President Kaljulaid: EU has many competitive advantages for the future

President Kersti Kaljulaid speaking at the École Nationale d'Administration conference on Wednesday.
President Kersti Kaljulaid speaking at the École Nationale d'Administration conference on Wednesday. Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia.

President Kersti Kaljulaid was in Paris on Wednesday, speaking at a conference organised by France's senior public sector officials' school the École Nationale d'Administration (ÉNA). Ms Kaljulaid is the current patron of the senior managers' upgrade course at the ÉNA.

The president focussed on the ability of the European Union to conclude major political agreements with other regions, which should give a competitive edge for the union both in the fight against climate change and in the digitisation of societies, in her view.

''Switching to clean energy is not a job for the individual nor for individual countries - it must be a priority in the European Union as a whole,'' Ms Kaljulaid said in her presentation, addressing her audience in French.

''Let's imagine that we spend about €200 billion a year in Europe on developing green energy production and long interconnections'', President Kaljulaid said, adding that no other body could make agreements so rapidly.

Such a development would give the EU a great competitive advantage in this spehere, she said.

"The sale of solutions we find in this way will also provide us with economic success in the long run,'' she added.

Importance of compassion

In the future, societies will be free from routine and boring technical work thanks to rapidly evolving technology, but people also need to consider how to be a compassionate person - a skill in which people excel and which no machine or tech can replace, President Kaljulaid said. Compared with all the other first world regions, Europe is notably oriented and founded on principles of human compassion, she added.

"We can see how our middle classes feel there is a lack of compassion in society. Yes, these people do not go without essentials, and have access to a wide range of social services which ensure their basic needs are met, but they still feel discontented, because they are not listened to, not valued enough ‒ they have no place in politicians' speeches,'' the president said.

It is important that we provide good education and health care as a society, which does not depend on people's income, she said, noting that people need compassion more than new gadgets.

Nevertheless, she said, the EU has plenty of advantages in preparing societies for technological change, and has even created a Europe which could save the planet.

"Making a decision in the EU can be a painful process, but nonetheless, our union can usually do it, especially if the situation requires it. The situation right now requires this, believe me," she continued.

Kersti Kaljulaid is patron of this year's annual senior management training course at the ÉNA. Former patrons include EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, European Council President Herman van Rompuy, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

Ms Kaljulaid is also meeting with Louise Mushikiwabo, the new Secretary General of French-language organisation OIF, to discuss in plans for the organisation's digital strategy and Estonia's opportunities to share its experiences.

The full text of President Kaljulaid's speech to the ÉNA (in Estonian) is here.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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