Estonian PM Rõivas appears on "The Daily Show" in US (11)

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. (The Daily Show)
3/23/2016 3:21 PM
Category: News

During his current visit to the United States, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas appeared on the popular American talk show “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” on Tuesday night, and subjects of discussion included “e-Estonia”, Cuba, and the refugee crisis in Europe.

Rõivas, appearing on the cable network late-night talk show at 11 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, explained to host Trevor Noah that, in contrast to the United States, where having government services transition online is often regarded as being prohibitively expensive, the Estonian government started transitioning online during the early 2000s, precisely at a time when neither the country nor its citizens had much money. They found that their push to cut out wasteful bureaucracy actually helped both people and government institutions to skip a number of steps in many bureaucratic processes, saving money otherwise spent on such things as staffing unneeded back offices, data entry, and unnecessary paperwork.

The prime minister noted that wifi was everywhere in the country, internet access had legally been regarded as a human right in Estonia since the year 2000, and because so many governmental services were available online — including the ability to vote online since the 2005 elections — he himself was able to file his taxes this year while sitting at Luxembourg Airport. When host Trevor Noah asked if he had heard correctly that filing your taxes online in Estonia takes just five minutes, Rõivas corrected, “Well, it used to be. Now we upgraded the system and it’s three minutes on average.”

Asked about his opinions regarding ties being reestablished between the US and Cuba, and the latter country's future, Rõivas noted that he was an “eternal optimist” and thought that if Cuba were to take the path of democracy and a market economy, everyone would be better off. “I actually think Cuba doesn’t have a choice,” Rõivas went on, “Because an autocratic regime and planned economy simply don’t work — at least not in a sustainable way.”

Rõivas noted that Cuba’s new access to the internet should help the island country along the path toward democracy, comparing it to the significant roles that Finnish television and the American radio broadcast “Voice of America” played in allowing for Soviet-occupied Estonia to access unbiased information from the free side of the Iron Curtain.

Rõivas: Refugees should not be blamed for terrorism

As the Belgian city of Brussels had been hit by twin terrorist attacks the morning of his scheduled appearance on the talk show, host Trevor Noah asked how the prime minister “grappled” with decisions he as a European leader had to make regarding the current refugee crisis in Europe, issues with security, and preventing terror, especially given the fact that those claiming responsibility for various recent attacks in Europe have been claiming to be utilizing the crisis as an opportunity to stage them.

“First of all, I think that all of those people running from war and terror — who are refugees — should not be blamed for those who are the terrorists,” Rõivas responded, his statement met with an extended round of cheers and applause from the audience. “Of course the terrorists want us to be afraid,” he continued. “They want us to build walls between European countries. They want us to close the Schengen Area. But if we do that, they have won.”

Rõivas went on to say that Europe and the United States must stay united, work together, and “keep saying that we’re not afraid—we simply are not surrendering to terror.”

Estonian Prime Minister is currently visiting the United States, where he has already met with technology, defense industry, and venture capital firms in Boston, given a guest lecture at Harvard University on security and e-government, and met with Paul Ryan, the current Speaker of the US House of Representatives in Washington this week.

"The Daily Show" is an American late-night cable network talk show and news satire program which rose to prominence under its previous host, Jon Stewart, and has been hosted since last year by Trevor Noah. It has a daily viewership of nearly one million.

Rõivas' interview with Trevor Noah can be viewed on Comedy Central's website here.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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