Overview of Estonia’s Foreign Policy
Respected Members of the Riigikogu,
2010 was a very special year for Estonia’s foreign policy, encompassing many achievements. Thanks to these accomplishments, we can in this address talk not only about Estonia’s activities within the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), but for the first time also about being part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as well as of the euro zone. At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, Estonia has become one of the most integrated nations in Europe.
But this doesn’t mean that we have achieved everything. We just have more options to harness in the name of the continuous growth of the welfare and security of the Estonian nation. Today’s world is changing rapidly and we now have a strong set of tools to react to these changes, increasing our preparedness to cope with the changing security environment, including terrorism. Effectively utilising all of our opportunities is the main ongoing challenge of our foreign policy.
It is not every year that Estonia is so honoured as to be selected nation of the year by the world’s leading news and economics magazine, The Economist. The world has noticed and acknowledged our efforts – upon acceding to the euro zone, we were one of just two nations that fulfilled the Maastricht criteria for deficit and national debt. The euro adds to Estonia’s stability and dependability and is also an essential factor in ensuring the nation’s security. An equally important factor is Estonia’s aim of fulfilling the NATO defence expenditure objective, which is two percent of the gross domestic product.
Last year we had our first opportunity to directly participate in the discussions concerning NATO’s future, in particular the renewal of the Strategic Concept. Also, the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting that was successfully held in Tallinn (the first large-scale international event of this kind) resulted in essential decisions concerning NATO’s future.
Estonia’s European Union policy has been consistent and successful. The European Union Information Technology (IT) agency headquarters that will begin its activities here in Tallinn in 2012 is an outstanding example of our success as well as our ability to achieve compromises. In addition, today we have greater opportunities than ever before to assist the development of nations that have chosen the course of democratic reforms and Euro-Atlantic integration, using our own reform experiences. This is the reasoning behind establishing Estonia’s Eastern Partnership Training Centre in Tallinn, the official opening of which just took place at the end of January.
The objective of Estonia’s foreign policy is to avoid the emergence of divisions in Europe. Therefore, we are dedicated to assisting the EU’s eastern neighbours -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine -- in their political and economic integration with the European Union. This includes providing support for the concluding of association agreements with Eastern Partners as well as the creation of a comprehensive free trade area and the establishing of visa freedom. In Estonia’s new development plan for development co-operation and humanitarian aid for the years 2011-2015, all the Eastern Partners are included as priority countries. Although our eastern neighbours are closer to the European Union than ever before, real and tangible progress is needed now more than ever.
But one Eastern Partner remains a great concern. As long as the development of Belarus is not moving closer to the European Union’s values, Estonia’s development co-operation with Belarus will concentrate on supporting the country’s civil society and education opportunities, including those offered by the Eastern Partnership Training Centre. People-to-people contacts will definitely receive a boost from Estonia’s decision to waive the visa fee for citizens of Belarus applying for national visas from Estonian foreign representations, just as they are improved by opportunities for Belarusian university students to study in Estonia.
At the end of January, the European Union imposed sanctions against those Belarusian officials tied to the violent acts and arrests that took place after the recent presidential elections. The sanctions must be as specific as possible, targeting those responsible for oppression. It is necessary to keep supporting the development of Belarus’s civil society and to move ahead with making preparations for concluding a visa facilitation agreement between the European Union and Belarus.
Estonia’s national security, as well as its economic and environmental situation, depends not merely upon what is happening in Europe, but in the whole world. Extreme poverty, the spread of diseases, global economic difficulties, conflicts, the spread of terrorism, food shortages, and global warming are problems that directly influence the well-being and future of Estonia and its people.
At the same time, we have ever more opportunities to contribute to the attainment of the global United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Therefore Estonia’s new development co-operation plan also pays more attention to achieving the MDGs than the previous plan. For this reason, we are increasingly focusing on the health care and education sectors, as well as on sharing our IT-related experiences.
Estonia’s experience with developing an e-state is unequivocal – along with a sustainable financial policy, this has been the key to Estonia’s economic success. In the eyes of the world, this has been a unique achievement worth observing and pursuing, having evolved into Estonia’s calling card all over the world. Co-operation in developing an e-state covers all continents, including Africa, where we co-operate, for instance, with Botswana and Cape Verde. The circle of those interested is constantly expanding. With this in mind we have for the first time assigned an Estonian diplomat to sub-Saharan Africa, who is currently working in the Finnish Embassy in Lusaka.
