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Remarks of the President of the Republic at the Jagellonia University of Krakow
30.04.1998

Honourable Rector Magnificus!
Ladies and gentlemen!

I About our common meridian

Like in many European capitals, the castle of Tallinn hold is on top of the hill and the Market at its foot. Our historical Market place is a small square at the crossing of three streets. Facades have changed, patricians' houses have been turned into caf├ęs and department stores whereas the three streets are still winding along ancient roads and former trade routes: the shortest street would take to the port and along the Baltic Sea on to France.

The second street beginning from the market place takes you across the continent to Vienna, in other words to Rome, and the third to the East, to the springs of large rivers and further on along the Volga River and Caspian Sea to Baghdad which for one reason or other valued highly Nordic furs. Herewith I want to say that each nation, large or small, has been living its life in the centre of its own world long before Churchill and de Gaulle formulated a programme for the unified Europe using words ''unity in diversity''. Sometimes I feel that the main, but maybe the only objective of all my work in writing and film-making was to verify the above. You can ask sceptically whether such obvious truth really needs verifying. Allow me to respond: obvious and elementary things need to be reiterated in order to survive truth and common European values in our changing world. We are still thinking and acting in the artificial geography of the Soviet Union which erased the notion of ''meridian'' from our minds. The east-west confrontation, the cardinal point of the good in the east and bad in the west was forced upon Europe. The day before yesterday in my speech at the reception held by President Kwasniewski I mentioned that Poland and Estonia have restored a common political meridian because being free countries we have specified our opportunities in time and space. Our common political meridian would involve Finland as well as Turkey and the Ukraine, would make us to see again the Baltic Sea as the common axis of our life, would make us ask how to implement our Nordic Mediterranean and the southern Mediterraneans of our partners as joined vessels of the EU integration and security.

II What is a small country able to do?

Different answers are given depending on the time and inquirer. Before World War II, or before the Munich agreements, to be more exact, Estonians did not much ponder about it. Estonia's self-confidence was based on our victorious War of Independence, which gave our people an opportunity to execute the right of self-determination but even more on our idealistic belief in the almightiness of the League of Nations. After the restoration of independence in 1991 the issue of the self-realisation of a small country has acquired a masochist hue and become the main argument for rapid integration into the European Union and NATO. In other words, it is a distorted reflection of pre-war attitudes and likewise dangerously far from the reality. I referred to these trends mainly to specify the question. What is a small country? Estonia is a small country compared to Poland, no doubt. But I have an inappropriate temptation to ask whether Poland is a small country compared to Russia? Isn't Russia a small country compared to China? Would Estonia be a big power compared to Andorra? The relativism disguised in this question renders looking for an answer fruitless. The United Nations Organisation has reached its current membership of 185, first and foremost, due to small countries. All of them have similarities with Poland as well as Estonia as our countries were also born at the collapse of colonial empires of Romanovs and Habsburgs. At the UN General Assembly 1995 I mentioned that small countries acceding to the world organisation comprise a majority in our common world, unfortunately the silent majority. I was and still am of the opinion that the voice of the silent majority should be louder in the Security Council. Here and today I would like to draw your attention to another aspect, namely: is there a floor limit determining that a still smaller country, language, culture, economy, legal space could not realise itself as a state even if there were a will? This question has a logical counterpart as well: is there a ceiling above which a country could be too large to be sustainable? Scientists assure that structures are stable within certain limits. Does this apply to states as well? I can recall President Yeltsin saying in Helsinki that Russia would like to join the European Union, too. Would Europe still be Europe if this were the case?

III A small country in Europe

Each European understands Europe in a different way dependent where and who he is. Europe is too much taken for granted to rack one's brains. Nevertheless, asking ourselves what made this small peninsula, so scarce of natural resources the most powerful engine of our civilisation and the most prosperous region in the world, I cannot visualise any other answer than the multi-culturedness. The major wealth of Europe lies in its various identities, not being levelled but rather deepened. Germany today is composed of more Germanies than during Bismarck's reign and France is more multicoloured than during Napoleon. The interdependence of different cultures, ways of life and frames of mind is a source of creativity in Europe. Technologies become more standardised, cultures more individualised, differences do not push but pull each other, the most valuable side product being stability and security.

IV Poland and Estonia in the present-day Europe

Poland and Estonia had much in common long before talks about the unification of Europe started. There are things we have done together. History has preserved the memory about our common achievements in the intellectual field. For example, the College of Moral Sciences founded during the Post-Reformation period by Polish jesuits in 1583 in Tartu, the Estonian academical centre better known in Poland under her historical name Dorpat. At that time the area surrounding Tartu was ruled by Poland and as a reminiscence of those times the city of Tartu has preserved the white-and-red flag of Poland as its city flag. Or the fact that after closing of the University of Warsaw by Russian authorities more than 2300 Polish students studied in Tartu University. There are also other common things, which have been forced on both of our countries: we have been divided and ruled in our history, let the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact be hopefully the last example here.

On the basis of common history we have developed the capability of mutually good understanding. During the fifty years of Soviet regime, when contacts were limited it took only a few minutes for a Pole and an Estonian to find a common language in more important issues. Based on this common experience and mutual understanding, I would like to ask the following:

What are the things Poland and Estonia could offer each other now and in the future?

What are the things we could jointly offer to the unified Europe?

One important historical difference lies in the fact that Poland has a considerably richer experience of statehood than Estonia. Every time we visit Poland, we can learn not only about the loyalty to one's nation - this has always existed in Estonia, too - but also to one's state. Even during the so-called socialist period Poland could use more attributes of a state than Estonia. After we restored our independence, we had to start building up our army, boarder guards, diplomacy and many other state institutions from scratches. Poland had them all already. I believe that this all has the other side of the medal, too. As those state institutions, which had been enforced on us, were institutions of a hostile occupation power, it was for us easier to abandon them.

I would give an example from the university. As soon as it was possible for Tartu University to take independent decisions, students were free to choose subjects from any university chair or department. I do not know how it is organised in the oldest university in Poland, but in the biggest university in Poland such freedom of choice has been given only to the top fifty students during the recent years. As it is always easier to abandon things alien to you than those half your own, perhaps we have here something that Poland could learn from us.

I mentioned that Poles have studied in Tartu University and they have also lectured there. Nowadays it is also possible to study the Polish language and the history of Poland in Tartu University. I believe we have to make it possible to study languages and culture, especially for young people.

What could we offer to the rest of Europe? During the recent years multi-culturedness has been widely discussed as if it were a miracle or a new phenomenon. Poland, as well as Estonia, unlike some big nations in Western Europe, has centuries-long experience in cultural diversity. Perhaps we should teach the people in Western Europe about multiculture and not the other way round.

It is also our duty to talk about our historical experience in order to avoid its recurrence in the rest of Europe. Poles and Estonians have to describe the dictatorship regimes of the 20th century to those people whose experience in this field is considerably smaller than ours and who are tempted to prefer one totalitarian system to another instead of rejecting both. I believe that it is our duty to speak about these things in such a way that even those not wishing to hear would listen to us.

We owe the rest of Europe a message that none of the countries on our continent should be left out of the common strivings and structures of Europe, not even for one moment.

My fifth and last remark

The big power Poland and the small country Estonia are both in a hurry to reach their common aim: the European Union and Nato. What could we do to implement our priorities as soon as possible?

Without any wish to teach anybody, I still have to admit the following: this is not a race on the Olympic arena, where everybody is competing against everybody. In other words, a place, where there is fair competition , but everybody is on one's own; a place, where the defeat of one competitor is the victory of another.

Estonia and Poland are not competitors but partners. We often use this word without thinking of its real meaning. As if we put a stamp on the envelope without thinking of the contents of the envelope - the message. A partner in the interstate relations means that we have common vectors, which empower each other, while coinciding. What could be the most reasonable way of making use of this additional energy?

In my opinion, we should free ourselves of the state egoism and intellectual stereotypes and encourage in ourselves the confidence to take fast and non-conventional decisions; take brave and sometimes even risky steps , subordinating extremely egoistic and short-time interests to the general and long-term interests. We are surrounded by a unique historic moment, if we may say so. This moment, which we , more often than not, cannot perceive as a passing moment, but as the ever-lasting long present instead, as one part of our lives, is actually just a fleeting moment on the background of the rapid changes of history and it requires unprecedented rapid actions.

It is difficult to determine the rules of behaviour. It is easier to use metaphors. This moment is like a simultaneous game of chess, played

on several chessboards at the same time and in order to make the whole complexity of the picture clear: at one time we are on this side of the board and then -- on the opposite side. European Union has set precise criteria, which can be measured in quality, tons and income. NATO has set political requirements and it values, first of all, the will and skills. Each of the EU and NATO member states has its own requirements, determined by the vectors of their national interests. Thus Estonia and any other accessor country will find different chessmen on their boards and a great number of different possibilities, from which they have to choose the most efficient one.

For me personally, politics has always meant more than just economic policy, financial policy and security policy. It embraces also the definition of man, the definition of culture, the definition of life itself. In case we stress that we belong to the West, then , first of all, we acknowledge a certain civilization as our own, a certain political culture, certain intellectual and spiritual values and general principles and not only richer neighbours , whose level of wealth we also desire to achieve. At the same time, this civilization, this culture, this complex of values , which is our aim, has not become our aim just over the night because of the collapse of the communist totalitarianism. On the contrary, we acknowledge this as our own, because throughout the centuries we have added our contribution into this joint creation. Neither Estonia nor Poland access Europe: Europe as a phenomenon has always included both Poland and Estonia. Being an Estonian, it is most pleasant to declare this here, in the University of Krakow. And it is not only pleasant, but also on duty of an Estonian.

 

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