Sunday, March 26, 2006

Aitäh, Lennart! Ja huvasti.

In Estonian, this means Farewell, Lennart, and Thank You.

This was the day of the state funeral in Tallinn of former Estonian president Lennart Meri.

In a beutiful Nordic weather, Estonia took farwell of its greatest son in modern times.

Together with the President of Finland Tarja Halonen I was honoured to be asked to speak at the farewell ceremony outside the presidential palace.

Unlike Tarja Halonen, who spoke in Estonians, I spoke in English, not only because of the fact that for me there were few other options, but also because I spoke on behalf of many friends across the world.

Here are my remarks at the national farewell ceremony today:

Your Excellencies, Dear Friends,

The re-establishment of the Republic of Estonia after your nations decades of darkness, and its emergence as one of the most vital and dynamic nations of our new Europe, will forever be associated with the ideas, the work and the personality of Lennart Meri.

He was a man out of history who also made and shaped history.

His personal journey – the deportation, the long years when very little was possible, his deep roots in the cultures of Europe – made him uniquely qualified to give the nation of Estonia its moral voice in the world as it again could sign the songs of freedom, of independence and of democracy.

Many of us became his friends during the dramatic years when he served as foreign minister, first of a state that did not exist, and then of a nation that had been born again.

His were seldom the words of classical diplomacy. He was hardly a man primarily of protocol. But he knew better than us all the broad lines of history, the true nature of the changes we were living through and the immense force of standing for what was right.

And these were dramatic years. An old order was coming to its end, although it was by no means self-evident how, and a new order was starting to emerge, although its contours then were not always easy to see.

Lennart Meri gave voice, strength and stability to your nation as§you came out in the light again. He was among those that set you on a direction which today is increasingly making you a model of success far beyond these Baltic lands.

For many of us outside Estonia he was already your President before he was elected as such. And for many I’m convinced he remained that until the very last of his days. He was the foremost of Estonians in our time.

He was the foremost of Estonians and among the foremost of Europeans. He knew only too well that the fate of a small nation is always linked to what happens well beyond its immediate boundaries.

For him, Europe wasn’t only the richness of its diverse cultural heritage, within which his Estonia had its proud place.

For him – in this time of ours - it was also the imperative of building of freedom and democracy and security together, with firm bonds also stretching across the wide Atlantic Ocean and – let that not be forgotten – reaching out to the Russia whose culture he cherished so deeply.

We many, individuals from many nations, who were honoured to be among his friends, will always remember his days.

We shared moments of immense joy as freedom started to break forward, of deep concern when there were dangers of it all being turned back, of true determination when challenges had to be confronted and deep sorrow when deep tragedy struck our two nations of Estonia and Sweden.

In every situation, the voice of Lennart Meri was always the voice of moral clarity, of historical conviction and of a deep commitment to his Estonia and his Europe.

His voice is no longer. But his words and his deeds will be with Estonia and with us for ever.