People of Estonia!
The wonderful holidays are over and it is the New Year. We have stepped into the second decade of the third millennium. Last year was crammed full of significant events.
As the President of the Riigikogu, I first remember the anniversary of the parliament. In April, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the first democratic representative body of Estonia – the Constituent Assembly. This also marks the birth of the Riigikogu.
The Estonian flag had its 135th, and the Song Celebration its 150th anniversary. What did people sing about at the first Song Celebration? About the Estonian language and ideas, the beauty of nature, meandering rivers and glittering lakes, about the soul and happiness. Warm feelings and goodness abounded. This is also how we sing today.
Estonia is the only country in the world where people speak, sing, and think in Estonian. Estonian became the national language one hundred years ago. And one hundred years have also passed since the reopening of our Estonian-medium national university – the University of Tartu. However, we cannot get by everywhere in Estonia in our mother tongue. A growing concern is also the increasingly important role played by the English language in higher education as well as in the service industry. We must keep and protect our mother tongue.
We have reason to be proud of our school students. Last year, they rose to the first place in Europe, and rank among the top achievers in the world in the PISA test. This is a high praise to the Estonian education system. Young people, tomorrow is in your hands, it is up to you to shape it and make it work.
2019 was also a memorable year in the Estonian sports. Ott Tänak became the World Rally Champion. Congratulations to Tänak and his whole team. We are proud of your achievements. Little Estonia is definitely growing bigger through sports. I wish all the success to our athletes at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Last year also brought international success to Estonia. We were elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. This requires us to take positions in many global topics, and will increase our visibility. At the same time, taking positions in complicated topics can also lead to being a target for negative feelings. All in all, carrying our Estonia’s foreign policy in the Security Council will not be an easy task.
The world has become more complex than it was a dozen years ago. The future of the European Union is important to us. We must keep an eye on Russia, who is carrying out its own aggressive geopolitical ambitions. Enhancing our defence capability and a stronger NATO presence are some of the main priorities of Estonia’s security. As are strengthening the transatlantic relations and cooperating with all our allies and friends.
A new Riigikogu was elected in March last year; this led to a new government coalition that represents the majority of the people. The government coalition is working towards making Estonia a good place to live, so that our people would come back home.
It has been a tradition in Estonia to give a new coalition 100 days without criticism. This worthy practice was flouted this time: by the opposition, the media, and the President. I would like to urge you all to be more thoughtful and respectful towards each other. Destructive attitude and confrontation take us nowhere.
The Republic of Estonia has been established to preserve the Estonian language, people, and culture. This is enshrined in our Constitution. I will never get tired of repeating that. This is the principle and aim that we should all be following.
February 2 will mark the 100th anniversary of signing the Tartu Peace Treaty. The Tartu Peace Treaty meant that Russia recognised the independent Estonia, it put an end to the War of Independence, and settled the Estonian-Russian border. When we regained our independence, all countries acknowledged us as the legal successor to the Republic of Estonia with all its symbols, including the state border. The Tartu Peace Treaty remains in force and has been entered in the UN register of international treaties.
People of Estonia,
‘Today I saw Estonia’, says a song. This summer, as part of the Estonian Village Movement Kodukant Village of the Year competition, I visited 15 beautiful villages across Estonia. I saw how much people care for their families and homes, their villages, how well they cooperate. Their eyes were sparkling and their actions were sincere. The joy of doing things together brings us together, and takes our people and country higher. Together we can do more than we might believe, if we are willing to work and are not afraid of challenges.
We are moving forward. We cannot turn back.
Let us be proud of our country and our people.
I hope that the New Year brings us all joy and fulfilment of our beautiful dreams.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year.
Long live Estonia!
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