Speech by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander at the State Banquet on the occasion of the State Visit by the president of Cabo Verde, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, Royal Palace Amsterdam
Mr President, Mrs Fonseca,
It’s a great pleasure to welcome you both to Amsterdam’s Royal Palace. My wife and I are delighted with your visit to the Netherlands.
In these dark December days, the thought of Cabo Verde brings us some welcome sunshine and warmth. But much more importantly, your visit is a testimony to how closely entwined the lives of our countries have become.
Of course, we have very different histories. But if you listen carefully, you’ll hear a familiar tone that’s common to both our soundtracks. The Netherlands and Cabo Verde are united by the roar of the ocean.
It was the sea that brought the first Cabo Verdeans to the Netherlands in the 1950s. Seafarers from your islands found a second home in the Port of Rotterdam. At first there were only a few, but they were soon joined by others. They sought work in the port and on shore. They cleaned oil tankers, and worked in factories or on building sites.
It was tough. But the Cabo Verdeans were used to that. They were survivors and hard workers, with big hearts and a strong sense of solidarity. Always willing to help a neighbour out. Always willing to share what they had with others.
Something clicked between Rotterdam and the growing Cabo Verdean community. Slowly their adoptive home became their true home. Rotterdam became Cabo Verde’s tenth inhabited island. A little slice of the tropics at 52 degrees north.
A flourishing sense of community helped things along. Because where there are Cabo Verdeans, you’ll find clubs, cultural events and street parties. And you’ll find football and music!
In fact, the first ever Cabo Verdean LP was called ‘Caboverdianos na Holanda’, and was recorded in Rotterdam. That says it all!
Mr President, we follow your country’s ups and downs closely, and applaud its many achievements.
It’s impressive that, in the space of barely two generations, your young republic has managed to develop so successfully.
Your country is rightly proud of its independence and freedom, and cherishes its institutions. Democracy in Cabo Verde has firmly taken root, and most of your people have improved their standard of living considerably.
From the very beginning, the Netherlands was involved in supporting Cabo Verde’s efforts to build an independent nation.
We are grateful for the trust that has existed between our countries from the start. To this day, that level of trust makes our relationship truly special.
And I express this on behalf of all the countries within our Kingdom, including those in the Caribbean. As you know, Creole and Papiamento have a lot in common!
Your visit to the Netherlands provides an opportunity to make our broad partnership even stronger.
This afternoon you met representatives of the Dutch maritime sector here in Amsterdam.
Among other things, you looked at how local residents and enterprises can benefit most from investment in the blue economy and tourism.
Tomorrow you are visiting Rotterdam, where the focus will be on cooperation on law enforcement, security and privacy. Given you and your wife’s legal backgrounds, these are issues close to your hearts.
Together we are working to combat drug crime and trafficking. But security begins in the local community.
So it’s good that we’re also sharing our experiences on social resilience in communities and neighbourhoods.
Alongside these serious issues, we’re also making space for lighter themes, like sport and culture. As a big fan of Ajax, Mr President, you can expect a hero’s welcome here in Amsterdam! Though you might want to keep your allegiance to yourself when you visit Rotterdam tomorrow...
But don’t worry too much: the Rotterdammers are very sporting and accepting people.
Tomorrow you will enter the lion’s den. Not a Palace, but the Castle – the stadium where so many footballers with Cabo Verdean roots have played their hearts out for their team.
Mr President, your country isn’t large in size, but its influence extends around the globe, from Boston to Lisbon and Rotterdam.
Cabo Verdeans in turn take memories from all over the world back home with them. On your beautiful islands we can even find restaurants called ‘Olanda’.
They radiate the same morabeza –hospitality – as we find in Delfshaven.
A number of our guests here tonight are at home in both cultures. They feel a profound connection with – and a deep love for – the Netherlands.
But still…. there’s always that sodade – or longing – for their islands in the sun.
‘Sodade dessa minha terra’, as the famous song by Cesária Évora goes.
The Cabo Verdean voice is dear to our hearts too. In the past 60 years it has become part of our fabric, and we don’t ever want that to change.
May I now ask you all to raise your glasses.
To your good health, Mr President and Mrs Fonseca.
And to the close bonds of friendship between the Republic of Cabo Verde and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.