Your Majesties, Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, I need hardly say that it is the greatest pleasure to return to Sweden after what seems to have been far too long an interval and for what my staff tell me is my first official visit. On this occasion I am so pleased to be able to introduce my darling wife to your country.
I have the fondest memories of coming here in the late 1960’s, together with my Great Uncle, Lord Mountbatten who was, of course, Queen Louise’s brother. In those days it was my first introduction to langlauf skiing in the North of Sweden, let alone to the mysteries of that peculiarly Scandinavian invention – the Sauna. I most certainly needed one after trying to keep up with your then Crown Prince who, I later discovered, competed in the Vasa Ski Race on three occasions…!
This, of course, is a year of celebration for our two countries. The primary reason for this Visit is to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Not for nothing do my wife’s and my own official Overseas Visits in this special year begin in countries where there are not only the closest bonds of friendship between our peoples and governments, but also close and multiple family ties through our shared ancestor, Queen Victoria. Indeed, the first State Visit hosted by my parents after my Mother’s Accession was from Your Majesty’s Grandfather, King Gustaf VI and his wife Queen Louise, whom I remember well as she was the elder sister of my Grandmother – my Father’s Mother, Princess Alice of Greece. Needless to say, in this special year, my wife and I could not be more thrilled to join you in also celebrating the birth of Princess Estelle to Crown Princess Victoria.
It is not surprising, perhaps, that our two countries have long been close partners in addressing some of the most pressing challenges the world has to face, including pursuing economic growth in a way which is environmentally sustainable; integrating people of all ages and from a range of backgrounds in societies which are being transformed by globalization; ensuring our children have an education which equips them for employment and makes them citizens we can all be proud of; and harnessing the talents of our fellow citizens by building genuine communities which look out for one another and extend a helping hand to the less-advantaged. It is these themes which our Visit is exploring, to try to unearth some further ideas from which we can learn from each other.
Your Majesties, I wanted to pay tribute, if I may, to the exceptional achievements and sacrifices of the Swedish military in the international stabilization mission in Afghanistan, where my own younger son was serving in 2008. I was also so pleased yesterday to be able to recognize the special contribution Sweden has made to international security through your role in the N.A.T.O.-led mission over Libya last year. It is not just in the military arena where Sweden has more than played her role, but also in international organizations: Dag Hammarskjöld was an outstanding second Secretary-General of the United Nations and rightly has the rare distinction of having been awarded a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize. It comes as no surprise that the current Secretary General has recently appointed Jan Eliasson, an equally outstanding Swedish and international public servant, as his new deputy.
Your Majesties, within the European Union Britain has no better partner than Sweden in promoting our shared values and goals. Together, the friendship and partnership between our two countries provides a solid foundation on which to continue to build inclusive and responsive societies, “fit for purpose” in the twenty first century. On behalf of my wife and myself, I can only thank you for the warmth and generosity of your welcome and for all your many kindnesses in the planning and implementation of our engagements while we are with you.