Saturday, September 23, 2006

Congratulations, Estonia!

It is of course profoundly good news that Toomas Ilves has been elected as the new President of Estonia.

At last there is a worthy successor to Lennart Meri. And a person that can proudly project the success of Estonia and the other Baltic states on the wider world stage.

It was long uncertain whether he could make it, but it seems as if campaigning has paid off. And Estonians at the end of the day wanted a modern president they could be proud of.

This is not to say that outgoing president Arnold Ruutel, who was now defeated by Toomas Ilves, hasn't done important services to his country.

With his roots in Soviet Estonia's agriculture and political nomenklatura he played a prominent role -- along with young movement leaders -- in the restoration of Estonia's independence through parliamentary enactments.

And during the 1990's he helped reassure sections of society, including many Russians, that Estonia's independence and aspiration to join NATO and the European Union was good for the country.

He become president in 2001 at the age of 73 and served as a figurehead, though often with dignity. However, not speaking any foreign language other than Russian, he has been at a disadvantage in representing Estonia internationally.

Toomas Ilves represents a more modern, outward looking Estonia.

He has done most things over the years. He has been his country's ambassador in Washington as well as its foreign minister, and is now serving in the European Parliament and on its important Foreign Affairs Committee.

He will easily be the northern European official that moves the most easily around the corridors of the world - at the least its Western parts. And that is of great importance for a country - not the least if its size doesn't automatically give it entry everywhere.

Toomas Ilves is of course to be congratulated, but primarily the congratulations should go to all of Estonia.