Ladies and Gentlemen,
I cannot tell you how deeply touched and grateful I am to receive from Your Excellency the Order of the Star of Romania. I shall treasure this honour as a special symbol of my great affection for Romania and her people and of the warm relationship between our two countries.
As you know, I am enormously proud of having a Transylvanian Great, Great, Great Grandmother (herself descended from Vlad the Impaler, thus giving me at least a small stake in your country!) and of the fact that my Great, Great Aunt was the much-loved Queen Marie of Romania from 1914-1938.
Mr. President, all I have wanted to do over the past nearly twenty years, since I was first came here, has been to help to remind Romanians of the uniqueness of their culture, their heritage and their architecture – and, above all, of their potential in today’s world. I remember being deeply affected by all that the Romanian people had had to endure under the post-war regime, and by the damage done at that time in human and cultural terms. I have also tried to signal the importance of Romania’s pristine forests – utterly unique in Europe – and, equally, of your country’s family farmers who form such an integral part of your rural communities and your landscapes.
Throughout these years, I have been proud to be the Patron of FARA (which, as you know, only too well,
Mr. President, means “without” in Romanian) and its work to provide a family life for some of Romania’s most vulnerable children without a stable and caring home of their own.
I have also been so pleased to be able to create my own Foundation in Romania, working in particular with rural communities and providing training courses to men and women from right across the country, to help build their skills and knowledge and thus greatly to enhance their opportunityto set up a small business of their own.
Over the past two years, my Romanian Foundation has provided training for 120 local people and architects. We have also launched a programme to encourage the production of traditional textiles through training women in stitching, lacing and embroidery. The training and confidence they gained has enabled seven of them to work this year with a Romanian fashion designer for a new collection inspired by Romanian traditions. Our students are now earning today two or three times more, thanks to the training received and opportunities offered as a result. My dearest hope is that our next phase will be able to help small farmers to enhance the quality of their products still further and, of course, opportunities fortheir sale.
Let me conclude, Mr. President, by renewing my warmest thanks and deepest appreciation for the great honour that you have bestowed on me today. It means a great deal to me to have built a special partnership with Romania. I know the United Kingdom has also built a very deep and special partnership with your country and I know that will endure, as will my own.