Queen Beatrix began a four-day state visit to Turkey today on the direct invitation of Turkish president Ahmet Sezer. The Netherlands has a 350,000-strong Turkish community and there are strong links between the two countries.
The queen, who is accompanied by crown prince Willem-Alexander and princess Maxima, first laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. This evening she will give a speech at a gala dinner.
The Volkskrant says the queen will be confronted by two contentious issues during her visit: the Armenian genocide question, which has taken on political dimensions in the Netherlands, and Turkish membership of the EU.
‘I hope the queen will find an opportunity not only to strengthen the bonds of friendship but .. to encourage Turkey to continue introducing democratic reforms and move ever closer to us in terms of freedom and tolerance,’ transport minister Camiel Eurlings, who as an MEP was responsible for monitoring Turkey’s progress, told Radio Netherlands.
VVD MP Hans van Baalen said the queen should not avoid difficult issues such as the Armenian question. ‘It will make Turkey stronger,’ he said.
On Wednesday, the queen will host a concert by the Dutch Blazers Ensemble at the private Bilkent university in Ankara. Sezer will reportedly not attend because, as Turkey is a secular state, he does not go to functions where women may wear headscarves.
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