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President of the Republic On the Occasion of the 88th Anniversary of the Republic of Estonia at the Estonia Theatre on 24 February 2006

Dear people of Estonia!
Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today 88 years ago the Maapäev's Committee of Elders made a historic decision not far from this venue, the Estonia Theatre. Making use of power vacuum between an offensive of German troops and a retreat of Russian units, politicians took responsibility on behalf of the people and proclaimed Estonia an independent republic.

A quarter of the century later when heavy battles between two foreign armies were taking place, Estonians nurtured hope to rejoin the free world again. However, a totalitarian system engulfed our hopes for about fifty years until a new chance emerged to restore independence. A deep sentiment of responsibility for one's country and people, a will to inspire and preserve fellow-citizens guided choices in these convoluted processes.

Cooperation delivered victory to our people in the War of Independence and secured success also seventy years later. Thus, the glory of the restoration of independence does not belong to any of the political forces but it is joint accomplishment of all freedom-yearning Estonians. Today, on the 88th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia and in the fifteenth year of our restored independence we can confirm that our state stands ''to defend internal and external peace and is a pledge for current and future generations.'' The creation of our state was a victory for the entire nation. Therefore, in a way, we may consider today also as a Victory Day.

86 years after the end of the War of Independence fought for Estonia's independence, the last soldier of that war - Ants Ilus - passed away. His departure closed an entire era in Estonia's history, however, our lasting respect remains with people who fought for independence.

Having regained independence, Estonia became a full-fledged member of the free world, the European Union and NATO. Our prosperity is growing and possibilities expanding. Just like we make use of values of the open world, the world can benefit from Estonia's diversified contribution. Jubilees of Arvo Pärt and Paul Keres were international events. Premiers of Estonian musical works take place also in European capitals of music.

Our skiers' Olympic triumph, which fans all over the world could enjoy, was a reward for long-term efforts and excellent cooperation of a multinational team. Kristina Šmigun and Andrus Veerpalu have deserved the gratitude of Estonia and its people as well as the nation's highest award - the Order of the White Star of the highest class.

To prevent the radiance of the achievements from fading, freedom and security should be secured constantly - both in its international and intra-Estonian dimension. More than 200 Estonian servicemen participate in foreign missions but the range of international cooperation is significantly broader. We are also responsible for clean air, the Baltic Sea and the entire environment.

Equally important are equal opportunities and freedom of choice, public welfare and safety. Economic growth, which in Estonia surpasses most of the European Union member states, creates prerequisites thereof. Today the purchasing power of average wages exceeds by half the purchasing power six years ago. Our environment has deserved investor confidence. Increasing social cohesion witnesses livelier partnership and a social dialogue.

We could go on listing positive issues but let us admit that we could have as long a list of problems. I would not like to list concerns on a festive occasion but rather remind us that we should strive for a state, ''which is based on freedom, justice and law''. Setting new goals we should neither loose sight of any of the facets in this eternal goal nor be satisfied with merely recognizing single problems.

For years we have been concerned about school attendance, binge drinking, drug addiction and AIDS, sad statistics of traffic and work-related accidents. We nothing but talk about many public services becoming geographically and financially difficult to access. We call on adding wealth without agreeing how to use it.

We have talked a lot about security but it looks like we have not really understood that security is not only related to NATO membership but also to environmental risks and public health. Estonia has acceded to the Helsinki Convention and is committed to the protection of the Baltic Sea. Pollution on the North Western coast of Estonia revealed that hazards related to oil transit have been underestimated for a long time. Security risks should be handled in a considerably broader context and this attitude should be reflected also in budget allocations to our boarder guard to acquire monitoring equipment to discover marine pollution. However, our environment should not be a venue of domestic policy fights, rather a bridge across differences.

The ability of the governing coalition to overcome ideological differences and to define strategic courses of action is worthy of praise. Reduction of environmental load and integral regional development are undoubtedly among the most important tasks. However, education and research, better transport links and higher corporate productivity are equally important. Now it is time to change gear and accelerate to prove government's working ability in preparing draft legislation and implementing strategies. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.

In public interest we should leave aside party differences, forget pointless rivalry and gloating. The state cannot be looked at through party blinders. I call for consideration of a potential impact on democracy if party representatives will soon get an access to sensitive law enforcement jobs. Isn't there a looming threat that decision taken in the name of the state will mingle with arbitrary party politics and together with its civil servants also the state could become partisan?

The state is not in the service of a party, guild or circle of friends but a guardian of its people and legitimate expectations. This is the principle to be used for the completion of the ownership reform, without ignoring thereby the feeling of justice and justified expectations of the people.

Any kind of careless handling of our greatest asset - the people, be it retirees, workforce or children - would hurt the feeling of justice. Concern for deepening trends thereof has prompted several of my opinions. I consider it justified to continue with every effort in order to make Estonian society more cohesive and more caring as well as our development more balanced, just the way the process of public understanding has targeted it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have treasured our own and others' freedom but we have acknowledged less of the obligations and responsibilities accompanying this paramount value.

