On 21 March, Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the Netherlands. This followed upon a visit to Turkey in November 2012 by Dutch Minister, Lilianne Ploumen, accompanied by a Dutch delegation, as part of 400th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Turkey. Premier Erdoğan was accompanied by a delegation of Ministers, parliamentarians and CEOs from the Turkish corporate sector.
HM the Queen granted Premier Erdoğan an audience. Premier Erdoğan also met with Minister Timmermans and his colleague, Minister Davutoğlu, and Minister Kamp had a bilateral meeting with his colleague Minister Cağlayan. Minister Ploumen accompanied Premier Erdoğan to the CEO forum with representatives from the Dutch and Turkish corporate sector. The vice-president of the Lower House of the Dutch parliament, Ms Arib, also met Premier Erdoğan.
The purpose of these meetings was to strengthen the ties with Turkey, following upon a successful year celebrating 400 years of relations with Turkey. The visit focussed on maintaining the economic ties between the Netherlands and Turkey. Much of the focus therefore was on enhancing opportunities to strengthen economic cooperation between both countries. During lunch at the official residence (the historic Catshuis), bilateral economic cooperation was discussed in general and (sustainable) energy in particular with Premier Erdoğan and the Turkish delegation. In addition, some 40 Turkish and 15 Dutch CEOs exchanged views during the CEO Forum and discussed the potential of doing business together. At the CEO Forum, a number of Turkish CEOs gave a summary of the latest developments in their country and invited the Dutch CEOs to participate in joint ventures. The Dutch CEOs were sincere in their praise of the achievements of their Turkish counterparts and declared their envy of the economic figures achieved in Turkey. They looked forward to further cooperation.
The visit certainly contributed to maintaining and strengthening the good relations and the opportunity was availed of to raise issues that are of importance to the Netherlands, such as amending the Turkish Constitution, the human rights situation, progress on the Copenhagen-criteria and sustaining good neighbourhood relations. The Cabinet emphasised once again that the Netherlands wanted to see progress in the EU accession negotiations with Turkey.
Maintaining good relations also offers the opportunity for both sides to express their concerns on matters over which the Netherlands and Turkey tend to differ. In this context, the issue of foster children was brought to the fore. The Cabinet gave a summary of the special arrangements in the Netherlands with regard to foster care, where the interests of the foster child are central. It disagreed with the Turkish request to have this issue discussed at Ministerial level and explained that the placing of foster children was a matter for the Dutch people, to be decided in the Netherlands. It was also made clear that there is no discrimination in the Netherlands on the grounds of religion, personal beliefs or for any other reason and that this applies also with regard to the foster parents. During the discussions, the Cabinet also indicated that when placing children in foster homes, the cultural and religious background of the child are taken into account as much as possible. The same applies to all children, regardless of their background. It would also be beneficial, it was suggested, if more foster families were available with the same background as the children who are placed in their care.
Also discussed during the Turkish visit was the situation in Syria. Turkey thanked the Netherlands for the deployment of the Patriots and the Netherlands assured Turkey of its great appreciation for the manner in which the refugees now numbering more than 190,000 have been housed in camps along the Turkish border. The Kurdish question was also raised: the Dutch Cabinet welcomed the call for a ceasefire by PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, on the same day of Premier Erdoğan’s visit to the Netherlands. It also welcomed the response by Premier Erdoğan who regarded this as a very positive development.