Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great honor to welcome you here in this both wonderful and stern city, the great and unique St. Petersburg.
I hope that even in such a short time here, you have been able to understand why this city is so inspiring and why it is so loved in Russia. I hope you have been able to feel its lure and appreciate its beauty.
Today’s celebrations started under the sign of Europe. Many of the people in this wonderful hall participated in the Russia-EU summit.
I would like to thank everyone for their productive work. We were not only moved by a general desire to enhance and develop the integration process. I believe that the success of the discussions was aided by the fact that today’s summit is being held in the most European of all Russia’s cities.
It is especially obvious here in St. Petersburg that Russia, historically and culturally, is an inalienable part of Europe. It is particularly evident that centuries of tradition stand behind cooperation between Russia and European countries. Common historical accomplishments and close personal contacts between our predecessors are at their base. This is a whole galaxy of brilliant personalities, heads of state, cultural and scientific figures and business people.
This link in time is most keenly felt here in the Catherine Palace, as it is the embodiment of cultural exchange between Russia and Europe, their many centuries of civilized contact.
The Tsarskoye Selo palaces and parks were created by several generations of talented architects and sculptors from Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and France.
In contemporary language, this was European-wide cooperation to translate a major cultural project into life.
Here at Tsarskoye Selo, the first lyceum was founded in Russia that absorbed the most progressive European principles of education. The lyceum gave Russia the great Pushkin and a brilliant constellation of scientists, politicians and diplomats. People who did so much for the cause of peace and consensus in Europe.
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Today we visited the legendary Amber Chamber, which has been recreated through the joint efforts of Russian masters and the support of our German partners. This masterpiece has become the symbol of new relations in the family of Greater Europe. These are relations of mutual understanding, trust and partnership. I am certain that together we shall cope with the problems and the challenges of the new millennium. We shall make our continent safe and prosperous.
I propose a toast:
To European solidarity!
To the well-being of nations!
To the health of everyone here!