Address by Her Majesty the Queen of The Netherlands

Buenos Aires, Argentina, 30 March 2006

on the occasion of the state visit to Argentina, 30 March - 1 April 2006

Mr President,

It gives me great pleasure to visit your country and to be your guest here this evening. I am delighted to be able to do this with my son, Prince Alexander, who already knows and much appreciates Argentina, and my daughter-in-law Princess Máxima, a child of your people and the best possible guide that we could wish to have on this trip.

It is a very special experience for any Dutch person to visit this country, which has twice as many inhabitants as ours but is around seventy times as big. Concepts like space and silence acquire a new meaning here. Some days ago I myself was able to enjoy for the first time the natural beauty of Santa Cruz, a province that is close to your heart. During this visit we will become acquainted with various aspects of your country, but I realise that no one can really get to know Argentina in one visit or even begin to imagine the vast expanse and immense variety of this country.

The Argentinians' love of nature is well-known, but there is more to your country than nature alone. Argentina also has a rich culture. The writer Jorge Luis Borges, to mention just one name, belongs amongst the greatest in world literature. His work is also greatly admired in the Netherlands. Buenos Aires can pride itself on its important museums and collections with an international reputation. Your country is also known for its flourishing film industry. The fact that for three years in a row the Prince Claus Award - which bears my husband's name - has been presented to Argentinian individuals and institutions shows how highly your cultural activities are regarded internationally.

The Netherlands and Argentina are separated by one of the world's largest oceans. But the seas and oceans have for centuries been a challenge rather than an obstacle to Dutch seafarers. As early as fifteen ninety-nine one of our greatest voyagers, Olivier van Noort, arrived in Puerto Deseado, in Santa Cruz, the province so familiar to you. Other expeditions followed, and various stretches of water around your country were named after Dutch seafarers like Le Maire, and places after Dutch towns, such as Cabo de Hornos, after the town of Hoorn.

Several centuries later our bilateral relations became more intensive. King Willem the First sent a frigate, the Lynx, to South America. When this vessel sailed up the Rio de la Plata, twenty sailors jumped overboard because they wanted to stay in Argentina. Why they preferred this country, which they had never seen before is unfortunately, unknown. That is not true in the case of the captains from Groningen who plied the rivers of Argentina in the middle of the nineteenth century, transporting goods between ports. Nor is it true of the four thousand or so Dutch nationals who emigrated to Argentina at the end of that same century. They saw prospects for building a new and better life here. The Dutch agricultural colony in Tres Arroyos, which I hope to visit tomorrow, is one of the enduring results of that pioneering spirit.

In that period too Dutch enterprises saw the opportunities in Argentina. The port of Rotterdam began to play an important role as the gateway to Europe for renowned Argentinian products such as grain, meat and wine as trade gradually developed between our two countries. As an example of intensive cooperation between nations, the common market that now exists in Europe has been successfully emulated in your part of the world in Mercosur, the presidency of which your country now holds.

Mr President,

Your country has endured some very difficult years. The period of the military dictatorship with all its horrors and violations of human rights made a deep impression on our country at that time. Many in the Netherlands empathised profoundly with the brave men and women who opposed the dictatorship. Sympathy for those persecuted has continued undiminished in our country. Argentina still suffers from the legacy of those dark years. You have acknowledged this problem and courageously made it a public issue. Your Government is trying now to deliver justice to the victims, in the conviction that coming to terms with the past is a precondition for building a stable society.

After the difficult years of dictatorship, your country experienced a period of relative prosperity and stability. Unfortunately, Argentina was then hit by a serious economic recession, which led to a profound crisis with immense social consequences. Many saw their savings melt away; hundreds of thousands became the victim of a dramatic rise in unemployment. The Argentinian people made enormous efforts to surmount these most trying circumstances. Now there are prospects of recovery and room for optimism. As you yourself have emphasised, this process of economic recovery must continue if the troubling level of poverty is to be diminished. An interesting and positive development in this period of reconstruction is the solidarity movements consisting of women, peasants and the unemployed that are emerging all over the country.

Not only large enterprises, but also micro-entrepreneurs can play a major role in the context of a policy aimed at economic growth and social stability. The particular importance of microcredit for small and start-up businesses has recently been highlighted by my daughter-in-law Máxima in the framework of the United Nations Year of Microcredit.

Mr President,

Argentina and the Netherlands are many miles apart, have each lived through their own distinctive histories and are inhabited by people who differ in many ways. Yet, we work well together in a number of fields. There are for example frequent and valuable exchanges of lecturers and students between Argentinian and Dutch universities. And a surprising success achieved by close cooperation in an entirely different area is the creation of a fine new breed of cattle, which are now grazing the pampas under a name that inspires confidence - Holando-Argentina.

Our relationship is sometimes marked by friendly rivalry as well. The most striking example is football, an area in which our countries have met on several occasions. That will soon be the case again. I wish both teams every success in the coming tournament and would be delighted if they were to meet each other in the final.

Mr President,

Distances are there to be overcome. Our countries managed to do that long ago and since then the opportunities for coming together have become more and more numerous. Let us exploit those opportunities to the full by finding ever newer forms of cooperation.

May I invite all those present to raise their glasses and drink with me to your health, Mr President, to that of Mrs Kirchner, to the good relations between our two countries - reflected in the union of my son and daughter-in-law - and to a bright future for the Argentinian people.