The President of the Republic on Estonian Television on October 7, 2001
Dear fellow countrymen,
This is an evening of farewell. On Monday, October 8, between 3 and 4 PM; Arnold Rüütel, the President of the Republic of Estonia will swear his oath of office. He is our seventeenth Head of State and our third President. He will be the preserver of the continuity of the Republic of Estonia, which we founded on February 24, 1918. This continuity has never been interrupted for a single moment. The baton of the Head of the Estonian State was passed to me on October 8, 1992, by Heinrich Mark, the Prime Minister in duties of the President. I received it with respect and reverence, and will hand it over with the same respect and reverence to the President of the Republic Arnold Rüütel, who has been elected on fair democratic elections by your own electoral body.
So this hour is an hour of farewell. When browsing through all the letters and advice from the people of my Office and my friends, I saw that this was like a summing up of the history of Estonia, and a broader summing up of the last ten years. I think I will not touch upon history at this time. Instead, I would like to have a straightforward talk with you. What I would like best is to shake your hand and tell you how happy I am that you have trusted me; that you have got used to me; that you have shared the visions that are the only true ones for the Republic of Estonia and that will take the Republic of Estonia among the wealthy countries of Europe due to your work and your faith in the Republic of Estonia.
What is there to say about the President? It was not an easy job. First, you ask yourself whether you are doing to little. Then you wonder whether you are perhaps doing too much. And when looking around a little, hearing what television, radio, or media had said, it seemed they always had some reproach to make, no matter on what, but there had to be a reproach. Strange as it may sound, one becomes used to that. One becomes used to that when hearing your voices, seeing your eyes, and feeling your support, trust, and love.
In our parliamentary Republic, the President's job is different from that of the Parliament and that of the Government of the Republic. The two latter ones are connected to a different logic - their thoughts extend from elections to elections. This is so everywhere. Therefore - unlike that a little comical journalist, who doubted whether Estonia needed a Head of State after all - it is so everywhere that the Head of State embodies the continuity of the state, the ability to look far beyond the elections, beyond several governments, and ask himself what it is that the people need, that the state needs. This will inevitably be the duty of the Head of State, who stands outside all political parties and governments. I have tried to fulfil this role as well as I could. Sometimes, this meant trouble. It was sometimes complained that I was doing too much, and sometimes, that I was doing too little. My views, for instance, on the NRG, were different from those of the government, and I still consider the government's NRG policy to be wrong. But I do not want to talk about the past. Through past, I would like to talk about the future.
When thinking where we stand now, in the year 2001, we can truthfully say that we have made a great leap ahead. We are on crossroads now. Also in our everyday life, with our everyday decisions, we are always on crossroads, not only before or after the elections. It depends on us whether Estonia will continue with a steady pace on the path that will preserve the independence of the Republic of Estonia, namely the path to the European Union and NATO, or begin to doubt that path. It is Estonia's own doubts, our own stupidity that harbours the greatest threats to the prevailing of the Republic of Estonia. Our future is in our hands. The Estonian persistence could make several reproaches to the European Union - this is natural. It is always possible to do everything better, but Estonia will never be able to approach her tasks and hopes for the future as if she existed ins solitude in the middle of a great ocean. We have been part of Europe, and now we are a European country again. A country that has been rediscovered after it had been practically forgotten. We can be immensely proud of this.
I am speaking to you with great self-confidence and happiness. I would especially like to thank you for the most beautiful time of my presidential years. I mean the time of the Broken Cornflower. I visited all the counties of Estonia and could shake hands with so many that are still alive and carry in their hearts the ever-burning flame of the Republic of Estonia. I shook hands with very young people born in Siberia, and with very old people, who came in wheelchairs or supported themselves on crutches.
There is so much that I would like to tell you. Maybe you are waiting for me to read my political will. There is not going to be such a will. For two reasons. First, from tomorrow, Arnold Rüütel, an honestly elected Estonian Head of State, will be the President of the Republic of Estonia. And second - I do not intend to die, I will be with you here in Estonia. You may call me President Meri, or you may call me Lennart, depending on how well we know each other, but all the problems and all the joys of Estonia will still be on your shoulders and mine, and above all, on the shoulders of the President of the Republic Arnold Rüütel. It is self-evident that I expect the President of the Republic Arnold Rüütel to have your absolute loyalty, and the same love and trust that I myself enjoyed for so many years.
Once more, I would like to say that we are standing on crossroads. Estonia has created good opportunities for herself. These opportunities must be used, and used wisely. What worries me is Estonia's exaggerated self-confidence and our curious relationship with our intellectuals. The intellectuals are the part of the population who carry in their hearts the concern for the future. The intellectuals can see further, the intellectuals know the problems that we will be facing in ten years or twenty years from now. This is why it is so sad to state that upstart behaviour is rearing its head in Estonia. It is the same kind of upstart behaviour that was not unknown to our Republic before World War II. But ask your parents for the most well-known name of the pre-war Estonian media. It was Gori, the man who constantly ridiculed all those upstarts who today have built our Village of the Fools. Once, President Päts was so foolhardy that he ordered new potatoes to be brought to him from Denmark by plane. As you see, we still remember it 60 or 70 years later. Estonia has never been a country to accept the upstarts. What do I expect from you? I expect from you a much stronger moral resistance to this phenomenon. I expect from you the loyalty that Estonians have always had towards their teachers and scientists. I wish that you would rely on them and thus always have a clear view of the direction of Estonia's self-realisation and the choices to be made for the good of Estonia's future or for its undoing. We have accomplished very much. Even more remains to be done. And for that activity to be really powerful, the state needs a Head of State. Consider the functioning of a state. It functions through the Parliament and the Government. The Parliament and the Government have, if they are lucky, more than half of the nation behind them, which means that the other half of the nation need not be behind that government and that parliament. In other words - the state does not only unite or integrate, it also creates confrontation or polarisation. As a citizen of the Republic, you have the more trust in the state, the state abiding by the rule of law, the state that is just, the state that thinks socially, the more you can feel that the questions that you are unable to solve by yourself are well solved by the Government of the Republic and the Parliament. The passing of any decision or law always involves two sides. The road-roller is not a tool of integration. We must find the concord uniting both the coalition and the opposition into a unanimous Estonian state and the will of the people of Estonia. We can manage that. Also political parties will learn. And if they do not learn, they will disappear. Today, in Estonia, we can see new political parties emerging over the horizon. I have no attitude towards them but the very fact that new political parties are emerging shows that many of you are not content with the existing political parties. This does not mean that the existing political parties should disappear. This means that the dialogue of the existing political parties with you, the citizens of the Republic of Estonia, must be much stronger. This dialogue must also be transferred to our Riigikogu. The Riigikogu must be the place where the integration of two opposite visions takes place.
It is with these feelings that I will welcome Arnold Rüütel, the President of the Republic of Estonia assuming office tomorrow. I wish him to have a lot of work, and I wish him strength. I wish him to have the full trust of the people of Estonia. I wish to thank you, dear fellow countrymen, from all my heart for the beautiful time when we were dragging our cart uphill together. We shall always be meeting each other.