Gunnar Hökmark, MEP, in Tallinn the 27th of January 2018 at the International Conference in Memory of Peeter Luksep at the National Library of Estonia
He who proved you can make a difference
– A speech in honour of a good friend and an outstanding activist for freedom
In all times of history and all over our world there has been, is and will be the most fundamental conflict on two different principles on how human societies shall be organised. One of them is by far the oldest, and also sadly to say, still the dominant. That’s the rule of might above right.
The other one, who has created miracles in human societies is the rule of right above might.
The first one is the most original one, and the most brutal one. You have a cow and I take it because I am stronger. We take you land because we are stronger. There is no fairness or freedom in societies like that, only the order based upon the chief, the boss, the king or the dictator. Everyone’s life is based upon the generosity, the tolerance or the civilisation characterising the leader.
The second rule belongs to the civilisations we have seen emerging through history. Societies based upon the rule of law, respect for the individual rights and properties. In these societies we have seen the most prosperous developments, civilisations, culture, music, literature, science and growth. Individuals making the most of our life’s.
Sometimes in history, or mostly, the rule of law has been guaranteed be someone with might, but still securing the rule of law and that right should be above right. The more stable rule of law, the more independent judiciary, the more stable societies, and more dynamic.
For Peeter Luksep this understanding was in his genes. Living in a small country, having his roots in another small country with a people suppressed by the strongest possible might, not accepting any freedoms and no fairness at all. For him the legality was the base for Estonian independence. The rule of law. In Estonia, Lativa as well as in Lithuania. The calls for freedom in Europe as well as in freedom.
A European vision and an understanding of the need for market economy and open society. He couldn’t accept anything else and couldn’t understand why anyone else should do it. That’s why he made a difference. In Sweden as well as in the fight for the independence of the Baltic states as well as for a united Europe. The idea that right should be above might. Freedom, fairness and the open society. Everything else was wrong.
Peeter was a good friend. Devoted to friends and family but also to the ideas of freedom. It was in his genes, as I said, to stand up for freedom, be it the freedom for Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia or the freedom of individuals.
Peeter was a believer in the free and open society and a partner to anyone who shared this belief and was willing to do something about it. He didn’t do it to be seen by others as a hero in the fight. He made sure that the fight went on and on, with new energy and oxygen, with new people and new challenges. And he took part in the fight just as much as anyone else.
Peeter was a man who proved the phrase “you can make a difference” true. His impact cannot be overestimated. Creating awareness and distributing knowledge, clarifying principles and ideas to others. Underlining the moral of freedom and rule of law, not only the efficiency of market economy.
He did this from the very beginning of his political activities. In school as a member of the Moderate School Youth, in the Moderate Youth and our national board, as an activist and a leader of Estonians in Sweden, as a professional business consultant at KREAB using his spare time for the struggle for freedom, in the Swedish Parliament and as a member of the Estonian Congress. Never did he surrender.
He was the one who told me the obvious but neglected fact that Tallinn, where we are today, was and is the closest capital to Stockholm. That was an eye-opener, just as it is an eye-opener that during the last part of 2017 Tallinn was one of the capitals of the European Union.
Peeter was the one who accompanied me to Estonia for the first time, in 1988 I think it was. We wanted to see the oil shale industry in Narva, and the environmental consequences. And it was easily arranged because Peeter knew everyone.
But our main aim was to meet with those who stood up for Estonian independence and freedom. And Peeter knew everyone. I met with Tune, Trivimi and Mart. We wanted to meet people of importance for the future Estonia, who were willing and able to take the lead, and we wanted to see how we could help. I don’t want to flatter us but were we not quite efficient in finding the right people?
Because you are for sure those who formed the modern and free Estonia. Understanding the need for the rule of law, the institutions of a free society and the importance of market economy for prosperity and freedom. You were essential in the formation of the modern Estonia, based upon the reinstatement of the independent Estonian state, and a European nation making Europe stronger.
A a part of our support to Baltic independence and the new Estonia, Peeter was crucial in setting up the Market Economy Center. I remember I rented an office to the Centre at the house of the communist controlled Construction Workers Union, paradoxical as that was.
MEC was aimed at giving lectures, education and high level discussions about the institutions of a free society, the need for independent judiciary and a state based upon the legitimate will of the people, market economy, individual freedom, private property, competition and Europe. Peeter succeeded in building up these activities not only in Stockholm but in all three Baltic states. Because he knew everyone.
And suddenly you changed everything. As soon as Estonia 1991 once again became a sovereign state you did all the things we had talked about, and made a real difference which was no longer just talk. And that started the journey of modern day Estonia.
In 1990 Peeter and I started the Monday movement. Suddenly people in Sweden saw what we had to do to stand up for our suppressed neighbours living behind the Iron Curtain. Thanks to Peeter the Monday movement meetings in Stockholm became a centre for contacts, information and news, from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to all over the world. Schools, orchestras, choirs, university people, writers, singers, scientists, politicians, independence activists and leaders. It was easy, because Peeter knew everyone.
And in the end, we gathered more and more people at every meeting. We were so many during the dramatic and dangerous days in January 1991. Tens of thousands came to Norrmalms torg. People from all over the Swedish society. Bishops, businessmen, parliamentarians, party leaders, journalists, generals, well more or less everyone. We sometimes felt like boys when we realised the impact of the movement. But we were happy that we could do something.
Peeter was never eager to take glory. Not because he was shy but because he was Peeter. He wanted to do things. To achieve things. And to do the right things.
Sometimes I think of him as a real Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Never afraid of Mordor. Never afraid of facing up to evil. Decisive in doing what had to be done, even if he more than anything wanted to meet with his friends and relatives in Estonia. Just as he met with his friends in Sweden, Estonians in Sweden or the rest of us.
Because he knew so many. He liked being Estonian, belonging to a small but brave people, and because of that he managed to be a Swede without being less Estonian. Like Frodo he understood that you can’t face Mordor on your own, but as an individual you must dare to do it. Not for glory, but for the sake of freedom.
He was devoted. He knew so many.
Never did he surrender. And in the end, as a result of his and so many others efforts, all the people he knew so well, the will for freedom was stronger than the occupational forces and the Soviet Union.
Now nearly 30 years later we can see the progress of the ideas that united so many of us. Freedom, market economy, individual rights and free nations. A global economy where poverty has been defeated year after year, with still many victories for prosperity to come, free and open trade, the believe in right above might. A united Europa, a peaceful development when the Soviet union imploded and the Iron Curtain became history. Not bad!
But we do also see the new dark clouds of a cartel of authoritarian leaders, eager to use their might above the right. Putin, Erdogan, the present leaders in Poland, Hungary and Romania, the extremists in France, Germany, Austria and the rising populism where identity becomes more important than individuals. Dividing and confronting instead of developing and cooperating. We need to be vigilante and we need to act in order to see that we once again can get freedom in the air, a new spring for democracy, individual rights and open societies where right is above might.
Peeter knew one thing very well. The courage of the Estonian people made it all. But I know another thing very well. Few people did so much from the world outside to contribute. He made a difference. We miss him a lot but we all know that it up to us all, each and every one, to make a difference. We must all be a Frodo. That’s our challenge today and in times to come.
Thanks Peeter, for being a good friend and an outstanding soldier for freedom.