The Estonian exhibit at the Shanghai EXPO was also based on innovation. Over two million people visited Estonia’s interactive pavilion, where more than 100 000 ideas about how to improve the urban environment accumulated in the idea bank that was shaped like a group of gigantic piggy banks.
Hand in hand with the changes taking place in the world economy, the geography of our foreign economy and the network of Estonian foreign representations has also expanded. Last year the Estonian Embassy in Cairo was inaugurated as was the General Consulate in Shanghai. An Estonian honorary consul assumed office in Hong Kong and the staff of our Tokyo Embassy was increased. In the near future, an embassy will be established in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, so as to promote the interests of Estonian entrepreneurs entering the Central Asian market. Moreover, we are about to open an honorary consulate in Osaka. Estonia has made the decision to appoint non-residing ambassadors to all the member countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council, in other words, the six Arab states of the Persian Gulf, as well as Jordan, Lebanon, Singapore, and Syria.
We have worked consistently to more effectively supply entrepreneurs with information about the possibilities of how the state can assist and advise them while they make efforts to enter new markets. This purposeful co-operation is reflected in foreign trade statistics too: the export of goods from Estonia increased by 48% during October and November of last year, compared to the same period a year before.
However, our activities in the business diplomacy sphere would not be successful without close co-operation with Enterprise Estonia as well as different business associations. Together with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we organise business missions for entrepreneurs to target markets, as well as seminars concerning target markets and meetings with the relevant ambassadors. To protect and promote the interests of our entrepreneurs in foreign markets, we have established intergovernmental economic commissions with states like China, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Last year, we signed bilateral investment protection agreements with Azerbaijan, Jordan, and Moldova.
Estonia’s presence in Asia’s growing markets is of essential importance, but in terms of foreign trade our close neighbours in the European Union remain our biggest partners, with whom co-operation becomes more intensive year-by-year. Co-operation with the Nordic countries and more widely around the whole Baltic Sea region is valuable for Estonia, and we wish to promote it even more. The Nordic-Baltic Co-operation Report, as well as the Estonian-Latvian Future Co-operation Report, both of which were completed last year, offer co-operation initiatives that merit being implemented in the future. This year, Estonia is the co-ordinator of Baltic co-operation, with our priorities being energy, transport, and a knowledge-based economy. Within the framework of the latter, the objective is to speed up the development of a digital market.
For Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, one of the key issues is energy security. Thanks to the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP), last year it was possible to move ahead with the building of new energy connections in the Baltic Sea region. Decisions were made concerning investments for establishing the Estlink 2 electricity cable between Estonia and Finland, as well as the NordBalt electricity cable between Lithuania and Sweden. The Nordic electricity exchange Nord Pool Spot began trading in Estonia. Issues for which solutions must be found in the course of this year are the expansion of Nord Pool Spot to Latvia and Lithuania, the launching of the Lithuanian nuclear energy project together with Poland, and finding a consensus concerning the creation of a functioning Baltic gas market and the location of a regional liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.
Estonia shares the view of the Nordic countries that it is possible to achieve economic growth and create new jobs while promoting a green economy. With the aim of preserving the environment and ensuring sustainable development, we have set several ambitious objectives. For example, within the UN Kyoto Protocol framework we have already reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, with the aim being to reach 60% by the year 2020. At the same time, we have increased the use of renewable energy sources, with Estonia adopting a higher goal than the European Union’s average (21%) -- that renewable energy would constitute 25% of energy used by the year 2020.
Dear Members of the Riigikogu,
The date of 9 December 2010 will remain in the history of Estonia’s foreign policy alongside such symbolic dates as 29 March and 1 May 2004, since on this particular day Estonia became the 34th member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is a stamp of approval not only for our economy, but for our society as a whole, offering Estonia new opportunities for further development.
Estonia is concerned about the fact that a number of states, using the economic crisis as an excuse, have implemented measures that hinder free trade so as to protect their own markets. Therefore, Estonia’s main objective in the course of renewing the European Union’s foreign trade strategy is to further the liberalisation of trade and to safeguard the interests of the enterprises and businesses of the European Union. To achieve this goal, the European Union is continuing both negotiations for improving the multilateral trade regime within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as well as bilateral negotiations for concluding free trade agreements with essential partners. In 2010, the European Union concluded a free trade agreement with South Korea, and active talks are being held with Canada, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and a few other countries. Among the European Union’s Eastern Partners, negotiations have been opened with Ukraine.
