Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has used her speech at Wednesday's "Europe Day" conference to explain how being both a good Estonian and a good European are far from mutually exclusive.
Speaking at the Energy Discovery Centre (Energia Avastuskeskus), a scientific museum in Tallinn, the President said that the more self-belief Estonians have in their Estonian-ness, the easier it is for them to feel European as well.
"Is this not the kind of Estonia we want?" she asked rhetorically. "One where the positive thoughts of our people will serve to improve the lives of people in Brussels, Vienna and Berlin, with the great ideas of people in those cities in turn enriching our lives here too," she went on in her speech, as quoted by the President's office.
A state of affairs where an Estonian is "a proud brand, not some poor relation living in the environs of Russia," Ms. Kaljulaid continued, highlighting the pride which Estonians can feel at the recognition and, to a large extent, support the country has enjoyed from its European partners in the 26 years since independence.
"Let us now exude some of the generosity that our European partners did in helping us to catch up. They did not have to do that," Kaljulaid said, adding that the European Union has not demanded any concessions from Estonia in matters important to it.
"We can feel more secure as Estonians than ever before. The more faith we have in ourselves, in being Estonian, the easier it is for us to feel European. One complements the other and there is no contradiction between the two," the president went on.
Ms. Kaljulaid also emphasized that being a European cannot be reduced to some sort of theroretical formula reflecting the financial support received from Europe, or the geographical location of the country.
"For the ordinary person, being European means a truly great freedom of choice in their everyday life or when realizing their dreams. These freedoms are of course noteworthy within the EU - but are undoubtedly even greater in the global space ... it is very easy for a European citizen to also become a world citizen," she said.
President Kaljulaid also pointed out the polarization of attitudes in Europe along an East-West divide, and stark differences on issues such as the relative openness of a society or the place of the rule of law as a basis for that society. These developments cannot fail to cause us to ponder on what is changing, what the future Europe will be like and whether it will suit people in Estonia more, or less, than the current one, she stated.
For this reason, the more all-encompassing concerns should be discussed in relation to the future of the Union and not merely budgetary goals or the scale of future EU subsidies and support.
"Simply banging one's fist on the table and demanding rights may garner one or two brownie points at home," Ms. Kaljulaid opined. "However an honest politicican must give it to the people straight, since building a more prosperous and secure Estonia tomorrow may require less appealing concessions today, concessions which may not seem on the surface to be 100 per cent compatible with Estonian national interests," she explained.
The full text of President Kaljulaid's speech (in Estonian) is available here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte