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The President of the Republic on Victory Day in Pärnu on June 23, 2001

Dear fellow countrymen in Estonia, in Pärnu and all over the world!
Dear guests!
Members of the Defence League!

On this Victory Day, I would first of all like to congratulate Pärnu, a city celebrating its 750th anniversary. This is why we gathered here today. Midsummer Eve is our Victory Day, and midsummer bonfire is the flame of Estonia''s victory. Today, this flame starts its journey from Pärnu.

For the second time now, the Victory Day is also our Home Defence Day. Four weeks ago, I started my Broken Cornflower tour to all Estonian counties here in Pärnu, our jubilee city. We commemorated the victims of World War II. This was not a festival of tears, as one newspaper has suggested. It was a long Victory Day, which brought together twenty thousand people, and enabled me to shake hands with thousands of victims and to hear from their mouths and see from the look in their eyes that the totalitarian occupations had not broken the people of Estonia; that the people of Estonia have cast off the totalitarian twins of nazism and communism and concentrated on building our country''s democracy and the defence of our independence.

Security, my friends, is expensive. And the absence of security is more expensive still. We have paid a very high price for it; we have lost Estonian men, Estonian women and children in a greater proportion than any other country in Europe.

Let this Victory Day be the day when I can assure you: that hard time with its many losses will never recur in Estonia's history! The Estonia that we leave to our children will be democratic, wealthy, and defended by our joint will. Estonia's will to defend has always been strong. I assure you that today, Estonia's will to defend is enhanced by Estonia''s defence skills.

And hence my three messages.

I strongly support the reforms of the Commander of the Defence Forces and the Minister of Defence for creating modern and European defence forces. The spirit of the War of Liberty must prevail in the defence forces and in the Defence League, but the defence forces and the Defence League cannot live in the times of the War of Liberty. Today and tomorrow, we must face threats that spring from the conflicts of our time. We must have high speed of reaction, we must have great mobility and real defence skills. Estonian defence forces must draw their love of their country from the past, but they must look into the future.

Recent political developments in Europe indicate that our membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation may not be a long way off. Already today, this prospect sets new tasks to our defence forces; our interoperability with NATO, including language skills and exact fulfilment of NATO criteria and standards, is becoming more and more important. The NATO-capability of Estonian defence forces means above all that Estonia and NATO have a common way of thinking and a common system of concepts and military skills. Meeting these demands is the only right choice that our officers can make.

Second. The Defence League is an important organisation, and it has been a pillar of support to Estonia's national defence already for years. Members of the Defence League are men and women with highly motivated love of their country and voluntary interest in national defence. Therefore, the Defence League has a high potential, which has not been put to proper use as yet. Also the Defence League itself has changed with years; its confidence, military spirit, exactness and efficiency have improved. This is commendable, and I would like to congratulate the Defence League. Units of the defence league may form a part of the main force, or reconnaissance units or territorial defence units, or assist in mobilisation. In wartime, they form an integral and equal part of our defence forces, and this is how we should see the Defence League.

Those who joined the organisation for the wrong reasons are now gone from the Defence League. The reputation of the Defence League has improved considerably. And yet I repeat: the Defence League is a voluntary organisation, but it is only joining the Defence League that is voluntary. Those who have become members of the League, must submit themselves to order and discipline, participate in exercises, and obey the commands of their superiors. Only this will make the Defence League into an organisation that can be taken seriously as an organisation of national defence, and a force that will present a warning to the adversary merely with its existence.

Third. A strange rapture of freedom has affected us. We have forgotten in which geopolitical region we are situated, and what our recent history looked like. As I was myself deported to Siberia along with ten thousands of Estonians, it is impossible for me to understand the doubtful attitudes to our accession to the European Union. The European Union is seen as a purely economic organisation, which it is not. It is first and foremost an organisation uniting countries that share common values. If we give this up voluntarily, we will pathetically prove that we can make no reasonable use of our freedom.

Moreover, the opinions that we do not need European Union because we are going to join NATO speak of splendid ignorance in foreign policy. Allow me to join all the Estonian diplomats, who emphasise that our opposition to the European Union can leave us out of NATO. This is not a mere light-handed phrase, it is a warning to those who wish to repeat the very limited foreign policy concepts of Päts and Laidoner, which had tragic consequences for Estonia.

Therefore, on this Victory Day, I am glad to repeat the words of President Bush: "No More Munichs! No more Yaltas!" Estonians can appreciate these words - no more dividing of the world into zones of influence, no more expropriation of small countries to the big countries.

One more remark, my dear fellow countrymen. At the end of this summer, the Republic of Estonia will elect a new President, the successor to my office. I remind all of you, dear fellow countrymen, but especially our Riigikogu and members of the electoral body: sum up Estonia's historical experience, and try to see each candidate in the light of that experience. Presidency does not mean a nice abode for spending one''s retirement, even if some claim this to be the case. The President is Estonia''s voice, and Estonia''s deeds. I also intend to meet all the candidates personally. The President''s job is a long marathon, which must be both started and finished in good shape.

Dear fellow countrymen, this is our Victory Day on the year 2001. Hold our victory dear, because the Republic of Estonia has won!

Have a lovely Midsummer Eve, and long live the Republic of Estonia!


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