President Kersti Kaljulaid gave a speech ahead of the swearing in of the new Reform Party/Center Party coalition Tuesday morning.
ERR News publishes Kaljulaid's speech in its entirety below:
The sun has just risen and Estonia gains a new government today. Two weeks is not a long time to form a coalition. However, we have not been given time, as every day brings news of people who have succumbed to the virus. Every day makes it harder for many companies to survive; every day our children want to go to school, the elderly to communicate with their loved ones and people to get back to their daily routine, which they are already starting to forget.
As such, I thank the politicians from the Reform Party and the Center Party for reaching such a quick solution. I also thank Jüri Ratas and the previous government, and all of the former governments of the Republic of Estonia. Every single one of them has contributed to the development of Estonia and shaped it according to their intent and skills. We also owe to our former governments the fact that we are able to spend quite a lot in this crisis, and even take out loans.
The circumstances that led to the government crisis shall inevitably follow the new government into office. This is your opportunity to right wrongs. We all know that corruption is the greatest hindrance to development, because entrepreneurs and honest individuals who play fair have no chance in corrupt cities and countries. They give in, take their business elsewhere and make way for those who know how to nurture the system and be nurtured by it in turn.
One of the main tasks of this government must be to show in the next two years that the honest and transparent funding of parties is possible. The steps taken must be substantial and significant. We are building a free country, not a country whose hands are tied for the benefit of entrepreneurs. People have to regain the confidence that this is indeed the case.
First and foremost, the people of Estonia expect the new government to focus on containing the virus and ending the crisis so that our grandmothers and grandfathers no longer die from coronavirus. Above all, this depends on how quickly we can get a sufficient proportion of our population vaccinated.
Our tourism sector and the related economy are in a dire state and await clear, effective solutions in order to get back on their feet once the virus curve flattens out. Many other sectors have been impacted as well, from the creative industry and farmers and to industries whose supply chains have been ravaged by the crisis. Solutions may not always come in the form of financial assistance but as legislative moves or diplomatic efforts. All of these tools are in the hands of the government.
Nevertheless, in addition to the coronavirus crisis and the economic upheaval it has caused, the government faces many urgent, albeit future-oriented challenges. The Estonian e-state requires investment to ensure that e-services continue to be accessible and their use secure. Estonia must protect its role as the leading shaper of the digital society; the export potential of our start-ups is limitless. They and their creations – especially AI applications – require a permissive legal space and a data-mining mode suitable for learning, of a kind that our partners and competitors do not yet have. This is crucial in order to remain a few steps ahead of everyone else.
A permissive legal space is also needed for the transition to the green economy, which the government has promised to tackle. We must be quick and smart in our actions because as the market becomes saturated, new investments become riskier and we are threatened by long-term energy dependency.
Estonia's regional development is extremely uneven. Listen to our local governments and the people working in them, and trust in them to decide on matters concerning their districts and regions. I hope that local governments will be afforded an independent and broader income base.
And, most importantly, nothing will protect the Estonian language, culture and customs more effectively than ending the segregation of children within the education system.
In addition to making things right in Estonia, we also need to put our foreign affairs in order. Our international relations are our safety net, but in recent years this net has become increasingly threadbare. Re-establishing confidence among our partners and allies, showing that we do belong in the same European value space, requires more work than destroying a reputation. However, it is vital.
Lastly, my wish is that in the future, all stakeholders, NGOs, business people, business associations and other organizations in Estonia feel that they no longer have to remain tight-lipped for fear of being denied crisis measures or some other proverbial back-scratching. This is why I do not want a government that goes uncriticised for 100 days; on the contrary, I invite everyone to offer constructive criticism. Everyone must have the chance to express their opinion honestly and politely without fear of the government taking offense. I believe that this government will listen to and trust the people of Estonia, regardless of whether they voted for them or whether their sympathies lie with the opposition. This government must be a government for all people in Estonia. The 70 votes of confidence at the Riigikogu speak to this.
Members of the new government, you are taking office at a time when the horizon – which is to say the next parliamentary elections – is still two years away. This is approximately how long our governments last, on average. Therefore, you are no caretaker or transitional government, nor are you a government whose sole purpose is to contain the coronavirus crisis. I wish the government as a whole and each of its ministers in their areas of government a wealth of ambition. Estonia is a story of success. Go forth and write its next chapter.
Editor: Roberta Vaino