Address by H.M. the Queen of The Netherlands

Ankara, Turkey, 27 February 2007

on the occasion of the State Visit to Turkey, 27 February - 2 March 2007.

Mr President,

It gives me great pleasure to be here in your country and to be welcomed by you and Mrs Sezer this evening. I look back with much appreciation on the visit which you paid to the Netherlands five years ago. That was the first State visit to take place between our two countries. Not long after, my son Alexander and Princess Máxima travelled to Turkey. On returning home they spoke with great enthusiasm about their experiences and impressions. I am therefore looking forward all the more to becoming acquainted with your country myself.

Relations between Turkey and the Netherlands go back a long way in history, but also play a growing role in our society today. The presence in our country of a significant number of people of Turkish origin has substantially increased the interest in Turkey among the Dutch population. Over a million of my compatriots visit your country every year. They are maintaining, in a modern way, a longstanding tradition, for Dutch travellers visited the Ottoman Empire as many as four hundred years ago. In those days they were looking to establish trade contacts and political cooperation. Their efforts were successful, and as early as sixteen twelve our countries entered into diplomatic relations. Nearly four centuries have elapsed since then, and in that period our countries have never been in conflict with each other. That also applies to the new Republic of Turkey with which we established ties of friendship shortly after it was founded. Twelve years later, a Dutch-Turkish society was set up under the auspices of my grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina.

Our friendship still continues and our contacts and exchanges have become ever stronger and more frequent. A striking example is the cooperation between universities, arranged partly through the Dutch Institute for Higher Education in Ankara, opened several months ago, as well as the Netherlands Institute in Istanbul, now half a century old. This too is a continuation of an old tradition, for there were interesting scholarly contacts from the very beginning of relations between our countries. A well-known example is in the field of botany, but also the study of the Turkish, Persian and Arabic languages and culture, which began at Leiden University shortly after it was founded in fifteen seventy-five, and still flourishes today.

The Turkish community in the Netherlands is increasingly integrated into our society. Successful young Dutch people of Turkish descent can be found in all kinds of professions and positions: entrepreneurs, students, teachers and politicians, to give just a few examples. This has helped to build good relations between Turkish and Dutch people in numerous areas. Dutch people of Turkish descent often play the role of intermediary in these relations. Some are now returning to their country of origin to contribute to its economic life. A special element in this State visit is that it coincides not only with a Dutch trade mission but also with that of an interesting group of young Dutch and Turkish/Dutch people.

Like our two countries, Turkey and Europe have gradually grown closer. I am of course primarily thinking of the decision taken under the Dutch Presidency at the end of two thousand and four to start the accession negotiations between Turkey and the European Union. Turkey is thus taking further steps along the path on which it resolutely set out in nineteen twenty-three, when the Republic was proclaimed. President Atatürk then made a clear choice to orient Turkey towards the West and towards Europe. The negotiations on membership of the European Union are in line with this orientation. Although they will undoubtedly be time-consuming and though many obstacles will have to be overcome, the first steps on that road have been taken.

The many efforts in so many fields that your country has made under your leadership in recent years to enable Turkey to achieve its goal are truly impressive. You have thus helped to shape the modern and dynamic country that is the Turkey we know today.

On a wider multilateral level, our two countries have also grown closer to each other. As early as nineteen fifty-two, Turkey allied itself with the free world by joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. As a NATO member, your country made a vital contribution over many years to the defence of Western Europe. Today too, Turkey is committed to promoting and maintaining peace and stability in various parts of the world in the context of the UN or NATO. Within this framework, our countries operated together in the Balkans and are similarly engaged at present in Afghanistan. In our day and age Turkey is seen as a strong NATO partner, sharing values such as respect for fundamental freedoms, and standing firm against terrorism and violent extremism.

Mr President,

Our relations, both bilateral and in the framework of international organisations, are friendly, wide-ranging and deep-rooted. In recent years, our peoples have got to know one other better and to appreciate each other more. The increasingly interwoven nature of our ties holds a clear promise for the future.

May I ask all present to raise their glasses with me and drink to your health, Mr President, to that of Mrs Sezer, to a bright future for Turkey and to continuing friendship between the Turkish and Dutch peoples.