Ilves Declares 2013 a Year of Focusing on Estonia at Home (2)

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves Photo: ERR
1/2/2013 7:46 AM
Category: Politics

The New Year's Eve address by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves discussed the country's maturation process and reprised past calls by the head of state to focus on building Estonia on the home front.

The theme of the first part of his eight-minute speech, broadcast nationally just before midnight, was "dissatisfaction leads to progress."

"The relationship between politics and money causes disgruntlement in every Western democracy. But the real time for concern is when the topic is no longer discussed for some reason," he said.

"Strikes, I have long said, are nothing more than a continuation of the collective bargaining talks by other - and it should be noted, completely legal - means."

Nor are public demonstrations by themselves shocking in a democracy, he added.

Ilves continued by expressing greater concern for the gloomy census data, released toward the end of the year.

Here, too, he strove to temper the news that the population shrank significantluy in the last 10 years. Exodus of workforce to countries with better wages is also a fact of life in many other countries, such as Sweden with respect to Norway, he noted.
"Of course we cannot accept this. Instead of reconciling ourselves to this, we must concentrate on improving life in Estonia.

"About 20 years ago, a Estonian living abroad complained to me: why are things done a certain way in Estonia, not as that person wanted. To which I replied that we in Estonia are in the business of creating an Estonia for the people who want to live here."

Noting that February 24 will mark the 95th anniversary of statehood and that a month later, the current era of independence will have lasted longer than the first era, Ilves concluded by calling on the nation "to focus on Estonia and people who want to live here."

"Differences will never disappear completely; life in the countryside and the city is different everywhere. But state institutions should not be concentrated in the capital. Roads and other infrastructure should see stronger development outside the capital. Electricity and other essentials should be more affordable in the countryside. People must sense that police and rescue services are close to them everywhere."
The speech drew favorable marks, according to ETV.
The former rector of the University of Tartu, Peeter Tulviste, said: "The President talked about the things in society that we want to be like and which people of my generation for instance have absolutely no experience," he said, citing the example of street demonstrations. "But we can't forever stick to the same approach, we have to at least understand the younger people," he said.

Professor Mihhail Lotman said one idea that stood out for him was that the government should not be centered in the capital.

Lotman mentioned his idea of four capitals for Estonia: one being the national capital and three regional centers of national importance - Narva, Tartu and Pärnu, all of which should have important institutions.   

Tulviste said education and Russia should have been mentioned by the president, while Lotman, who is not a supporter of the Charter 12 petition, said citizens had a responsibility just like politicians and that he was concerned about the fact that to him, the arguments and slogans generated by the demonstrators were not any better than those emanating from politicians.

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