In her first longer interview given to ETV's investigative journalism program "Pealtnäjgija" on Wednesday afternoon, presidential candidate Kersti Kaljulaid said that she pictured herself first and foremost as an empathetic president.
Kaljulaid had been approached about running for president at the beginning of the summer as well, however she decined the opportunity at the time. In her interview on "Pealtnägija," which aired on Wednesday night, she explained that she had declined at the time because she did not see evidence of a significant backing of support, and she had other work obligations elsewhere besides. She noted that her current candidacy was very unexpected for herself as well.
"I'm truly, honestly saying that I did not expect or want for it to play out this way and I still haven't quite gotten over the fact that the elections came back to the Riigikogu," said Kaljulaid, referring to the fact that both the Aug. 29 elections in the Riigikogu and the Sept. 24 elections in the electoral college failed to elect Estonia's next president. "Such a case is unprecedented in Estonia."
She noted that she only had a few hours to reach her decision. "I thought about the fact that this was the third time in my life where a situation arises in which I have to clarify why I believe that I can manage," said Kaljulaid. "When this happened the first time, my colleague at Hansapank told me to trust the people who made the proposal. Today I am doing just that — I trust the Riigikogu; I trust the Council of Elders."
Kaljulaid said that she hopes that those who proposed that she run for president, those that were there with her at yesterday's press conference, will also be her team. "Yesterday I said that I don't have a team, but today we sat there and I felt that we had a team after all," she said.
Responding to the program host's question regarding the biggest problem in Estonia today, Kaljulaid replied that that problem was apparently solved when she was asked [to run for president].
"That problem was solved now, I think, when we all sat down at one table — the Riigikogu's Council of Elders, parliamentary group leaders," explained Kaljulaid. "We are communicating among ourselves; I don't think that it is all a fairytale from here on out and has thus come to an end. I understand that things will and can only get much more complicated. I think that this isn't Estonia's problem, but rather an entirely general problem right now. Society hasn't actually adapted to the fact that everyone has information about everything and immediately and neither politicians and economy people nor regular people know how to cope with that."
People must learn to live in such an information society, said the candidate. "I think that this decade is such that all [instances of] dissatisfaction are very quickly magnified and all agreements, once they are reached, are forgotten and then it is said that there is no culture of cooperation, that nobody knows how to value each other's opinion. We all learn this together."
Asked what kind of head of state Estonia would get in her, Kaljulaid said that she would be an empathetic president.
"One who speaks with all of society's interest groups and who would never forget to put the vulnerable first," she continued. "The voices of those who tend to be less heard must be magnified in society — this is very important."
Understanding of societal issues begins with a common language
"Pealtnägija" also asked Kaljulaid a question asked of all preceding candidates — how can non-Estonian speakers living in Estonia be integrated into society?
The fresh presidential candidate looked to Luxembourg for her answer, citing the fact that Luxembourg was a country where, over just the past couple of decades, 100,000 people had left the country and been replaced by 200,000 newcomers.
"That country's population is around half a million [people]," she noted. "And during the same period, the number of speakers of Luxembourgish has increased substantially — by more than 20 percent. This has been accomplished because language courses are without question offered to everyone, for free, everywhere and all the time. The country's official language is accessible at all kindergartens and schools, which, by the way, doesn't mean at all that other languages aren't spoken there. The opposite [is the case] — it is an unbelievable [Tower of ]Babel] there."
Kaljulaid explained that the understanding of social issues began with a common language. "I hope that learning the Estonian language could be accessible to all in Estonia, regardless of whether they came here last year or have been here for quite some time already."
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla