Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here, I'm especially glad to welcome all of you who are guests of Estonia, to this country where we care for human rights, individual liberty and freedom, more than is common for what is called the post-Soviet space, or one of the places where we value these things more than almost anywhere, because we do not take them for granted.
The concept of human dignity, of the inherent value of each individual, is one of the cornerstones of modern democratic societies. This ideal, as most of us know, comes from the Enlightenment, first the Scottish and then the French Enlightenment, but it also has deeper roots. British philosopher Larry Siedentop claims that the source of modern humanism lies actually in early Christianity; that the initial legends about God being born through man led slowly to the conception of each human being having a soul, an idea that was radically alien to those ancient societies – or even some modern ones – where it was taken for granted that humans could be owned by other humans; they could be bought and sold, tortured and killed at whim.
But it took centuries before early Christian universalism materialized in real political institutions; it took even longer before such ideas developed into the concept of universal human rights that we all take for granted today. We can trace it, of course, to John Locke and the concept of inalienable rights, first promulgated politically in the United States. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, accepted in the United Nations 66 years ago, is a truly universal document, which is accepted, at least in a nodding form, by all 193 member states of the United Nations. It is no longer specific to one culture, religion or civilisation.
The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) is pleased to announce a significant expansion of the institute's international Advisory Council. Incoming members include the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum, former Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt, former U.S. State Department Counselor Eliot A. Cohen, Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford Timothy Garton Ash, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Hook, former Lithuanian Minister of Defense Rasa Juknevičienė, and the Secretary General of the Slovak Atlantic Commission Róbert Vass.
Today in Kadriorg, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves received letters of credence from the following ambassadors: Dora Mmari Msechu of the United Republic of Tanzania with residence in Stockholm, Saoud Abdulla Zaid Al-Mahmoud of the State of Qatar with residence in Moscow, and Ashok Kumar Sharma of the Republic of India with residence in Helsinki.
The President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, opened the Aquaphor water filter plant in Narva today, which is the largest and most modern of its kind in Estonia and in Europe in general.