During his visit to Estonia, the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, awarded Kersti Kaljulaid, a former president of Estonia, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Kaljulaid received Germany’s highest decoration from Steinmeier during a formal reception at the residence of the German ambassador, Annette Klein, on Wednesday.
In his speech, Steinmeier thanked the former president of Estonia for her dedicated service and outstanding achievements in Estonian-German relations and the advancement of German-Estonian cooperation in the fields of higher education, entrepreneurship and digitalisation.
“I am full of admiration for Estonians’ immense love of freedom, for their passion for the European cause. I am grateful for their reconciliation with my country, with the people of Germany and for how we have been able for some time now to work together to build a better Europe. During your time in office, you were tireless in your efforts to bring our countries even closer together. It is thanks to your work and dedication that exchange between Estonia and Germany, between businesses, universities, and also cultural institutions in our two countries, has become much more intensive,” he said.
The German president underscored the common position Germany and Estonia are taking vis-a-vis the Russian attack on Ukraine and in the NATO alliance.
“Germany, just like Estonia, remains firmly at Ukraine’s side. We are helping those who are under attack; we are helping the Ukrainians as they fight for their freedom and independence. Today, Germany is Ukraine’s largest supporter on the European continent, also in military terms. We are playing our part in collective defence. Together we are protecting Estonia, the Baltics and every square inch of alliance territory. For me, it is important to say to you again today in all clarity that Germany accepts its responsibility – within NATO and within Europe. Our allies, and indeed Estonia, can rely on this!” he said.
Dedicated her award to her grandmother
Kaljulaid thanked Steinmeier for his warm words.
“You served as the most important politician of Western Europe to understand and also even sometimes translate Eastern Europe, to keep us together during the years when we felt that maybe East and West are drifting apart. That is why Germany and the whole of Europe was better prepared when this Russian aggression towards Ukraine started,” she said.
“I dedicate this decoration received today to the memory of my own grandmother, who was arrested in 1947 by Russians on the streets of Tallinn, leaving behind a daughter. She didn’t live to see free Estonia and of course she didn´t live to see me getting this role as the friend of Germany, friend of president Steinmeier and president of the Republic of Estonia,” Kaljulaid added.
Kersti Kaljulaid served as the first female president of Estonia for one term, from 2016 until 2021. While president, she publicly opposed the coalition government formed by the Jüri Ratas-led Centre Party, populist Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), and Isamaa Party. Ratas would later oppose granting Kaljulaid a second term – and the coalition of the Centre Party and the Reform Party instead elected Alar Karis the Estonian president in 2021.
The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany was instituted in 1951. It is the only honor that may be awarded in all fields of endeavor and is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany for outstanding services to the nation.