A trade relations agreement between the European Union and Russia could be taken into consideration only after Russia joins the WTO. Assuming that the relevant multilateral negotiations can be finished before the summer, Russia’s accession could take place already at the end of this year. For Estonia, it is of essential importance that Russia, as one of our biggest trading partners, joins the WTO, as this would enhance the transparency and predictability of our bilateral economic relations.
In the digital age, all of Europe requires an energetic yet realistic vision of the future. The “Europe 2020” strategy which focuses upon innovation-based growth, full employment, improving competitiveness, and sustainable growth, provides a basis for this. Estonia also works in the name of enhancing the internal market. In this regard, it is of primary importance to develop an innovative and well-functioning digital market with as few exemptions as possible.
I am pleased that, as Estonia’s foreign minister, I represent one of the European Union’s most pro-enlargement member states. In Estonia people understand the necessity and indispensability of such a perspective, which all in all provides incentive for those nations aspiring to accede to the European Union.
Estonia is prepared to share its accession experiences with all the EU candidate countries. It is especially gratifying to support a nation that, in August 20 years ago, was the first one to recognise Estonia’s restored independence -- in other words, Iceland. We expect the principal accession negotiations with Iceland to start smoothly once the screening process has been successfully concluded this year.
Hopefully Croatia’s accession date can soon be specified, and the obstacles that are hampering the opening of the negotiations with Macedonia can be overcome. We believe that progress in the EU integration of the Western Balkan countries, including giving Montenegro candidate state status and proceeding with Serbia’s accession application, will serve as encouragement to the other Western Balkan nations to remain on the course of reform and to accelerate their integration. It is also essential to advance accession negotiations with Turkey, an important partner to the European Union.
Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, Estonia’s security is better ensured than ever before. Such a claim can be made not only due to the fact that Estonia is now a member of NATO, but mainly due to the co-operation that exists between nations that share similar values and principles. And in this co-operative endeavour, Estonia’s voice resonates not just as one of many, but as the sum of all the allies’ voices.
Our main objective in the next few years is the implementation of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, the strengthening of NATO’s defence policy through training and visible deterrence, and securing conditions for the transferring of security responsibilities in Afghanistan. The latter topic was also under discussion at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) contributing nations’ foreign ministers meeting in Tallinn.
Last year, Estonia participated for the first time in updating NATO’s Strategic Concept, which stipulates the alliance’s strategic objectives for a ten-year period. All of the essential issues for Estonia are clearly reflected in this strategic document, which was adopted at the Lisbon summit: first and foremost, everything that deals with the balance of new and conventional threats, a strong transatlantic connection, and collective security.
The constantly changing security environment is presenting us with new and global challenges that we have to be prepared to deal with. Through our engagement in Afghanistan we are contributing to the fight against terrorism and increasing our capabilities in the development and civilian co-operation sphere: we also promote the increasing of energy security within the framework of the European Union and NATO, as well as within regional co-operation. Internationally, we have proven our competence in the cyber security sphere and increased awareness of this threat in different organisations and on various levels.
In relation to NATO’s new Strategic Concept, the decision has been made to formulate the alliance’s cyber defence policy by this summer, a process Estonia is actively participating in. For more than two years now, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE) has been operating in Tallinn. Every year, it has attracted new participants. Just last year, Hungary became a full member of the centre, and Turkey and Poland, as well as the United States, have announced their intention to join in the near future.
A more effective co-operation between NATO and the European Union plays a vital role in increasing cyber security as well as in many other foreign policy issues. Estonia attaches great importance to the supplementing, not duplicating role that both organisations play in the field of crisis management.
Estonia is a definite supporter of NATO enlargement. We assist nations aspiring to become alliance members with adopting the necessary standards and requirements. We were pleased when Bosnia and Herzegovina received its Membership Action Plan (MAP) here in Tallinn, and we hope that the country will soon be capable of fulfilling the conditions for activating the Action Plan. We support the accession of Macedonia, assuming that the argument concerning the nation’s name is solved, and presenting a MAP to Georgia. The alliance would certainly also benefit from enlargement in Northern Europe.
