Siim Kallas announces presidential candidacy (4)
Siim Kallas, former vice president of the European Commission and honorary chairman of the ruling Reform Party, has announced his intention to run for president.
Kallas held a speech on Saturday in which he officially announced his bid for the presidency.
“I am prepared for this challenge and ready to participate in this process,” Kallas said.
Kallas had said earlier that he expected the speech to trigger public debate on the present situation in Estonia and worldwide. He said he would like to influence Estonian politics for the better, and to make Estonia a good place to live 25 years from now.
A poll published on Friday showed that Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand (independent) was backed by 27% of respondents, which was 4% less than in a poll last month. Support for Kallas, on the other hand, increased by 4% to 14%.
In his speech, Kallas expressed worry that there could be political parties in the future that would operate based on language and ethnicity. He pointed out that it was possible that a party could rise based on Russian identity, and warned that such developments would have serious consequences if they led to conflicts.
Kallas called it the trauma of Estonians that 600,000 immigrants were brought here by the USSR against the wishes of the Estonian people. If the country didn’t want to encapsulate itself, this would mean immigration as well as emigration, Kallas said.
Politics had to support the growth of the Estonian population, he added, and pointed out that it wouldn’t do to regulate immigration. Temporary residents wouldn’t bring the growth the country needed, hence the key was in the country’s citizenship policy. This again couldn’t be built on notions of loyalty and language. Nobody had the moral right to discriminate between citizens - whoever is an Estonian citizen is an Estonian.
Kallas also said that work needed to be done to improve the standing of the political parties with the population. The country should be run and important matters decided by those ready to take on responsibility, not those who shy away from it, he said. Society needed to support these people, among others the country’s teachers, doctors, police officers, and many more.
The president could take on the role of mediator and bring different forces together, Kallas said, pointing out that a lot of decisions in Estonia were made based on consensus, and that the president could get people to work together.
About Russia, Kallas pointed out that its behavior tended to get less predictable the more Russia felt threatened. Its window to the Baltic Sea was closed, Kallas said, and Estonia hadn’t been the reason for it. On the contrary, Estonia could be this window, under the condition of course that it would remain free and independent.
Kallas added that the Estonian-Russian border treaty important was important for the country’s security despite the fact that politicians here had been avoiding the topic.
Talking about NATO, Kallas said that the United States was Estonia’s most important ally, and that the country couldn’t be a problem for the alliance, but always needed to be part of the solution.
The weakening of the European Union would bring along rising interest in bilateral agreements, which was a situation Russia had been working to foster ever since the EU was founded, Kallas said.
Talking about the EU’s situation and the current migration crisis, Kallas made clear that he sees Europe caught in the dilemma of having to defend human rights as well as its security. The most basic human right, Kallas said, was the right to life - the right to survive, and not get killed by some fanatic.
Kallas sees a need to reduce the state’s role in the Estonian economy. He said that wherever the state got involved, it inevitably led to corruption and bureaucracy. In Estonia, the share of the private sector and private entrepreneurship needed to increase.
What brought Estonia ahead was the ability of its people to start new things, and their activity. Kallas also brought up education, saying that the flexibility of the Estonian education system was one of the key factors in the country’s future development.
About his candidacy, Kallas said that he hoped that now others would declare their intentions as well, and that a public debate could begin.