Today 25 years ago the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia functioning as a parliament adopted the Resolution on the national independence of Estonia that restored the independence of Estonia. Years of hard work and fighting for Estonia's independence preceded 20 August both in occupied Estonia and in exile. Estonians in exile carried the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia, explained what had happened to the Baltic states and the importance of non-recognition policy, distributed information on the situation in Estonia, preserved and developed the Estonian language, culture and civic society.
In his new year's address in 1993 Lennart Meri said the following: "But the restoration of a state is not as simple as pressing a lamp button which will instantly overpour you with biblical light. A state is born like a baby - in labour and pains. Still, like a baby it is born of love and itself gives birth to love." Many people forced to leave Estonia against their will and Estonians born abroad have contributed to rebuilding Estonia and to its development. Many of them have helped reconstruct the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Representations, many of them are my good colleagues even today and many are still working on ensuring Estonia's security and developing foreign relations.
Estonia has changed and achieved a lot in the 25 years of freedom following the restoration of independence. Estonia has changed from a totalitarian society into a country, where human rights are respected, freedom of speech applies and the principles of democracy and rule of law are followed. Estonia is a NATO ally, a member of the European Union and belongs to other most important international organisations. We work every day to remain a trustworthy partner and an ally and to share our values with other countries. During the second half of next year Estonia will face a huge responsibility, Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
For 25 years there is no iron curtain between Estonians living in Estonia and Estonians abroad. In a globalised and mobile world the two terms have lost their former meaning and instead of talking about Estonians at home and expatriates, we talk more and more about "global Estonians". Entrepreneur Rainer Sternfeld active both in the US and Estonia recently said at the Opinion Festival in Paide that Estonian border is where Estonians are and he does not feel like he has been away from home because technical solutions enable him to keep in touch.
Different estimates say that there are around 120,000 – 200,000 people from Estonia living abroad. It's our greatest potential. Among yourselves are people that went abroad before the Republic was declared, those who fled from occupation but also people that have left during the past 25 years for shorter or longer periods. All of you have a connection with Estonia, your Estonian story, your dreams about Estonia. We are all connected by a wish that Estonia would do great. I believe that most of you keep in touch with developments in Estonia, are happy with the country's successes and are worried about challenges facing Estonia. Everyone of us – regardless of where we are – has a chance to contribute to the improvement and future of Estonia.
Just like Estonia needs the support of Estonians living abroad, you need the support of Estonia. Every Estonian Representation abroad has to keep in touch with Estonians living in the respective country. Our Representations ask you to come together during the holidays important to our country and our nation, they help to organize local culture events, share information and keep in touch with the local Estonian community.
The concept of the 12th Youth Song and Dance Celebration taking place in Tallinn next year is roots that connect us to Estonia wherever our life takes us and we welcome Estonians from near and far. You all, too. In 2018 the Republic of Estonia will celebrate its 100th Independence Day and we will celebrate it all over the world, regardless of the location, regardless of where we are at that point.
The independence of Estonia is a reason to be happy about our country, our land and our nation. Long live Estonia!