Mr. President and Madame Klausová, Ladies and Gentlemen, VáÅ¾ený pane prezidente a madam Klausová, dámy a pánové.
It is a great honour for my wife and myself to be your guests tonight, in the remarkable and historic setting of Prague Castle and at the heart of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. For me, this is a return to a city for which I have a deep and abiding affection. It is a particular joy on this occasion to be able to introduce my wife to the magic of this great and historic part of Europe. If I may say so, Mr. President, you may find us a little more cautious in our dress than my Great Great Grandfather, King Edward VII, who caused quite a stir when he arrived at Marienbad Station a little over a hundred years ago wearing, and I quote: “a green cap, pink tie, white gloves...grey slippers, a brown overcoat and loads of checks.” A well-known London magazine reported: “Loyal subjects must sincerely hope that His Majesty has not brought this outfit home…”!
I am, of course, proud to share my name with one of your great monarchs, Charles IV, who lived in this city and whose vision endures here to this day. He provides just one of the links between our two countries through his daughter, Anne of Bohemia, who married our King Richard II in the fourteenth century and is fondly remembered to history as “Good Queen Anne.” The Emperor’s commitment to learning and his architectural legacy touch interests very close to my own heart – which is why I felt so proud, some fifteen years ago, to be able to arrange a series of cultural events to help raise funds to assist in bringing some of Prague’s most notable landmarks back to life, including the famous terraced gardens adjoining this Castle and one of the magnificent statues on the Charles Bridge. One of those events which particularly stands out in my mind was a concert organized and conducted by the irreplaceable and much-missed Sir Georg Solti, which was broadcast on national radio in the United Kingdom showing once again the warmth of the friendship between our two countries. It therefore gave me special pleasure and pride earlier today to look from the gardens out over the city and her great landmarks, many of which date from Charles IV’s time. They are the physical expressions of the rich cultural heritage which you so rightly treasure.
Mr. President, I know how much you also cherish your equally rich natural heritage and as I said when asked to address the opening of the High Level Segment of the Copenhagen Summit last December, “The future of Mankind can be assured only if we rediscover ways in which to live as a part of Nature, not apart from her.”
As I will be seeing in Moravia on Monday, the stewardship of our environment, both urban and rural, is of immense importance to us all.
Mr. President, the friendship between our two countries has endured even in our darkest hours. This year we will mark the sixty fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War. British people remember, with great reverence, the bravery and sacrifice of Czech pilots and soldiers who served with the Royal Air Force and British Army to fight for our freedom. My wife and I were deeply moved by our visit to the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius this afternoon and were privileged to be able to pay our respects to the exceptional young Czech men, trained in Britain, who lost their lives there in 1942. This co-operation is not, of course, confined to history. Indeed, it is thanks to the vision and resilience of many people in this room that, today, we find ourselves together at the N.A.T.O. and E.U. tables; the old divides of Europe bridged. One practical expression of our modern partnership is the work of our Armed Forces, serving together to bring peace and stability to countries such as Kosovo and, of course, Afghanistan.
Finally I should save a word of congratulation for your sportsmen and women as a result of your success in winning six medals – including two gold – at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. This was a remarkable achievement.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I propose a toast to the friendship between Britain and the Czech Republic.
Dámy a pánové, připijme si na přátelství mezi Británií a Českou republikou.