Mr Prime Minister,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I today, together with you, can celebrate the first thousand years of a close neighbouring country.
This splendid day of celebration truly reflects the variety and beauty of your country.
Our relations go very far back. Since prehistoric times the Baltic Sea has united our people. In the 8th century Scandinavian Vikings sailed the Nemunas River to trade.
Later the Hanseatic league united, for example Visby and Klaipeda, in the big commercial network around the Baltic Sea.
Probably the first Swedes, to be officially invited to Lithuania, arrived in 1323. Grand Duke Gediminas then invited trade people and craftsmen from western and northern Europe, including Gotland, to settle down in his country. One can probably say that the good relations between our countries and people started at that time of King Sigismund III Vasa, and the good connection has continued for more than 200 years. Sigismund´s descendants and the name Vasa stayed to rule in Lithuania for several decades.
It is quite interesting that a Lithuanian-Polish-Swedish King has lived in the castle that is now being rebuilt. I understand that one of Sigismund´s sons (Vladislav) brought the first theatre to Vilnius. A theatre that probably looked very much like the Drottningholm theatre, next to my castle outside Stockholm. King Sigismund Vasa also ordered the construction of the beautiful chapel of St. Casimir in the Vilnius Cathedral.
During the centuries to come, Lithuanian-Swedish contacts were not always so peaceful. And there have been times when we were kept far apart. There have also been times of silence. This is to be regretted.
But today again we are close, both as neighbouring countries and as members of the European Union. The friendship is strong and the dialogue is active. Sweden was the first country to open an embassy in Vilnius after the regained independence. The links of trade, finance and business between our countries are strong and will remain so, in spite of difficult times.
The sea unites us, but today in a different way. Today it is the concern for the environment and climate that bring us together. And we also wish to make this part of the world more competitive and prosperous. One of the priorities for Sweden during the Presidency of the EU is to adopt the Baltic Sea Strategy. And for Lithuania, the presidency in the Council of the Baltic Sea States means a focus on similar concerns.
What also will bring us closer together is the future integration of the Baltic Countries into EU energy networks.
A thousand years of history have passed. May I wish Lithuania and the people many thousand years more to come, filled with happiness and prosperity. It is my conviction that coming generations in this region will benefit from the united efforts made today to preserve and promote our region and the beautiful sea that we share.
Let me conclude by assuring you that all of us are delighted to have been invited to this celebration. We have appreciated the jubilee very much. I would like to propose a toast to you and to the health and well-being of the Lithuanian people.
Thank you and good luck!