Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me sincerely congratulate you on the 102nd anniversary of the Republic of Estonia. Our current period of independence has already lasted well beyond the 20-year timespan between the two world wars. We have indeed many achievements to be proud of, although we have undergone a difficult journey in the 20th century, together with our companions-in-fate Latvia and Lithuania. We have been able to successfully utilize the unique window of opportunity regarding the restoration of Estonia’s independence, the accession to the European Union and NATO at the right moment. Therefore we can state that our people are stronger today and better protected than ever before. Our standard of living and citizens’ quality of life is steadily improving, and the legacy of the 50 years of occupation is becoming just a page of the past. Our national culture is booming – never before has such amount of books in Estonian language been published, our music culture has gained international recognition, and so on.
At the beginning of February we officially concluded the centenary celebrations of the Republic, by marking the 100th anniversary of the Tartu Peace Treaty that led to de jure recognition of our independence by Soviet Russia. Estonia is entering its second century as a small, internationally respected country with a rather positive image. In a short time, we have become one of the leaders and role models in e-government and digital innovation. According to PISA surveys, Estonian schools rank among the best in the world in terms of quality of education. At the same time, all our success stories since the restoration of independence confirm that virtually no problem can be solved in isolation in today’s world. Our guarantee of freedom and development is international cooperation, by maintaining and enhancing our alliances and partnerships.
From the beginning of this year, Estonia is an elected member of the UN Security Council. Belonging to this influential circle makes Estonia bigger on the world map and at the end it would strengthen our own security. In the Security Council, Estonia stands for common rules and principles in international relations. The 100 years of our statehood have shown how important it is to stick to international law, especially for small countries. In addition, sharing of our e-governance experiences, but also climate and environmental issues are close to Estonia at the United Nations.
At the regional level, Estonia is coordinating two formats in 2020: the Baltic Council of Ministers and Nordic-Baltic co-operation. These countries are our closest neighbors with whom we share common values, historical and cultural heritage. We also have similar views in addressing the security concerns of our region and that’s why we are increasingly cooperating in defense issues. Further, modern infrastructure connections help to establish even closer economic ties between the Nordic and Baltic countries. The Estonian-Latvian-Finnish single gas market has been launched recently. We continue with the preparations to synchronize the Baltic electricity grid with the Continental European electricity network and want to ensure that Rail Baltica project is implemented without delays. The goal of achieving the climate neutrality by 2050 will result in extensive restructuring of our economies and societies. Here, too, the Nordic and Baltic countries have many opportunities for cooperation, such as cross-border renewable energy projects.
Also in the regional framework, Estonia participates in the Three Seas Initiative. Its objectives include enhancing energy, transport and digital connections in Central and Eastern Europe. Estonia will be organizing the Three Seas summit meeting in Tallinn in June, and this is going to be one of our top foreign policy events this year.
Ladies and gentlemen, also in the realm of bilateral diplomacy we are looking for new ways in making our country more known and visible. One example is the plan of the Estonian Foreign Ministry to develop a new embassy building in the Old Town of Riga, and you will hear more about this project in the coming years. By doing so, we would like to increase the knowledge of two friendly neighbors – Estonians and Latvians – about each other. The Latvian Society House, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, has kindly provided us an opportunity to explore Estonian art in February – let me draw your attention to Estonian silk painting exhibition that will remain open in the White Hall during this week. And introducing modern Estonian cuisine and culinary art at the following reception will definitely serve the same purpose.
I wish you all an enjoyable evening. Thank you.