President Toomas Hendrik Ilves outlined the most important long-term issues for Estonia, such as health, education and security in his speech to mark the 96th anniversary of Estonian independence.
Beginning with a reference to recent events in Ukraine, Ilves invited the audience to reflect soberly on the natural discontent within Estonia.
The president commended the increasing activism in Estonia and the fact that several pundits have made a move to politics, since already in the days of Aristotle, it became clear that people are “political animals," he said.
Assuring listeners that democracy in Estonia is not under threat, he highlighted the inability to carry out wide-ranging reforms as one of the biggest problems. The background to this constant state of postponement is the fact that the country goes to polls virtually every year, leading to a perpetual election campaign, where politicians underestimate the readiness for change.
According to Ilves, the three conditions of health, education and security are the three pillars which will ensure the survival of the Estonian language and nation.
The demographic situation is unlikely to change with an increase in the birth rate, as Estonian women will not return to the 19th century family model and raise the average number of children per family to four or five, the President said.
Faced with an aging population, mass immigration or prolonging people’s working life are the only viable solutions, and Ilves sees the latter as the best way to ensure Estonia’s survival, noting that putting off inevitable decisions with loans would be irresponsible.
Commenting on health, Ilves noted while life expectancy in Estonia has increased, it is still lower than that of the countries Estonia likes to compare itself to and the share of alcohol-related deaths is far too great.
Talking about education, the president predicted the world will soon be divided into two camps - those that can keep up with the development of technology and those that lag behind. Jobs will also become divided largely into two categories: low-paid jobs that a smart machine cannot do yet and high-paid positions filled with educated, creative and skilled employees the smart machines can’t do without, he said.
In terms of security, Ilves stressed the need to keep contributing to the defense budget and maintaining its NATO standing by being responsible allies.
He ended on a positive note, stressing that with adjustments to the ideas about work and health, the future should be bright for the flexible, educated and hard-working Estonians.