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President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the State Dinner in Vilnius 27 May 2013

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the State Dinner in Vilnius 27 May 2013 © Raigo Pajula


Dear president Dalia Grybauskaité,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Labas vakaras, draugai.

Three years ago Iceland's Eyjafjallajökul ash cloud halted air traffic over Europe, which meant that we had to return from our visit to Turkey, from Istanbul to Tallinn, by bus and car. After three days we reached the bright lights of Vilnius. Although 600 kilometres remained before we would reach Estonia, I felt as if I were already home.

The intellectual and geographic link between the Baltic countries, their similar past and shared memories render us close and comprehensible to each other. We are familiar with the distress that one feels when your language and culture are ostracised or prohibited, as well as with the solemnness that accompanies the establishment of one's own state, the pain of losing it, and the joy of restoration. The history of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians is intertwined like the patterns on the Žemaitija girdles.

Therefore, I am glad to be on a state visit to Lithuania as the President of Estonia. Not so much due to our common past but our joint future. The physical return of the Baltic States to Europe, from which we had violently been separated for fifty years, is proof of our peoples' faith, hope, and self-confidence. The European Union and NATO did not come to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia by themselves. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia went and joined the European Union and NATO. This was a choice that stemmed from our political and security concerns, our faith in European values.

Tomorrow, President Grybauskaité and I shall visit one of Vilnius' most distinctive districts, the Užupis Republic that was established as a voluntary initiative. There we shall unveil a plaque with the Estonian version of the Užupis constitution, paragraph 32 of which states: "Man is responsible for his freedom."

Estonia and Lithuania have taken the responsibility to be free, as individuals and as states.

We are good Europeans. The prudent decisions that Lithuania and Estonia have taken during the recent economic and financial crisis are proof of this, as is our commitment as allies to the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In a month's time Lithuania shall assume the presidency of the European Union. Your priorities for the next six months are important for the whole of Europe. Estonia promises to support Lithuania in this and to be your ally.

How issues such as the stability of the European Union's economic and financial sector, energy security, the Eastern Partnership, the reinforcement of external borders, the Baltic Sea Strategy, and cyber security progress – all this depends on co-operation in the European Union in general as well as in the Nordic-Baltic region.

By working together we will avoid becoming a European periphery. For this reason, we must join the Nordic and Baltic States into a successful, competitive, and innovative region that is connected to the rest of Europe via modern road, rail and air transport links; a region where security is guaranteed both by our own efforts as well as with the help of our allies.

All this requires similar resolve, foresight, and unity that The Council of Lithuania and the Estonian Salvation Committee demonstrated in February 1918 when they signed the independence declarations in Vilnius and Tallinn, establishing the states of Lithuania and Estonia. Today, we also need the courage and skill to be free. I do not doubt that we have got such necessary courage and skill.

Now I have the honour to raise my glass:

Long live Lithuania! Long live the Lithuanian people! Long live the co-operation between Estonia and Lithuania for the good of the Nordic-Baltic region and of all Europe!

Tegyvuoja Lietuvos valstybė! Tegyvuoja Lietuvos žmonės! Tegyvuoja Estijos ir Lietuvos bendradarbiavimas Baltijos-Šiaurės regiono ir visos Europos labui!