Mr President, can I say how very grateful my wife and I are for this splendid dinner that you invited us to this evening. We could not have been more touched by your kind and generous invitation to pay an official visit to Hungary and, if I may say so, I was deeply honoured when you presented me with the Grand Cross of Merit of the Republic of Hungary earlier today. Needless to say I shall wear it, and am already wearing it, with great pride.
For me, this is my fourth visit, but for my wife this is her first experience of your remarkable country. In my case, I feel I have a somewhat special relationship with Hungary since I am proud, can you believe it, to be one thirty-second Hungarian myself, through my great-great-great-Grandmother, Countess Redey, the Grandmother of my great-Grandmother Queen Mary!
Twenty years ago, when I first visited Hungary, you had just overthrown Communism and were looking forward to a democratically elected government taking office. Since then, our two countries have become partners in N.A.T.O. and in the European Union, as well as working together in many other International Organizations. That co-operation is a powerful force for good in the world. On this increasingly globalized and inter-connected planet – our only home - we have no option but to work together if we are to find solutions to the urgent problems we face. We are greatly looking forward to exploring some of the most important areas of co-operation in a little more detail during our visit. I know, for instance, Mr. President, that you share my conviction that one of the most urgent issues requiring international co-operation is climate change. I cannot tell you how encouraging it is to find a kindred spirit! When asked to address the opening of the High Level Segment of the Copenhagen Climate Summit last December, I stressed that “Climate change is a risk-multiplier. It has the potential to take all the other critical issues we face as a global community and transform their severity into a cataclysm.”
This is not, I fear, an over-statement. It is a message I have been trying to get across for almost three decades and I take some reassurance from the fact that more and more people do – at last! – seem to be listening and, more importantly, acting. Scientists are agreed that we must find ways to tackle not only the threat of ever-rising temperatures but also our unsustainable use of natural resources on the land and of course in the sea. There is no doubt that we are pushing our fragile eco-systems to breaking point. So when will we heed the alarm bells which all the experts are now ringing?
Mr. President, Hungary is, of course, particularly well known for the contribution she has made to the scientific and cultural life of Europe. Your music and dance transcend your boundaries and when, in October 2006, I hosted a reception at St. James's Palace to commemorate the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 I could not resist the temptation to include a programme of Hungarian music, dance, song and literature. Perhaps these are lurking somewhere in my blood – which is why it could not be more fitting that our visit concludes with another opportunity to enjoy these wonderfully spirited and vibrant art forms on Friday evening.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, can I just conclude by proposing a toast to the friendship of the Hungarian and British people.