Ben Knapen began his career as a history teacher in 1976. In 1977 he was hired as foreign desk editor at the NRC Handelsblad national newspaper and worked as a correspondent for the NRC in Germany and the United States until 1990. From 1979 to 1984 he also served as a broadcast news correspondent for the NOS news in Germany. In 1990 he was appointed editor-in-chief of the NRC Handelsblad newspaper.
In 1996 Ben Knapen was appointed Senior Director of Corporate Communication, Marketing and Institutional Relations at Philips. In 1999 he joined the Board of Management of publishing company PCM Uitgevers, where he was responsible for the book division.
As a freelance correspondent in Southeast Asia he wrote for the NRC Handelsblad from 2006 to 2008.
Since 2008 he has been a council member of the Advisory Council for Government Policy (WRR) and Professor of Media Quality and Ethics (endowed chair) at Radboud University Nijmegen.
Ben Knapen served as Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation in the first Rutte government from 14 October 2010 to 5 November 2012.
In 2013 he became Director-General of the European Investment Bank of the European Union, before becoming a member of the Dutch Senate representing the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) on 9 June 2015. He has been leader of the CDA in the Senate since 11 June 2019.
On 22 September 2021 Ben Knapen was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs (with effect from 24 September) in the third Rutte government, which is currently serving in a caretaker capacity.
Ben Knapen is a member of the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA). He has held many other positions in addition to those listed above. He has been a member of the Executive Committee of Vereniging AEGON, supervisory director at Goede Doelen N.V, member of the supervisory board of the KRO broadcasting company and member of the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV).
To mark the Freedom Online Coalition’s (FOC) 10th anniversary, Finland, as the Chair, is organising a virtual FOC 10th Anniversary Ministerial Meeting on 3 December 2021, hosted by Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Ministerial, the culmination of Finland’s FOC Chairship, is an important opportunity to raise the visibility of the Coalition and to set the FOC's goals and vision for the 2020s.