Address of the President of the Republic at the reception of Honorary Consuls
I am so pleased to see that despite turbulent times, all of you were able to take the time to travel to Estonia for the ninth Conference of Honorary Consuls. As a former Honorary Consul of Chile, I feel special connection with all of you. I know well that most of you have a demanding daily job, therefore I am grateful to you for taking this extra responsibility and represent Estonia as an Honorary Consul.
Although Estonia’s network of diplomatic representations is growing, with openings of embassies in Singapore and Seoul, we will never have an embassy in every country. At the same time, being a small state, we will always need to punch above our weight to be known. We cannot afford to be invisible. We need all the friends and good relations with other nations. Because if you are not visible, it is easy to forget you.
The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations established the institution of honorary consuls 59 years ago. There are approximately 20 000 honorary consuls working globally and I am proud to say that with 192 honorary consuls in 87 countries Estonia has one of the largest honorary consul networks per capita in the world. You enable Estonia to punch above our weight, thank you behalf of all the citizens of Estonia! You are all doing a great job!
I argue that honorary consuls’ role during these six decades and in the time of globalization has not diminished. Rather in contrary, your role and importance to Estonia is expanding. Today, you, the honorary consuls, are important members of the Estonian diplomatic family and invaluable partners in representing Estonia in your home countries. Besides assisting Estonian citizens, you have a crucial role in promoting Estonia, supporting our companies in their aspirations to gain a footing in new markets and introducing Estonia to potential investors.
To be honest there is a lot to promote about Estonia. Estonia is the most advanced digital democracy in the world. Thanks to a safe, convenient, and flexible digital ecosystem, Estonia has reached an unprecedented level of transparency in governance and built broad trust in its governmental institutions and digital society. As a result, Estonia has become a hassle-free environment for business and entrepreneurship.
In addition a world leading cyber security, e-voting, e-healthcare, e-tax filing, e-banking and much more, have completely released the creativity of Estonia’s entrepreneurial people from the restraints of unnecessary bureaucracy which have made possible to have the highest number of unicorns per capita in Europe.
I am sincerely very grateful to all my predecessors, Estonian politicians, visionaries and ambitious entrepreneurs for making this fairytale story to become a reality. Becoming a member of European Union and Eurozone have created a friendly, predictable business environment. On top of that, we are still the society full of young people who have the ambition to succeed, who have the necessary thirst to achieve great success and this will continue to take us further.
Dear honorary consuls,
Unfortunately, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room that affects all of our lives and the security situation in Europe. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and against all the international norms, no respect for human life and universal human rights has scattered the dream of perpetual peace in Europe. Even if the war Russia has started affects us all, we are not at war. I would like to highlight that Estonia is a member of the world´s strongest security alliance – NATO. Just a few days ago at the NATO Madrid Summit we have collectively taken steps to bolster the security all over the Eastern Flank. We take the security concerns very seriously and work every day to make sure that our country is a safe environment for all.
Our position on Russia’s war in Ukraine remains unchanged – our ultimate goal must be to ensure that Ukraine wins. If Russia sees that the war pays off, it will be an open invitation for further aggression, not only to Russia but to any aggressor in the world.
Estonia will continue to support Ukraine as long as it takes. We will help to defend and liberate Ukraine’s territory. At the same time, we need to help Ukrainian refugees in Ukraine, but also in Estonia.
In addition to the military assistance to Ukraine, the Estonian government together with the private and non-governmental sector has supported Ukraine with more than 16 million euros worth humanitarian assistance. We will continue to help, because to us independence was not a favor granted by someone, but a right achieved at the battlefields. For us freedom, sovereignty and independence are priceless and therefore worth every effort and every struggle.
I am aware of the long-standing tradition of honorary consuls to make a group donation for a selected charity during the Honorary Consuls’ Conference. I would like to thank the Honorary Consul General, Jaak Treiman, for keeping up the tradition of collecting group donations for charity this year as well. Many of you in your home countries have been also active supporters of war refugees from Ukraine. It is therefore particularly appropriate that the choice was made to support education opportunities of Ukrainian war refugees who are currently not able to purse their academic dreams in their home country!
As Education field in every aspects has been priority for me as a President, I thank you sincerely for this initiative.
May I thank you once again for your crucial work in helping Estonian citizens, fostering trade and investments and promoting Estonia and its culture. I would also wish to thank your loved ones for the support and understanding they give you for this important work you do for our tiny, but ambitious nation.
I hope that you will receive a lot of useful information, but most of all positive emotions from this conference that gives you a new impetus and motivation to continue in your mission as Estonian honorary consuls. I hope to see you all in 2025 at the next conference of honorary consuls and I hope that then we will have much better times, but the same beautiful weather as today.
Thank you for your service!
Elagu Eesti! Long live Estonia!