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President of the Republic Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the transfer of presidential power ceremony in the Riigikogu (Parliament), 10 October 2016


Dear Estonians here and all around the world,
Distinguished Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers,
Your Excellencies. Dear President-elect,
Ladies, Gentlemen and Friends,

Ten years ago I gave my oath of office at this same lectern and repeated it five years later. The oath commits the President to serving and protecting the Estonian people, to the preservation of our state and culture and to our constitutional order.

The Estonian Constitution is a covenant between the Estonian people, and it has stood up well to challenges. The course of the recent presidential election, which stirred many emotions, was likewise the "grimace of democracy", as one of my predecessors was fond of saying – nothing more.

The fact that it took more time than planned does not reduce the importance of the consensus reached one bit. It does not detract from the result or cast any shadow on the president elected. In the end, the Parliament chose Estonia's new president exactly as the framers of the Constitution intended – partisan egotism lost and broad-based consensus triumphed.

The president is one figure in the balanced equation of our democratic system. The popularly elected Parliament, in which the highest power is vested, is the most important institution in the equation – in other words, ladies and gentlemen, all of you gathered here in this hall. You authorize the prime minister to form the government in charge of the everyday running of the country based on legislation and guidelines handed down by the Riigikogu. Justice is administered by an independent judiciary. The Chancellor of Justice makes sure that everyone's constitutional rights are upheld. The National Audit Office keeps watch to prevent misuse of public assets.

Among other functions, the system of balances ensures that no single branch of government, institution or individual, including the President, can have too much power to the detriment of others. This mechanism of checks and balances must be preserved and protected.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am not here today to sum up accomplishments. I will not articulate my political testimony, because a living society and living person does not require such portentous milestones. Instead I call you all to look ahead boldly to the future and to understand Estonia's potential and role in the wide world.

The President swears the oath of office to the people of Estonia before the Riigikogu. That is why I wish to thank the entire Estonian people, thanks to whom Estonia has developed and grown in the last ten years. The President alone would not be able to achieve anything. Everything the President does and achieves comes about thanks to people who hold Estonia dear.

Before I leave this lectern, I would like to thank Estonia once more for the opportunity to serve my country. In all the positions I have held over the years, serving my country has been my greatest fortune and my greatest honour, but especially so in the last ten years.

My wish is that you will accord the same support and trust to the next president, Kersti Kaljulaid.

Madam President, I congratulate you in the name of the entire Estonian people. I wish you perseverance and unwavering energy in representing Estonia at home and abroad.

But now, in just a few minutes, my fellow Estonians, when I hand over the regalia of office to Kersti Kaljulaid, I will become an ordinary citizen, with all of the responsibilities, as well as rights, that any citizen has.

And on that note, my words...run...out.

Except for these words:

Long live Estonia!