Turkish President Abdullah Gül began a three-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday. To kick off the visit, which commemorates 400 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Queen Beatrix welcomed the president and his wife Hayrunissa at Amsterdam’s Royal Palace on Dam Square.
Following the opening ceremony at the palace, the Turkish president laid a wreath at the national war memorial in the square. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan were also present.
The mayor has evoked his emergency powers for the duration of the visit because of a possible attack from Kurds living in the Netherlands. There have been several clashes between Dutch Turks and members of the Kurdish community in the past year.
President Gül will meet with a delegation of Dutch businessmen later today. A state banquet at the palace in honour of the president will close the first day’s programme.
Wilders: Gül is no friend of the West
On Wednesday and Thursday, Mr Gul will travel to The Hague and the southern province of Limburg. The president will open a special Turkish pavilion in the town of Venlo, the birthplace of Geert Wilders.
Wilders, whose anti-Islam Freedom Party props up the minority government in parliament, has said several times that Gül is not welcome in the Netherlands. Turkey's Islamic regime, he says, is no friend of the West and therefore no friend of the Netherlands.
It is the second time that a Turkish president has visited the Netherlands. The first time was in 2001 by the then president Ahmet Necdet Sezer. In 2007, Queen Beatrix paid an official visit to Turkey.
Dutch misjudged surging Turkish economy
On Tuesday, banking and financial services group ING published a report which warns that the Netherlands could be losing up to 4.1 billion euros of exports to Turkey. ING says investors have underestimated the potential of Turkey’s market whose gross domestic product is expected to pass the Netherlands by 2014.
Turkey’s economic performance outstripped market expectations in 2011 with a growth rate of 8.5 percent, making it the world’s second expanding economy after China.
Some 400,000 people living in Netherlands are of Turkish origin.
©Radio Netherlands Worldwide