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Opinion digest: Kaja Kallas' speech to Reform Party delegates

Kaja Kallas, taking over from Hanno Pevkur.
Kaja Kallas, taking over from Hanno Pevkur. Source: Sander Koit/ERR

The Reform Party invested Kaja Kallas its new chairwoman on Saturday. According to long-time journalist and commentator Ainar Ruussaar, in her speech to the party delegates Kallas helped herself to ideas and rhetoric that is already several decades old, but also pointed to important current issues.

"The building of a smart and self-sufficient Estonia, that idea goes back to Tartu daily Edasi and September 1987," Ruussaar pointed out. After she previously added little more to her party's default platform over the past few months, Kallas outlined a direction for Reform in a speech to party delegates on Saturday.

"Her rhetoric differs slightly from that of 1987, 1988, 1989, and even 1990," Ruussaar said. "Today we depend on allies, on the security situation [in our region], on others. For their help, for EU support payments." Kallas pointed out that Estonia's time is running out to come up with ideas how to go on once European Union structural payments dry up.

Editor-in-chief of ERR's news channels, Anvar Samost, pointed out that a certain patriotism in Kallas' speech is a sign that the party won't concentrate on classically liberal values again, as it did in its founding years under the new chairwoman's father, former EU commissioner and now mayor of Viimsi, Siim Kallas.

In past elections, the Reform Party could rely on contrasting its own "pro-Estonian" course with the Center Party's perceived "pro-Russian" course. With then-chairman of the latter, Edgar Savisaar, who heavily relied on Estonia's Russian-speaking voters, the Reform Party had a perfect counterpoint to its own platform.

Since the Center Party ousted Savisaar in favor of Jüri Ratas, who shortly after became prime minister, the Reform Party has had difficulties setting new goals for Estonia, a fact that Siim Kallas pointed out in the very interview that started off his daughter on her way to the party chairmanship.

As Samost put it, the speech also fit the party's time of crisis. Indebted like never before, Reform will face certain difficulties in matters of state finance and running things effectively. Kallas was very clear about this point, calling on party members to donate more: not an absurd demand, considering that in 2016 a full 88 percent of the party's funding came from state subsidies, some 11 percent from donations, and just a single percent from its members.

With the parliamentary elections ahead in March next year, everything is still open. As Samost pointed out, if Kallas should manage to breathe new life into her party like Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) managed to do it with his own, the country could only benefit.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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