges (Belgium) after his initial studies at the University of Nijmegen (Netherlands) where he did his Master of Laws LLM – European Law, International Law and Macroeconomics.

Ambassador Frank tells us that his interest in diplomacy comes from a general interest in international affairs and learning about cultures. The Foreign Service gave him the opportunity to travel around and get to know different countries and cultures while representing the Netherlands.

He joined the Foreign Service when he was 27 years old and before becoming the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the United Arab Emirates, he had a long diplomatic career which saw him working all over the world. From postings in Kenya, Kuwait and Australia, to representing the Netherlands closer to home such as Belgium, France and Germany.

When asked about his hardest challenges in his career, Frank remembered his posting in Kenya in 1993 and 1994. As a consequence of the genocide and civil war in Kenya’s neighboring state Rwanda, there was an influx of refugees to Nairobi. Seeing that kind of suffering was always very tough for everyone around.

On the role of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi, he comments that this Embassy is the linking pin between the two countries. The UAE and the Netherlands have a strong and good friendship and Ambassador Frank looks forward to maintaining and improving this relationship.

Trade has been the main driver of the successful relationship between the UAE and the Netherlands and there have been Dutch companies in Abu Dhabi for over 60 years like Royal Dutch Shell and Friesland Campina (the Rainbow Brand). Other Dutch companies contributed for example to the iconic Dubai Palm and the Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi. For the Netherlands, the UAE is an important trading partner in the region and most of the Dutch export to the Gulf region actually goes to the UAE.

The Netherlands is an agricultural powerhouse as it is the second largest producer of agricultural products whilst only being a small country and without dams and dikes; more than half of the country would be under water all or part of the time.  As a densely populated country, twice as small as the UAE but with 17 million inhabitants, it is in the Dutch genes to strongly believe in the sustainable use of our resources and energy.

The Ambassador tells us that the Netherlands will participate in EXPO 2020 in Dubai with the theme the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. The Netherlands believe only an integrated approach both within and amongst countries will allow sustainable solutions to resolve the problems of this nexus. Another key driver of cooperation between our countries is innovation. One of the achievements is a signed Memorandum of Understanding on Innovation between the UAE and the Dutch government.

When asked about what kind of advice he has for young people, Ambassador Frank mainly encourages young diplomats to be inquisitive, learn understand how a country works and explain to your own country what a country stands for, whether this means on the political front, or in terms of business, culture or trade. Ambassador Frank believes that inquisitiveness, keeping up with developments and learning languages are significant for every student with an interest in Foreign Affairs.

Regarding the UAE, Ambassador Frank loves that the UAE does a lot to promote tolerance, the position of women and gender equality, which ensures the country has an extremely bright future.

On a more personal level, being in the Foreign Service means that every three or four years he has to move. This can be challenging for a partner or the family of a diplomat, especially to find new friends and new schools. Ambassador Frank feels that as a diplomat, one has to be flexible and adapt well to different cultures and being open-minded helps to understand other countries.

Ambassador Frank enjoys the weather in UAE, which he enjoys with his wife Máire Mollen-Conway. They have four children together. We conclude the interview wishing Ambassador Frank, his team and his family the best in all they do and aspire towards.