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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press encounter with H.E. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia [unofficial transcript]

Tallinn, Estonia, 15 November 2013

Tere päevast.

I thank His Excellency President Ilves and the Government and people of Estonia for their warm welcome and hospitality.

It is a great honour for me to visit Estonia for the first time as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The President and I had substantive discussions on various topics of mutual concern, just as the President had elaborated. I will be very brief; I will not repeat what he has said.

I welcomed the strong partnership between the United Nations and the Republic of Estonia and commended the President’s emphasis on the United Nations' critical role in addressing global challenges.

Twenty-two years ago, Estonia became a member of the United Nations.  In that short time, it has become an important and valued contributor to the Organization’s work.

I congratulated the President on Estonia’s election to the UN Human Rights Council this year.  This great achievement comes with great responsibility.

In just over two decades, Estonia has made a successful transition to a vibrant, prosperous and democratic society.

I count on Estonia to continue to uphold human rights at home, and protect and promote respect for human rights worldwide.

As a pioneer in information communications and technology, Estonia has become a leader in Internet freedom.

The country is also setting an example in using modern information communications technology to enhance development and governance.

This will be essential to our efforts to achieve sustainable development around the world.

Even though it may be a small State, Estonia has contributed meaningfully to addressing development needs and formulating the post-2015 development agenda.

The Republic of Estonia has also been an important and progressive force for democracy and opportunity in troubled areas.

The President and I discussed the situations in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere, as he has explained. In terms of Afghanistan's post-2014 situation, we discussed how the United Nations, and the international community, particularly the European Union, can provide the critical support that Afghanistan needs.

I commended the President for making the rebuilding of Afghanistan one of Estonia’s foreign policy priorities. 

I also encouraged President Ilves to continue to share the positive experiences of Estonia’s democratic transition with other countries in similar defining moments in their history.

The Baltic States are an inspiration to other countries around the world working to solidify democracy, peace and sustainable development.

We discussed about, as a part of sustainable development, I told him that I'm going to convene a special summit meeting on climate change in September next year and I have invited him to participate himself. And I am very much encouraged that I have received a positive answer from him. And I really count on Estonia's and also its President's and Government's continued commitment and leadership in meeting global challenges. We need strong support from Estonia.

Thank you very much for welcoming me to your country.

Tänan Teid.
Q: The European Union is looking to set new binding targets next year, possibly as early as March, on a 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030. Do you think that goal is sufficient?
SG: I have been counting on the leadership and initiative of the European Union. The European Union has been playing a global leadership [role] in both political and economic and social development, particularly in climate change. I understand that the European Union Commission is working to legislate so that they will be able to meet the target of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. That is most welcome and I highly commend. I have been urging the European Union to lead this campaign as a most important group of countries in meeting the expectations of the world in helping so that world leaders will be able to agree a global legal agreement by 2015. That is why I am going to convene a special summit meeting on climate change next year.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the Estonian Government has stated that Estonia might be interested in seeking one of… or taking a seat in the Security Council in the next few years. How would you see the chances of a country like Estonia in getting a successful bid and maybe you have some advice on where Estonia should focus?

SG: Estonia has already become a member of the Human Rights Council. Estonia is one of the shining examples of good governance and democracy and open society.  I know that the Estonian Government is aspiring to be elected as one of the non-permanent members of the Security Council in 2020.

I hope the Estonian Government and delegations in the United Nations will continue to gain support from Member States. As Secretary-General of the United Nations I am not in a position to tell you about the possibility of European election, but your country has a very good reputation, and if you continue to work with the Member States I am sure that you will be able to get favourable support. But it is the Member States that will have to decide.  Thank you.

Q: You haven’t been here for a long time, but based on what you have seen and heard, what do you think that such a small country like Estonia could teach the rest of the world, or what [inaudible] other countries could benefit?

SG: Estonia may be a small country in terms of size or population, but you should know that more than half of the UN Member States [are] small countries like Estonia; the United Nations is composed more of small countries than big countries.

I have been working very closely with members of what they call the Forum of Small States - FOSS – they are making a great contribution, and it is not only the number of votes but their political influence has been growing during the past 20 years. Though, as a small country, you are a member of the European Union – a most important regional group - you have such a broad part to reach out to others who are in need of support. You have a long and brilliant culture and history, of which you are very proud. So with all this capacity, you can play a very important contribution. That is why I am here. And I am asking the Estonian Government and people to work closely with the United Nations in meeting global challenges.  There are so many challenges which we are facing. It is not only regional conflicts - [that] you see in Syria, Afghanistan or DRC and elsewhere - but there are much more important global agenda - development agenda - so that people can live without any fear of poverty. People can live with human dignity. That is our common goal and objective. I am inviting and urging the Estonian Government to do even more. We are very much grateful for your contribution.  Thank you.