Speech by Princess Laurentien

Amsterdam, 1 march 2007

during the European Cultural Foundation event 'Istanbul and Europe - Art in Turkey today' in De Nieuwe Kerk.

Dear guests, dear friends,
Van harte welkom, merhaba, hos geldiniz - a warm welcome to this special Turkish and European evening in the splendid setting of De Nieuwe Kerk and in the context of the wonderful exhibition, 'Istanbul: the City and the Sultan'. Istanbul, the city so specially situated on the banks of the Bosporus.
Tonight, we are invited to delve a little deeper into Turkey's contemporary art scene, especially that of Istanbul. We get to peek into the city's street life through photographs taken by children, catch a glimpse of the latest Istanbul fashion trends as captured by style magazine Code, and get a sense of the daily lives of Turkish teenagers abroad through their own one-minute videos.
By a happy coincidence, as you know the Queen is currently on a state visit to Turkey, where she is also meeting young people who are actively engaged in 'intercultural dialogue' and visiting the impressive museum of modern art: Istanbul Modern. The importance of the role played by art, culture, dialogue and cooperation in our relations with Turkey cannot be emphasized enough.
What is not a coincidence is the ECF's contribution to De Nieuwe Kerk's Istanbul exhibition, with this special programme tonight. The ECF has a longstanding and deep appreciation of Turkey's rich cultural offerings, supporting projects in Turkey through its grants and travel schemes, holding video workshops for Turkish youngsters, and offering training to the country's cultural organizations so that they may become key players of cultural change.
This keen interest in Turkey of course stems from what the European Cultural Foundation is all about: a passionate belief that sharing cultural and artistic expressions across boundaries increases the understanding - and thus respect - we have for one another across Europe. In 'bringing people together' in the cultural domain, our independence enables us to be effective across political, geographical and religious boundaries. The ECF is proud to be deeply European, firmly rooted in this country and operating internationally from this city.
It is exactly such strengthening of ties between cultures that has been championed by the Foundation's current President, Princess Margriet, for the last 24 years. As the incoming President of the ECF, I am delighted to continue on this exciting path, not least in relation to Turkey. In fact, the foundation's governing and advisory bodies will meet in Istanbul next month.
At the ECF we believe that enabling artists to work together across borders can help to break down stereotypes, to build a more open-minded Europe that respects cultural diversity. 'The experience of diversity - the power of culture' is exactly our current focus of work. All of our activities in this area have one goal: connecting our diverse societies and countries through arts and culture.
The exhibition of De Nieuwe Kerk reveals the rich past of the Ottoman Empire. This inspired us to present some insights into the present-day richness of Turkey. Deeply engaged in and with Turkey, and collaborating intensively with Turkish artists and cultural organisations, we are proud to make you familiar with a few examples of this engagement and collaboration tonight, showcasing some of the work we have supported in the field of contemporary arts in Turkey over the past two years.
I would like to thank the organisers of the Istanbul exhibition at De Nieuwe Kerk, and in particular mrs. Broers. Thank you very much for your generous hospitality to the European Cultural Foundation and our guests tonight.
Your exhibition opens a window, and therefore our eyes, to the richness of the Ottoman past. You have enabled us to share a few cultural treasures from Turkey today. By better understanding the past, we may better grasp the present. So hopefully, the visions of young artists of Turkish origin or connection, will be an inspiration to us all.

Thank you.