In the European security area, the biggest problem continues to be the conflicts that have remained unsolved for a couple of decades already. We support the mediating role of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the 5+2 negotiations for unravelling the Transnistria conflict. Russia has an important role to play in the peaceful resolution of the Transnistria conflict, and this is where Russia can demonstrate its changed rhetorical attitude towards Europe with actual acts.
The foundation for the resolution of the Georgian conflict is unequivocal – it is the full adherence of the internationally recognised principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the international law. The prerequisites for a peaceful solution are the implementation of the cease-fire agreements as well as the continuation of the Geneva talks. To improve the humanitarian situation, it is necessary to restore the presence of the United Nations (UN) and OSCE missions in the occupied areas, as well as to extend accessibility for humanitarian workers, including those of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM).
The wave of disturbances and protests that broke out at the beginning of the year in several Arabian (North African and Middle Eastern) countries is a sign of deep social unrest that cannot be suppressed with force. A peaceful solution is possible only through open dialogue and by respecting and defending the fundamental rights of the people, including the freedom of speech. As a member of the European Union, Estonia is encouraging Egypt to adopt democratic reforms that would be implemented in accordance with the rule of law, paving the way for free and fair presidential elections.
Estonia continues to contribute to the ISAF mission on the principle that since we decided to begin the mission together with our allies, the decision to end it must also be made together. Therefore, we are maintaining our participation without limitations within the framework established by the Riigikogu mandate -- that is, up to 170 Defence Forces personnel – for as long as the Afghans require and expect it. The Estonian contingent serves in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, where we have co-operated closely with British troops for some time now. The security situation in Helmand is complicated, and it will not be possible to start transferring responsibility for security to the Afghans in the immediate future.
Estonia has suffered very tragic human losses in the course of protecting the freedom of Afghanistan. With great sadness and honour we commemorate all those Estonian soldiers who have fallen in Afghanistan. All of Estonian society should be supportive of those soldiers that have been injured while carrying out their duties. But we must also keep in mind that by paying this price, the security of our people has been strengthened, since human losses through terrorist attacks have been prevented. Since the activities of the international mission in Afghanistan began, the number of terrorist attacks in Europe has decreased substantially.
The main reason why the Estonian contingent is engaged in Afghanistan is to help make the world more secure and prevent potential terrorist attacks that endanger the lives of all people, including Estonians. Afghanistan is also the country to which Estonia has channelled most of its capabilities in the civilian and development co-operation sphere, and our experiences so far have encouraged us to increase our contribution. Last year we doubled the number of our police officers in the European Union’s police mission, EUPOL, and dispatched four civilian police officers to the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), where they are carrying out basic police training. In addition to the military doctors presently serving in Afghanistan, there are plans for dispatching a five-member team of surgeons to Helmand Province in April.
Through our operations in Afghanistan we have had the opportunity to get directly involved in the practical side of merging military and civil contributions. Thanks to that valuable experience, Estonia has become an appreciated partner in the framework of international development co-operation. Our many development co-operation projects in Afghanistan are directed at promoting health, education, good governance, and equal rights. We are continuing to give first aid training, in the course of which we have in two years trained more than 1 000 women in Helmand Province and supplied families with first aid kits. At the same time, the project to give supplementary training to health workers is also continuing, as are the activities of the Estonian health care expert.
While visiting Afghanistan in January I also met with schoolchildren at the friendship school to Tallinn’s Pae Secondary School in Kabul, and became convinced that young Afghans have a great desire to learn and are very hopeful about the future. And we can help to fulfil their dreams. As a matter of fact, our development co-operation in Kabul is mainly focused upon the educational sphere – this year our aim is to equip the Kabul University Afghanistan Centre with an information system. We are also supporting the construction of the Centre as well as the preserving of information materials in the National Archives and the publishing of their new books.
Ronald Reagan, whose 100th birthday was on 6 February has said: “Military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that’s now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.”
This is a concept that unites nations and peoples. Including Estonia and the United States. Estonia greatly values our bilateral security co-operation with the U.S., including joint military exercises as well as collective activities as NATO allies in Afghanistan and in the sphere of increasing cyber security. And it is also heartening that new spheres of co-operation are being added, like supporting the European Union Eastern Partners, energy security, and development co-operation.
