The President of the Republic, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, at the State Dinner in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh on 19 October 2006 at the House of the Brotherhood of the Black Heads.
Your Royal Highness,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I have the great pleasure of welcoming You, Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness on your State Visit to Estonia. This remarkable event will become a milestone in the history of relations between our two countries. The Estonian people have welcomed Your visit with great warmth.
I would like to recall another happy day in the history of our nation – 12 December 1918 when thousands of Tallinners welcomed the arrival of the British fleet. The assistance and support that Great Britain provided to Estonia in the difficult years of our war of independence in 1918-1920 was invaluable. We honour the memory of the British servicemen who gave their lives in the fight for Estonia’s independence, and memorial plaques in Tallinn and Portsmouth commemorate them. As a mark of respect, one of the warships that will arrive from Britain to supplement our navy will be named after Admiral Cowan.
Details of the activities of the merchant guild that built this house were first recorded exactly 600 years ago in 1406. By then, Tallinn had already been a member of the Hanseatic League for more than a century and played an important role in international trade, in particular sea-borne trade. Among other Hanseatic partners, I would like to point to London, which is also confirmed by the ashlar stone on the fa?ade of this house displaying the coat of arms of the local Hanseatic office from London. Ships brought not only goods to us, but also people from all over Europe, who came here to live bringing new ideas and innovations. Among others, Oxford University became one of the recognised places of learning. We have seen how entrepreneurial spirit and openness to new technology have flourished in the United Kingdom throughout centuries, and this is something that we also promote in Estonia today. In addition, your country was a source of inspiration for important social ideas affecting the development of the ideals and values of the Estonian nation.
During the difficult period of foreign occupation after 1940, we drew strength from a dedication to democratic values and ideals. They helped us to withstand alien ideology and violence and to maintain the desire for freedom for half a century. The policy of non-recognition of Soviet occupation by the United Kingdom and other democratic countries supported the perseverance of our people. We are deeply grateful to the United Kingdom for receiving thousands of our refugees who went on to become good citizens. One of their descendants has even been elected to the House of Commons.
After regaining independence we know what a normal society, based on civil values, rights and liberties is like. If we add to this the nation’s creative energy that was released after our people regained their freedom, you will understand how our comprehensive reforms that laid the basis for the rapid development of today were born.
The development of relations between our two countries has also been dynamic in the past 15 years. Trade has grown considerably and, on the whole, is balanced. UK companies have invested in Estonia directly, as well as through the Nordic countries. I would like to use the opportunity to thank you for the extensive assistance that the United Kingdom has provided to Estonia in a number of areas, such as the rebuilding of the defence forces, education and research, and the development of the police force, to give just a few examples. In various professional fields British experts have worked in Estonia and shared their experience. I would like to express particular gratitude to the British Council for their systematic and enthusiastic work in Estonia.
This State Visit is definitely a very serious confirmation of the extensiveness and closeness of relations between Estonia and the United Kingdom. But it also marks the beginning of a new phase in which our two countries cooperate as good partners, and where the word “assistance” has largely been replaced by the word “cooperation” in its true sense. As a beautiful symbol of this, a few hours ago we listened to the concert by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under the direction of its principal conductor Paul Hillier from the United Kingdom. Or another example from a completely different field is the purchase of three warships from the United Kingdom. In pursuing their purchase Estonia competed on an equal footing with other countries. The time has passed when our defence forces had to rely heavily on foreign assistance. In the economy, we can see that we have to compete with many other countries to attract British investment. I hope that our current, internationally highly appreciated business climate will attract more British companies here.
For two and a half years now Estonia has been a member of NATO and the European Union. This has also significantly stimulated the development of bilateral relations with the United Kingdom.
Estonia is interested in the capacity of NATO and the European Union to face the challenges of today’s world. It is extremely important for us that both organisations are able to make effective contributions to peace, paying particular attention to crisis spots and neighbouring regions. Estonian soldiers stand side by side with British troops to maintain the peace in several regions of the world. I would particularly like to point out Afghanistan, where the cooperation between our two countries has reached a new level. I believe that Your forthcoming meeting with the Estonian soldiers who will soon be dispatched there and with their families, will be an inspiring confirmation of the friendship in arms between the two countries. The people of Afghanistan need peace and stability to enable them to continue the reconstruction that its inhabitants so much expect.
Estonia and the United Kingdom are interested in the success of the European Union and its influence in the world. We consider it important to continue one of the most successful undertakings of the EU enlargement. The EU is facing a serious challenge in ensuring its competitiveness in a globalising world.
Many of my compatriots have already welcomed You to Estonia. For us, this state visit was indeed a much anticipated event. Tomorrow there will be a meeting in the Town Hall Square, where our people have traditionally received their special guests and have listened to songs and sung songs themselves. By welcoming You they also forward their best wishes to the British people.
Let me propose a toast to Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness and to our very good friends, the people of the United Kingdom.
Source: Estonian Embassy in Warsaw