By H.E. Mr. Selçuk Ünal, Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye to the Netherlands
Diplomatic relations between the Dutch Republic and the Ottoman Empire was initiated when the States-General of the Dutch Republic sent its first resident envoy, Cornelius Haga, to the Sublime Porte in Istanbul in 1612. The Ottoman Empire reciprocated over two centuries later by sending its first resident envoy to the House of Orange-Nassau, Yahya Karaca Pasha, in 1859.
However, Turkish-Dutch relations go way back than 1612; perhaps as much as by a hundred years. Dutch tradesmen were frequently visiting the Ottoman shores long before the establishment of diplomatic ties. Thus, the first tulip was brought from Istanbul to Amsterdam by one of these merchants in 1560. The first diplomatic mission was sent to Istanbul in 1561 whereas the first envoy had arrived to Ottoman Empire in 1569. As a result, in the second half of the 16th century, history recorded the assistance given by the Ottoman Navy during the Dutch War of Independence. A hamlet in the municipality of Sluis in Zeeland was named as Turkeye by Prince Maurice of Orange in 1604, in recognition of those Ottoman sailors helping the Dutch. Following the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1612, Turkish-Dutch relations have witnessed a steady growth in the following centuries.
Türkiye has always attached special importance to its relations with the Netherlands. It was not a coincidence that following the establishment of the modern Republic of Türkiye in 1923, one of the first friendship agreements was concluded with the Netherlands in 1924.
In post war era, Türkiye and the Netherlands shared common perspectives regarding cooperation in multilateral fora. Our nations founded the Council of Europe, became staunch NATO Allies, worked together in the OSCE and the OECD, among others. Two countries promoted a vision of international peace, security, stability and development on a global scale.
Turkish-Dutch Labor Agreement was signed in this era in 1964. Thanks to this agreement, Turkish guest workers which founded the Dutch-Turkish community started to contribute significantly to the Dutch economy in transforming it into the welfare state of today. Based on this strong history, today Türkiye and the Netherlands have come a long way in their relations since 16th century for a strong future.
Our countries share the political will and determination to overcome issues arising not only among themselves, but also on a broader scale. We have a variety of dialogue mechanisms, bringing several ministries and agencies together regularly. Turkish-Dutch Bilateral Wittenburg Conferences commenced in 2008 provide an important additional platform for the two countries to exchange views, have consultations and further enhance their cooperation.
We share a bilateral trade volume exceeding 10 billion Euros. In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), the Netherlands is the biggest investor in Türkiye. Likewise, Turkish investments in the Netherlands are also at the top in terms of worldwide Turkish FDI.
We are also proud to have hosted 1.2 million Dutch friends in their holidays last year.
Türkiye and the Netherlands today stand side-by-side in international missions such as Afghanistan, the Balkans, and UN peace keeping missions worldwide like Somalia and work together in international fora. Their shared vision is based on effective multilateralism, and prevention of conflicts through diplomacy. Türkiye is determined to exert every effort not only for our common interests, but also for mutual solidarity, dialogue and cooperation. In face of multitude challenges like armed conflicts, terrorism, radicalism, racism and discrimination, Türkiye and the Netherlands are cognizant that no single country is able to overcome those issues on their own. That is why, we are working together with a vision of a rules-based international system.
The EU member Netherlands and a candidate country for full membership Türkiye, could cooperate more on sustainable development, energy, green transformation, climate change, food security, poverty, cross-border crime and irregular migration in the face of global challenges to secure a more prosperous future.
Last, but not the least, I would like to thank for the support and solidarity that Netherlands has extended to Türkiye in the immediate aftermath of my arrival to the Hague – 5 days before the devastating earthquakes of 6 February 2023. Dutch participation to the relief efforts, aid to the victims of the disaster by deployment of the Urban Search and Rescue Team, military airborne Medevac Unit and numerous NGOs were welcomed with gratitude. Like the Turkish aid to the Dutch during the floods in 1916, 1953 and 2021, the gracious donations of the Dutch government, business circles and public, including those of the Turkish-Dutch community, will never be forgotten.
This year the Republic of Türkiye is celebrating its centennial anniversary. Just like the steady growth of Turkish-Dutch relations throughout centuries, the Republic of Türkiye has come a long way in every sense since its founding in 1923. We are determined to further utilize the enormous potential existing in our relations with the Netherlands, both in terms of mutual bilateral benefit and cooperation on the global scale.