Apart from Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the president of the European Commission (EC), Jean-Claude Juncker both gave speeches at the opening concert.
Donald Tusk: Estonia established authority and reputation needed for presidency mandate
Tusk reminisced in his speech how he fell in love with Estonia during the time of the Singing Revolution leading up to its regaining independence from the Soviet Union.
“Never before - and never after - had I seen anything so moving in public life. So powerful and peaceful at the same time. The strength of solidarity, unity and freedom revealed itself in the images, which to this day move me to tears. I have known ever since that people holding hands can be stronger than people holding guns.”
“In my life I have seen many revolutions and mass rebellions, in some I have taken part, but I have to admit that it was your revolution that perfectly connected the three dimensions: ethical, aesthetic, and pragmatic. You did what you needed to do fairly, beautifully and effectively,” Tusk said.
Tusk commended Estonia for its ambitions and its determination in pushing through economic reform. This had made Estonia a symbol of success among the countries that had to overcome the aftereffects of decades of communist rule.
Estonia’s efforts and the success of its digital solutions at the state level had turned the country into a world leader. “Today we can easily call your country the leader of the IT revolution on a global scale. You would be tempted to ask: how is it possible that so few people have achieved so much?”, the president added.
The European Union was not about procedures or bureaucracy, Tusk said, but constituted the single most ambitious political project in the history of Europe. The presidency Estonia was now assuming was not only an organizational task for officials, but Estonia’s collective leadership in these difficult, but also hopeful times. Estonia had established authority and a reputation for itself, which provided a good mandate for such leadership, Tusk said.
Jean-Claude Juncker: Estonia oriented itself toward Europe already a long time ago
Juncker said that “Estonia’s European love story” had started long before it joined the EU. Looking back at Estonia’s history, Juncker said that not only had the architects of its republic had a vision of a peaceful Europe built on both economic and political integration, and had fought and seen war.
Even earlier, the Young Estonia (Noor Eesti) movement had called on their compatriots with a now famous slogan: “Let’s be Estonians, but become Europeans”. “Today, that European spirit is alive. Estonians are consistently amongst the most positive about the European Union,” Juncker pointed out.
Jucker said he was convinced that Estonia’s presidency would build on this positive momentum and contribute to a more prosperous and more secure future for all Europeans.
“From security to sustainability, from protection to prosperity, the work you will do over the next six months will help us build a Europe that delivers.
In many ways, this wonderful, historic city is a symbol of where Europe needs to go. Tallinn is one of the great hanseatic cities. It has been built on trade with the rest of the world since the 13th century. Today, it is one of the most forward looking cities in Europe. Its cutting edge technology and digital infrastructure are admired all over Europe,” Juncker said.
This mix of history and future would inspire them as Europe was looking forward. “We have much to learn and much to benefit from Estonia, notably in becoming as digital as you already are. But also when it comes to embracing new challenges whether they be on defence, migration or technological development,” Juncker said.
Editor: Dario Cavegn