Tiit Vähi: Russia offers great opportunities, but Estonia has built wall in relations with Moscow (6)

Businessman, politician and former prime minister Tiit Vähi at the Port of Sillamäe (Silport). (Mihkel Maripuu/Postimees/Scanpix)
By Jüri Nikolajev
5/24/2016 3:05 PM
Category: Business

Whether the solution to Ida-Viru County’s economic problems lay in repairing relations with Russia, i.e. whether or not the Estonian region could get by without the help of its eastern neighbor, was discussed at Narva Festival of Opinion Culture on Saturday, and former prime minister Tiit Vähi found that Estonia was wasting a huge economic opportunity in its eastern neighbor.

Current Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand confirmed that she would very much like to have good economic ties with Russia, however the economy was caught behind politics.

She found that the key to the development of better relations lay in Moscow, and if Russia was not interested in cooperation, then other opportunities must be sought in the Ida-Viru region, reported Estonian nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.”

“Yes, political relations [between Estonia and Russia] are not the best right now, but it won’t be of any help if we just keep stating this and not doing anything,” found Kaljurand. The minister found that if transit in this direction is lessening, alternatives must be considered, including opening other transit gateways and creating businesses, noting that there are opportunities to do so.

Kaljurand was opposed by Ida-Viru businessman Tiit Vähi, also a politician and former prime minister. In Vähi’s opinion, Ida-Viru County was rich in natural and human resources, however politicians have not yet understood to take advantage of the region’s favorable border location.

“Russia is our neighbor, who offers us great upportunities, but we have built a big wall [in our relations with Moscow] and this all actually inhibits the Estonian economy,” said the former prime minister. “The idea that all the keys [to better relations] lie in Russia — well, that is a very, very primitive and incorrect approach.” Vähi went on to use Finland as an example, who had strong defense capabilities, yet remained able to offer Russia good, neighborly relations.

Listeners attending the debate tended to side with Vähi. “I think that our politicians and our society as a whole have not yet reached the understanding that it is advantageous to live in peace with our eastern neighbors,” found Narva resident Vladimir Aleksejev.

The Estonian Government’s policies regarding Ida-Viru County were praised, however, with investments in the region’s industrial parks and educational establishments, as unemployment in the country’s northeasternmost county remains almost double the national average at over 12 percent.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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