President Abdullah Gül presented the Order of the Republic to Senator René van der Linden, who is the former President of the Senate of the Dutch Parliament and former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and who is the current President of the Advisory Board of the 400th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands.
President Abdullah Gül decorated Senator van der Linden with the Order of the Turkish Republic during a ceremony held at the Çankaya Presidential Palace.
Sharing his pride in awarding the Order of the Republic, the highest order in Turkey conferred on persons other than heads of state, to distinguished statesman Senator van der Linden, President Gül said his friendship with Mr. van der Linden goes back many years, though it does not predate the 400 years of diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands. “We became friends at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and had a close working relationship when Mr. van der Linden served as the Chairperson for the European People’s Party Group at the Council of Europe between 1999-2004 and as the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe between 2005-2008.
During his active political career which spans almost 40 years, the President noted, Mr. van der Linden has consistently maintained his conservative democratic stance and declared him to be a democrat who has worked hard since the Cold War years to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms as well as democracy take root and spread in Europe, in particular and around the world.
In his endeavors, continued President Gül, Mr. Van der Linden has been a visionary statesman taking Europe’s common values as his yardstick and opposing any artificial divisions over such criteria as religion, language, race or culture while laboring to spread these values to a greater part of Europe. “René is also a true friend, who has always been knowledgeable about issues as regards to Turkey and who has spared no effort in making constructive contributions in this respect, especially in the Council of Europe throughout his long international political and diplomatic career. On this note, let me express that closing the monitoring procedure for Turkey during your tenure as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as well as the role you played in the election of Mr. Çavuşoğlu as the President of the PACE shall always be appreciated and remembered by your Turkish friends.”
Recalling that the decision for launching the EU accession talks with Turkey was taken in 2004 during the Dutch Presidency, President Gül said greater support from the Netherlands, in this regard, is even more important today when the accession process is stalled due to some artificial barriers raised by a few member states, adding that Turkey has always appreciated Mr. van der Linden’s efforts on that matter.
The President, pointing to the 400th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Netherlands celebrated with great joy last year, stated that there were about 600 events of various magnitudes in a variety of fields in both countries throughout 2012. He further referred to his state visit to the Netherlands, Turkey’s sister country and her ally, upon the invitation of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix. In return, he remembered, Turkey was honored to host Queen Beatrix a short while after his visit. “As the President of the Advisory Board of the 400th Anniversary Celebrations, René has been the greatest force and architect behind the success of these extensive and busy 400 year celebrations. Through these activities, he has made concrete contributions to further the political, economic and cultural cooperation between Turkey and the Netherlands.”
President Gül, after offering his thanks to Mr. van der Linden for his sincere and devoted efforts to further cement the long-standing friendship between the two countries and for displaying it to the whole world, decorated his Dutch guest with the Order of the Republic.
As for Mr. van der Linden, he also extended his thanks to President Gül for being honored to be presented with the Order of the Republic, said Turkey has always been an important part of his life and he has made great Turkish friends.
Afterwards, the First Couple had a memoir photo taken with Senator van der Linden and his wife, Gemma van der Linden and their son.
Attending the ceremony were Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Deputy PM Ali Babacan, Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış, Youth and Sport Minister Suat Kılıç, Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik, former Ministers Ertuğrul Günay and Yaşar Yakış, Secretary General of the Presidency Mustafa İsen, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Feridun Sinirlioğlu, Chairman of the TBMM Commission on Foreign Affairs Volkan Bozkır, Turkey-Netherlands Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group Chairman Şaban Dişli, AK Party Deputy Chairman Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, MPs, Ambassadors and other officials.