Address of the President of the Republic on Europe Day
My fellow countrymen, my fellow Europeans,
In order for us to be important in Europe, Europe must first be important to us at home. As such, we should all be delighted to be celebrating Europe Day for the 19th time here in Estonia. Next year marks a significant anniversary for us: 20 years of membership of the European Union. The EU is rooted in values whose protection and preservation are important to us.
The last 19 years have seen a good deal of growth and a lot of success, and brought with them some useful lessons, all of which form part of the growing process. What is important is that so many new possibilities have opened up to the people of Estonia in that time as their freedom of movement has greatly expanded.
We can go and work or study in another country, thereby enriching ourselves and Europe. For our entrepreneurs, the EU market has created new opportunities for growth and development.
Quality of life in Estonia has significantly improved, too. Our target has long been a strong, well-functioning Europe, to which we ourselves have actively contributed. We have promoted a stronger digital dimension, the data economy and innovation within the EU to make the most of the union’s potential from a future perspective.
We have recognised the value of belonging to the union during harder times in particular, such as during the global financial crisis and the pandemic, and most keenly in Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, which has brought full-scale war back to Europe.
Together we have helped Ukraine in a way we never could have by acting alone. Together we are launching initiatives which will support the security of us all.
We have enjoyed the benefits of belonging to the European Union, and we want others to do the same so as to expand the zone of stability, democracy and well-being that surrounds us. That is why we support the expansion of the EU.
Further progress in EU integration must be based on the efforts that the candidate countries themselves make: there can be no offering ‘special discounts’ in that regard.
Despite the incredibly difficult situation it finds itself in, Ukraine has demonstrated its resolve in implementing reforms. We hope to see it moving steadily closer to the EU, just as we do Moldova and the candidate countries in the Western Balkans.
The next expansion could well be extensive, which is why in the lead-up to it we must focus on issues that will help the European Union prepare for the next wave of its growth.
I am convinced that by utilising our strengths we can shape the face and the future of the EU, but it is also clear that Europe will be more efficient and sustainable by dealing with the stumbling blocks we are currently facing. All of our futures, including that of the EU, depend on our willingness to innovate smartly as well.
Forward-looking initiative, honesty and courage in shaping Europe also characterise the recipient of this year’s European of the Year award. The European movement in Estonia has made its choice: our congratulations to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas!