Text of The Queen's speech at the State Banquet in Tallinn, Estonia, 19 October 2006
State Banquet in Tallinn, Estonia, 19 October 2006
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Your Excellency,

I am most grateful to you for your generous words, as I am for the warmth of the welcome Prince Philip and I have received in Estonia. This is the first visit we have paid here, but we already feel that we are amongst friends.

You have spoken about the historic ties between the United Kingdom and Estonia. Our shared history, particularly during Estonia's struggle for independence, is something that we will never forget, and tomorrow we will commemorate the 112 British servicemen who died fighting for Estonia.

It is fitting that this naval cooperation between our two countries is being re-established with your purchase of three British naval mine-hunters, the first of which you will, with typical generosity of spirit, name after Admiral Cowan, who commanded the British cruiser squadron which fought alongside the Estonian forces. It will be a pleasure for me to present a funnel badge for the ship tomorrow.

I also look forward to meeting some of your servicemen who will shortly be joining British forces in South Afghanistan. I know that it is a major undertaking for you, and will be your biggest mission abroad, for which we are most grateful.

Estonian peace keepers have served with distinction in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, often in considerable danger, and yet despite tragic losses and injuries your resolve has never wavered. Your commitment to work for peace and stability in the world's trouble spots is second to none.

Your Excellency, any visitor to Estonia inevitably is struck by both its history and its modernity. We are here in this beautiful hall in the fairy-tale setting of the Old Town, which richly deserves its status as a world heritage site. And yet, only a short time ago, I was travelling through your rapidly expanding business district to visit your eye-catching modern art gallery.

The creativity, dynamism and optimism of the Estonian people are visible everywhere, and much in evidence in the conversations we have had and the stories we have heard.

I see a strong similarity between our two countries in this: while we are both rightly proud of our cultural heritage, we know that we cannot just dwell on the past, but rather we must draw strength from it as we face the challenges of the future.

Estonia's development since regaining its independence has been remarkable. Your entrepreneurial spirit, your innovative use of information and communication technology, and your open and transparent economic climate has resulted in dramatic growth, led by international trade and investment.

I am pleased that commercial links with the United Kingdom have contributed to this: Prince Philip saw a striking example when he opened a British-owned factory here this afternoon, and was able to discuss future developments with members of the British-Estonian Chamber of Commerce, who celebrate their tenth anniversary this year.

Your Excellency, I have inevitably been reflecting on a week in which I have also visited Latvia and Lithuania, countries that have shared with you so many of the dark pages of twentieth century history. I have seen three very different countries, but have seen one feature that you all share.

It is that indomitable spirit, which was able to keep alive the flame of independence, despite all attempts to extinguish it, during the very worst of times.

It is this spirit which has driven forward the rapid political, economic and social change in all your countries, change which is not something to be measured simply by statistics, but in the freedom, peace and prosperity which all your peoples now enjoy.

Your Excellency, history dictated that our countries endured a long and enforced separation in our relationship. But now, as partners in the European Union, and Allies in NATO, we are closer than ever before, and ready to face together the challenges of the twenty-first century.

I wish you and your people every happiness and success, and invite your guests to join me in a toast to:

The President and the People of the Republic of Estonia.

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