TALLINN - Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet met with his Swedish colleague, Carl Bildt, last Saturday and delivered a speech at a celebration of the 93rd anniversary of the Republic of Estonia - officially on Feb. 24 - at the German Church in Stockholm. Paet spoke with Bildt about the celebrations for commemorating the restoration of independence in the Baltic States, the Estonian Foreign Affairs Ministry reports.
“Sweden has named the entire year 2011 as the Year of the Baltics to celebrate the restoration of independence in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as the restoration of diplomatic relations with these countries,” said Paet. The Estonian foreign minister invited Carl Bildt to come and take part in the events taking place in Estonia on Aug. 20, the anniversary of re-independence.
Estonia-Sweden bilateral relations were also addressed at the meeting. Foreign Minister Paet noted that in addition to geographical proximity, Estonia and Sweden are connected first and foremost by shared values. “We co-operate with Sweden in the development field. In 2011, we are participating together in the European Union Nordic Battle Group. Together we are dedicated to making the EU internal market more effective, particularly by creating a digital internal market,” said Paet, naming areas of co-operation between Estonia and Sweden.
In looking to the future, the foreign minister said it is important to intensify co-operation between Estonia and Sweden’s research institutions and universities and to have student exchanges. “We should focus on this type of co-operation because it in turn gives momentum to a knowledge-based economy and an overall increase in competitiveness,” he added.
On Feb. 21 Paet spoke, also at the German Church, about Estonians in Sweden. “I thank everyone who has helped to preserve and pass on the Estonian language, culture and history in Sweden,” said Paet. The foreign minister encouraged Estonians to always turn to the Estonian Embassy or honorary consuls with any concerns, suggestions or ideas. “With a small nation, the threshold between the state and the people must not be very high, especially since all Estonians abroad are in some way ambassadors of our country,” said Paet.
The foreign minister added that public diplomacy is especially important for a small country, and it is one opportunity to give more meaning to our identity.
The foreign minister stated that there are many strongholds of Estonian culture in Sweden, but an especially important one among them is the Estonian school in Stockholm. “Young people are the ones who unite the past with the present, carrying on the tradition of continuity,” said Foreign Minister Paet. “I believe that some of the boys and girls in that school could one day make a fine addition to the Estonian foreign service, just like in the early 1990s, when we were creating Estonia’s foreign service and relied on know-how from outside Estonia, and the experiences of educated people, many of whom are still great assets to Estonian diplomacy today,” he added.
Paet said that continuity is the keyword that characterizes the essence of Estonian, the Estonian nation, and Estonian foreign policy. “We all know that the restoration of the Republic of Estonia on the basis of legal continuity 20 years ago was possible largely thanks to the Estonian diplomatic representation in New York, which remained open and functioning throughout the entire occupation,” said Paet.
The primary challenge of Estonia’s foreign policy in the near future is continuing the same consistent work in implementing all the opportunities given to us in order to increase Estonia’s well-being and security. “The result of this work, done with so much care and determination, is that Estonia is today the best integrated country in Northern Europe,” Paet noted.
The foreign minister added that Estonia’s dynamic and rapid development would not have been possible without the support of good friends, including Sweden.