In Independence Day address, Ratas encourages listening, common ground

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas delivering his Independence Day speech at the Estonian National Museum (ERM) in Tartu on Friday. 22 February 2019.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas delivering his Independence Day speech at the Estonian National Museum (ERM) in Tartu on Friday. 22 February 2019. Source: Government Office

In his annual Independence Day speech delivered at a reception at the Estonian National Museum (ERM) in Tartu, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) encouraged the people of Estonia to listen to one another, focus on common ground, and be willing to compromise.

Estonian society could benefit from its people listening, understanding, and respecting one another while engaging in dialogue, even if it turns into an argument, Mr Ratas stressed.

"We need to stop manipulating the facts as well as producing and spreading fake news," he said. "Let us be willing to find compromises and acknowledge the fact that retreating from radical positions would benefit society as a whole."

Politicians, he continued, should focus more on what unites rather than what separates the people of Estonia, as separation is only one small step away from fundamental opposition.

"Yes, we could exclude all values that are unsuitable to our culture and eliminate all kinds of different ideas, but nobody should be dismissed entirely," the prime minister said. "I am truly saddened by attempts to scare people, threats and even attacks that I keep seeing."

He did not, however, find bitterness to be rooted in well/being, but rather in the fractures that exist in Estonian society.

"The easy way out is to hope for simple and radical solutions," he said. "But as everyone knows, there are no black-and-white answers to complicated questions."

The prime minister stressed that he understands the worry of many Estonians. "Unfortunately, we are in a situation in which benefits accessible to some do not reach others," he said. "When people feel left out, they tend not to hear the voice of reason." Greater balance and mutual understanding are necessary, he added.

Free Estonia only possible with sacrifice, help

Estonia will never forget the states and nations that contributed to Estonia's independence or the heroes of the Estonian War of Independence, their families, and their next-of-kin.

"The ideal of a free Estonian state only became a reality due to the efforts of hundreds of thousands of Estonians and all of our friends and allies," Mr Ratas stressed.

Estonia's grand celebrations of  the anniversary of the republic is meant to express appreciation for the nation and the state's story of origin, as well as show respect toward the tens of thousands who fought in the Estonian War of Independence, including the 5,000 who died in service, he explained.

"We also do it to show our gratitude to the 3,700 Finnish volunteers as well as commemorate the 150 fallen who sacrificed their lives on Estonian soil in the name of Finland's honour and Estonians' freedom," he added. "We also celebrated in December the centenary of the arrival of British troops in Estonia, which proved pivotal int he course of the War of Independence."

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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