Speech by King Willem-Alexander at the state banquet hosted in Keila-Joa Castle by President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia
Madam President, Mr Maksimovski,
Thank you for your hospitality and for your kind and warm words just now.
It means a lot to me to be with you at this particular time, in the year when Estonia celebrates the signing of its declaration of independence a century ago. That declaration put an end to seven centuries of foreign rule. No one could have imagined that in 1940 another five decades of terror and suffering would follow.
For a long time the people of this country lived under oppression and in fear. But in the end, the nation’s belief in its own strength triumphed.
The Estonian oak bent and cracked and lost many branches… But it didn’t break. Today we see how firmly it is rooted, and how beautiful its foliage is.
For anyone who knows their history, it should be no surprise that independent Estonia is flourishing. Your country has long been known as a leader in the field of education and innovation.
You, Madam President, are a prominent advocate. ‘Our most important natural resource is between our ears,’ you once said.
So the European Union can consider itself fortunate to have a country like Estonia in its ranks. This was demonstrated once again last year by the great success of the Estonian Presidency, whose motto was ‘Unity through Balance’.
Within the EU, both our countries naturally gravitate towards each other.
We often share the same view on the key issues of the day, like the future of the eurozone. Together we press for transparency, effectiveness and reliability. The same values that you have worked for 12 years to advance as a member of the European Court of Auditors.
Within NATO, too, we work together closely. The people of this country know from personal experience that freedom and independence can never be taken for granted. The best guarantee of freedom is a strong alliance of like-minded countries. Like you, the Netherlands is sure of that.
As international uncertainty increases, it’s important to realise that we don’t stand alone, and that our strength lies in solidarity.
Madam President, your country is our partner and ally, but it’s also much more than that. Estonia is a country that inspires us, and sets an example.
I remember how impressed my wife and I were when we first visited your country in 2002. Our visit included a presentation at Stenbock House on the government’s electronic communication system.
That was back when paperless conferencing was still almost unknown in the Netherlands. We only introduced it at our palace two years ago.
Estonia thinks digitally.
It was the first country to declare internet access a human right. The first country whose citizens could vote online. The first country to offer e-residency. And the first country to have delivery robots cruising its streets!
What makes Estonia’s experience so valuable is that all these innovations have gone hand in hand with guarantees on cybersecurity and personal privacy. Our countries are working closely together to create a safe digital society, and we’re keen to continue that partnership!
No reference to inspiration from Estonia would be complete without a mention of your fantastic music. My wife and I are great fans of Arvo Pärt, who is here in our midst, and our enthusiasm is shared by many people in the Netherlands.
We hope in turn that we can inspire you with some Dutch expertise. In the field of agriculture, for instance.
The Netherlands is smaller than Estonia. But our country is the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter.
And that is thanks to an innovative agricultural sector that combines increased production with efforts to reduce energy use and the burden on the environment. This will be covered tomorrow.
Madam President, in this year in which we celebrate your independence, we also reflect on the way the Baltic countries have found strength in unity.
The customs union between Estonia and Latvia in the early 1920s served as the model for the Benelux several decades later. The Benelux in turn provided the model for the Baltic Assembly in 1991.
This underlines the bond between us. It’s no coincidence that the Baltic countries and the Benelux very often turn to one another in the EU.
We have great confidence in Estonia’s future. Your country is a shining example, and we continue to marvel at your achievements. Just Estonishing!
May I now ask you to raise your glasses.
To your good health, Madam President and Mr Maksimovski.
To our ally, Estonia.
And to the friendship between our peoples!