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President of the Republic at the Festive Ceremony Estonia Thanks at Kadriorg Palace on 23 February 2006

Dear recipients of decorations!
President Walesa!

In the name of the Republic of Estonia I would like to address our gratitude to each and everyone who have preserved the ideal of freedom and helped it to triumph.

I thank Estonia's friends abroad who supported us in difficult times and throughout many years. We recognise popular movements and leaders who stood against totalitarianism and violence both in Poland and all over the world. Also Estonia derived strength from them. I am really glad that we have remained good friends.

I address the words of gratitude to all our people. It is due to their unity and political enthusiasm that we managed to restore Estonia's independence 15 years ago: in a way to win another War of Independence, this time fortunately without shedding a drop of blood.

The only real way to recognize the people is to acknowledge persons who took the responsibility as well as risks upon themselves. The persons whose commitment-inspired actions provided guidance to the process of the restoration of independence as well as a face to the Estonia of today. These persons are you.

The restoration of independence was a long, complicated and controversial process, drawing vitality from the persons who carried and defended the idea of independence with the price of personal sufferings and drew the attention of international community to the situation in Estonia. These were persons who in the Letter of Forty, Hirvepark and the Baltic Chain protected our national ideals, the people who initiated and lead popular movements which carried an ideal of independence.

The entire process got its legal starting point in 1988, in the Declaration of Sovereignty of the then-Supreme Council and a year later in a goal taken to restore local government as a foundation of independence. On 2 February 1990 people's deputies of all levels adopted a straightforward decision to restore the independence of Estonia based on legal succession.

In the same year a democratically elected legislative body started to secure a legal basis for the independence under restoration by adopting pre-constitutional legal acts and approving restoration of independence on 20 August 1991. The process developed, empowered vigorously by the Popular Front and Movement of Estonian Citizens, and was legally validated by the adoption of a new constitution and taking office of authorities established pursuant the constitution.

Our obligation is to leave to the next generations a proper benchmark and borderlines of this period in our history. Stocktaking of the past is also necessary for tackling new tasks. If we managed to reach such consensus as we had corroborating our aspirations when restoring our independence, we could believe that Estonia would do well also in decades to come.

Thank you for your efforts in restoring and promoting the Republic of Estonia. Happy Independence Day!

© 2006 Office of the President l tel: + 372 631 6202 l fax: + 372 631 6250 l