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The President of the Republic at the Festive Dinner in Honour of the President of the Republic of France on July 28, 2001, at the House of Blackheads in Tallinn

Mr. Jacques Chirac, the President of the Republic of France,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!

Your day in Estonia, Mr. President, is drawing to an end. When I invited you to Estonia during my visit to France, you emphasised that you did not want to visit Estonia just passing by.

Nor did you.

Of course, one day is a short time for visiting even a small country. But I can assure you, my dear friend, that for our nation, the last 120 centuries have been too brief a time to discover all the treasures of Estonia, and above all, all the obligations proceeding from history that are alive in our way of thinking today. On our small peninsula, we are probably the most ancient inhabitants of Europe. This does not mean that we are looking down on Europe. But neither does it mean that we are banging on Europe's door like the homeless left out in the cold. Estonia is Europe. Estonia has never left Europe, but in World War II, Europe left Estonia. Just as it was forced to leave Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and the Balkans. Well, thinking of those hard times, I would like to add: just as Europe was forced to leave one of the most beautiful capitals of Europe, Estonia's neighbouring city St. Petersburg. Those were hard times for our country, which lived on and continued to exist only in terms of international law; they were hard times for our economy, and for our nation that lost one tenth of its citizens, but they were hardest of all for our justice, for our common values. France is a country that has common spiritual boundaries with all the nations of Europe. Or should I put it the other way round: France is a country that does not know spiritual boundaries. I am much tempted to remind, first of all myself, that that we have lived under the crown of Charlemagne; that Fulco, a Frenchman, brought Christianity to Estonia and Southern Finland; that Estonians shipped their grain to France and traded it for the goods that they lacked here in the serene North. And first of all, it was ideas that they brought from France; it was this immortal common value, which is indeed the essence of Europe. Let me make reference to Parrot, the man who was born in a doctor's family at Montbéliard, and became the Rector of Tartu University. You will see his statue in Tartu, on your next visit. Parrot said: ''The Estonians say it out quite loud that they are waiting for Bonaparte as their liberator.'' This was how, sometimes along difficult and winding paths, the idea of liberty, equality and fraternity - on which the building of human rights and the common values of Europe rests today - reached Estonia.

Mr. President, allow me to step from the past to the future.

The last ten years have given the Estonians a chance to prove to themselves and to Europe what this nation can do when it is free and independent. Estonia has been successful in reforming her economy. In our parliament, an overwhelming majority of Estonia's political parties have decided that accession to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the foreign policy priority of our country. We have not lost time, and I am glad that you have now had the chance to come and see this for yourself. I hope that the European Union will not lose time either. All of us have been given an equal opportunity to undo the conferences of Teheran, Yalta, and Potsdam, which left us with a tragically severed Europe and a deformed concept of what Europe really is. This is why I have said earlier, and say again now: enlargement is the only way of existence for the European Union.

We are glad to see France's sensible approach, aware of new prospects, to these problems that are, of course, complicated. We were very glad, Mr. President, to hear your unconditional position on our inalienable right to choose NATO.

These two integration goals - the European Union and NATO - are pivotal to the shaping of Estonia's life on the 21st century. They are also touchstones for Europe and the world. Successful solution of those key issues is also the best way for us to help Russia to overcome inertia; to help that burden, which is bound to sink into history, actually to sink and make space for the young, active Russia that is moving towards democracy.

Mr. President, we are delighted that you found the possibility to visit Estonia. I hope that this brief visit will encourage you, your delegation and the French entrepreneurs to return here. I wish to encourage you, my dear French friends, with a sentence that reads as follows: ''The national statehood of Estonia is only a matter of time.'' It was written already in 1855, by Leuzon le Duc, the brother of the famous architect.

The building of a state can never be completed. Estonia will never be complete. Europe will never be complete. And nevertheless, I believe that today, you could see our will and our resolve. And that we are on the right path. We are certain that France will support us on that path also in the future.

Mr. President, on behalf of the Republic of Estonia and the people of Estonia, myself and my wife, I wish you success and accomplishments in your work for the greater good of France and Europe.

Please raise your glasses to the health of Jacques Chirac, the President of France, and to the success and prosperity of France!


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