We were deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. He was a great friend to Estonia, a dear long-time friend of President Lennart Meri, and a frequent and valued participant at ICDS’s annual Lennart Meri Conference. He will be very much missed.
Uffe was among those most welcome guests who set the tone of the Lennart Meri Conference (LMC). His sharp interventions—humorous, figurative, drawing from his personal experience, often quoting Danish poetry or philosophy, but always respectful towards his opponents—helped enormously in building the open and friendly atmosphere for which the conference has become known. He called himself an optimist and made the audience laugh even when discussing the heaviest issues, when it was hard to see light in the darkness.
He underlined repeatedly that the EU countries should come to their senses and agree on a common stance on energy policy to end their dependence on Russian energy. He was never ready to accept the argument that Russia should not be provoked, pointing out that NATO posed no threat to Russia’s security, only to the aims of those who want to dominate their neighbours.
He had a long list of wishes for the security of Mare Nostrum, many now realised. Sweden and Finland are on their way to joining NATO, and Denmark has abandoned its reservations regarding defence cooperation within the EU. He was also a strong advocate for wider European unity and argued that Europe needs German leadership if it is not to become a lost continent.
In 2018, at his last LMC, he warned that “creation of narratives can be used as excuses for acting the way you act”. He stressed that the narrative of Russia being cheated by the West in the end of the Cold war was simply not true. Even Mikhail Gorbachev had admitted in the Russian media that no promises were made. Uffe urged the audience to stand up against the use of history to create false narratives and excuse misbehaviour like the illegal annexation of Crimea. “This is the right weapon to use against the weaponisation of history,” he argued.
Uffe had a genuine interest and deep knowledge of the history of the three Baltic states. He first visited Estonia in September 1991, only a few days after Estonia had restored its independence. His friend, Lennart Meri, showed him Tallinn, a memory he loved to share. In 1997 President Lennart Meri awarded him the Cross of the Terra Mariana.
The Lennart Meri Conference team and the International Centre for Defence and Security offer our deepest condolences to Uffe Ellemann-Jensen’s family and friends.