At today's sitting, the Riigikogu authorised the candidate for Prime Minister Kaja Kallas to form a Government. 70 members of the Riigikogu supported Kallas and 30 were against.
In her speech, Kallas highlighted the most important objectives of the activities of the new Government. The programme sets down the challenges of Estonia the implementation of which will be the outset for all activities of the Government.
“For me, it is not a matter of choice what to do. I wish to do my utmost to make life good for people in Estonia. Good to think, good to work, good to learn, good to raise children, and good to enjoy our beautiful nature. I wish to see Estonia smile again, and not frown and withdraw into a corner with its fist in its pocket. I wish to see an Estonia that is open to new ideas and interesting opinions. An Estonia that is moving towards the future with a brave, wide and smart look,” Kallas said. She noted that COVID-19 was currently the priority for practically every Government. A health crisis. Even the most closed of countries have not escaped the deadly virus. The health crisis has delivered a hard blow to economy as well as society as a whole. In Estonia, too.
Kallas stressed that the second wave of COVID-19 was absolutely the first thing that the new Government would start to address immediately. The recent infection rates are indeed stabilising, but the danger is far from over. “Our aim is to keep Estonia as open as possible, in order that people could go to work, children could go to school, and economic activity would continue as well,” Kallas explained. She added that, according to scientists, there was only one way to be able to open our society without losing human lives and risking a collapse of our medical system. It is vaccination of a critical mass of Estonian people.
“I also wish to acknowledge our previous Government in the resolution of the crisis. Yes, there are many things we would have done differently and to which we have drawn attention from the opposition. However, in the grand scheme of things, Estonia has followed the right path. I think that, by today, all political powers have understood that real scientists and not political virologists are the ones who will lead us out of this crisis.” Kallas thanked all the good Estonian people who had sacrificed so much for the sake of the health of their fellow citizens.
Kaja Kallas also mentioned the crisis of values. “Why do we have to insult and demean others when we express our views? Why do we have so much hatred against one another? What has happened to dignity?”
“The worst thing that a member of a Government can do to Estonia is to provoke and escalate conflicts. This is what the new Government will definitely not do. We will not divide society according to the principle of ‘them’ and us’. ‘They’ are also our people,” Kallas emphasised.
Kallas discussed the deepening economic crisis and the mental health crisis resulting from that. In view of that, the new Government will make efforts to keep the economy going to a maximum possible extent and to restart the sectors that have suffered under the restrictions. The European Union supports will be of help here, but we will have to use them very wisely. Spending the money cannot be a goal in itself.
“We must fight to ensure free movement for people, goods and services again. So that investments would come to Estonia and the existing companies would see opportunities to expand their activities here. We will have to restore Estonia’s reputation as a business-friendly country,” Kallas stressed. She explained that the crisis had given us an opportunity to organise our work more flexibly, and legislation should favour flexibility more than before. The needs of teleworking must be met by a relevant infrastructure. Unfortunately, working in more distant places in Estonia is hampered by a poor Internet connection. At the end of the day, it is not just a question of employment; it is a question of elementary living conditions. “Therefore we will invest European Union money to construct fast Internet connections to all places in Estonia,” Kallas said.
The candidate for Prime Minister also spoke of the corruption crisis. “Agreed rules must be abided by. Under rule of law, decision-making must not be influenced with hidden money. A compromise in this regard would destroy the credibility of not just a political party or a Government, but of the whole country in the eyes of its citizens.” She underlined, “The new Government is willing to be more consistent. At the same time I think that the rules to regulate the funding of political parties or the work of the parliament should be established under the cross-party principle or at least with the support of a qualified majority.”
Kallas also pointed out the crisis of Estonia’s international reputation. In her words, it is not someone’s malicious fabrication or imagination. The people who are representing our country abroad have experienced it on a daily basis in recent years. “We wish to live in a forward-looking country that is taken into account both in Europe and in the world arena. That was our common goal both when we gained our independence and when we restored our independence – to remain Estonians but to also be Europeans.”
When speaking of the crisis of truth, Kallas said that we were living at an age where lies spread quickly and far. “In today’s information society, it is easier than ever to publish lies and next to impossible to prevent their spread. Even the intentions of the incoming Government have already been attacked with lies aiming to frighten people. Lies about rising taxes, a mass influx of immigrants, homosexual propaganda at national level, etc.,” Kallas said. People no longer know what to believe and what not to believe. This in turn jeopardises the credibility of decisions in the eyes of the people. Therefore we have set as our aim to involve researchers and experts in all sectors. However, by the same token, the Government also needs to be convincing and open when explaining its decisions, she said.
In Kallas’s words, we are indeed in a crisis situation, but if we act wisely, we can turn the crisis into a foundation for the future. “The crisis enables us to contribute more to the digital government of Estonia and to simplify the communication of people and companies with the state. Likewise, the crisis is the right time to make our industry cleaner and greener. The ‘smarter’ jobs also give an opportunity to pay better salaries to people. We will pay special attention to Ida-Viru County where it will be necessary to involve investments that require people with such skills. They are there in Ida-Viru County.”
Kallas noted that, in order to realise everything she had outlined in her speech, money was needed, but the state budget situation was complicated, to say the least. “We cannot live beyond our means endlessly, and therefore striking a balance between expenditure and revenue will become an unavoidable duty at some point. We are aware that this cannot happen overnight.
At the end of her presentation, Kallas said, “What is my advantage over my predecessor Jüri Ratas? No, not the fact that I am a woman. Nor the fact that half of the ministers are women. The advantage is that I have a better coalition partner and this will leave more time and energy for me to commit myself to serving the country.”
The candidate for Prime Minister replied to numerous questions of members of the Riigikogu.
During the open microphone, Mart Helme, Peeter Ernits and Kalle Grünthal took the floor.
The sitting ended at 6.18 p.m.
Photos: (Author: Erik Peinar, Chancellery of the Riigikogu)
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Riigikogu Press Service
Gunnar Paal, +372 631 6351, +372 5190 2837
Questions: [email protected]