Thank you very much for inviting me. I always come back to Columbia, this is where the ursprung of my life is from. It is always a pleasure for me to speak at my Alma Mater. Last year, I spoke here about cyber security. Estonia is a highly digitized society, we must take cyber threats seriously. But at that time, just a year ago, we had no idea how much the world around us would change within months. In the past seven months we have seen a complete sea change in the security environment of the transatlantic area, for which we were not prepared.
There had been warning signs. For example, Russia's aggression against Georgia in 2008 was a wake-up call, but everyone hit the snooze button, chose to ignore it. A month after president Sarkozy had announced his peace plan, the EU and Russia said they were not going to do anything about it, even though the peace plan provisions on removing the Russian troops were never met. So we knew beforehand that things were shifting, but we chose not to pay attention.
In November this year we'll celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. 1989 for us indeed was the Annus Mirabilis: The Cold War ended, the Iron Curtain crumbled and we had a continent-wide euphoria. Estonia, too, along with our Baltic neighbours, Latvia and Lithuania, was soon to be liberated from the Soviet occupation that had lasted in our countries for half a century.
Looking back, we realize that a whole era ended at that time, after about half a century of status quo. In our part of the world things changed radically and permanently, we thought, for the better. 20 years ago, in August 1994, the last Soviet occupation troops left Estonia. That was the final sign that the Cold War, in at least our country, was over.
It could all be a reason to celebrate a Fukuyaman triumph of liberal democracy. Instead, we are now watching a new wave of authoritarianism rise throughout Europe and tensions grow in Europe and other areas. We also see a renewed battle of ideas where liberal democracy is no longer the obvious winner. We see a return of cynical geopolitics, of lies and propaganda at an altogether new level, and raw force has returned as a foreign policy tool in an area that had actually not seen that in 75 years.
Today the President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, presented the 2014 Educational Awards to Kadri Leppoja, a music teacher at Miina Härma Gymnasium; Väino Ratassepp, a long-time chemistry teacher at Tallinn Music High School, and Galina Trofimova, the head of technology and a mining industry teacher at Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Centre. The Physical Sciences Award went to Indrek Peil, a physics teacher at Saaremaa Ühisgümnaasium (Saaremaa Common Gymnasium).
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves attended the awards ceremony of the 'Farmer of the Year 2014' competition today, recognising the best farmers in Estonia and personally congratulating the title winner, Vändra OÜ director Ilmar Teevet.
The President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who in Kadriorg today hosted Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, and Prince Daniel, gave them a graphic piece by Estonian artist Endel Kõks called "Merel" (On the Sea) (1953), which depicts boat refugees and conveys the anguish and hope of people.