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The 20th Anniversary The 20th anniversary of Estonia’s restored independence has been duly celebrated and e-focus has taken a look at the festive events in Tallinn and Stockholm. And, e-focus also had a talk with Kaire Papp - 20 years old, the same age as Estonia’s restored independence.

The celebrations started in Stockholm five days before Estonia’s official Taasiseseisvumispäev with a Måndagsmöte (Monday Meeting) at Norrmalmstorg where the Prime Ministers from Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were among the speakers.

Stockholm: The 80th Måndagsmöte – Monday Meeting

More than 1.000 people had gathered at Norrmalmstorg in downtown Stockholm for the 80th Måndagsmöte, August 15th, 2011 at twelve o’clock.

The Monday Meetings were a spontaneous Swedish opinion movement supporting the Baltic countries’ struggle for independence. Initiated by Gunnar Hökmark, Peeter Luksep, Håkan Holmberg and Andres Küng, people gathered for 79 consecutive Monday meetings from March 19th, 1990 to September 16th, 1991. In addition to the meetings at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm, Monday meetings on the very same theme also took place in up to 50 different Swedish cities.

Below are some quotes from what was said and written in Stockholm.

- Twenty years have passed since freedom returned to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. During this time democracy and constitutional states have replaced dictatorship. Market economy has been introduced and impressive progresses have been achieved for growth, welfare and the environment, said the Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt at Norrmalmstorg.

- Europe has returned to the Baltics and the Baltic States have returned to Europe. The Baltic Sea, which was a moat between east and west during the times of the Soviet Union, has now regained its role as a uniting passage for commerce and human relations.

- Step by step we have restored the historical ties between Sweden and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We travel between our countries. We trade, exchange knowledges and we cooperate.

- This is a fantastic journey. A journey of freedom. And it has only just begun, concluded Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Andrus Ansip:

Estonia’s Prime Minister Andrus Ansip delivered the surprise of the day at Norrmalmstorg as he held his entire speech in Swedish language! Somebody video recorded him and put it up at YouTube and ETV highlighted the event in their evening news broadcast.

- Throughout the era of Soviet occupation, Sweden was the first refuge for many of our citizens; thousands of Estonian families were welcomed and made their homes here from 1944 and onwards. Our current Head of State, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves himself, was born into a refugee family right here in Stockholm, said Andrus Ansip in very good Swedish.

- For decades, Sweden also provided a safe haven for the embodiment of the national continuity of the Republic of Estonia – its Government in exile. It was here that Jüri Uluots, our Prime Minister serving as President, found shelter in 1944. And it was from here that our last Prime Minister serving the same role in exile, Heinrich Mark, returned to a now free Estonia in 1992 to officially hand over the Regalia of Office to the newly elected President Lennart Meri.

- Norrmalmstorg and the Monday Movement are of greater importance and reach further than just the relations between Estonia and Sweden; they take on an international dimension in foreign policy. Everyone knows about the Baltic Way and the Singing Revolution, but everyone should also know that Estonia’s independence was not only restored in our country; without the support of the rest of the world there would be no Republic of Estonia, or indeed any internationally recognised country.

Mart Laar:

Estonia’s Minister of Defence, Mart Laar, made an August 15th contribution to the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s blog.

“The close cooperation between Sweden and the Baltics is nothing new”, writes Mart Laar. “There were connections between our countries during prehistoric times and as the centuries passed, these connections grew tighter. Sweden’s deepened interest for the development in the Baltics was therefore something quite natural.”

“…today it is noteworthy that the Baltic countries in some areas are more integrated with Europe than Sweden. Different from the Baltic States, Sweden is not a NATO member, and different from Estonia, Sweden is not a member of the eurozone. From a Baltic point of view it would be of the utmost importance if Sweden could go on further with these issues. If Sweden is standing outside these organisations, who decide Europe’s future, Sweden’s influence in Europe will decrease. That doesn’t benefit Sweden, and it is most probably not beneficial for the Baltic countries either.”

“The Nordic countries, together with the Baltic countries, have become an engine for growth in Europe. It is now high time that Sweden, who has played the role of a driving force in this development, once again makes a stronger contribution in Europe”, ends Mart Laar his blog contribution.

Carl Bildt:

“It was in all respects a good and important day. And it laid an even more solid base for our future relations”, blogs Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, on the Swedish-Baltic Monday in Stockholm, August 15th.

“The morning’s more academic seminar [held at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs and titled ‘The Return of Freedom Baltic-Russian Relations During the First Years of Independence’] probably became more interesting than what many had expected. Focus was put on the relations between a staggering Russia, and three groping and newly formed Baltic States during the times immediately following 1991.”

“The peak of the day was probably when Estonia’s Prime Minister Andrus Ansip held a speech in perfect Swedish. He had trained on it since June, and his Swedish greatly impressed everybody.”

“… - the relations across the Baltic Sea are now even stronger than what they already were”, ends Carl Bildt.

