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Speech of the candidate for Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on the basis of forming a new government, 17.04.2019

22. April 2019 - 13:54

Esteemed President of the Riigikogu,
esteemed members of the Riigikogu, dear colleagues,
dear people of Estonia,

On December 31st, 1993, President Lennart Meri gave the final speech of "our first constitutional year" as he himself named it, and stated that the most beautiful Estonia is a smiling Estonia. In those difficult times and with a very fresh knowledge of a different Estonia, these words carried a great deal of generosity and ambition. I truly believe that a large part of our success so far is based on the ability to remain positive at the right moments and smile.

Our Constitution states that the Republic of Estonia is founded on liberty, justice and the rule of law for the preservation of our people and culture. This is a liberty that we all perpetuate each day through our work and actions. Justice is ensuring that each and every one of us feels important, cared for, and valuable. The rule of law is our Constitution, and the core principles of our state set down in it cannot be implemented selectively. By imposing conditions on some of these values, we weaken them all.

Two weeks ago, I had the honour of listening to President Kersti Kaljulaid in this same stately assembly room of the Riigikogu, rousing us to think about the tendencies in the society in her speech at the opening session of the XIV Riigikogu: "Estonia's democracy works. Still, we should ask why, a month after the elections, a large portion of the people feels as if something has been broken in our society. Certain agreed limits no longer seem applicable. It is not a matter of world views but often of elementary politeness and respect. Of respect towards each other and our people."

I would take this thought even further.

On August 20, 1991, 69 members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Estonia voted for the restoration of Estonia's national independence in this very same room. The contribution of the statesmen and women of those times has given us an opportunity to build our country the way we have best seen fit.

From that time on, the members of all compositions of the Riigikogu, all our ministers and governments and all our parties have aimed to build the best possible Estonia for all of us. The only differences have been in the specific decisions and visions of how to achieve that best possible state.

We have done well in Estonia after the restoration of independence. We have felt it ourselves, seen the constant developments in our everyday lives, and witnessed the change of our country into a European welfare society. This has also been reflected in international rankings and indices.

Yet, all this time, there have been very many among us for whom something has indeed been broken in our society. For some, transition to market economy society or the ownership reform have been difficult. Many saw an increasing gap between their income and prices. Jobs disappeared in rural areas and stratification increased in cities. We have not always been able to help the ones who are the most vulnerable in our society – children, the elderly, the disabled or others.

We have also realised, taking an honest look into the mirror, that integration has not been entirely successful. People whose native language is not Estonian have often remained alien to native Estonians, and vice versa.

We also know that the income gap between our men and women is one of the largest in Europe. We are often unable to understand the habits, thoughts and actions of the people living among us. To this day, we still witness conflicts between innovation and conservatism.

Many different values are represented in our society, but they should not be at conflict with one another. Our people should not be at conflict with one another. We have to rely on what unites all of us, the people of Estonia, not to emphasise our differences.

These painful gaps have emerged in decades regardless of our efforts and best intentions. We have not created them on purpose. Such divergences are certainly not a problem solely inherent to Estonia – we see it at our friends in Europe and all over the world.

This makes me value the experience gained at the European Council in more than two years even more. Countries always have different views and interests, but at the same time, there is always awareness of our common aspirations. Great countries could take advantage of their position of power, but they seek a common ground instead.

Compromises are always sought instead of making demands and ultimatums. This is something that also we should keep in mind more in the internal policy of states. Our common obligation and responsibility in this room and everywhere else is to unite all our people and reconcile the differences.

Dear Members of the Riigikogu!

The Estonian Centre Party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia and Pro Patria have agreed on a willingness to bear the responsibility of governing the country together, based on the best interests of Estonia and its people.

We discussed numerous crucial issues of Estonian life, and the possible solutions to them during the negotiations between the three parties. Let me hereby acknowledge our partners who were interested in compromises and focused on finding solutions in these talks.

We aimed to find a common ground in even the most complex of issues, and managed to do so. The outcome is a concise document consisting of 15 chapters, with a central focus on preserving and developing Estonia so that it would last forever for the people that come after us.

Together, we formulated important principles in social matters, health, education, science and development, foreign and security policy, internal security and the business environment. It also brings out the matters concerning culture, environment and energy policy, development of the e-state, the field of state administration and civil society, and the issues regarding transportation and infrastructure.

We will continue to stand for a coherent and strong state with a growing population, and support local life in Tallinn and Tartu, Kärdla and Kanepi, Rakvere and Ruhnu island. Doing that, we will turn the most attention to the ones who need help the most.

All of this serves our most important and constitutional task, which is to ensure the preservation of Estonian people and independent and protected Estonia.

Our plan is to build together, with the support of the entire society, a family-friendly Estonia that has a coherent society and successful and knowledge-based economy, which is governed efficiently and is free and protected. These are the five main priorities of our coalition.

A free and protected Estonia is the first one, bringing together the main agreed positions of the three parties in foreign and defence policy. Estonia will continue on its current course on foreign and defence policy, a significant part of which is belonging to the European Union and NATO. We will base on Estonia’s national interests, national sovereignty and the international law in our foreign and defence policy, following the international agreements and the principles of the UN.

We support a strong and uniform European Union, while continuing with the necessary preparations for Brexit. Preserving and developing close relations with the United Kingdom that has been an important ally to Estonia throughout history, is an important priority for us. We will also stand for ensuring the rights of our residents and companies after the likely leave of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Naturally, we will continue to improve our independent defence capabilities and keep the defence spending on at least 2% of the GDP. In national defence, the important pillars continue to be conscription, officers and non-commissioned officers, reserve army, strong Defence League and constant training exercises, presence of allies and the principles of broad-based national defence. All of this has served Estonia well so far and will certainly continue to do so in the future. In virtue of our allies, Estonia can be more safe and confident than our size would give reason to expect.

