Address by Her Majesty The Queen at the State Dinner in honour of the President of the Russian Federation and Mrs Putina

Noordeinde Palace, The Hague, 1 November 2005

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.

Mr President,

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.

Mr President,

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.