Adress by Her Majesty the Queen of The Netherlands

The Hague, 7 June 2006

at the state banquet in Noordeinde Palace in honour of The President of Ukraine and Mrs Yushchenko during their official visit to The Netherlands.

Mr President,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you and Mrs Yushchenko here today. We have been looking forward to your visit.

Not long ago, Ukraine took its place as an independent state among the European family of nations. In doing so it added a new chapter to its history. The period of transition that followed has demanded great courage from the people and their leaders. Successive governments have acquitted themselves of their task in a constructive and efficient manner, as you yourself have also done. Many people have followed this transition to a new era with keen interest.

In the recent past the Ukrainian people have been severely put to the test. They suffered - and are still suffering - from the dreadful consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. In addition, they have struggled with tough economic circumstances for many years. The legacy of the twentieth century has been a heavy and bitter burden. However, we have seen, with admiration and sympathy, that the Ukrainians possess the resilience needed to face up to these difficult times and to survive them.

The Orange Revolution of 2004 was a crucial event in the history of your independence. That the people rose up to defend their young democracy with impressive and non-violent demonstrations, which led to a peaceful outcome, evoked great respect and admiration everywhere.

The fact that the last parliamentary elections proceded smoothly further underlined the success of recent democratic developments. A free press and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms have genuinely secured their place at the heart of your society. It is the aim of policy, to strengthen social cohesion. You and your government deserve much praise for the dedication with which you have persued these goals.

The Netherlands is eager to continue supporting the political reforms taking place in your country, designed to strengthen the rule of law, develop civil society and intensify cooperation with the European Union and NATO.

Ukraine has succeeded in turning persistent economic decline into an impressive recovery. The reforms and the economic upturn are also leading to closer bilateral relations. The dynamism of the Ukrainian economy, particularly its small and medium-sized enterprises, is attracting increasing interest from the Dutch business community. In addition, under the Joint Action Plan between our two countries, which has recently been expanded, an extensive network of partnerships is developing. The broad nature and diversity of this bilateral cooperation are remarkable. The contacts range from the environment to political dialogue and from culture to energy policy. Within this framework, more and more citizens of our two countries are getting to know each other ever better.

A splendid result of our cultural cooperation is the major exhibition of nineteenth-century Ukrainian paintings in Amsterdam, which you yourself will visit. This project can be seen as an illustration of the fruitful collaboration between Ukrainian and Dutch museums. The gratitude felt in the Netherlands for the return from Ukraine of part of the Koenigs collection obviously plays an important role here.

Mr President,

Resilience, self-confidence and entrepreneurship are qualities the Ukrainian people have displayed in the recent period of development. That promises well for the future.

May I invite all those present to raise their glasses with me and to drink to your health, Mr President, to that of Mrs Yushchenko, to the Ukrainian people and to the further growth of the many forms of cooperation that exist between our two countries.