Speech by King Willem-Alexander at the state banquet hosted by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Palácio da Ajuda, Lisbon
My wife and I greatly appreciate the warm welcome we’ve received here in the Palácio da Ajuda. Thank you also for your kind words testifying to our friendship.
Portugal is one of the world’s oldest nations, with a border that has hardly changed in the course of eight centuries. At the same time, your country is renowned for its capacity for transformation. Time and again it has re-invented itself in response to a changing world.
Anyone who knows the first thing about history knows the Dutch have much to thank the Portuguese for. It was your ancestors who opened up the world for their fellow Europeans – including us. It was your bold compatriots who discovered new shipping routes and sailed off to distant shores. You led the way. It took a while before we followed in your wake.
The fact that our countries became rivals is one of the ironies of history. But one thing is certain: we owe part of our commercial success to your maritime expertise. Our Golden Age reflected the glow of your shining example.
That impressive history makes Portugal a very special country. It has always been Europe’s bridgehead; an advance post watching out to sea. Portuguese is a world language, spoken on four continents. Your ties with many different peoples and cultures deserve to be cherished, now and in the future. Portugal understands the value of diversity, of tolerance, and of openness and exchange. Values that are under pressure in so many places in the world, but that we regard as the essence of our free society.
The European Union is lucky to have such a member state. You, Mr President, know how hard the Portuguese have worked to make your nation what it is today. You grew up in a country that was not free, but which transformed into a democracy by its own efforts. You belonged to the first generation of freely elected representatives, and worked actively to craft a constitution that sets out the principles of democracy under the rule of law.
Portugal allied itself with the European community of free nations. Together, the Portuguese have achieved far-reaching reforms. The country’s economic transformation has required sacrifices and placed heavy demands on the resilience of the Portuguese people. Recent years have taken their toll on your compatriots. Many young people still struggle to find jobs worthy of their skills.
And yet there are grounds for optimism about the future!
We see and admire the way Portugal is taking the lead in the transition to sustainable energy.
We see how it is forging a new bond with the sea, by successfully focusing on the ‘blue economy’.
We see how Lisbon, Europe’s ‘Grand Old Lady’, has found a new lease of life, enchanting visitors from all over the world, and thus creating new opportunities.
We see Portugal winning Euro 2016 with unbeatable football, and the Eurovision Song Contest with intimate jazz.
We see Portugal as a NATO ally making a valuable contribution to peace and security.
And we see prominent Portuguese leaders being called to high office. Take UN Secretary-General António Guterres – for whom my wife, Queen Máxima, works as Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development.
On top of all this, we’re fascinated by the Portuguese way of life. It is said that the Portuguese have a thousand different recipes for bacalhau. That illustrates their eye for detail. The attention they pay to the little things that make life so special and worthwhile.
Anyone who’s ever experienced the hospitality and warmth of this country always yearns to return. Portugal embraces you. In the words of the famous song by the queen of fado, Amália Rodrigues:
Dois braços à minha espera
É uma casa portuguesa, com certeza!
May I ask you all now to raise your glasses.
To your health, Mr President!
To the warm friendship between the República Portuguesa and the Kingdom of the Netherlands!