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The President of the Republic of France begun his state visit to Estonia

On President Lennart Meri's invitation, Jacques Chirac, the President of the Republic of France, today begun his one-day state visit to Estonia, having arrived at the Tallinn Airport nine o'clock this morning. On President Lennart Meri and Mrs. Helle Meri's official welcoming ceremony, the company of honour from the single guard battalion of the defence forces was lined up, and Lieutenant Hannes Meimre delivered a report. The national anthems of France and Estonia were played and the Heads of State inspected the guard of honour. President Lennart Meri introduced the Estonian official delegation to the distinguished guest, and the French Ambassador Jean-Jacques Subrenat introduced the French delegation, including the Minister of European Affairs Pierre Moscovici, and François Patriat, the Secretary of State on small enterprises, commerce, handicraft and consumption, and other high officials of state from France, to President Meri and Mrs. Meri. Also a large group of members of the French National Assembly and Senate, as well as cultural and economic delegations and many French journalists had arrived in Estonia with President Chirac.

From the welcoming ceremony, the two Heads of State proceeded to President Meri's home at Viimsi, where President Meri offered morning coffee to the distinguished guest. At breakfast, the enlargement of the European Union was discussed, and the French President valued highly Estonia's success on the way to accession to the European Union. Also NATO was discussed, and the French President's opinion was that every state has the sovereign right to solve its security matters. It was also pointed out that on the political plane, there are no problems in the bilateral relations of the two countries, but the economic ties could be much stronger. In President Meri's opinion, the economic ties between Estonia and France could be as strong as the political relations between the two countries. The two Presidents also welcomed the solution to the matter of the Embassy buildings of Estonia, but also Latvia and Lithuania, from the time before World War II, which had been reached during the negotiations between the two countries.

President Meri and President Chirac exchanged decorations. In connection with the visit to Estonia, the French President received the Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of St. Mary's Land, and President Lennart Meri received the Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honour. The Estonian President extended the French translation of A. H. Tammsaare's novel ''Truth and Justice'' as a gift to his French colleague; the translation had been published in Paris in 1944-1948, and bound in leather by the Estonian leatherwork artist Esta Voss. A collection of serigraphies by Malle Leis ''The Horizons'' was another gift to the French President. The French President's gift to President Meri was the map of the Baltic Sea region from the time of the Swedish rule. President Jacques Chirac planted an oak tree to President Meri's courtyard at Viimsi. The President of the Republic of Estonia also extended to the French President an invitation to the opening of the exhibition of Estonian art in Paris on August 30.

President Chirac also laid a wreath to the monument of schoolchildren and teachers fallen in the Estonian War of Liberty situated near the Tallinn School of Sciences, and met the members of Government of the Republic of Estonia at the Stenbock House. This afternoon, President Meri will show his guest around in the Old Town of Tallinn; the French President will open the French Ambassador's new residence at Toompea and have a look at the new house of the French Cultural Centre. Today at 4 PM, the discussion panel ''Bonjour l'Estonie'', focusing on the matters of the future and security of Europe, will start at the conference hall of the National Library. In the evening, President Lennart Meri and Mrs. Helle Meri will host a festive dinner at the House of Blackheads in honour of the French Head of State. At dinner, both Heads of State will deliver speeches. At the House of Blackheads, in a lounge between the White Hall and St. Olaf's Hall, five paintings from the collection of the Estonian Art Museum by Estonian painters who once studied in Paris have been exhibited on the occasion of the state visit of the President of France. The paintings are: ''Paris. Seine'' from 1929, by Konstantin Süvalo (1884–1964), ''A Boulevard in Paris'' from 1937-38, by Aleksander Vardi (1901–1983), ''A Village View in France'' from 1936, by Jaan Grünberg (1889–1969), ''A Street in the Suburb of Paris'' from 1937, by Andrus Johani (1906–1941), and ''Paris'' from 1927, by Eduard Ole (1898–1995).

Press Service of the Office of the President

Kadriorg, July 28, 2001


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