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Interview with Sebastiaan Capel

Have you ever wondered who take care of Amsterdam while the rest of us simply enjoy it?

Sebastiaan Capel, a born and bred Amsterdammer, policy and communications consultant and Amsterdam city council spokesman on economic affairs and housing with D66, invited us to the upper rooms of Amsterdam Cityhall for a casual talk.

Why did you decide to go into politics?
I love my city and wanted to give something back. I did it as a civil servant, council assistant, business associate and now, as a city councillor.

I had - and still have - interesting "Ideas for Amsterdam" and in order to propose and promote them, I had to be part of the city council as most decisions are made here.

Participating at the city council is not a full time job; apart from pre-scheduled and party meetings, I try to attend at least two full working days per week.

I also work as a self employed policy and communications consultant mainly for private companies and public services.

How difficult is to be elected in the Netherlands?
First and foremost, it depends on the candidate. There are many capable and intelligent people who are passionate about Amsterdam so you have to set feasible goals and clearly communicate what you stand for.

It also depends on the party that you belong to. When I decided to enter the politics, we had only a couple of seats and thus, being elected was not that easy.

However, I believe in D66’s principles and values. D66 is a "party of equals" where everyone may choose what to stand up for and represent. We have the freedom to decide on our own instead of following dogmas; a "reasonable alternative" with a charismatic leader (Alexander Pechtold).

What is your opinion about:
 Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a "world village." You can take a bike tour around the city and at the same time enjoy its metropolitan atmosphere.

I believe we need to tackle some issues without harming the flavour of Amsterdam. In the 1980s, the city centre was a "derelict" and now, is alive, attractive and wealthy. Certain areas need to be revitalised without altering all those "authentic corners" that we all enjoy.

 Expats
Amsterdam wants and needs both expats and free movers; they are highly educated, creative and also active in the business field.

Moreover, (global) companies are looking for highly skilled work force and whereas back then, people used to move where companies were based, now it is vice versa.

We want internationals to know that Amsterdam is a multicultural environment where they can develop themselves.

 New education regulations and fees
We have to look after education. If you want to build and maintain a knowledge economy, everyone needs to reach maximum and to perform at his / her highest level.

The new measures mainly target Dutch students and still they need to be processed better. Always more money for education.

 Cultural fund cuts
We are against. Government’s "Rembrandt never had a government fund and see where he got" was inexcusable. We are "pro culture" and strongly believe that investing in culture always pays off.

 CityTalks
CityTalks is all about hearing what Amsterdammers have to say and exchanging ideas; a way of keeping in touch with the city and helping whenever possible by the law.

I remember a night shop owner who said it would be very helpful if he could stay open all night long since big supermarkets were open till 10pm and thus, his profits were shrinking. I contacted the economic committee and it turned out that legally, he was allowed to do it. It might have taken him too long to find out, if ever.

Each CityTalk has a different topic which may vary from environment to expat-related issues and housing to economy.

 Amsterdam House
My vision is to establish THE place for everyone who feels international. A landing place for both internationals and international-oriented Dutch.

We want expats to feel like Amsterdammers; to create a sense of belonging. If internationals do not feel like home - if they do not fit in - they will leave.

Unfortunately, the Expat Center is not accessible to all expats and indernationals at the moment. We need a point of reference, a meeting and work space that also provides information and guidance.

Anything to add?
We have "Ideas for Amsterdam" but that does not say much. We have to fight in order to make these ideas work and provide a better environment for people and business.

I am also really excited about the result at the elections for the Province; we went from two to six seats (second party in Amsterdam). That means we keep growing and people have confidence in D66 to deliver.

That is a really good sign for me after one year in the city council and spurs me on to keep working hard for the people living and working in Amsterdam.

Charalampos

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Charalampos Sergios

Sergios is a co-founder of IamExpat. His main interests include online communities and long exposure photography.

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