Kaja Kallas: We are to be led into backslide under stagnation government

Kaja Kallas at the Riigikogu on Monday. 15 April 2019.
Kaja Kallas at the Riigikogu on Monday. 15 April 2019. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Estonian society isn't ready. We still have a lot left to do. But we are now going to be led by a government of stagnation. So it has been said in recent weeks by all experts speaking out, from entrepreneurship and education to the social sphere and civil society. We have a standstill ahead of us. What's more, on very many issues we have a backslide ahead of us, said candidate for prime minister Kaja Kallas in a speech to the Riigikogu on Monday.

I will not become prime minister today. We all know that. This is the point where I could wrap it up, congratulate the coalition and take my seat in the fourth row and keep my mouth shut going forward — remain silent. But I'm not going to do that. No one from our party or the Social Democrats (SDE) is going to do that. And we all know — we have seen and heard in recent weeks — that throughout the country there are thousands of others who have decided not to remain silent.

People won't be silent anymore

The new coalition may convince itself that people have given speeches, taken part in protests, written articles and organised processions at the instigation of the Reform Party and the "deep state."

You can be so patronising as to call the peaceful demonstrations of your country's people hysteria. You can be so scared that you react to all kinds of different expressions of opinions with threats, and talk about closedowns and dry parties. You can behave this way because liberal democracy allows such behaviour alongside the good. But that does not mean that people's aversion will disappear. That does not mean that people will remain silent going forward. Because they won't.

As in recent years, so in recent weeks have I met with different people, voters of various parties across Estonia. These were not high-level meetings. Often the evening would begin with someone angry standing up and giving an angry, accusatory speech.

After that, everyone else got angry as well. People in the halls of community centres were at once anxious, shouting, and even screaming, because someone had started off showing that you could. That in this room, you can shout, you can point fingers, you can sow hatred and contempt. Something similar has happened in our state as well. Someone has said that policy is made in Estonia using threats, hate and lies — and that is exactly how it is done now. And what's wrong with this? That is how one rises to power nowadays — as though "power" were not a means, but the end. For some of the people in this hall, maybe it is.

But not all meetings were like this. There have been many get-togethers where the questions are sharp, the topics troubled, but the questions are asked calmly and respectfully. And all those meetings that I described before likewise calmed down at one point, because first of all, they were responded to calmly, and second, not everyone in the room went along with such behaviour.

These meetings made it clear to me once more that while powers whose strategy is hate and lies were among those who were successful in the elections, they were voted for due to discontentment. That is something for all of us to consider — including the Reform Party. Including me. I agree with what has been said by President Kersti Kaljulaid and several other experts, that the people  in our country have real concerns, and these need to be resolved not with evil, hate and bans, but with real actions.

We may all talk, but few are capable of actually doing something as well. As Viljandi County Entrepreneur of the Year Meelis Venno said when he heard about the new coalition's plans: "If someone starts talking that crazy, then they have ended up very far removed from real life indeed."

Estonian society isn't ready. We still have a lot left to do. But we are now going to be led by a government of stagnation. So it has been said in recent weeks by all experts speaking out, from entrepreneurship and education to the social sphere and civil society. We have a standstill ahead of us.

What's more, on very many issues we have a backslide ahead of us. We are located next to the developed, wealthy and innovative Nordic countries, and their example has encouraged us. At the same time, one of the biggest secrets of their success has been the equality of men and women in their society. And they fully utilise the potential of all of their smaller societies.

What are you afraid of?

The men of the new coalition are experts in little, but believe themselves to be experts in being women, for example. This is why they order us to have more and more children, without once asking when a woman would like to have children. I will tell you, men who weren't even capable of looking me in the eye during talks: a woman wants children when she is happy and when she is convinced that her children will also be happy and grow up in a safe family and a benevolent society. Of course we need happy men as well, but I am arguing that Estonian society today does not take women into account — certainly not enough.

Everywhere throughout Estonia I see self-confident and hardworking men, but also amazing, inspirational and intelligent women, who are the backbone of community life, doctors, teachers, librarians, cafe owners, competent leaders. They are shining people. But for some reason, they are not fit for the government. Women are not even fit to sit at the table when gentlemen discuss issues involving women's bodies. To the government of stagnation, a woman is just a birth machine. We live in the 21st Century; what century are you living in? Various studies have shown that societies where women are more involved in governing, and where women are taken into account, are better balanced and less violent. Why don't we want this? What are you afraid of?

You are afraid of change. You aren't going to change anything, and you aren't even hiding it. But Estonia needs reforms. Wage increases, the development of entrepreneurship, the labour shortage, the increasing of competitiveness, keeping up with developments in the global economy, the environment, the development of a smart economic model, a modern education system — these are just some of the challenges about which entrepreneurs and civil servants, analysts and executives have spoken with me.

These are problems that require solutions, but which you are not offering. Instead, you talk about spending and loaning and this in a situation in which the state's financial situation is poor — and I won't even begin to ask how your ideas of an entirely independent Estonia and debt slavery are supposed to go together.

The next major issue — education. Estonia provides an incredible education. We have been flexible in taking into account changes taking place in the world and renewed needs. My discussions with school directors and teachers have given me perhaps the biggest boost in hope for the future, as they are dedicated, passionate and think in the long term.

But they have also said that it is important that an incredible education is provided to all who live in Estonia, regardless of the language one speaks at home. We know very well that Estonia is too small of a country to be capable of maintaining two equal education systems, as those not learning in Estonian are those who suffer as a result. This is educational inequality, and it is the state's duty to address this, as it is damaging to society. But you will not address it.

Climate change

Another issue that you likewise aren't discussing is climate change. In recent years I have met with many cool young people of Estonia, and the main topic of our discussions were not excise duties or four-lane highways, but rather the climate and a reduced ecological footprint.

