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President Kersti Kaljulaid on the occasion of the official visit of the Royal Highnesses, Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit to the Republic of Estonia 25 April 2018

25.04.2018

Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hjertelig velkommen til Tallinn.

Your visit takes place in an important year as we are celebrating the centenary of Estonian independence. This would not be possible without our good friends and allies like Norway.

Defending freedom is a core value for both Norwegians and Estonians – freedom of our nations, but also our individual freedoms.

Both of our countries know what it means to lose your independence and to regain it. We also know that we need to protect the freedom of our friends with similar values. I am thinking about the Estonian volunteers that came to defend Norway in 1940. They sang both Norwegian and Estonian National anthems while swearing their oaths in Alta church. It was in Narvik, where the first Estonian lost his life in the Second World War. Only a few months later Estonia lost its independence.

Norway never recognised the illegal annexation of Estonia by the Soviet Union. You allowed Estonian honorary consuls in Oslo and Trondheim to continue their work. You also did let us to declare the Estonian government in exile in 1953 in Oslo when such political activity was not allowed in many other countries. We are grateful for your support at these difficult times.

In early nineties, me and my friends went to see these historic places for our military history. The wonderful Alta canion offered us much more than lessons of history. It offered beautiful nature, wonderful views and many mushrooms and berries, by the way. However, Alta was also a site of civic debate about the environment, preservation of the nature versus renewable energy production.

Hearing about this debate then was a revelation for us, young Estonians, living the very first years of independence regained – we learned that compromises can and will be sought in democratic societies.

Solutions will not make any side totally happy, the best we can hope is for all parties to feel the result was at least tolerable. We learned that in democracy, not all will unite behind one idea, but debates can be won without steamrolling over the opposition.

We here in Estonia had been united a decade earlier against phosphorite mining by the Soviet Union, for many it was the first time to stand up against Soviet will at our home. We knew by the nineties how to stand united, against “them”. We had not yet learned about how to face the opposition among our own, and not to create “them” or “us”. We are also now here in Estonia facing the same question – how to unite economic development with preservation of nature. I believe it is very much the same in Norway. We both love our nature, but we need to unite its preservation with growing our economies and serving our people. Cold heads and warm hearts of Nordic nations allow us to seek calmly for the solutions, and after settling on what is best for us, we are able to move without rifts, into the future.

Both of our countries learned from the war and its aftermath that we must maintain strong national defences, also at times of peace. Norway became one of the founding members of NATO. Estonia proudly joined in 2004. Today we work together to adopt the alliance to current threats, and serve together on NATO missions to bring peace and stability to the world. We are grateful to Norway for the very practical contribution that you have made to our security and, indeed, to the security of the entire North Atlantic Alliance.

Our friendship goes beyond security and defence. We regularly discuss regional matters in the Nordic-Baltic group of countries. At the European level, we are grateful for the Norwegian contribution through the European Economic Area framework that will allow us to work together to develop business, innovation and research.

Norway is among our most important economic partners. This cooperation dates far back to the times of the Hanseatic League, Tallinn and Bergen both being part of this powerful union of its time. The trade of the times was corn, salted herring, but also cod and wood. Today we still trade with traditional products like wood – by the way Bergen has the tallest wooden building in the world built by an Estonian company (Kodumaja) and Norwegians can enjoy their much valued hygge-time in traditional Norwegian hytte (cottages) made by Estonians. However, I am pleased that in recent years our cooperation has also expanded into more innovative, digital fields, like the new smart digital parking system in Gardermoen airport.

Our cultural relations are close – especially when it comes to music and film, but also literature. Marie Under, a well-known Estonian poet in the beginning of 20th century, was so passionate about Ibsen´s work that she decided to learn Norwegian language. She translated Peer Gynt into Estonian language. Many Estonian artists have been inspired by the Norwegian landscapes, like our beloved landscape painter Konrad Mägi in 1900s. And when it comes to music – just this week we can enjoy the music by Norwegian musicians Ellen Andrea Wang and Trondheim voices during the annual Jazz festival in Tallinn.

The ties of our two small countries are based on partnership and close cooperation. But most importantly, they are based on common values, making them all the more solid.

Your Royal Highnesses, I hope you have a memorable visit to Estonia. When you travel back to Norway, please bring my warm greeting to His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen. I have fond memories of my recent working visit to Oslo and their warm reception.

I now raise my glass to Your Royal Highnesses, to Norway and our common values and excellent relations. I can but guess what the next hundred years of this friendship will bring, but I am convinced that it will make both countries even closer! Skål