The close relationship that exists between the United States and Estonia was once again confirmed in the course of my Washington visit in January, during which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her pleasure over such a dependable, creative and close ally as Estonia. According to Clinton, Estonia has in the course of just 20 years become one of the most successful models for emerging nationhood anywhere in the world, with its growth as a wired-in nation of internet voters and cyber innovators and its commitment to good governance, the rule of law, and fiscal responsibility.
Estonia has been active in the development co-operation sphere for 12 years already, and by today we have become a significant and dependable donor state. By the year 2015, we plan to increase development aid to at least 0.17% of the Gross National Income.
In Estonia’s new Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid Development Plan for 2011-2015, more ambitious objectives are set concerning the number of partner countries as well as the level of activities. During this period, Estonia’s development co-operation is focused on helping Afghanistan to its feet as well as on sharing our reform experiences, which is of particular interest and demand in the Eastern Partnership countries.
In the humanitarian aid sphere Estonia has also gradually increased the quantity of its aid and its geographical scope, as well as its ability to react and assist. For the first time the members of the Estonian rescue team spent the whole year on missions abroad – from January to September last year in Haiti, and from October to December in Pakistan. The Estonian rescue experts’ mission in Pakistan, which continues to suffer as a result of its floods, is still ongoing.
Since 2004, Estonia has been engaged in improving the humanitarian situation in Sudan. In connection with the Southern Sudan independence referendum, which was followed by Estonian observers within the framework of the European Union Monitoring Mission, we must be ready to not only recognise a new state, but to also increase our aid. It is essential to prevent the creation of a failed state, so it will be necessary to organise European Union assistance as well as co-operation with other international and regional organisations, especially with the UN and the African Union.
Quite understandably, we also provide assistance to our close neighbours. In 2010 we helped Poland and Moldova to deal with the aftermath of flooding and Russia fight its forest fires.
Estonia has reacted actively and visibly, both by dispatching our experts as well as by supporting international humanitarian organisations. Therefore our experts are more and more often being invited to participate in both UN as well as European Union monitoring missions. We also belong to the International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP), the primary objective of which is to support the UN’s capability to react to catastrophes.
In addition to development co-operation and humanitarian aid, Estonia’s long-term priorities in the UN also encompass the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently recognised Estonia for its active participation in UN activities and for taking a leading role in implementing one of the most important reforms for the UN in recent years—making the UN development aid system more effective. Being one of the co-facilitators of the negotiations, we helped to implement an idea that had been on paper for years and to unite the various UN units focused on improving the situation of women and girls into one coherent body – UN Women. For Estonia, it is essential to continue working so that the agency would be able to fulfil the expectations that have been placed upon it.
Since this is Estonia’s third year as an elected member of one of the UN’s basic agencies, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), we have the opportunity to be a member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). In 2011 we are also members of UNICEF and UN Development Program (UNDP) Council and we are carrying out our campaign to become a member of the Human Rights Council in 2012. Membership in the UN’s most central human rights agency would give us a better opportunity to more directly strive towards the objectives we have already worked for, including the promotion of gender equality, the freedom of speech, and the rule of law. But our human rights activities cover a much broader spectrum – besides the UN, they also encompass the European Council, the OSCE, and the European Union’s human rights policy.
Our contribution to the safeguarding of peace and security in the world has gradually increased. Last year we formulated a national action plan for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. The basis for the action plan is the recognition of the fact that without the broad participation of women in resolving conflicts, the solution to a conflict can only be a partial one.
This standpoint was confirmed at a high-level international conference in Tallinn last year, where challenges and opportunities for the implementation of resolution 1325 were discussed in regard to Afghanistan. At Norway’s and Estonia’s initiative, it was also decided last year that the resolution will be implemented more systematically than before within NATO’s activities.
Respected Members of the Riigikogu,
Protecting Estonian citizens abroad and providing consular services continues to be one of the Foreign Ministry’s most important roles.
