Prime Minister’s speech in Tartu: Nothing new, say observers
Political commentators agree that the speech of Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) in Tartu’s Vanemuine theatre on Tuesday covered everything that could be expected, and didn’t include anything surprising.
Rõivas’ predecessor Andrus Ansip (Reform) started the tradition of a prime ministerial speech the evening before Independence Day a few years ago. Rõivas continues this tradition.
He said in his speech on Tuesday that the education of Estonian children ranked with the best worldwide, that the Estonian business environment was considered one of Europe’s most attractive, that the state was well-defended and that it had more friends in the world than enemies.
Talking about the increasing popularity of the political right and the recent eruptions of conservatism in Estonia, Rõivas hinted that the success of reactionary elements such as the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) and Savisaar’s Center Party directly contributed to the destabilization of Estonia.
Talking about the economy, the Prime Minister laid out the idea that Estonia could become a new Nordic country and, in terms of wealth, could make it to the level of the likes of Sweden and Finland.
He criticized the negativity of the press, in particular in connection with the current state of the Estonian economy. To describe it, he used the catchphrase “pressimism”, alleging that the Estonian media outright refused to write about progress because some news were too good to report.
The label “Nordic” has become exceedingly popular in the past few years with businesses as well as politicians. This has created the impression that Estonia on the whole is obsessed with the idea of joining that particular club of countries, and is usually treated with a fair amount of mockery by political commentators. The reactions to Rõivas’ speech were no different this time.
Kaarel Tarand, the National Museum’s public relations director and a keen observer of the goings-on in Estonian politics, said to ERR’s Aktuaalne Kaamera newscast on Tuesday that of course it was clear that in the Prime Minister’s opinion, everything was going as well as it could go, and that only “a few stupid people” hadn’t understood yet how well everything was going.
“The speech with its 30-minute length isn’t a genre that fits our communication society at all,” Tarand opined. “It would really be enough for our modern society if our leaders just sent a short tweet, and left citizens plenty of time to be happy about their great country,” he added.
Rõivas said in his speech that the state would invest a full percent of Estonia’s GDP in the sciences. Toivo Maimets, professor at the University of Tartu, said that he was indeed glad to hear that, but also that he had expected to hear more about important issues.
“I’d like greater visions, to hear why we’re doing all this, why we want to become rich, why we want to be as wealthy as the Nordic countries,” Maimets said. “When you tell young people that you want to make it to the level of wealth of the Nordic countries, they say well fine, I’ll move to a Nordic country, that’s where it all is already. Why do I have to be here?”