Tallinn

“20.08.1991 – Twenty Years On”

Saturday morning August 20th, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry and the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute arranged a seminar at Tallinn’s Õpetajate Maja titled ‘20.08.1991 – Twenty Years On’.

Current and former government leaders and foreign ministers of the Nordic countries, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia discussed experiences gained over the last 20 years as well as new challenges.

- The seminar gave some interesting insights into how the Foreign Ministers, being present, had experienced August 1991 given the uncertainty about the development in the Soviet Union and in the Baltics at that time, says Jan Palmstierna, Sweden’s Ambassador to Estonia.

- During the panel discussion, the participants put up predictions on the future development in the area, with some question marks made on, among other countries, Russia’s future development.



- There was a consensus on the progress achieved by the Baltic countries – all three countries are nowadays members of both NATO and EU. Even if the USA is the obvious strategic partner in NATO, the Nordic countries have a central role in many fields in our immediate area.

- All Nordic countries have in different ways supported the Baltic countries since 1991. Iceland still holds a special position as it is the country that was first with recognizing the Baltic States’ restored independence – an issue underlined at the seminar, concludes Jan Palmstierna.

Vabaduse Laul – Song of Freedom

The first Estonian national song festival was held in Tartu 1869. The event was born along with the Estonian national awakening at that time and starting with the sixth festival in 1896, the song festival tradition moved to Tallinn and the event is still held in July, every five years. The latest national song festival took place in 2009 with more than 30.000 singers performing.

The annual August 20th night song festivals are for obvious reasons of a younger date.

It began in 1987 with demonstrations featuring spontaneous singing of national songs and hymns forbidden by the Soviets. In September 1988, a massive song festival was held at the Tallinn Song Festival Arena. This time nearly 300.000 people came together - more than a quarter of all Estonians. And, on that day political leaders were participating actively, and were calling for the restoration of Estonia’s independence.

- The August 20th night song festivals became an annual tradition following our restored independence, says SCCE’s Ombudsman Kristiina Sikk. This year’s festival was titled Vabaduse Laul, Song of Freedom, and it was quite obvious that the organizers had taken a new grip in setting up the program.

- The repertoire and the artists performing were, to a large extent, tuned to an audience being more or less contemporary with our restored independence. The children of the Singing Revolution, including my own, have grown up and it was their night at Tallinn’s Lauluväljak this year.


- However, there were indeed people in the audience being parents to children born around the years of the Singing Revolution. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is one such parent, and Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, is another.

- It was midnight when Sinéad O'Connor finished her performance (can you imagine that it is 21 years since she got a hit with ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’!), and Iceland’s President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, entered the stage.

- On August 22nd, 1991, Iceland became the first country to recognize Estonia’s restored independence. President Grimsson was invited as a Guest of Honor, but also for proclaiming the opening of the Iceland Day, featuring Icelandic artists, music and exhibitions all over Tallinn.

- In addition to the 80th Måndagsmöte in Stockholm on August 15th, Estonia and Sweden had more 20 years anniversaries to celebrate together this August, concludes Kristiina Sikk. Sweden recognized Estonia’s restored independence on August 27th, 1991 and two days later, on August 29th, Sweden became the first country to open an Embassy in Estonia.

Twenty years

- Since I was born in Tallinn just a couple of weeks before Estonia restored its independence in 1991, I guess you can say that I am a child of the Singing Revolution, said Kaire Papp in an August 2011 talk with e-focus. So, I had two 20-years celebrations this summer; one for me and one for Estonia. As for my country, I think that August 20th not only marks an anniversary of our restored independence. It also marks a day of restored democracy in a free country being part of a more open Europe.

- I’m sharing my time between sales work for a French retail chain in Tallinn and volunteering for a network of international youth organizations. Called Together, this NGO promotes intercultural learning, international mobility and European citizenship based on youth participation with volunteers coming from all over the world.

- My volunteering for Together has given me the opportunity to meet many people in my own age from a lot of different countries. I also got the opportunity to take part in a project in Guatemala during a couple of months last autumn.

- One experience that I have gained so far is that independency and democracy doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand. Too many people in too many countries are experiencing living circumstances that are obviously very much alike what Estonia experienced during fifty years of occupation.

- And, on July 22nd in Oslo and on Utøya in Norway, it became clear that an old and well-established democracy in a peaceful country is in no way an insurance against terror attacks on the society’s fundamentals.

- In the midst of all the joy in the celebrations of Estonia’s restored independence and democracy, I think we should also remember that 70 years ago, the first wave of the occupant’s deportations and murders took place in Estonia.

- Obviously, independence and democracy doesn’t always come for free. And when established, both have to be cared for, developed and defended.

- At a memorial meeting in Oslo, July 26th, Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said something that I think is not only valid for the Norwegian people, concluded Kaire Papp. It is also valid for Estonia before I was born, and for all countries currently living under oppression and tyranny. This is what Mr Stoltenberg said: “Evil can kill individuals, but it can never defeat a whole people”.