Nowadays when freedom of choice and faith should be a natural part of a democratic way of life, we see intolerance escalating. We can stop it only if we learn to know and respect faith and customs of other nations. Multiculturalism is wealth for a society, which rather joins and promotes than damages our own culture. Respect for the other people and other cultures are a realistic choice and responsibility in daily life. However, it is also a clear sign of our internal freedom.

John Paul II has admitted contemplating about freedom that nowadays an understanding is spreading that there are no criteria regulating the use of freedom and there is no place for responsibility. He considered such a situation ''dangerous as using our freedom we would like to ignore its ethical dimension, i.e. consideration of ethical good and evil. Such liberalism can only be described as primitive. However, this could be devastating.''

Vague ethical borderlines deliver confusion in our values or even immorality and there is a risk of getting used to it. If the perception of good and evil weakens in the society, we can go on establishing preventive codes of conduct but they will not be able to prevent or manage a crisis. Selfless efforts of individuals cannot compensate everything that has been left undone by a state, either.

A politician has its electorate's mandate for a fixed period of time but it has do be justified and renewed through daily work. Ignorance of commitments is irresponsible and unallowable; however, taking of political responsibility by resignation is not a universal solution for each occasion in life.

According to democratic distribution of roles and separation of powers the fourth power cannot pursue politics for the first two or administer justice for the third. Borderlines for the use of the freedom of press are defined not only by the code of ethics but also inseparably by the perception of good and evil, proper and improper. Expertise as well as responsibility for one's choices is of tremendous weight in a situation in which every word said or written is amplified in mass media.

Estonia bears responsibility both for the processes taking place inside and outside its borders. As an EU Member State we gain from common policies and pooled resources but also shape them. As a NATO member we have to share risks and responsibility in increasing security and developing cooperation in different parts of the world.

A goal to work for in upcoming years could be to increase our capacity for independent performance. First it should find expression in turning our population growth positive and in the use of existing human capital. A higher level of education, better living standard and longer life expectancy would contribute significantly to our success.

Stronger independent performance does not mean self-containment. Linkage with global developments is increasing anyway - notwithstanding whether we speak about international politics, energy or environment. However, an internally stronger Estonia would be a more reliable partner in international cooperation.

Therefore there is also a need to improve principles and functioning of self-governments. Societal balance and sustainability is a key in the hands of local governments. Central governments should guarantee them a capacity to secure needs of the people in their area of responsibility.

The central government in search of a development accelerator has to change as well. If ministries operate only within their area of responsibility and there is no operational cooperation in all circumstances, the administrative capacity of the central government will be significantly curbed.

Estonia has been innovative. This is our advantage and responsibility. If we would like to maintain our competitive edge, on our way to knowledge-based economy we should leap from development plans to actual innovation, without just relying on foreign investors or European funds.

Imagining the Republic of Estonia in ten years, I foresee entrepreneurial activities progressing in every corner of Estonia. Constant learning has taken us to a situation in which in our traditional industries, e.g. in timber and foodstuff industries, there are less natural resources and more wisdom as input. Manufacturing and service are making an extensive use of state-of-art technologies, mitigating, thus, the scarcity of labour.

In ten years Skype will not be an exceptional success story but one of the many transnational companies originating in Estonia. Our innovative attitude will favour concentration of top specialists and our young people having worked abroad will return home with valuable expertise and knowledge.

However, first and foremost, I would like to see a happy, healthy and caring nation looking confidently into the future. The people of Estonia, who value their family more than an average European, will have lasting marriages and confidence to have more children. Young families will have more favourable conditions to start a home and the state will support the birth and raising as well as schooling of children. People will have an opportunity to find a favourable job and they will be more confident in future knowing that necessary training will always be accessible.

I see Estonia in future as a welfare state with all groups in the society gaining from its balanced development. Its citizens will realise the ''presence'' of the state at each and every moment - be it through access to education, medical care or police. Instead of an illusion as if we do not need a state, we will gain confidence knowing that it is the state that cares for its people in all circumstances.

Dear fellow countrymen,

Common lasting values help us to cope in the society and merge human communities into a nation. These values are not preserved by themselves; they need caring and transmission from generation to generation. This is a must in order to secure necessary stability in the rapidly changing and more closely intertwining world.

Estonia is facing numerous unsolved issues we should focus on instead of clinging to the past and settling of accounts. The people are expecting today's politicians to define the role of Estonia and to secure its place in the ever convoluting world. I do hope that all political forces are going to commit themselves to this task in their further actions, also vis-a-vis approaching elections.

We should not only wish that each person would lead a good and secure way of life in Estonia but that each and every one of us would also bear responsibility to contribute to this - in compliance with one's abilities and position.

I assure you, Estonia is not a project of the elite and we should never have a governing democracy of the selected few. Our state is for our people. Every one should feel what we sang in a loud voice when restoring our independence and what we felt sharing the success of our Olympic heroes - ''eestlane olla on uhke ja hää'' (it is great to be an Estonian).

I wish all of us increasing pride in our state. Happy Independence Day!

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