London - Buckingham Palace 15/03/2005

Toast by H.E. the President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi at the State Banquet given by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh


Buckingham Palace, 15 March 2005

Your Majesty,

I should like to express to You and to His Royal Highness Prince Philip my heartfelt appreciation for the warm welcome given to me and my wife on this occasion. It is the second time we meet at Buckingham Palace and the third during my Presidency, following the State visit which Your Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh paid to the Quirinale Palace in October 2000.

My wife and I have been immensely looking forward to this moment.

The relationship between our two countries is deeply rooted in the past. The ideals of the Risorgimento - revived this year by the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Mazzini, whom You were so kind to remember - found an unforgettable echo in liberal England.

The close communion and unity of intent between our two countries allow us today to confront a series of crucial problems together. They include the growth and competitiveness of Europe; the stability of an international community challenged by terrorism, the development gap and the environmental crisis. These are the very issues on which the British Government intends to focus the attention of the G8 during its Presidency this year.

The people of Italy greatly admire Your Majesty. In the fifty four years of Your Reign You have symbolized Your country's great virtues. Yours is the homeland of parliamentary traditions. It is the country which held aloft the standards of freedom and democracy - the very essence of European identity - during the dark years of our continent's history.

Your Majesty ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1952.

It was a time when we were all waiting to see what the future held for us.

Statesmen like Winston Churchill, Alcide De Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman resolved to turn our continent into an area of peace and progress. They sought to create an enduring partnership between the peoples of Europe and the two shores of the Atlantic.

Those twin alliances still guide the destinies of our nations. They rest on a common bedrock of civilization.

Italy, a founding member of the ECSC and of the European Economic Community, will never forget the words which Winston Churchill spoke as long ago as 1946: under and within the world concept of the United Nations we must re-create the European Family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe.

More recently our countries have pressed ahead with the European political design. One major step was the re-establishment of Europe's historical unity with its enlargement to 25 members. The other was the Treaty adopting a Constitution for Europe, signed on the 29th of October last year in Rome.

The Atlantic Alliance has provided Europe with stability, security and freedom for more than half a century. It has shouldered major responsibilities in crisis areas.

The recent Euro-Atlantic summit in Brussels gave new impetus to the transatlantic relationship. It expressed the determination of the United States and of the European Union to intensify their dialogue. This will enable us to pursue our common goals in the interests of stability and peace in the world.

Our sense of kinship is strengthened by the solidarity of our soldiers who serve side by side to keep the peace in difficult theatres of operation.

Your Majesty,

relations between Italy and the United Kingdom have always been characterized by extraordinary vitality and continuity. Significant examples include the centuries-old relations between British and Italian universities; the coming together of the Italian Renaissance spirit with the genius of Shakespeare; the contribution made by the United Kingdom to the spread and appreciation of Italian art - in which the splendid Royal Collections also played a large part; and the strength of our economic, scientific and financial ties.

Your Majesty was so kind as to describe the relations between our two countries in a most touching way.

The strength of those relations reflects not only the interests but also, and most of all, the deepest feelings of our peoples.

Their resources and the complementary nature of our two economic systems encourage us to join forces and make us confident of the success of our joint initiatives.

Your Majesty,

in this spirit and with feelings of sincere friendship, I raise my glass, also on behalf of my wife, to Your Majesty's and Prince Philip's personal happiness, to the well-being of the Royal Family, to the friendship and collaboration between the United Kingdom and Italy and to the prosperity of our two peoples.