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The President of the Republic at the dinner for Ambassadors on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence 20 August 2006 at Kadriorg Palace

President of the Riigikogu, Prime Minister,
Ladies and gentlemen!

Today, late at night, fifteen years will pass from a historic moment. The then Supreme Council, overcoming contradictions and dissenting opinions that had emerged in a very complicated process of restoration of our national independence, affirmed the independence of the Republic of Estonia and sought to re-establish diplomatic relations.

Since that moment, the Republic of Estonia, proclaimed on 24 February 1918, has been free again. We could launch drafting of a constitution cementing our legal continuity and taking into account democratic developments in the world, and we could launch building of our state. In this process we could build on pre-constitution acts that we had adopted since 16 November 1988.

At the end of August and at the beginning of September in 1991 events progressed rapidly and were in a clear contrast with a kind of uncertainty that prevailed in many a capital prior to 20 August. A few days made a crucial change in world politics, requiring decision-makers to have a sense of perspective and readiness to take responsibility.

Estonia’s appeal to states all over the world for diplomatic recognition met with a quick response both in the West and in the East. My special gratitude goes to Iceland, the first to re-recognize Estonia’s independence. Iceland’s decision had an impact broader than just relations between two countries – in reality, it broke a decades-long mental border deep-rooted in international relations.

Within a short period of time, Estonia together with Latvia and Lithuania, regained its rightful place in the free world, opened the door to the UN and to many other international organisations. I would like to express my gratitude once more to the countries that in the years of occupation stood firm in their non-recognition policy. The Republic of Estonia had its representative in the USA throughout the occupation. The legendary life’s work by Ambassador Ernst Jaakson for the benefit of Estonia is an example of unique commitment that has timeless value.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Fifteen years is a period long enough to see the events of that time in their historic framework. Memoirs have been published and movies have been shot, also a few research papers have been completed about those events. However, a lot of work is waiting to be done in the future to collate the pictures we have in Estonia about the events of 1991 and to enrich them with our knowledge about Europe and the world politics in general.

At the same time, it is necessary to adequately capture the contribution of the Baltic peoples to the world history of the late 1980ies and the early 1990ies. The struggle for independence of the three small nations in that period was much more effective than one could expect by their size. We accelerated the course of events of that time and took advantage of the possibilities offered by major processes under way.

I am convinced that to a great extent our strength lay in the cooperation and joint activities taken by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It brought us more into the limelight of the world and increased the success of each of us. Our cooperation is a valuable legacy, enriched over time by ever new facets. It is also experience studies thereof might facilitate positive developments in international relations in various parts of the world.

Also simplified treatments of the events taking place in August 1991 have been published according to which the Soviet Union just collapsed due to its internal problems. Such an approach could leave an impression as if the restoration of independence of the Baltic states and further developments were merely a piece of luck. I cannot really agree with such a one-sided approach.

Having participated in the processes myself, I would like to emphasise that the consistent fight of Baltic and also Central European peoples for their independence undermined the supremacy of the Soviet Union and broke down the shackles holding the state together. This was a process to affect the public attitude of the world and show the way for ever new peoples yearning for freedom.

We know from history that people fighting for freedom usually suffered heavy losses. Therefore, I would like to underline the peaceful character of the restoration of Estonia’s independence. We managed to remain composed throughout our negotiations with the central authorities in Moscow as well as with the numerous representatives of the so-called fifth column but also with emissaries and paratroopers dispatched by the organisers of the August Coup.

In Estonia we managed to establish a broad-based alliance of people who had stood for independence. Cooperation between the Supreme Council and the Estonian Congress in crucial moments serves as a characteristic example.
I am really pleased that we can celebrate the anniversary of the restoration of our independence together with representatives of so many countries. We have come a long way with the support of each other.

Today the Republic of Estonia participates actively in international relations. As a NATO and EU-Member State we are in a better state than ever before. However, Estonia should not only rejoice but also be a reliable and responsible partner, meeting its commitments to the European Union, NATO and other international organisations.

We continue to contribute to securing peace, stable development of various regions of the world and to the protection of democratic values. For the sake of building up new democracies we are ready to share our experience in international cooperation as well as in extensive reforms.

Secure world, advancing Europe and cooperation based on trust with countries that respect freedom and democratic values – these are goals we set fifteen years ago when restoring our independent statehood. We are committed to securing these goals also today.

Let us raise our glasses to our friendly and mutually supportive relations as well as to further success of our countries. To cooperation!

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