Luik: Ellemann-Jensen was a great friend to Estonia during difficult times

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Estonian ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik.
Estonian ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia's ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik (Isamaa) has said former Danish foreign minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, who died on Sunday, was "a great friend" of Estonia's and worked to keep the Baltic countries on the international agenda as they fought to regain their independence.

"Former Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen was a great friend of Estonia, he knew many Estonian politicians. He had a very close relationship with President Lennart Meri. Ellemann-Jensen played a very important role in Estonia's re-independence. He was Denmark's foreign minister at a very important time when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were struggling to regain full independence," Luik told evening news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Sunday.

Denmark's Ellemann-Jensen, along with Iceland's foreign minister Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson, was one of the first countries to recognize the Baltics' declarations of independence, stand up for them on the international stage and encourage others to support their cause.

Denmark also invested a lot, economically, in Estonia's independence, Luik said. By showing support for the Baltic states' independence, the Soviet Union cut trade ties with Denmark and Iceland.

Luik called Ellemann-Jensen a very capable politician. He said he had a very close relationship with former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who was very influential in discussions about the independence of both Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.

Ellemann-Jensen has also been a good role model for Estonian politicians, the NATO ambassador said.

"He was also a teacher to us because our international experience was very limited. There were some Western politicians who had very close friendly relationships with our politicians and diplomats, and their example, behavior and ideas were a great help to us during that difficult time. He has always been supportive of the Baltic states and never stopped giving good advice or ideas. He was a fountain of a thousand ideas even when he was no longer foreign minister. He was a regular guest at the Lennart Meri Conference. His contribution to Estonia's reindependence, the withdrawal of Russian troops [from Estonia] and many other turning points in Estonian history has been significant," Luik said.

Ellemann-Jensen died on Sunday aged 80. He was Danish minister of foreign affairs from 1982 to 1993. He co-founded the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) with German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and founded the Baltic Development Forum in 1998 to increase business development in the Baltic Sea Region.

Denmark restored its diplomatic relations with Estonia on August 24, 1991, four days after Estonia declared independence. Earlier that year on March 11, Ellemann-Jensen and then Minister of Foreign Affairs Lennart Meri signed a "Joint protocol on cooperation" between the countries.

This text says that Denmark recognized Estonia in 1921 and never recognized the forcible incorporation of the Republic of Estonia into the Soviet Union in 1940. 

Ellemann-Jensen a 'true friend'

Estonia's politicians also paid their respects to Ellemann-Jensen on Sunday.

President Alar Karis said he was "deeply saddened by the loss of the greatest friend of Estonia".

"We'll always remember his extraordinary conviction and commitment to the restoration of Estonia's independence and return to Europe. R.I.P, dear friend," he wrote.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Ellemann-Jensen's "steady support was essential on our road to the EU and NATO. He remained a true friend of Estonia throughout."

Former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves called the news "terrible" and said he was "one of the key figures in Baltic independence".

Chairman of the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson (Reform) said: "Very sad news. Uffe was a great friend of Estonia."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "He will always be remembered as a great friend of Estonia & true European statesman who always stood up for freedom & democracy."

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Editor: Helen Wright

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