Kristina Kallas: Estonian and Russian children must attend the same school

Estonia 200 council meeting on October 10, 2020.
Estonia 200 council meeting on October 10, 2020. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Kristina Kallas, who was reelected chairman of the Estonia 200 party on Saturday, says in an interview that local governments' education network plans should be revisited and Estonian and Russian-speaking children made to attend the same school.

Is Estonia 200 really so short on people that it only has a single chairman candidate?

That is not the problem at all. People trust me and I am very grateful for that trust. Let us be honest, two years is a very short time in which to get a brand-new party up and running. I am very grateful I was given another two years.

On the one hand, Estonia 200 has done brilliantly, while polls suggest the Social Democratic Party (SDE) is now overtaking you, especially among non-Estonian and female voters. What should Estonia 200 do to reinforce its place in Estonian politics?

We are safe today. We are trading places with SDE all the time and are largely on the same level.

Estonia 200 makes constant efforts. Considering that we are not in the parliament, hopes and expectations placed on us are great and we sincerely hope we can live up to them.

Which Estonian party do you have the most common ground with today?

I believe we have a lot in common with everyone as we are very pro-Estonian as are all the others – we are all working for Estonia.

What sets us apart, our focus is that we are the only political party in Estonia that really thinks ahead, that wants us to think beyond the next elections –  five, six and even ten years to the future.

We should think about the next generation. Do what today's 20-year-olds really want to do and look at the values they hold dear. We are the only party to address the new generation

What do you have in common with the Conservative People's Party (EKRE)?

We both feel that the political system in Estonia has seized and is in need of a refresh and a restart.

What we cannot accept is how, using which methods EKRE plan to go about doing that, because what we can see today is an Estonia broken. But we both realize that the Estonian party landscape needs a refresh.

Your party's next touchstone will be local elections in 2021. How will Estonia 200 convince voters in Kapa-Kohila or Lasnamäe that you are the best choice?

We are not represented in a single local council today. We address local matters on the level of the ordinary citizen. We are working on our program and have teams in a lot of local governments where we plan to run.

One topic of local elections is education. Estonia has a bilingual education system. What would Estonia 200 change in education? I imagine that this is a topic on which the votes of non-Estonians hinge?

Estonia does not have a bilingual education system but a parallel one where we put children in different schools based on their native tongue. We have been saying from the first that this practice creates rather than solves problems.

We believe that education network plans should be revisited for all local governments and children made to attend the same school.

Ida-Viru County serves as an exception here as it has virtually no Estonian schools and the ones it does have have been flooded with kids who do not speak Estonian as their first language.

Ida-Viru schools need a lot of resources to take their Estonian and Estonian-language tuition to the necessary level. That is something receiving no attention whatsoever today.

Parties usually talk about their strengths, but what is Estonia 200's greatest weakness?

I do not know. I don't think we have any. Everything still lies ahead for us. There is nothing we can look back upon and say we have lost it all. We haven't lost anything and can only gain going forward.

Estonian politics has seen several shooting stars come and go. What could save you from repeating the fate of the Estonian Greens or the Free Party?

We are very persistent and have told all our potential voters that we take it very seriously. We are not in Estonian politics to joke around.

The political situation in Estonia is worse than its been for some time. We are standing knee-deep in still waters where we fight among each other, thrash around aimlessly.

We do not know where we're headed in the long run, where we want to go, and it is the task of Estonia 200 to put Estonia back on a purposeful path. That is what we have promised our people and that is what we will do. We are not going anywhere.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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