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President Kersti Kaljulaid at the International Westphalian Peace Prize award ceremony in Münster

President Kersti Kaljulaid at  the International Westphalian Peace Prize award ceremony in Münster © Office of the President


President Steinmeier,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen

I sincerely thank you all for awarding Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with the eleventh International Westphalia Peace Prize. Thank you very much. Receiving the award for democratic development is a great honour and privilege for Estonia. Especially at the time when we are celebrating the centenary of our statehood. Especially here in Nordrhein-Westfalen that has traditionally had good relations with Estonia and in Münster with its history of fostering peace in Europe.

The Westphalian Peace Treaty signed here in Münster in 1648 marked the end of the Thirty Years' War. A war that we still remember for its cruelties. At the time, Estonia of course was not yet an independent country. However, maybe you did not know, but Estonian men were fighting in the Battle in Lützen in 1632 in the army led by the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf. The king lost his life in the battle, but just before the battle, he managed to sign an order to establish the first university in Estonia in Tartu.

So, something good comes out of every crisis and links us for centuries. The Westphalian Peace Treaty was the first all-European peace treaty. After the brutalities of the war, it shaped our thinking about war and about peace. It also laid a foundation for the modern international system of sovereign states. Of course, the Westphalian system was not perfect. As we know by now, it did not guarantee everlasting peace and prevent wars.

The concept of sovereign states caused rivalry and later even extreme nationalism. Only after the Second World War was Europe ready to move forward with a European integration based on peace, prosperity and common democratic values. The signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 founded a community of nations defending the democratic values they share.

Standing here in Münster, I would also like to thank the region for the hospitality they showed to Estonians after World War II. Because many lives were saved by people staying here and not being deterred, not being returned to the occupied Soviet Union, to Estonia under Stalinist repressions. Thank you, the people of Münster!

Here, in Münster, I am also thinking of the outpost of Europe, the little town of Narva at the Narva River. It was also destroyed, like Münster, in World War II. However, it was not destroyed by the war beyond reconstruction. Only during Stalinist years it was totally erased from the map, like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were erased from some official maps of Europe. Only now is Narva fighting its way back to the family of European towns by standing for the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2024. Nothing is left of its ancient glory but the old Town Hall in the ruins, but the spirit of Narva is still there. Today here in Münster I am thinking of this spirit of Narva.

Times of peace are meant to build peace, to work every day for more peace, and sometimes we are successful in it. Sometimes we fail, like currently in the Ukraine. But we will stick together stick to the task and we will never, ever give up.

Thank you once more for the attention paid to the Baltic states to our ambition to continue building our united Europe based on our democratic values.

Vielen Dank, Herr Bundespräsident, vielen Dank, Herr Ministerpräsident Laschet, vielen Dank, die Bürgermeisterin des Osnabrück und Münster und die Bürgerinnen und Bürger der Städte Münster und Osnabrück. Vielen Dank.