'Dear people of Estonia, I thank you!'

Presidents of Estonia.
Presidents of Estonia. Source: ERR

Kersti Kaljulaid is set to hold her final speech as the president of Estonia on Monday, handing the position over to Alar Karis. What did Kaljulaid's predecessors Lennart Meri, Arnold Rüütel and Toomas Hendrik Ilves say in their final speeches?

Meri initiated a bill for direct presidential elections

Lennart Meri, who was in office for two terms in 1992-2001 as the first president of the newly independent Estonia began his speech on October 8 2001 by talking about the security situation in the world after the 9/11 attacks on New York.

At the end of his speech, Meri made a political testament and proposed direct presidential elections. The other half of his proposal was the establishment of a constitutional court.

"Protecting the Constitution has been one of the most important duties during my two terms of office. I have protected it from changes proceeding from day-to-day policies, and said that the continuity of the Constitution is a value in itself. I have protected the Constitution from misinterpretations and formalism," Meri said.

He noted that leaving politics gives him a unique opportunity to speak impartially. "Therefore, I am today initiating the bill of the act to amend the Constitution, which has two aims: first, direct elections of the president. I hope that in the year 2006, the President of the Republic will be elected directly by the citizens of the Republic of Estonia. Second, the establishment of the Court of the Constitution."

Meri said Estonia needs an institution that would have the right of the final interpretation of the Constitution. The institution would also have the conclusive right in disputes between the government and the parliament, or disputes between the president and the parliament.

"This institution would also remove the danger that some overbearing Prime minister, parliament leader or president could reach for power that is not theirs according to the Constitution. The Court of the Constitution would create a balance, which the Republic of Estonia needs to function," the outgoing president said.

Meri added that he was glad that president-elect Arnold Rüütel supported his intent to initiate the amendment of the Constitution.

His final words as president were: "Dear people of Estonia, I thank you!"

Lennart Meri died on March 14 2006, aged 76.

Lennart Meri. Autor/allikas: Toomas Huul / ERR

Rüütel focused on his term of office

In his speech, Arnold Rüütel, was the president of Estonia from 2001 to 2006, mainly focused on the tasks he faced during his presidency. "Thanks to our efforts, we have been able to go through a reformative transition period in short time. Economic indicators kept moving in an upward trend. Yet societal unity, which had helped us during the Singing Revolution, disappeared in a manner that led social scientists to speak of two Estonias," Rüütel said in his final speech on October 9 2006.

He said he did all he constitutionally could to lessen the gap between social classes, political powers and other levels of power.

Rüütel pointed out three actions he considered most important, the first of which was the constitutional protection of the Estonian language. "A similarly important goal of mine was social security, which consists of employment and social protection, reducing poverty and exclusion, as well as access to health and education. One of the conditions of being safe is the balanced and supportive cooperation between the state and local governments.

"In order to ensure the internal and external security, as well as economic well-being, we linked Estonia's future with NATO and the EU," Rüütel said.

He added that his third goal was to increase unity in society - whether by following vertical power structures or covering Estonian regions horizontally. "We initiated the process of a societal agreement, which in three years has turned into Estonia's broadest network of non-government organizations in support of democracy and balanced development," the outgoing president said.

He turned to Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the end of his speech. "I wish you will and strength to serve our people, to increase Estonia's achievements in a rapidly changing and challenging world. I wish and hope that your actions will be accompanied by the trust and support of the people," the outgoing president said.

"I have had the pleasure of experiencing that," Rüütel concluded.

Arnold Rüütel. Autor/allikas: Kairit Leibold

Ilves does not summarize his term or make a political statement

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who was in office for two terms from 2006-2016, said in front of the Riigikogu on October 10 2016 that he will not make a summary of his term or a political statement. "Because a living society and person does not need such darkly labeled milestones," Ilves said.

He spoke about the 2016 presidential elections, which saw Kersti Kaljulaid get elected after multiple failed rounds of voting in Riigikogu and the electoral college. "The Estonian Constitution as an agreement of the Estonian people has stood up to the challenge. The process of the recent election, which offered many conflicting emotions, was a grimace of democracy and no more, as one of my predecessors said," Ilves noted.

He added that the president is one person in the balancing equation of democratic organization. "The most important place belongs to that of the highest authority, meaning the elected Riigikogu - you in this hall, ladies and gentlemen. You appoint a government that organizes the daily life of Estonia based on laws and guidelines. An independent court system administers justice. The Chancellor of Justice ensures that the constitutional rights of all are protected. The National Audit Office monitors that our common property is not abused.

This balancing system also stands for there to be no branch of power, institution or person, including the president, that holds excessive power at the expense of others. This balancing mechanism must be maintained and protected," Ilves said.

The outgoing president concluded his relatively short speech by saying: "And with that, I have run out of words. Except for two: Long live Estonia!"

Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Autor/allikas: Priit Mürk

Monday's solemnities will start at 2.15 p.m. Estonian time, with the arrival of President Karis and the new first lady, Sirje Karis, at Kadriorg, official residence of Estonia's presidents. The Karises will be greeted by President Kaljulaid and the outgoing first gentleman, Georgi-Rene Maksimovski.

The inauguration of Alar Karis will start on Monday at 2.40 p.m. on Monday and the Riigikogu sitting will start at 3 p.m. Kersti Kaljulaid will speak first, after which Alar Karis will will take his oath of office and will formally become president.

The newly-installed President Karis will then address the Riigikogu, after which the party heads back to Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas' office, where they will sign the Riigikogu guest book. After that, both couples will take part in an official joint photo in front of the flags in the Riigikogu's White Hall.

At their departure, President Karis inspects the honor guard and the national anthem will be played once more, by the EDF orchestra.

The ceremony will be broadcast from 2.40 p.m. on ETV and ERR's Estonian portal.

President Kersti Kaljulaid opening the Riigikogu autumn session on September 13, 2021. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: