Distinguished Vice President, MEPs, Ministers,
Participants of the trans-European transport network days,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The first rail connection crossing the Estonian-Latvian border (Pskov-Riga) was opened in 1889 after 15 years of planning and construction. Last year when I went for a state visit to Latvia, we took the train from Tallinn to Riga, because that is how people have travelled between those two cities for a long time. In 2012 the trip of 320 kilometres took 5-6 hours, and during our trip we had to switch drivers on the border. To get to Lithuania - 601 km from Tallinn to Vilnius, one has to switch train drivers, and possibly also engines, twice – and it takes some 10-12 hours to get there.
Cargo ships still must stop for customs control on intra-European borders that people can freely cross without showing their passports.
We talk a lot about a united Europe, but examples like these show us that we are far from united when it comes to physical infrastructure, transportation of people and goods.
It is almost 25 years since the Wall fell and the cold war ended; and ten years since the last big enlargement of the EU. Yet looking at maps of EU transport infrastructure, there remains a visible wall between the parts of Europe that 25 years ago were divided by the Iron Curtain. With a new kick start 20 years ago and an eager young generation in the driver's seat we have leapfrogged older democracies and bigger countries in digital infrastructure, traffic and services that can be delivered over broadband. We now need to catch up with our physical infrastructure as well.
The President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, today acknowledged the best volunteers at Pärnu Concert Hall.
The President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, sent a letter of condolences to the Head of the South African Republic, Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the death of Nelson Mandela.
The President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, sent congratulations on the Independence Day of Finland to the Head of State of our northern neighbours, Sauli Niinistö.