The need for smooth consular co-operation within the European Union became very evident last year during the chaos that occurred in the European airspace due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland, as well as when the disturbances broke out in Egypt at the end of January, when we co-operated closely with the Finnish Consular Service in order to bring home Estonian citizens. During the volcanic ash crisis, our diplomatic representations abroad offered Estonian citizens various alternative means for travel, and the Foreign Ministry, using Facebook and Twitter among other things co-ordinated the movement of people and means of transportation. In order to organise the return of about 1 700 people caught in the ash trap and to help resolve their monetary problems, we sent consuls to Turkish and Egyptian resorts. In the interest of getting Estonian tourists home safely, last week we also sent consular diplomats to Sharm el-Sheik and Hurghada.
In order to help solve problems requiring consular services in locations where Estonia does not have a diplomatic representation and to represent Estonian interests on a broader scale, our honorary consuls provide priceless support. At the beginning of the year, Estonia had 139 honorary consuls in 62 states. Last year, 17 new honorary consuls received their accreditations.
So as to be closer to a growing Estonian community, we are planning to open an Estonian Consulate in Sydney this spring, which will serve Estonian citizens in both Australia as well as in New Zealand.
In order to facilitate visits to Estonia we have made use of visa representation agreements. This means that a Schengen visa for travelling to Estonia can be obtained through the diplomatic representations of other Schengen zone states with which Estonia has concluded the appropriate agreement. Currently we have concluded representation agreements with 14 Schengen states, by means of which 85 countries in various parts of the world are now covered. Estonia itself represents the Netherlands, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Finland, and Denmark in various cities. Meanwhile, we are also working on increasing visa-free travel possibilities for Estonian citizens.
In 2010 the greatest number of Estonian visas was issued by our three representations located in Russia, which altogether issued more than 70 000 visas. This confirms the fact that Estonia is becoming an increasingly popular destination among Russian tourists year after year. In 2010 the number of Russian tourists increased compared to the year before by more than 50%.
From time to time there are reports that a government member of some county supports the concept of implementing visa freedom between the European Union and Russia. In the long-term perspective, concluding a visa freedom agreement with a Russia that respects the rule of law is a natural development, but as is the case with all other states, Russia must as a prerequisite fulfil various democratic principles and understandably also meet the agreed technical requirements. This position is held by both Estonia as well as the European Commission, as expressed by its president José Manuel Barroso. First of all it is necessary to solve the problems regarding the border-crossing between the European Union and Russia. As foreign minister, I have constantly brought this matter up at European Union meetings.
2011 is a year of outstanding events. In August we will be celebrating the anniversary of our restored independence with many events, including Iceland Day, and at the end of this month the ceremonial reopening of the Estonian St. John’s Church will take place in St. Petersburg. This church, first consecrated 150 years ago, is not just a house of worship but also a symbol of preserving the Estonian language and spirit in our closest European metropolis.
Throughout 2010 we celebrated the 75th birthday of our world-famous composer, Arvo Pärt, all over the globe. His musical masterpiece Adam’s Lament, which premiered in Europe’s Capital of Culture Istanbul last summer, created an exhilarating atmosphere in that ancient city. This year Tallinn bears the title of Europe’s Capital of Culture. Although we have sensed throughout the centuries that we are part of the European cultural space, receiving this official recognition indicates that this is how we are seen all over Europe. This in and of itself is a facet that confirms our irreversible integration into the heart of Europe and international co-operation.
But unfortunately we have not always been here. Looking at today’s achievements, we must recognise those idealists who, 20 years ago, fought for the re-establishment of the Estonian Republic on the basis of its legal continuity. The restitutional route was open for us, thanks to the fact that most of the nations of the world had not recognised the occupation and illegal annexation of Estonia. Due to this general non-recognition policy, we will this year celebrate the 20 years that have passed since the re-establishment – not the establishment – of diplomatic relations with many of the world’s nations. This also opened up a route for Estonia to become one of the nations that has best integrated into the rest of Europe.
One great treasure of the Estonian Republic had been preserved -- functioning diplomatic representation in the form of the Consulate General in New York. It was headed by the grand old man of Estonian diplomacy, Ernst Jaakson – the symbol of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia. President Ilves has stated: “If Ernst Jaakson had chosen a simpler route, the restoration of Estonia would have been considerably more difficult. If every one of us would be a bit more like Ernst Jaakson, Estonia’s independence would be eternal.”
With this eternal appeal, I put an end to my presentation today, and thank the members of this Riigikogu, which is about to disperse, for a job well done!