Independent MP Raimond Kaljulaid, who was elected to the Riigikogu as a member of the Centre Party before quitting in connection with the coalition talks that led to the current government, sees possible election to the European Parliament later this month as an opportunity to influence Estonian policy.
"Setting aside European-wide issues, what is important is that my influence as one of 101 MPs is certainly more limited than as one of Estonia's six or seven MEPs," Kaljulaid said on Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" on Monday.
"MEPs have significantly greater powers and opportunities than Estonian MPs," he continued. "For me, this candidacy certainly has a strong Estonian measure to it."
On the subject of which political group he would consider joining if elected to the European Parliament, Kaljulaid cited the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group, to which the Centre Party and the Reform Party belong, but also the possible new group being formed by ALDE and French President Emmanuel Macron's party, La République En Marche! (LaREM).
"I have not spoken with the liberals in recent months, and I'm honestly actually a bit surprised that they have yet to call," he admitted. "I have, however, spoken with the French who represent Emmanuel Macron's party En Marche and who may form a new group together with the ALDE. I'll be honest, choosing between these two may prove to be pretty difficult. Regarding their differences, I see more spark in the eyes of the French to reform Europe."
The ex-Centre MP also believes that liberals have acted like "neoconservatives" in several matters, being against change.
"Nobody is denying that, like Estonia, Europe needs reforms as well," Kaljulaid highlighted, stressing the fact that he still remains a centrist and is concerned about economic inequality. "A serious problem exists in Europe and the West as a whole, tied to economic inequality. If we look into the future — increased digitalization, artificial intelligence, the introduction of machine learning — according to several prominent researchers, inequality will more likely grow, as much of the work we currently do will no longer need humans."
This in turn, he continued, will lead to even greater growth in inequality — not just for us, but throughout the West — which will be one more opportunity for populist powers to take advantage of.
EU of states
Nonetheless, the candidate for MEP did not find that all issues should necessarily be resolved on the EU level; rather, one should approach things based on the subsidiary principle. Kaljulaid also supports an EU of states, rather than a federalist union.
"I am a liberal in my views, but I am certainly not someone who dreams of an ultimately federal EU," he said. "This view is constantly ascribed to me, but I have not expressed this anywhere. I like a Europe of states, and I believe that this is Europe's wealth."
According to Kaljulaid, he has by now formed a support team as well as secured the necessary funding for his candidacy.
Raimond Kaljulaid earned a total of 7,303 votes in the March 3 Riigikogu election, ranking third overall within the Centre Party.
Editor: Aili Vahtla