Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to express my most sincere thanks for Your Majesty's warm words of welcome. The Queen and I are deeply honoured and delighted to be Your Majesty's guests for this state visit. We have very fond memories of our very first state visit to the Netherlands in 1976 during the reign of Queen Juliana, and of Your Majesty's state visit to Sweden in 1987. Although we have visited your beautiful country on a number of occasions, we very much look forward seeing more of it.
The ties between our two countries are strong, both on the political and family level. Princess Lovisa of the Netherlands married King Karl XV in 1850, Prince Bernhard was a very close friend of my father and Queen Juliana was my dear godmother.
Your Majesty is a much appreciated godmother to our daughter Crown Princess Victoria, and She is proud to be the godmother to the little Princess Amalia.
Furthermore, at our summer palace Solliden there is a beautiful part of the garden named The Dutch Garden, which is planted with roses given by Queen Wilhelmina to Queen Victoria on her 60th birthday. These are just a few examples of the close and friendly bonds between our families.
We are both members of the European Union and we share a similar outlook on the world, with a strong belief in the “rule of law" concerning international relations and human rights. There is also a deep engagement in both Sweden and the Netherlands in helping developing countries. And we both strongly support participation in international peace missions in different parts of the world.
The Dutch and the Swedes always get on well together. Many Swedes come to the Netherlands for studies, work, or to settle. They also come to admire your impressive cultural treasures, as for instance the Teyler´s Museum in Haarlem, which houses a remarcable collection of drawings once owned by the Swedish Queen Kristina and bought in 1789 by Mr. Teyler, a Dutch business man, one hundred years after Queen Kristina's death.
We do appreciate the increasing number of Dutch people visiting Sweden to enjoy our nature and cities and those who have chosen to settle in Sweden are most welcome in my country and provide an important contribution to the municipalities.
What stands out historically are the very strong links between our countries during the Golden age of the Dutch Republic and the considerable impact of Dutch industrialists, architects and painters in Sweden. I need only to mention the names of Willem de Besche and Louis de Geer, both extremely important in the development of the Swedish iron/ore industry.
I know that you later this year will commemorate the publication in 1609 of Hugo Grotius (Hugo de Groot) famous work “Mare Liberum." He also served as a very successful Swedish Ambassador to Paris for several years. In those days the nationality of an ambassador was not important. The first Swedish Ambassador to the Dutch Republic was a Dutchman, Jacob van Dijck, who also helped the Swedish king to construct the new town of Gothenburg.
The 1600's were a period with very intense relations between our countries, and as a result of a friendship agreement in 1614, Sweden established permanent diplomatic relations.
Today Sweden is a member of the European Union. This is of fundamental importance for our present relations. We work together side by side in our common responsibility for the future of Europe. As a result our political, economic and other relations have intensified considerably. We are close and often like-minded partners and we look forward to continue this partnership during the Swedish EU Presidency during the second half of this year.
The European Union now faces considerable challenges - as well as possibilities. Together we can shoulder a strong role in meeting these challenges. The financial and economic crisis can lead to serious social consequences and we must act in order to meet them. A more long-term global challenge is the climate change. We hope that we can conclude a global agreement in Copenhagen this fall. There is a need for ambitious targets to fight global warming and the European Union has an important role to play in making this come true.
In these diffucult times we need to collaborate to meet these and other long-term problems. During the Swedish presidency we hope to work closely together with the Netherlands in this task.
Many challenges in our contemporary societies are similar. It is valuable for politicians and experts to meet, discuss and learn from each other's experiences and I am pleased that there is a lively exchange between our respective governments. The seminar I attended today about combating exclusion from the labour market is one good example. In times of economic recession it is particularly important to keep contacts open, to overcome difficulties and to create new opportunities. Dialogue is simplified by the fact that our people share the same democratic ideals, respect for human rights, global justice and concern for the climate and for our environment.
Dutch companies have over the years been large investors in Sweden and the Netherlands is one of the most important markets for Swedish enterprises. It seems that the Swedish and Dutch consumers have similar tastes and are equally open to new products. I hope that the meeting of our business delegations during this visit will create new opportunities for the future. The focus is on how to create sustainable cities and how to handle our water-resources. These are major challenges for every society around the globe today. I see possibilities in using “green technologies" in order to increase our competitiveness and reduce unemployment for a better future for all of us, including other parts of the world.
It was heartening and impressive to see the large extent to which Dutch institutions and organizations participated in celebrating the 300th anniversary of Carl Linnaeus in 2007. All in all, close to a hundred events took place in the Netherlands - one of which was at Keukenhof, where our daughter, the Crown Princess, very much appreciated to participate. I can assure you that the Queen looks forward to visiting this beautiful park tomorrow.
We both look forward also to the rest of the programme for the next two days. May I now propose a toast to Her Majesty, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, to the Royal Highnesses of the Netherlands, as well as to the happiness and prosperity of the Dutch people.