Helir-Valdor Seeder: Isamaa program about survival of nation state

Isamaa held their party council on Saturday. January 21, 2023.
Isamaa held their party council on Saturday. January 21, 2023. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Speech by Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder at the party congress on January 21.

I am talking about Isamaa's [election] program because we're heading into elections, which constitute a graduation exam for any party. I am convinced Isamaa is well-prepared.

We have an excellent program for elections, and I would like to start by thanking all of you and those who have contributed. Efforts of people from within and without the party have gone into the program, including experts in many fields. The know-how in our program goes well beyond the experience of our members. It is a program for the whole of Estonia.

Isamaa's program is not a fairy tale or fiction. It is also not a vaguely worded convenience program where everyone is promised something, while activities and clear positions are avoided.

Isamaa's program is based on values and a patriotic worldview, sporting clear priorities. Our program looks to the future and includes bold and concrete proposals. Our program is practical. We treat with society as a whole. It is a plan for developing a patriotic Isamaa. A plan centered around and aimed at the survival of the nation state. That is the idea guiding all the chapters and priorities of our program.

First: National defense and security

This does not only include national defense spending that needs to be sufficient to develop vital capabilities post haste – more than 3 percent of GDP if necessary, and in the form of a national defense loan if necessary. Without first ensuring security, it is impossible to develop culture, education or the economy. This is made clear by Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

We will procure for Estonia coastal defense, indirect fire and artillery systems, short- and medium-range air defense. We will request at least one NATO brigade to be permanently stationed in Estonia. We will strengthen the Defense League, police and border guard, rescue, we will expedite the development of eastern border infrastructure.

We must also prioritize maximally broad-based civil defense and security – in terms of having shelters and raising awareness on how to conduct oneself in a crisis. We will strip Russian and Belarusian citizens of their right to vote in local elections. Ensuring national security requires our politicians and diplomats to wisely take initiative in international relations, maintaining allied unity and communicating the Russia threat.

Second: The longevity of the Estonian people, demographic situation, family policy

The laws of nature and logic tell us that without Estonians, there can be no Estonian people. No Estonian state. We take pride in being Ukraine's greatest supporters in this war. But for some reason, many Estonian politicians and parties are ashamed to be the biggest supporters of Estonian families. Isamaa is not. Policy to bring different generations together and support families with children all over Estonia has been a cornerstone of Isamaa politics since its founding.

We do not set families with one or two children in contrast to those with three or more. We will effect a family-based income tax reform that will add €5,000 to the basic exemption of families for each underage child. We will restore the spouses' joint income return and considerably hike parent's pension. We will hike the benefit for the first and second child to €100 a month to standardize child benefits.

Availability of kindergarten places, quality education, family-friendly public spaces, positive press and media attitudes, family-friendly conditions offered by local governments and employers, stable national family policy – all of it will lend families with children certainty and ensure the survival of the Estonian people.

In a situation were births are down to their lowest level in a century, we must give serious thought to what comes next. We need to admit that it is our greatest challenge next to security when even grim war years saw more children born than today.

Several parties prefer to keep quiet on the difficult demographic situation and steer clear of the topic in their programs. Isamaa cannot remain silent.

Third: Estonian spirit, education, language and culture. Estonians being themselves

Allow me to quote Anton Hansen Tammsaare from 1939: "If we really want to help ourselves, we must reinforce our inner conviction that our only true salvation lies in loyalty to our land, people, language, culture and peculiarity. Once we lose sight of this truth, no one can help us, as we will be so many grains of sand carried on the wind or smoke that dissolves in the airs."

Like smoke that dissolves in the airs... We must protect and develop the space of the Estonian language and its use in public. We will conclude the transition to teaching in Estonian in all kindergartens and schools the legal foundation of which was laid by the current coalition and following Isamaa's initiative. We will continue to develop free Estonian higher education, facilitate respectable pay for lecturers and ensure stable growth of education, including higher education, funding.

We will increase public funding for kindergarten and hobby school teachers' salaries and hike the minimum salary of teachers to 125 percent of the national average. We will pass necessary amendments to the Language Act, put together by the Ministry of Education and Research, that will lay down clear Estonian proficiency requirements for local governments and state agencies, also in service, next to ramping up supervision. We will require Estonian proficiency from local government council candidates.

Fourth: people's coping, developing a sustainable, environmentally friendly and competitive economy

Experience tells us that capital has a nationality and background after all. We must protect national interests and our people. This requires creating conditions where people can fend for themselves, supporting coping and the national economy. It means combating inflation and soaring energy prices. It is a matter of economic policy but also security.

We will invest and promote investments in energy security, developing various production capacity and improving supply security. We will retain investments in managed energy generation capacity until alternatives have been developed. We will fight for a sensible CO2 quota price, fair and transparent price formation on the electricity exchange.

We will change the universal electricity service price formation depending on whether the market or universal price is cheaper.

We will use EU and domestic resources to boost businesses' competitive ability and speed up infrastructure development. We will sue for equal conditions as part of the EU Common Agricultural Policy and protect valuable farmland. We will manage Estonia's national resources effectively and sparingly and keep the tax environment stable.

Life around us is changing rapidly. We must be flexible and able to react quickly to the changing world and its conditions. Isamaa's past policy has proven we are capable of keeping up.

Allow me to recall the 2015 elections during which no one realized it would be followed by the European migration crisis. Or how before the previous Riigikogu elections [in 2019] no one expected the energy crisis, such levels of inflation and Russia escalating its Ukraine aggression on this scale.

Isamaa has quickly reacted to all of these changes, whether as part of the coalition or opposition. Allow me to recall that all statements and decisions pertaining to Ukraine have been initiated by Isamaa members.

My dear fellow party members, Isamaa's program is bold and clear. My brief introduction was just a cursory overview of Isamaa's plans for developing Estonia. It is a good plan and program. But it will only benefit Estonia if we can make it happen. Isamaa has proven that we can. It takes our combined effort to bring our message and program to voters, people in Estonia.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the program. Initial feedback tells us that Isamaa's program is the best, compared to those already made public. This is also my understanding, and I cannot wait to get to work on it. I hope you feel the same.

Let us approve our program in the party council as it is what Estonia expects. There is just one Estonia. There is but one Isamaa (fatherland in Estonian – ed.).


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Editor: Kaupo Meiel, Marcus Turovski

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