In a diplomatic whirlwind tour of Canada, Estonian President Toomas Henrik Ilves landed in the Toronto Estonian House, on Tuesday May 27th, before finishing in Ottawa at the Baltic Evening At Parliament Hill. The "Evening On The Hill" is held on the west block and members of both the commons and upper house, of all parties will be present. There was also a reception the next day in honour of the President at the Ottawa Hunt Club.
At Estonian House it was a partisan crowd wanting to hear every word from a sort of local boy now a man who had become the most successful an Estonian can ever become. Since President Ilves, who grew up in New Jersey, had attended summer camp at Jõekääru, an hour away from Toronto, that made him one of us.
He mentioned that when he speaks with most people that are not Estonians, the first thing they ask about is the relationship with Russia. Ilves suggested that the way to look is to Brussels, Belgium, headquarters of the European Union (EU). He said how, with the benefit of the EU Ireland went from a have not country to a success story.
Ilves informed us that Estonia was now thirty times in wealth than it was when it became re-independent seventeen years ago. Estonia is no longer a location for cheap labour and has had to make changes in its economy and outlook. Now the companies with a future are ones like Skype. In 1992, the first year that Estonia was independent its GNP was 733 per person, in 2007 it was 23,333.
The results of a strong economy, Ilves said, is that people have more free time to read, there is a vibrant film scene, and people are having more children who are receiving a better education.
Another question Ilves is asked is what will happen when Estonia's growth will not be as high as it has been in the past. His answer was when he read a Canadian newspaper, it prophesied the same thing in this country.
Ilves said that if we want help from our NATO allies we need to also be available when they require it from us and we should do so without any conditions, not like some who will only fire if fired on or those who will only engage in reconstruction work.
Ilves was presented with the Estonian Central Council In Canada’s – EKN - highest grade of the medal of merit, the gold medal, to thunderous applause. There were other medals presented as well, from Estonia, by chargé d'affaires of the Estonian Legation, Rasmus Lumi, and a plaque for Estonian House.
A packed Estonian House welcomes back Estonian President Toomas Henrik Ilves (5)