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President of the Republic on the Opening of ESTO in Toronto on Saturday, July 8, 2000

Dear fellow countrymen,

This morning, I sat at my desk for a long time and wondered what the right words were to address you at the opening of ESTO.

Above all, my dear fellow countrymen, I am grateful to all of you. Grateful that you have guarded the Estonian flag throughout all these long decades. That you have guarded the national anthem of Estonia. That you have guarded the memory of the small, clean, beautiful and proud Estonia, and handed this legacy, your loyalty to Estonia, down to your children and grandchildren. What you handed down from generation to generation was not a family album with nice photos and sweet memories from youth long past. All that was also there. But above all, it was the firm conviction that a time will come when the flag of Estonia's freedom shall fly not only in Toronto or Washington or Stockholm or Melbourne; it shall be hoisted also in tens of thousands of homes all over Estonia. And in this connection, we would also like to express our joint gratitude to the Government of Canada, who never recognised the occupation of Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. Your loyalty to Estonia, that was most powerfully expressed by the ESTO festivals, was a political programme. The non-recognition policy of the Western countries, for which I thanked the Congress of the United States in Washington last month, was the first chapter of that political programme. It confirmed that no new law could be born of the violations of international law. That the Republic of Estonia continued to exist de jure. That the occupying powers in Estonia were only temporary for the democratic world. No less, but no more. This was the essence of the Western non-recognition policy. You, my dear fellow countrymen here and all over the world, wrote the second chapter of this political programme, and answered the question: what must be done to end this temporary situation sooner. This chapter we already wrote together, both in Canada and at home. The goal of this second chapter of the programme was equally clear to us all: we have to increase the pressure to the alien power, as soon as possible, and restore the Republic of Estonia with all her constitutional institutions and sovereign power with as few losses as possible, so that the rest of the world would be able to restore their relations with Estonia as an independent country.

My dear fellow countrymen, Estonia is our common creation.

For this I thank all of you, all over the world!

Another emotion I would like to share with you is pride.

Please do not misunderstand me: I am proud to open the festival of ESTO here in Toronto as the President of the Republic of Estonia. I am proud to be able to represent the nation and country that by today has risen from oblivion, tackled the difficulties and gained international trust, and even more: it has also gained international admiration with its clear sight, purposeful work and increasing self-awareness.

This is not the first time I address you.

In May 1979, I presented you at the University of Toronto, and presented two of my films about the identity or self-awareness of the Finno-Ugric peoples. I was moved by the fact that the late Heino Jõe retold my book ''Hõbevalge'' in one of the local papers. In one way or another, we knew already then that totalitarian states are temporary. What we did not know was how to get out of this pickle. Neither could I possibly know that one day, I would be addressing you as the President of Estonia. In those faraway times, our goals were clear, but the ways to reach them were obscure, as we in Estonia had no political tools at our disposal. All we had was the cultural tools - the song festivals, music, theatre, visual arts, film, preservation of antiquities, and above all, books. Sometime in the future, when history will be written by historians, not politicians, they will award the laurel wreath for Estonia's self-preservation to the Estonian culture, the only crack through which the nation bent under the deadly yoke of Sovietisation could manifest their political preferences. But in fact, the political tools were at your disposal at the time, and you made the best possible use of them. I acknowledge to you the affinity and gratitude with which we followed the speech of Prime Minister Diefenbaker at the Canadian ESTO 1972 - also this speech made its way through the iron curtain with the help of the TV company owned by Bengt von zur Mühlen, a friend of mine born in Tartu, at that time of silence when Estonia did not have her own Prime Ministers. At that time, the ESTO was the only foreign ministry, the only parliament, the only defence forces that Estonia had, it was our only defence against international oblivion.

Today, the situation has changed.

The Republic of Estonia has a Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is functioning excellently. We have our own political levers at all the international organisations. Some homespun Estonian wiseacres both home and abroad have therefore concluded that the time of the ESTO festivals is now over.

I most emphatically disagree.

When the world changes, also the organisational means we use to protect Estonia's interests in the changing world must change.

When we met four years ago in Stockholm and in Tallinn, I pointed to the European Union and NATO as our two foreign policy priorities that Estonia wishes to use to perpetuate the continuation of her people and culture. The membership in both these organisations presumes the consent of the Parliaments of the member states. Here, an example is set by the lobby of the citizens of Polish nationality of Canada and the US, which substantially contributed to Poland's accession to NATO. For this, of course, close co-operation with our embassies is necessary; but it should be clear almost without saying that it is possible for you as the Canadian citizens to co-operate with your MPs in many ways that are neither possible nor permitted to an embassy of a small country. I believe that the task of this year's ESTO is contained in a single sentence: two paths to a single goal. This also concerns the connections with the Estonian economy. Introduce Estonia to your neighbours, friends and acquaintances, encourage the Canadian businessmen to come and invest in Estonia. Let us follow the example of Israel and the way how the Jewish minorities all over the world support their country. I repeat: two paths to a single goal.

Dear fellow countrymen, finally I would like to share with you a letter form the Halliste congregation at Mulgimaa, which reads: ''In gratitude for your contribution to Estonia, the Halliste Congregation of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church hereby donates to the ESTO Festivals and to the Worldwide Society of the Mulgi people the former confirmation house of the Halliste Congregation in the Kulla village at the centre of the parish, ca 1 km from the church and the new schoolhouse. The house is well suited for the Estonian headquarters of the ESTO Festival and the Home of the Worldwide Society of the Mulgi people. The building can house a museum and an exhibition hall, a conference room, a dining hall, a kitchen, a sauna, and guestrooms. With the house, we donate as much land as is necessary. We ask you to kindly accept this gift for the work you have done and the trouble you have seen, for your battles and your bravery, for preserving the Estonian way of thinking and the Estonian language.''

It is time for me to conclude my speech and for the ESTO to start. My speech will be followed by the song ''Põhjamaa'' (A Northern Country) by Ülo Vinter, my good friend and colleague from the days when I worked for the Estonian Radio. He was buried to the Käsmu cemetery yesterday, when I was on the plane, flying to you. Otherwise, I would have been at Käsmu. On the plane, I was humming under my breath somewhere above Greenland, and felt it clearly that destiny can indeed take members of this nation to different parts of the world, but it is still a nation that has sung, sings and shall sing the same song in all the different parts of the world. Two paths to a single goal, and a single, proud Northern country!


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