The President of the Republic on October 8, 2001, at the Riigikogu
dear Chairman of the Riigikogu, dear Riigikogu,
Diplomatic Corps, Government,
and first of all, my dear fellow countrymen here,
in all the counties and overseas!
Yesterday afternoon, when I gave my first interview before leaving office, the world was still relatively at peace. When I gave the next interview, there was already a war going on.
It is self-evident that this also concerns the Republic of Estonia. This does not mean that we have reasons to expect the attacks of international terrorism and its organisation al Queada. Not that. Estonia will go on working peacefully. But morally and legally, the war that broke out 6.30 PM according to Estonian time yesterday, will indeed concern us. I am sorry that on the day of transferring my powers, at my last hour in office, I must find the time to read the following lines of the Baltic Charter, signed by the Presidents of the United States, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania: "The Partners will consult together, as well as with other countries, in the event that a Partner perceives that its territorial integrity, independence, or security is threatened or at risk. The Partners will use bilateral and multilateral mechanisms for such consultations."
Ladies and gentlemen, Estonia knows the meaning of threats to security or territorial integrity. After the start of military activity, I sent a letter to the American President George Bush, confirming that Estonia is loyal to her obligations and the United States of America and their allies can count on the support of our small country also in this war - which is not a NATO war - against terrorism and those undermining international security. The enhanced readiness of all democratic Europe to strengthen internal security and defence is also Estonia's international obligation, and at the same time, an interior policy obligation that will guarantee the security of our citizens in Estonian villages and towns, on Estonian roads and streets. I have addressed similar confirmations also to the closest allies of the Untied States of America, the British Prime Minster Tony Blair and the French President Jacques Chirac.
After this unexpected but inevitable introduction, let me return to the agenda of transferring my powers to the newly elected President Arnold Rüütel. Also here, I would first like to point out with great satisfaction that the leaving office of a Head of State, and the assuming office of a new Head of State, which is indeed a festive and extraordinary event, has not in the least hindered the conscientious co-operation between the Supreme Commander of National Defence and the defence forces. For this, I would like to give my special thanks and appreciation to Rear Admiral Tarmo Kõuts. The organisation of further activities will be on the shoulders of President Arnold Rüütel, the Commander of the Defence Forces, and the Government. I just allow myself to remind you how important it is, at times of tension, to say nothing of crises, to proceed form the principle: one President at a time.
On a more general plane, I would like to point out once again that Estonia is a small country - both in area and in population, and that Estonia's self-realisation and goals are, inevitably, first and foremost of moral nature: Estonia is a region, where Estonians have managed to last in a mostly unfriendly world; even though we are part of Europe, several attempts have been made to sever us from Europe. But it has been the Estonians' loyalty to their values and the support of our friends to the Estonian perseverance that allow us today to count on their help similarly, but even more efficiently than in the past.
Being small, Estonia is an old country and a young state at the same time. The history of the Estonians dates back more than fifty centuries, and the Estonian State dates back tot he year 1918. We can look back at the repeated attempts to break or deny the continuity of the Republic of Estonia, but none of those attempts has been a success. From this, we may and must conclude that we can move on towards the future with confidence.
Our moral expectations have been extensive, but our possibilities are limited. The margin of error in Estonia is small or non-existent. Estonian state must not make any mistakes, and the people of Estonia must not make any mistakes. When great powers make mistakes, others often suffer more than those great powers themselves - at least on short-term basis. Estonia has managed to last, because she has not made too many mistakes. But in our intertwined or globalised world we must see to it that we make no mistakes at all.
What do I mean by this?
First, we must see to it that the people of Estonia would last. We must protect our language - especially from the half-intellectual upstarts, and deepen in our children the understanding of our past and our customs. Not for the sake of the past, but so that our past, our experiences with totalitarianism, those of us that were murdered, imprisoned and deported, in short, our historical experience, would form the basis of the common values of today's democratic world.
It is on this foundation that we build our common future, with the firm knowledge that the horrors of totalitarianism must be banished forever.
Next. We must do everything in our might to have strong roots in Europe. Europe is not a carnival or a beer festival, Europe, first of all, means the radiance from Athens, Rome and Jerusalem, whose values must be protected in the world that has stepped into its third millennium.
And finally: these goals must be kept in balance. There are those among us that would like to be Europeans without being Estonians. And unfortunately there are also those who would like to be Estonians without being Europeans. The former doom us to a sightless future; the latter doom us to circumstances that can never have any future.
Thus, the politics of a small country is an art whose key lies in balance. Balance does not mean fatalism. Balance must be struggled for in a balanced way. We must be able to see the future, the present, and the past at the same time, and draw our experiences from the past and also to see our mistakes. The people that have handed us down the legacy of independent Estonia, are, as Homer called them, "the silent majority", and they were thought to be watching over the living. I have tried to serve Estonia with the knowledge that all the eyeless generations of the past are watching us, and - I pray to God! - also rejoice with us sometimes - even if it is seldom. I have had one advantage - my parents and the course of my life started to educate me at a very early age. For some time, this advantage was also a disadvantage - to some, I was a stranger, some did not understand me, and some, no doubt, will never even begin to understand me. But all this belongs to the past. Now, I have just enough time to thank you all for good co-operation that has made Estonia a much more well-known country in the world. I would like to thank everybody present here, all the governments, all the senior public servants, my good colleagues abroad, and of course, my family. Also Heads of State have difficult times, and it is then that their unanimous and understanding families are their silent pillar of support. Now, it is time to congratulate Arnold Rüütel, who is assuming office, the 17th Head of State and the third President of the Republic of Estonia, who will now be safeguarding the continuity and the good renown of the state. I would like to congratulate him with all my heart and to assure him, in the name of all of you, that the people of Estonia will support him with respect, loyalty, and love. Congratulations, Mr. Arnold Rüütel, President of the Republic!
And finally: I am glad to tell you that President Arnold Rüütel and I have discussed the constitutional procedure that would give the people the right to elect the President directly. Protecting the Constitution has been one of the most important duties during my two terms of office. I have protected it from changes proceeding from day-to-day policies, and said that the continuity of the Constitution is a value in itself. I have protected the Constitution from misinterpretations and formalism. But today, I am speaking as the Head of State leaving office. From this evening,. I will be just the President, not the President of the Republic. Leaving politics endows the Head of State with a unique opportunity. An opportunity and also a duty to speak impartially and to take steps whose impartiality is beyond doubt. Therefore, I am today initiating the bill of the Act Amending the Constitution, which has two aims: first, direct elections of the President. I hope that in the year 2006, the President of the Republic will be elected directly by the citizens of the Republic of Estonia. Second, the establishment of the Court of the Constitution. The Republic of Estonia needs an institution that would have the right of the final interpretation of the Constitution. Who would have the right to solve conclusively, for instance, disputes between the Government and the Parliament, or disputes between the President and the Parliament. This institution would also remove the danger that some overbearing Prime Minister, Parliament leader or President could reach for the power that is not his according to the Constitution. The Court of the Constitution would create the balance that the Republic of Estonia needs to be functioning.
I am glad that the President-elect Arnold Rüütel has supported my intent to initiate the amendment of the Constitution before I leave office.
Dear Chairman of the Riigikogu, I hereby initiate the bill of the Act Amending the Constitution. You are now holding in your hands the draft act that will endow the people of Estonia with the right enjoyed by most of the democratic peoples of Europe. Handle it with efficiency.
Mr. President Rüütel, the people of Estonia congratulate you! Dear people of Estonia, I thank you!