Gallery: Alar Karis sworn in as president of Estonia

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Alar Karis was handed the presidential chain on Monday, becoming Estonia's sixth president.

Karis took the oath of office before the Riigikogu on Monday afternoon. Outgoing president Kersti Kaljulaid handed over the president's chain of office to the new head of state.

Karis' term will last for five years. He is a former University of Tartu rector, auditor general and head of the Estonian National Museum.

Kaljulaid served as president between 2016-2021.

Karis: I intend to be a balancer above all, and if necessary, a mediator.

In his speech to the Riigikogu, Karis said, above all else, he intends to be a balancer, and if necessary, a mediator during his presidential term.

He pointed out that as a prelude before assuming office, he emphasized that an intelligent nation is one of his ideals.

"I also specified that the measure of intelligence and scholarship is not the number of degrees issued, but the ability to utilize knowledge and get by; to cope with any situation. It's what's known as learning ability," he said.

"An intelligent nation is capable of separating the wheat from the chaff; it understands the motivating power of facts, first and foremost. However, in our communication-saturated society, even the most fallacious claims can garner support and admiration. People form camps in the shadowy corners of social media, and their doubts expel reason from the mind almost effortlessly," Karis said. "Intelligence is rendered mute, and submissive silence can lead us into trouble."

Intelligence is a collective achievement, he said.

"An intelligent nation does not let hope be lost. It does not toe the line. It observes and experiments, is confident and unafraid to make mistakes. An intelligent nation thinks in a limitless perspective and does not fear encountering the unknown, be it the pandemic or global climate crisis. An intelligent nation empathizes with their neighbor and has compassion," he said.

"I remain of the mindset that Estonia's success story has not reached everyone in the country. And I wish, somewhat idealistically, for none of our fellow citizens to feel abandoned or unwanted. No matter if the cause is mental health problems among youth, the tragic depths of which we sometimes realize only once it's too late, or price increases that we can see on our electric bills and only amplify financial hardship for many families," Karis noted.

"As president, I intend to be a balancer above all, and if necessary, a mediator. Hopefully, you already understand that coming from the field of science, I will continue to tune my thoughts and mind to a knowledge-based key. This is not only my freedom but my duty," he added.

Karis also said it as his task to find out if there is the political will to change the Constitution to directly elect presidents. 

Baltic states send congratulations

Estonia's southern neighbors were among the first to congratulate Karis on his new role.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said: "I wish you every success in your work for the benefit of the Estonian people."

While Latvian President Egils Levits thanked Kaljulaid for "friendship and excellent cooperation" and wished Karis "every success".

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also sent her congratulations.

Editor's note: Additional quotes from Alar Karis were added to this story.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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