Speech by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander at the state banquet during the state visit to His Majesty King Carl Gustaf and Her Majesty Queen Silvia in Stockholm
Thank you for your kind words, and for your warm welcome here in Stockholm. My wife and I are thoroughly enjoying this visit to you and Queen Silvia. Our relations and our friendship could not be closer. Every meeting with you both – and with Crown Princess Victoria and other members of the Royal Family – reaffirms the special bond between us. And as for Sweden itself... your country will always be very close to our heart.
It’s fascinating to see how the relationship between our countries has evolved over the centuries. As we all know, the seeds were planted over 400 years ago. Back then, Sweden and the Dutch Republic were the ‘new kids on the block’ in Europe. They were ambitious, expansive and bold.
Our countries helped each other along. Helped make each other great. We traded and shared ideas. We imitated each other’s skills.
And yes, we had occasional setbacks, such as the sinking of the Vasa, on her maiden voyage. Where the blame for that disaster lay remains a mystery, but in any case, it did not stand in the way of our partnership. Today, we are still proud of Gothenburg’s Dutch character, to name just one example.
A lot has been said and written about the Netherlands’ influence on Sweden and the enduring appeal of our openness. But we, the Dutch, shouldn’t be too quick to pat ourselves on the back.
When the famous Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius was forced to flee the Netherlands, he was welcomed by Sweden with open arms. And he wrote as his own epitaph: ‘This is Hugo Grotius, captive and exile of the Dutch, but envoy of the great Kingdom of Sweden.’
As so often happens with emerging powers, cooperation quickly led to rivalry, and rivalry to distance.
But fortunately, in our time, we have grown closer again.
Our ties have increased and flourished during your reign, Your Majesty. And in recent years that process has accelerated. A deep bond has grown. You might almost say that the Netherlands is the most southerly of the Nordics!
We are both pioneers of innovation. Together we are working to push the boundaries of human knowledge.
We are both on the path to a circular economy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, together, Sweden and the Netherlands could be the world’s first fossil-free welfare states!
And both at home and abroad, our countries defend the same values: peace, security, democracy, and respect for universal human rights, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation or cultural background.
It’s fascinating to see how Sweden keeps the international community on its toes and lights the way ahead. Take the introduction of your feminist foreign policy. An example that is being followed elsewhere, including in the Netherlands.
The goal is a world with equal rights and opportunities for people in all their diversity. We’re keen to learn and benefit from your experiences.
A feminist foreign policy is also a resilient foreign policy. In that respect the Netherlands warmly welcomes Sweden’s application to join NATO. We realise that this is a big step for a country that has cherished its neutrality for more than two centuries. At the same time, for many years now our countries’ armed forces have enjoyed outstanding cooperation. We have long been close defence partners.
The Swedish people are known as a nation of engineers. If they see a challenge, they will devise a solution. The Dutch are known as a nation of traders. If they see an opportunity, they will seize it. Together, we can achieve fantastic results. Just as we did 400 years ago.
In the coming days we will reflect in detail on our common goals, in areas like clean transport and the use of green hydrogen in the transition to sustainable energy.
Your Majesty, we realise that both our societies face tough challenges which demand a great deal from us. It is painful when young people choose a path of crime and violence, and when ordinary people in our cities no longer feel safe. We can also discuss topics like these in the knowledge that friends share not only their successes, but also their concerns.
Many of those concerns have a European dimension. How, for example, can people make ends meet with energy prices so high?
And how can we preserve our unity in the face of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine? In the first half of 2023 Sweden will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. We have every confidence that, under your leadership, the Union will go from strength to strength, in the interests of all European citizens.
Your Majesty, in a little under a year’s time, you will be celebrating 50 years on the throne.
Festivities here are often accompanied by the music of ABBA. This year, for example, you celebrated your birthday to the sounds of ‘Dancing Queen’.
Perhaps I can suggest two other songs for next year’s jubilee: ‘Super Trouper’ and ‘On and On and On’!
It’s wonderful to see you both in excellent health and to be able to celebrate our friendship with you and your family here in Kungliga Slottet in Stockholm.
And now, may I ask you all to raise a glass with me.
To you both, Your Majesties,
And to our friendship.