Intervention by H.E. Lennart Meri President of the Republic of Estonia At the Sofia Summit 2001 October 5, 2001


Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and gentlemen.

In my concluding remarks I would first of all like to repeat what I already said before lunch: "All of us in this room count ourselves as allies of the United States, whether we have a formal treaty relationship or not". We show solidarity in the "War against Terror". This is also stated in today's declaration where we say that we consider the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington "to be an attack on all of us".

But what does terror mean?

I would like to speak of Palermo. There the first terrorist act of the modern age was discovered. A common grave contained murdered men, women and children. This was not in Sicily. The place name Palermo is also found in Estonia, it is a small village in the north of our country. All the newspapers wrote about this act of terror, but who - except for the Estonians! - reads Estonian-language newspapers? Pictures were taken of this mass grave, but who studies the photos in Estonian newspapers? All this took place in 1919, when the Estonian armed forces drove the Red Army out of Estonia and found the graves.

Yesterday in the airplane I happened to read the testament of Muhammad Atta and the instructions given to him. It all looked very familiar. Muhammad Atta's text was surprisingly similar to Lenin's appeal to shoot or hang a thousand or ten thousand peasants and priests and to kill them in a fashion that would leave their bodies a warning to all. "All western civilizations that enjoy their power are internally very weak". This is no longer Lenin; this is a quote from the instructions given to Muhammad Atta. Muhammad Atta was by training a city planner with a degree from the Hamburg technical university. He lived a normal life. What invisible force turned a city planner into a city destroyer?

I ask this for a simple reason. I do not doubt that Ossama bin Laden will be destroyed or brought before a court. But Germany has at least 800 like him. The day before yesterday Margaret Thatcher said that England's Muslims have not opposed themselves actively to bin Laden. And how many of these terrorists may live in the United States? In France? Pol Pot, if my memory serves me, had a degree from the Sorbonne. "Security has changed its character, and NATO can face it" Vaclav Havel wrote us today. Yes, - if we can find the line of battle. But I am afraid that when bin Laden comes before a court he will take on himself the role of judge. Martyrs exercise a strong attraction. Remember Che Guevara.

I believe that alongside soldiers and guns we need poets, psychologists and teachers. What can a computer do with a hundred thousand hints? I believe not much. None of the 800 people arrested in the US has been accused of a direct participation in the terrorist act. I believe that the essence is in democracy. Democracy is not an island, which can remain wealthy and apart in an ocean of poverty. Democracy has a mission. It must expand, its rays must alight hope in peoples, give them a belief in the world of man. Creativity and religion, be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or the shamanism of small peoples is the oxygen which feeds democracy and defeats totalitarianism, be it left-wing or right-wing. I was most scared by the poetry in Muhammad Atta's texts. The society where he lived and where he educated himself left in him a moral vacuum. This is not a judgement on European culture. It is rather a judgement on the consumer society, which instils in a person the belief that society is complete. You may remember that we entered the 21st Century and the new Millennium with the optimistic feeling that the world is about to be completed. That the end of history has arrived.

I believe that we have to sharpen our swords and to sharpen our moral obligations. The first takes little time, the second in turn will take all the centuries of this millennium. Democracy in its entire demanding form has to be reborn every single day.