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Prime Minister Rõivas in his address to the nation on Independence Day: Estonia has many reasons to be a confident country

23. February 2016 - 19:15
Prime Minister's Speech in the Tartu Vanemuine Concert Hall on February 23
Prime Minister's Speech in the Tartu Vanemuine Concert Hall on February 23

Tartu, 23 February 2016 - Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas stressed in his address to the nation on Independence Day, delivered at Vanemuine Concert Hall, Tartu, that Estonia has plenty of reasons to be confident and that Estonian people can face the future with certainty.
According to Rõivas, our children get world-leading education, our economic environment is justifiably seen as one of the most attractive in Europe, our country is highly protected and we have more friends than enemies across the world. ‘The progress of our country and our society so far is a foundation for the future and we should be confident enough to both preserve that as right and valuable, and yet make the necessary changes.’
Rõivas said that while we have come a long way in the past 25 years, we are not there yet. ‘Our aim is to achieve the Nordic standard of living and the best possible living environment for all Estonian people. The future Estonia will be a country that is well protected, affluent, open to change and with a growing population. I have no doubt that Estonia will become a new Nordic country.’
‘Becoming a new Nordic country does not necessarily mean that we will emulate the Nordic countries – copying will never make us anything else than a poor copy of Sweden. We have got to get to where we need more courage to take a risk, we need to show more initiative, to experiment more and to also make more mistakes, not just limit ourselves to learning from others and continuing to compare ourselves against others.’
The Prime Minister noted that future growth could also be hampered by growing pessimism. ‘Consumers and businesses are daunted by the pessimism and uncertainty about the future, brought on by negative news. Today’s bad news about growth can slow down growth tomorrow, whether or not the initial news was justified.’
‘Let us think about it for a moment. Do we want our economy to be in a downward spiral of pessimism, the root and origin of which may have been not poor business results or wrong policy but a shift in opinions?’
Rõivas stated that we have every reason to be confident that the Estonian economy can do better; that we can grow faster than in 2015, even if the world around us continues to be complicated.
Rõivas emphasized that developing a modern and well-functioning society is not merely a top-down process, but also bottom-up. ‘Today’s leaders must not only be able to speak but also to listen. Decisions that are thought out properly, taking into account different arguments and positions, stand the tests of time and criticism better.’
Speaking about security, Rõivas said that while just a year ago there were some who said that security was not an issue, today no one doubts that security must be taken seriously. ‘Security is in our minds not only because of the refugee crisis or terror attacks. Europe continues to be in a war and our security environment has changed.’
‘The year of 2015 will go down in history as a year of seemingly endless conflicts. The war in Ukraine continues – the situation has not improved at all, compared to a year ago. That has been complemented by the Syrian war that is becoming increasingly gruesome, terror acts in Paris and elsewhere in Europe.’
According to the Prime Minister, joining NATO 11 years ago was the right choice for Estonia, ‘We only need to look back at our immediate past to be confident that there is no reason to doubt in NATO’s solidarity: In the last two years, NATO’s Baltic air-policing mission has become a very symbol of Estonia’s NATO membership; NATO’s and other international military exercises have become regular; allied troop deployments operate on a rotation in Estonian territory.’ 

Referring to Russia's continued occupation of Crimea and ongoing military actions in Ukraine, Rõivas said that it would be inconceivable to speak about easing or lifting sanctions against Russia before the territorial integrity of Ukraine is restored. ‘What’s more, isn’t it time to consider new sanctions for the hideous and ruthless carnage in Syria?’
Picking up on the refugee crisis brought on by the Syrian conflict, Rõivas said that it went without saying that Estonia would, to the best of its ability, contribute to helping people fleeing the war.
Rõivas said that the emergence in Estonia of organisations trying to undermine and polarise our society was worrying. ‘Feeding xenophobia under the label of extreme conservatism is unequivocally in the Kremlin’s interest.’
‘A confident Estonia will not close the door to an Albanian family with children fluent in Estonian; neither will it close the door to people who are willing to learn our language, respect our customs and practices and contribute to Estonia’s development.’
Rõivas urged the audience to be, as a country and a nation, confident and happy, free in actions and in heart. ‘So that we could appreciate what our ancestors have created and build our future on it, not by tearing it down, but so that we can be open to what is new and not fear what is different. So that each generation can be comfortable in Estonia and we will always have time for our children and grandchildren, as well as for our parents and grandparents.’

Speech is availabe here: 

Full text of the speech: