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Hello, and a happy first evening of the year to you all!

By now you have said your verses and sang your songs to Santa Claus. I’m sure you were also very happy with Santa’s little helpers who had wrapped up the presents for you. A new year has begun. A year of new hopes and, definitely most of all, a year of singing and dancing together – because summer is no longer far away. We are all looking forward to our common celebration.

I am not completely sure how I feel about last year. On the one hand, it was the centenary of the independent Republic of Estonia. A year of celebrations, a whole host of crowned and uncrowned guests. They were all brought here by the wish to acknowledge our people, our independence, and us being a part of the same club of free nations as they are. I would like to thank everyone who lent a hand in organising the celebrations of our important year. The next anniversary of this magnitude is still one hundred years away.

Yet the end of the year turned sour and ugly, alien to Estonia and to our national character. If something is not quite right, we come together and discuss it. If necessary, we scold and then fix it. It is not like us to tell another Estonian that they are not Estonian or that they want the Estonian nation to disappear.

Could the nastiness have been caused by the fact that the Republic of Estonia in 2018 has advanced too far for some people? They have lost all hope of keeping up, and thus they shout – this we must not do! this we cannot do! turn back immediately! Back where?

I am addressing you here in Narva. Behind me is the border. It is indeed a national border, but not only that. This is also a border between different world views.

Ask yourselves – is your hairdo or your outfit a threat against public order? Can your favourite music threaten morality? Can the person you love shake the pillars of society? During the Soviet era, I, too, had to explain to the Soviet police why I wore my hair long or was wearing jeans. Should it not concern only you what you decide to do with your hair, your clothes, what music do you listen to, or who do you love?

Or, whether a judge should base their judgement on the law, or the decisions of the leaders of some political party?

I am happy that I am living on this side of the border, in a world where human beings are loved with all their virtues and vices. I believe in the Republic of Estonia, and I am sure that my children, grandchildren and their children must never live in “an empire of darkness”. During those tough times, the conqueror had shifted its border to the other side of the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. But our beliefs and convictions kept the border at its place. If someone today threatens the independence of the judicial power in Estonia, or is fighting the press, art or scientific research that they find politically unacceptable, or is solving differences of opinions by force – they are also pushing the border between world views back to the age of darkness.

I firmly believe that all of us, without a single exception, want to move forward to make sure that the Estonian language, spirit, and mind set would live forever. This is our Estonian home; there is nowhere else for us to sail away to. For an overview of our choices, please refer to the map of the world. If that is not enough, please read from history books on why Estonia lost its freedom the first time. Obviously, we are not expected to like an opposing world view, but we must pull ourselves together and accept it. Estonia only has a future if all countries that respect human beings work together, on this side of the border. There is no third option for this place in the world that we love so much.

I apologise for making my New Year’s greeting more work-related than it should be or than I would like it to be. But I needed to say what was on my mind to stop people from shaking their fists or shouting abuse at others.

And truth be told, this kind of antagonism does not happen only in Estonia. Other countries also have people that have lost their footing in this open world and are now clamouring for the good old times. They all have a common enemy – international cooperation. And then there are the open and tolerant people who respect cooperation and every human being, and who understand that building of fences is not a solution. So you want to lock your door behind you and then see what happens? Well, nothing would happen until you die – and after that, there is nothing.

Compatriots, I realise that what I say next might not be universally popular. It is a fact that people in Estonia have never been as well off as we are today. Admittedly, this well-being has not reached everyone. It is definitely possible to do better. Some people feel left out and it is our common responsibility to find a better way to help them. But Estonia is the country in the new Europe which receives more people each year that it loses. This has been the same for some years now, and this should really make us proud. On the whole, Estonia has benefitted from the free and open world. The dumbest thing to do now would be to rest on our laurels; therefore – full steam ahead, Estonia!

I wish you all good decisions in the new year. Let us all firmly support the independent Republic of Estonia! I wish grandparents good health and energy, to bring joy to our lives. I wish grandmothers and grandfathers all the success in their work and private lives. Maybe you remember this phrase from the past; I can hardly keep a straight face myself. I wish mothers and fathers joy from their families. I wish children all the success in finding new knowledge, and hasten to add that Santa Claus really exists!

And because I want Estonia to always do well, I conclude with a thought from one of my idols – “’A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open”.

Happy New Year! Everything will be all right. Don’t worry.

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
+372 631 6356, +372 51 53 903