State visit from the Netherlands: Speech by His Majesty
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for the Queen and I to welcome Your Majesty to Norway and to the Royal Palace.
Your Majesty has already visited Norway on a number of occasions, both officially, during my father, King Olav’s reign, and privately. Today, however, I am most happy to welcome you on the occasion of this state visit here in Oslo. We are also looking forward to showing you the old Hanseatic city of Bergen.
The exceptionally close relations between our countries are due to geographical, historical and cultural factors.
Our two countries are situated in North-West Europe, and both border the North Sea. Indeed, the sea has been essential for both our countries’ development in the areas of shipping and trade.
The first Norwegian visits to the Netherlands, by our Viking ancestors, were not exactly undertaken in a spirit of negotiation. It was more a case of what we today would call “hit and run”. But we Norwegians are quick to learn. Gradually we started trading in timber, fish and minerals, and in return we received consumer goods that seasoned Dutch merchants had acquired from near and far. This trade helped to improve living standards for many Norwegians. From the Netherlands came a huge range of new products, from exotic spices and Gouda cheese, to tulips and Dutch cabinets. In fact, Norwegians were first introduced to the concept of sleeping in bedlinen by Dutch traders.
During the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th Century, Norwegian timber was a particularly important commodity. We enjoy pointing out that much of Amsterdam is built on timber from forests along the coast of southern and western Norway. Today, DNA tests make it possible to establish that your National Maritime Museum is built on timber from Østfold, the county where Your Majesty’s plane landed this morning.
Perhaps as a result of our close contact with the sea, people in both our countries have an adventurous streak. From time immemorial, a desire to explore the unknown has brought Dutch explorers into northern waters. Resources in the north were important in the distant past, just as they are today. Dutch seafarers named the islands of Spitsbergen, Bjørnøya (Bear Island) and Jan Mayen. The High North, including the Barents sea, named after the navigator and explorer Willem Barentz, are today attracting renewed international attention, particularly in the areas of research and business opportunities.
Your Majesty’s grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina, was also interested in exploration and discovery. She visited Norway 12 times. She even travelled to many of the fjords in western Norway, some of which were quite inaccessible back then. Indeed, vivid memories from her many visits to Norway live on to this day.
Every year, a great many Dutch people visit Norway. Dutch tourists were the fourth largest group of visitors to our country last year. We meet Dutch people everywhere, in the mountains and at sea. Some have even settled here for good.
Our common membership in NATO has led to wide-ranging military cooperation between our countries. There is a long tradition of Dutch soldiers participating in exercises in Norway, and there are regular exchanges of military personnel.
Both our countries were under occupation during the Second World War, and our grandparents, Queen Wilhelmina and King Haakon, together with their governments, enjoyed close contact during their period of exile in London. Over 100 Norwegian commandos were among the allied forces that entered the Netherlands from the south in November 1944 and helped to liberate the country. In recent years, two memorials to fallen Norwegian soldiers have been unveiled in the Netherlands, and Dutch children are helping to look after them. This is a good tradition. It teaches new generations about the importance of the fight for freedom.
The Netherlands and Norway are both staunch supporters of the United Nations. Not only do we share many views, but the names of our countries begin with the same letter – N. This means that our politicians and experts are often seated close to each other in a whole range of international forums, which helps to create an informal network.
Our countries enjoy close cooperation on many pressing issues facing the world today. We both attach importance to combating climate change; promoting human rights, good governance and democratic values; contributing to the peaceful resolution of conflicts; disarmament; and fighting poverty.
The field of arts and cultural exchange is developing constantly. The Netherlands has some outstanding musical arenas, where Norwegian artists have been invited to perform for highly discerning audiences. Dutch contemporary architecture has been an important source of inspiration for Norwegian architects. We are delighted that translated Norwegian literature is popular in the Netherlands, and we are looking forward to the major exhibition on Edvard Munch that will open in Rotterdam in September.
In the field of sport, we have long competed in a number of disciplines, but it is particularly in speedskating that our nations have had the closest battles. Recently, most medals have ended up in your country, but we were encouraged by the bronze medal we won at the world speedskating championship in Heerenveen in March.
I hope that this visit will give Your Majesty some interesting, fresh impressions of Norway.
It is a great pleasure for the Queen and myself to ask you all to join us in a toast to Her Majesty Queen Beatrix, to the people of the Netherlands and to the close and friendly relations between our two countries.