The reciprocal Russia-Netherlands Year is almost over and it has been quite a year. Events began with Russian President President Putin and Netherlands Beatrix Queen inaugurating the ceremonies in early 2013 at the Hermitage Amsterdam on Amstel, marking 400 years of diplomatic relations.
The Netherlands earmarked some €200 million (267 million in USD) for promoting cultural and economic projects between the two nations. About 200 events took place in Russia and another 200 in the Netherlands.
It is such a cultural exchange that European countries observe and which frankly often is key to communication in times of trouble. Yes, they’ve had some trouble recently.
Troubling incidents included the crew of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship attempting to board a Gazprom drilling rig in the North Sea, the Dutch police arrested Russian diplomat Dmitri Borodin (arrest of diplomats is forbidden under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) for beating his children while drunk, and then a senior Dutch diplomat was beaten by unidentified assailants in Moscow just days after Netherlands police had arrested Borodin, his Russian counterpart.
So on Friday it was with a sigh of relief that the two nations celebrated the end of the cultural exchange as new King Willem-Alexander and his wife Máxima (Queen consort) arrived in Moscow for the official visit to lay the cultural year to rest. The King and Queen consort were met by President Putin in the Aleksandr Hall of the Kremlin Grand Palace.
Just hours prior to the Dutch Royals arrival the Russian foreign Ministry had strongly criticized the Dutch government by saying that the Greenpeace action was a gross violation of Russian law. However in remarks when greeting the King, President Putin said that, “Despite some rough spots in the diplomatic service, the King was able to visit. And I am sure that today we will have plenty to talk about, in the light of the close nature of our relations.”
Lest we forget, Russia has threatened to block imports of Dutch tulips and dairy products due to sanitary and health concerns. Those dang tulips are always spreading something apparently. Russian heating oil however doesn’t seem to cause those sort of issues for importing countries.