Prime minister speech: We're facing a new war of independence

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). Source: ERR

Estonia is facing another 'War of Independence' in its fight with the coronavirus, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said in her independence day speech, drawing parallels between the pandemic and both Estonia's early struggles for independence, and the fight for the restoration of independence 30 years ago.

Kallas used the traditional prime minister's independence day speech, delivered on the eve of the day itself – February 24 – to call on the Estonian nation to fight and overcome the pandemic in unison.

Speaking from the Stenbock House, seat of the government, in Tallinn, rather than the customary venue of Tartu, another result of coronavirus restrictions, Kallas said: "In a way, what we're going through right now is also a 'war of independence'. In this war, too, there are winners and losers. Both at the level of people, families, businesses and at the level of states."

Kallas was referring primarily to the pandemic, which can only effectively be exited from with a full vaccination program, she said. "Full recovery of normal life in Estonia first and foremost depends on how well we can organize the vaccination of our people.

The premier also highlighted the feasibility of transparent and honest policy-making in her presentation.

"I'm still enough of an idealist to believe in the possibility of honest and polite politics. Nothing is easy, however; nothing comes without disputes. That is how it has always been - with [19th century poet and journalist Johann Voldemar] Jannsen and [writer and politician Carl Robert] Jakobson, [interwar president Kontantin] Päts and [War of Independence military commander Aleksander ]Tõnisson..." she said.

Kallas also drew a line connecting the present with the period of the "Singing Revolution" of the late 1980s/early 1990s, which presaged Estonia's restoration of independence.

"Choices pertaining to Estonia regaining its independence were also disputed 30 years ago. I was a teenager at the time, but I, too, remember the exchanges between the Popular Front and the Citizens' Committees over how we should proceed. We've managed to proceed nonetheless. We've always tried to find a realistic way for the present between nostalgia for the past and a utopian future. New bridges have been built," Kallas said.

"The best gift for Estonia would be for us to halt the spread of the virus together, in doing so protecting our everyday freedoms. Let's celebrate Independence Day differently this time" Kallas concluded.

Readers with Estonia can watch the prime minister's entire speech by clicking on the video link below.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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