Her Majesty Queen Beatrix: Mr President,
It gives me great pleasure to greet you and Mrs Putina here this evening and to welcome you to our country. Four years ago, you offered my son and me great hospitality in the Russian Federation and enabled us to learn about the many new developments taking place in your country. That experience made a great impression on us. It was moreover the first State visit to take place between our countries. That you are now our guest in the Netherlands is also a special event, since you are the first Russian president to visit our country. Indeed, you are doing so for the second time.
During the State visit in two thousand and one we both reflected on the many rich and profound relations that have existed between Russia and the Netherlands over the course of the centuries. That shared past coninues to be a source of inspiration. This was demonstrated once again in two thousand and three, when the three hundredth anniversary of St Petersburg was commemorated and celebrated. On that occasion thoughts focused not only on the special and ancient ties between St Petersburg and the Netherlands. They also turned to the unimaginable horrors the city of your birth endured when it was still Leningrad, events which also had a profound impact on your own family.
The past remains a source of inspiration in many different ways, and a continuing stimulus to reflection. During this visit, however, I would like above all to look towards the future and to express our respect for all that has been achieved in so short a time in your country. After a very difficult and turbulent period an extensive and comprehensive process of stabilisation and consolidation has taken place. Differences in legal status between the various parts of the Russian Federation have diminished. Amendments to legislation have led to greater legal certainty and more stability.
All this creates scope for the further strengthening of democratic institutions, in which citizens and government bear a responsibility towards each other. This demands openness and the acceptance of accountability. An independent press can fulfil the vital role of following the democratic process with a critical eye. Furthermore, history has taught us that in practice, democracy is more than just rules and regulations. To develop civil society, as we call it nowadays, both a sense of personal responsibility and social commitment are necessary.
One of the problems confronting your Government is the tensions that inevitably arise in a country of such immense cultural, religious and ethnic diversity as yours. Your resolute action against the manifestations of racism and xenophobia that have occurred is evidence of the new political culture you stand for.
In the economic field too, a lot has been accomplished. Much needed reforms are being continued and the transition to a market economy encouraged. Further steps in this direction will undoubtedly be taken in the future. Cooperation with the European Union has deepened. Accession to the World Trade Organisation is also gaining momentum. The Russian Federation is thus becoming ever more closely integrated in global economic structures.
The accession of your country to the G-7, which therefore became the G-8, was clear evidence of the authority and prestige that the Federation has acquired under your leadership. The great Russian nation has once again taken its place on the world stage. The closer cooperation between the Russian Federation and NATO testifies to growing mutual trust and offers positive prospects for the future. Furthermore, you have received much respect in many parts of the world for the unambiguous way in which you have supported the international fight against terrorism. Your country has experienced the horrors of terrorism at first hand. Here in the Netherlands, our hearts went out to the victims of such appalling suffering.
Bilateral relations between our two countries are developing smoothly. The Common Action Programme offers an appropriate framework for regular political dialogue between the Russian Federation and the Netherlands. Economic cooperation, with the support of the Joint Committee, is also working satisfactorily. Recently Dutch companies have discovered many opportunities for investment and enterprise in your country.
Dostoevsky once said, ”There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it.“ Likewise, there are no ties so old that they cannot be renewed. It is gratifying to note that Russia and the Netherlands are working enthusiastically on the renewal of their ancient ties.
May I invite all present to raise their glasses with me and to drink to your health Mr President, to that of Mrs Putina, and to a bright future for the people of the Russian Federation.
President Vladimir Putin: Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to express my sincere thanks for your hospitality and for the busy and interesting programme we have had on the first day of our visit to the Netherlands. We are glad to be able to visit your country, whose people have made such impressive achievements through their perseverance and hard work. Here, on the shores of the cold North Sea, your nation developed and grew strong through its constant struggle for each metre of land. Most important, it is here that your national character formed, a character known for its independence and sense of dignity, its tolerance and ability to respect the customs and traditions of other peoples.
The excellent organisation of this visit has allowed us to accomplish much already on this first day.
I would like to express our gratitude to you for preserving the memory of our great moderniser, Peter the Great. Not only did he learn about shipbuilding, he also visited an observatory, learned about printing and studied the art of seafaring, and it was your country that gave him all these opportunities. The Dutch people received the young and inquisitive tsar with openness and friendliness.
Princess Anna Pavlovna, who became the wife of Wilhelm II, also met with just such a warm welcome in your country.
I would like to assure you all here at this reception today that many people in Russia have just such warm and attentive feelings for the Netherlands. Our people know well the names of the great Dutch seafarers, scientists and scholars and they have great esteem for the works of the Dutch artists that grace the world’s biggest museums. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that millions of Russians have been raised on these finest examples of your culture.
The sails of harmony have always carried our peoples forward together, and today too, cooperation between Russia and the Netherlands is built above all on trust and a mutual desire to work effectively together.
We see our partnership with the Netherlands not only as an essential tie but also as a reflection of our loyalty to the values and the wonderful heritage that our historical friendship has given us.
During our discussions today we felt mutual confidence that we can move forward energetically and that we can, and will, make all the plans we have formed together reality.
Allow me to propose a toast: to the health of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, to the health of His Royal Highness and his wife, to the health of the Prime Minister, to the health of all our Dutch friends, and may your wonderful country prosper and flourish!