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President Kaljulaid at the dinner in the honour of the state visit to Georgia

31.10.2017

Respected President Giorgi Margvelashvili,

Honourable Mrs Maka Chichua,

Excellences, ladies and gentlemen!

A state visit is the most formal form of relations between two countries and is used to validate our close relations. It is quite remarkable that this visit is taking place now, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Georgia and Estonia. This represents a quarter of a century of uninterrupted friendship and co-operation.

However, this time I will start by speaking about people, as they represent the foundation of close relations between our countries. Some days ago I attended the premier of The Confession, a new film by Zaza Urushadze and Ivo Felt. This film, just like his earlier work, Tangerines, and Scary Mother by Ana Urushadze, represent the most excellent examples of co-operation between the people of our two countries. Films can only be successfully made in co-operation when we can rely on open communication and understanding. The crews from our two countries have done a superb job that serves to demonstrate the similarities of our ways of thinking, as otherwise it would have been impossible to create these magnificent and highly praised works. We value both the wisdom to maintain mutual respect and the skill to listen to each other or, in the words of the great poet Shota Rustaveli: "The wise listen to advice; the foolish act of their own accord." Therefore, the spiritual closeness between Georgia and Estonia is much closer that we might expect, despite the distance.

The Estonian writer Karl Ast also describes a similar freedom of thinking in his memoirs. Georgians who studied in the University of Tartu before World War I were, of course, ravishingly jovial and loved to sing, but they were also good allies in our battle against the empire and dreamed even back then, in Tartu, of a free Georgia.

Next year, both countries will celebrate their 100th anniversary. Indeed, the fates of our nationhood have been different, but our roads to freedom and the reinstating of our independence were quite similar. Both Ilia Chavchavadze and our cultural figures involved in the national awakening during the same period placed great value on our past and the promotion of our languages, cultures and education.

This very appreciation of culture and education also characterise the co-operation between our nations today. Estonia can offer practical experiences related to the modernisation of schools, the provision of education in general and the implementation of information technology; basically, all Estonian universities have friendly relations with some Georgian educational institutions and the possibility to offer your students opportunities to study in Estonia.

We both live in small countries. We are border states and our borders are also forefronts. After our countries regained their independence, we have been among the first to experience indirect or direct external threats, which have represented a wake-up call for both ourselves and the international community. These wake-up calls should always be kept in mind. We have a duty to protect fundamental values, the foundation of a state based on the rule of law, international law and territorial integrity (within internationally recognised borders). Fundamental values and a state based on the rule of law represent the cornerstones of a strong country that develops with a purpose. Dialogue and co-operation between the state and civil society make a state even stronger. They build up the resilience of a country. They provide the pre-requisites for economic development. The economic relations between our countries are not as intense as our political and cultural communication, but I do believe that there is a strong foundation, including an improved investment and business climate, that these can be built upon. Estonia is definitely interested in building these relations.

As your friends, we want and wish you to do well in integrating with Europe and the Euro-Atlantic alliances, just as Estonia did 20 or more years ago. You are entitled to follow the path you have chosen. This can occasionally be winding, just like the (picturesque) country roads in Georgia, and sometimes it may feel that it will never end – another mountain lurks behind each one you have just overcome. But you should remain focused and committed. Estonia will support your efforts.

Ain Kaalep, an Estonian poet and keen supporter of freshness of mind, who learnt the Georgian alphabet as a child with his sister and used it as their mutual secret language, has written that mehedruli is not simply beautiful; it is also a phonetically perfect alphabet. Our mutual relations could be as perfect.

Back to Shota Rustaveli and his The Knight in the Panther's Skin: "He that doth not seek friend for himself is his own enemy". Both of us, Estonia and Georgia, have found a friend in each other and been able to safeguard and enhance this friendship.

Dear friends.

Now I would like to propose a toast to President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Mrs Maka Chichua terviseks, and to the credit and prosperity of Georgia. I wish continued success and depth to the friendship and co-operation between our countries.

Sakartvelos da Estonetis GAUMARJOS! (To Georgia and Estonia)