Young people have understood that climate change is not awaiting us int he distant future, but is already here. Your government, however, will include a party which, in addition to a slew of other facts, denies climate change. Every other issue we discuss in connection to Estonia's future is rendered pointless if climate change calls our existence on this planet into question.

Some may think that nothing depends on little Estonia, but if everyone were to think that way, ultimately nothing will change. With the help of innovative technological solutions and conscious, consistent action, Estonia could become the cleanest and least polluting country in Europe. Just as we once became Europe's most digital country. We want to live in such an Estonia.

You have all read the document outlining our values, which we published at the weekend. Understandably it isn't a coalition agreement, but rather values and principles based upon which our government would act. Our and your task before this state and its people is not a new coalition at any cost, but rather a better future. We were not all voted here to simply press the green button, but rather to think, listen and take responsibility. Before our voters, our children, and our state.

And that is precisely why, here today, I am asking you who have already signed the coalition agreement: where is your plan? Where is the agreement that addresses the worries, fears and dissatisfaction of those who voted for you? Where are the goals, solutions, plans of action that would at least attempt to solve problems and give people hope?

You have let your voters down. Your voters who counted on you have on day one already been left alone with their fears and the uncertainty that had them voting for you. We have four years of absolutely nothing ahead of us. Your meaningless coalition agreement does not inspire good humour in anyone — in anyone except yourselves, because you are in power.

Much has been done in the name of this power — lies have been told, principles have been thrown away, previously made statements have been thrown away. Even significant portions of voters have been thrown away. People have been bought using sweet jobs, comfortable chairs and top-floor offices. But not everyone.

I know there are many among you who are not satisfied with what is going on. I know that they have turned down perks that have been offered to them due to their clean consciences and ideals. There are even those who have quit their party, as the person's own principles would not allow them to salute the party's mainstream. This demands courage — a great deal of courage.

Politics is cooperation for the greater good

"You just gotta be yourself," a first-time MP recently said. I wish them strength. As their first touchstone won't be in six months' or two years' time; it will be today, and in the coming days. You will have to answer now already about whether you remained yourself.

It is said sometimes that what is going on right now is politics — one must obey party orders, even if they go against one's own personal conscience as well as the trust of one's voters. I don't agree with that — that isn't politics. Politics is working together for the greater good, and this cannot be accomplished if day one begins with betraying oneself as well as one's voters.

I am only asking one thing: during that moment when you reach out to push the red button to vote me out, and, in the next few days, reach for the green button to approve the Centre-EKRE-Isamaa coalition, wait a few seconds and think, just think for a moment — did you come here in the name of this?

Is this what will make Estonia better? Is this what those thousands who trusted you to represent them wanted? Will you wake up tomorrow and be proud of yourself? Will your children be proud of you in the future? Look your children in the eye in your minds for a moment and ask whether their world will be a better place thanks to you. If you can answer "yes" to all of the above, then all is well — press the button.

But if you doubt, if you believe that this is not actually what your voters or your children or, deep down in your heart, you yourself want, then know that your decision is not inevitable. We are a free country, and you are a free person. Your decision is a choice. Your choice. And some other choice is always possible. Just take a moment and ask yourself all of that. Because even asking has become a rarity in this country, as it requires two things — a conscience, and courage.

Dear voters across Estonia. I want to confirm to you that Estonia still remains a democratic country. The new coalition may be accused of a lack of substance, but it is democratic. And please do not accuse the voters of the new coalition of anything. Their vote must be heard, their needs must be met, and their concerns answered — do not silence or label them.

There is still a lot to be done in our country, and although our new coalition is indifferent to this need, many people feel marginalised. This is real, and addressing these concerns must likewise be real. Then we will have hope. Because we do have hope.

Estonia remains ours

We still have our Estonia. Nobody ha taken it away from us, nor will they in the future, because we still have our people. We still have you — officials in all of our ministries and public authorities — you, who sustain the continuity of the Estonian state.

You, who work every day with the needs of our people. The majority of the people in this hall have heard about your fears and about how many of you want to resign. I beg of you — please don't leave. Work — in the name of our Estonia. Yes, I beg of you — please don't fear. We still have you, doctors, who are dedicated to your work. Hang in there when you are called murderers.

We still have you, teachers, upon whom the future of this state is more dependent than anyone else. Stay true to yourselves when you are called agents of the deep state. Don't be afraid. We also still have our entrepreneurs, whose activity not only fills our state coffers, but who also employ thousands of people. I beg of you as well — keep going, and don't be afraid; your hep will be needed by many soon.

We also still have our judges. Be courageous, and rule according to your own conscience, even if you are threatened.

We still have our wonderful farmers and brave firefighters, our talented writers and incredible researchers.

We still have our civic associations and volunteers, we still have our sales clerks and taxi drivers, we still have mothers and grandmothers, and fathers and grandfathers. I beg all of you — be self-confident and stand up for your values!

We still have our free press, although it is under attack. The fight for the preservation of the free press is a fight for a free Estonia. Don't be afraid, because if you decide to be silent, then we truly do not have any hope anymore. But we do have hope.

I call upon all people of the Estonian state to participate in the future of our country. This depends on us more than ever before. Don't be afraid! Don't be silent! Stand up bravely for your values. Estonia remains ours.

Opposition begins today

This speech was not my resignation and goodbye. In a few days, the beginning of a new government will be announced from this rostrum — I have just announced the beginning of our opposition. I remain prepared to govern Estonia on equal terms with most of you, but until this happens, we will not let Estonia be destroyed. We will not let our state be led into hate and stagnation.

We all have the opportunity in a democratic Estonian state to act according to our conscience and courage. Including you, dear MP. You, who wants to be yourself.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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