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Prime minister calls for national unity in Independence Day speech

Jüri Ratas speaking in Tartu's Vanemuine theatre, Feb. 22, 2018.
Jüri Ratas speaking in Tartu's Vanemuine theatre, Feb. 22, 2018. Source: Riigikantselei

In his speech on the occasion of Estonia's centennial, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) called on all Estonians to "remember who we are, where we came from, and the events we had to go through to make it here," and asked them to work towards the country's future as a united people.

On the eve of its 100th anniversary, the Estonian state is doing better than ever before both culturally and in terms of the economy, Ratas said. "The generations of our fathers and grandfathers never saw such a long period of peace. Our free country is the greatest treasure the preservation and passing on of which is all our sacred duty," the prime minister added.

The prime minister usually holds an Independence Day speech on Feb. 23, but he is traveling to Brussels today Friday. Ratas spoke in Tartu's Vanemuine theatre.

Ratas went on to say that one of the challenges facing Estonia in the near future will be to balance off the country's economic development with the protection of its environment. "Estonia is rich where it comes to our clean forests, wetlands, and islands. It has to stay this way also for the coming generations," he said.

Work on Estonia's welfare needs to continue. The country needs a society that is defined my equal opportunity, a high standard of living, solidarity, and a a social safety net. "Everyone in Estonia should feel safe and well-defended. Domestic violence isn't something that concerns only a few, but an extremely painful challenge to all of us. It is a question of the dignity of our people," Ratas went on.

To reach the level of the country's Nordic neighbors, Estonia needed to focus on the well-being and protection of the individual, and do more to guarantee equal treatment of men and women. "The model of an open, inclusive, and fair welfare society could become a characteristic of all of the Baltic-Scandinavian region, where Estonia belongs both historically and culturally," Ratas said.

Ratas pointed to the Estonian Declaration of Independence, which addresses all of the people in Estonia and promises to guarantee the opportunity for ethnic minorities to preserve their cultural identity. "I understand how hard it is emotionally to overcome the 'us and them' mentality in the face of all the suffering and the losses we had to go through. But there is no other way for us. As Professor Marju Lauristin recently stressed, we need to overcome the persistent roadblock of alienation and negativity," Ratas said.

Estonia's minority communities clearly want to contribute to Estonia's society, the prime minister added, pointing to writer Andrei Ivanov, world-famous semiotician Juri Lotman, the long tradition of Estonia's Russian Theatre, an ever stronger Russian information space, and dozens of well-known Estonian athletes with Russian roots.

"What I want to say with this is that our language and culture may differ, but that we are united in our patriotism, in Estonia as all our home," Ratas said.

The prime minister also pointed to the preamble of the Constitution of 1992 that defines the purpose of the Estonian state as the preservation of the Estonian people and culture through the ages. "Our parents treasured our language and culture at an existential level, and it is our duty to continue this into the future," Ratas said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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