European Parliament President David Sassoli praised Estonia's path to freedom and democracy on Friday (August 20) during a visit to the country to mark the 30th anniversary of the restoration of independence.
Speaking at the Riigikogu's extraordinary sitting of the August 20th Club, Sassoli said he admired Estonia's transformation and how the country has become a leader in the region.
"You have done a remarkable thing, with tough reforms which surely impacted all in last three decades, you have become the most wired country on Earth and took leadership in e-government. I truly admire this transformation," he said.
However, he also warned that democracy - across the world - continues to need protection.
"The nature of freedom and democracy has not changed, as its characteristics are universal and eternal, but to the old threats of freedom many new are added, and so we have to face huge challenges when defending it," Sassoli said.
Sassoli's full speech has been republished below.
Dear guests, dear colleagues, dear people of Estonia, I am very happy to be here today and celebrate with you the anniversary of the restoration of your country's independence.
Thirty years ago you showed no fear but only the thirst for freedom and democracy. I know that your road for freedom had begun much earlier, 100 years before, and continued with small steps of extraordinary people, as well as with big leaps of democracy such as the Baltic Way. Your dream of freedom endured through the years of occupation, mass deportations and oppression. Those deportations, the confiscation of properties, deaths and living in fear for those that managed to survive and return have left deep wounds on the soul of the entire region and humankind. Your move from the darkness to the light, as Estonian poet Gustav Suits had put it, became a manifestation of the will of liberty, that inspires many nations today.
Today people working on building their own democracies look up to you. Your experience has shown that progress was neither easy nor quick. Democratic transformation takes years as so does the establishment of new institutions, procedures and the change of habits and mentality. You have done a remarkable thing, with tough reforms which surely impacted all in last three decades, you have become the most wired country on Earth and took leadership in e-government. I truly admire this transformation.
Many of you still remember the difference between freedom and its absence, there are many more however that take it today for granted. It is very hard to build democracy, as you know from your country's experience, but also it is very easy to lose it if we don't take care of it, as many examples in the world show us today. The nature of freedom and democracy has not changed, as its characteristics are universal and eternal, but to the old threats of freedom many new are added, and so we have to face huge challenges when defending it.
The nature of democracy is founded on trust: trust in institutions, trust in free media, trust in politicians, trust in the state and those that protect it. This trust needs to be renewed every day, grown as capital and cared for as the best investment. We all are responsible for fostering the dialogue that is the foundation stone of global democracy.
I fear for democracy today, and I insist we all invest in it even more than 100 or 30 years ago. Today I want to celebrate your democracy and wish it to be eternal and provide an everlasting example to all others.
Editor's note: This speech has been lightly edited for clarity.
Editor: Helen Wright