Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on Dutch-Turkish relations through the ages.
It gave me great pleasure to welcome President Gül to the Netherlands this year. The reason for his visit was a gratifying one, 400 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries. This takes us back to the year 1612, when contacts between the Ottoman Empire and the Netherlands had become so important that for the first time, a Dutch envoy, Cornelis Haga, was accredited to the Sublime Porte. The cooperation between our countries thus gained official recognition. The activities we had in common at the time were trade in the Mediterranean and the protection of our interests against interference from other great powers. The offices of the Levant Trading Company, an eminent association of Amsterdam merchants, were established in the former Town Hall of Amsterdam. It is remarkable that in the 400 years that have since passed, a period in which our continent exhausted itself in armed conflicts, relations between our two countries have always been peaceful. This is yet another reason to dwell at length on this anniversary.
In Turkey and the Netherlands alone, more than 300 cultural events have been organized to mark this anniversary, in fields such as the creative industries: music, theatre, literature, and the exchange of art collections. In this way, we hope to increase awareness of our respective cultural treasures and to enhance cooperation and exchange in these areas. A good example is the exhibition of modern art from Turkey in the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam and in the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht.
In general, the Dutch know relatively little about modern Turkey, and I could imagine the converse is also true. The great number of contacts, exchanges, and events taking place this year will provide ample opportunity to become better acquainted with one another and to review the image we have of each other in light of today’s reality.
Turkey can look back on a proud past and today too plays an important role in the region and on the world stage. It is a stable factor in a turbulent area where existing powers and relations are being challenged on all sides. For many people, Turkey is an inspiration and an example. Its influential position is based on a long history, which has gradually led to greater international involvement and alliances with other nations. It joined NATO at an early stage and has always been known as a strong and reliable partner. Turkey is a cofounder of the OECD, an active member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, and a candidate for EU membership. It plays a prominent role in the international arena. It takes part in various NATO missions, for example in Kosovo, off the Somalian coast, and in Afghanistan.
Our countries work together in various international organizations. In addition, they engage in bilateral political consultations at the Wittenburg Conference. In 2011, the annual meeting was held in Ankara, and in Rotterdam in March 2012. Alongside the Conference sessions, working groups at official levels address issues such as energy, migration and integration, counterterrorism, and cultural cooperation. These frequent meetings illustrate our close and varied contacts.
The importance of Turkey’s position in the world is to a large extent determined by its strong and rapidly growing economy. More recently, modern industry has taken its place alongside traditional crafts and agriculture. However, whenever Turkey is mentioned nowadays, youth and entrepreneurship come to mind. The young population is a sign that the country has the future on its side.
The dynamism of the Turkish economy has an impact on our country as well. For many years now the Dutch business sector, including both large, internationally oriented companies and SMEs, have found their way to Turkey. They are attracted by the favorable investment climate and a growing consumer market with considerable purchasing power. What is more, the substantial number of tourists from our country contributes to the Turkish economy. They are drawn by the stories they have heard about its rich historical heritage, the pleasant Mediterranean climate, and the legendary hospitality.
Conversely, Turkish compatriots have contributed a great deal to the Dutch economy. In the early 1960s, they came to the Netherlands in great numbers to work in industry. Many stayed here and others came to join them. There are now almost 400,000 people of Turkish descent living in the Netherlands, spread over different regions and active in all kinds of sectors. Their entrepreneurial spirit is a welcome contribution to our society.
Relations between Turkey and the Netherlands have never been limited to interstate contacts. From the very beginning, they included the exchange of people, goods, and ideas. This is a story not only of states and diplomats, but also of inquisitive travellers and acquisitive traders as well as scholars and artists. This is what makes the history of our relations so fascinating and this festive occasion so well worth celebrating.
© The Business Year