The new coalition places a lot of importance on the development of strong transatlantic relationships and international cooperation in general. One of the great examples here is the campaign of the UN Security Council that has been led by our President Kersti Kaljulaid with full dedication. It has brought Estonia new friends all over the globe and introduced our country both on the shores of the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean.

In addition to national defence, we will provide people with a vital sense of safety also by developing internal security. It is a clear wish of all three parties to contribute to increasing the level of safety of our people. This means necessary increase in wages, but also giving additional rights to the law and order units of local authorities, and all-round prevention work.

Preserving, developing and protecting our Estonia is a work that has been done by all of our governments throughout the years, and all parties of the parliament have stood firmly by them. At this point, allow me to sincerely acknowledge both the Reform Party and the Social Democratic Party who have stood firmly for our common foreign and defence policy values and developed them over time.

A coherent society means that we are a democratic state based on the rule of law that guarantees all the important values, human rights, freedom of speech and personal liberties. We have to respect all people living in Estonia, their views and opinions, and everyone must have a possibility for personal fulfilment.

We have emphasised already from the beginning of the negotiations among the partners that our aim is to promote a coherent, tolerant and safe society that has no place for interethnic hostility, anti-Semitism or rhetoric that divides the society. The life in Estonia would prosper much more if we would rely on kind words and good sentences instead of sharp slogans and spiteful remarks.

We all can and must work hard in our political activity to soothe the fears of our people and calm the society. We will prove that we will stand for the development of Estonia as a whole and the well-being of each and every person.

At that, we will work every day also for the ones who do not yet support the new government soon to be created. A Prime Minister is a Prime Minister for all the people in Estonia, not only to the ones who support him or voted for him. The government must also work for the best future for all our people. For me, there is not and will never be “my” Estonia and “your” Estonia, there is only one – Estonia for all of us.

It is vital to calm the increasing confrontations between our local communities – wealthier and poorer, rural and urban areas, people with liberal views and the ones who support conservatives.

Coherence in a society also means a more balanced and uniform regional development. The government must view our local authorities mainly as partners and colleagues and join forces to support the life and development of rural areas. This is the reason why we will continue to move state jobs out of Tallinn to rural areas.

Coherence also means reducing gaps between the wealthier and the less wealthy. A solidary health care system and social policy that considers the needs and possibilities of each person. Unfortunately we all know that a large number of the elderly in Estonia live in poverty. It is our role and obligation to bring our parents and grandparents out of this poverty. We have to thank all generations for their life’s work and contribution and provide our elderly dignified golden years and a decent life.

Family-friendly Estonia is a country in which our people wish to contribute to our common future and start their families here. I am glad that raising child care and family allowances and making the leave for parents more flexible has given many Estonian families more certainty to have children in the recent years, including bringing a third child into the family. This is a right path that must certainly continue.

This is Estonia that always welcomes back all those who have found better opportunities far from the homeland. Domestic and foreign Estonians. Young people who have acquired education in the wide world. Working people who have found better income elsewhere. The elderly who wish to return to their fatherland.

They all have experiences and valuable knowledge that make our Estonia stronger. They are all our people and we welcome them home. It is definitely a delight for all of us to see that Estonia’s net migration has been positive in the recent years. The number of people in Estonia has increased by more than 8000 people in the last two years.

For that we will support the improvement of well-being and security in our society, ensure accessibility of public services, shorten the waiting times in medicine, and reduce social inequality. We have to continue our fight against domestic violence which is one of the most painful issues in our society. There can and must be zero tolerance in this matter.

I find it important to have more cooperation with our communities both at home and abroad. Creation of the position of a Population Minister and launching the Global Estonian programme are just the first steps on this road. Valuing our people and the experiences of the Estonian residents returning here will make our Estonia better and stronger.

Estonia with a knowledge-based and successful economy is a country that contributes to economy supported by science, development and innovation. We have to make an effort to raise the public sector funding on this to 1% of the GDP and keep it at least on that level in the future. This is strategically important to ensure the well-being of our people and sustainability of our society.

We have to ensure an inclusive, competitive, and sustainable economic growth. In drawing up the state budget, our focus is on ensuring a well-managed and responsible financial policy. More than before, we have to contribute to retraining and other measures to make our people more competitive on the labour market and ensure high-quality workforce.

The government must support the companies operating on our market. Estonia has definitely passed the stage of being a country of cheap labour, therefore we have to exploit other advantages we could have compared to the Nordic countries and the other neighbours. One of the solutions here is undoubtedly competitive energy prices that the state could impact, for instance, by creating exemptions for energy-intensive production.

In developing economy and business, we cannot also forget the principles of sustainable development. I am very glad that our own children and young people have followed the lead of the rest of the world and demonstrate better awareness of the climate change and the environment. It means that we have been able to pass on a meaningful system of values at our homes and schools. Young people understand the impact of their personal actions to the global processes and are willing to take responsibility for the future of all of us through their actions.

I place much importance on providing our own companies with more support in making contacts abroad and entering new markets. We can support our export opportunities by increasing the number of economic diplomats and advisors on the relevant markets.

One of the first things that is associated with Estonia abroad is our e-state. Building a digital society has made the life of our people immeasurably more simple and convenient. In maintaining this calling card, it is highly important to contribute into improving the services and raising them to a new level. We must also continue with the e-residency 2.0 programme and establishing a super-fast internet connection.

For the government, it is undoubtedly important to implement the experience and knowledge we have in professional associations of various fields. As a Prime Minister, I had the honour of re-establishing trilateral meetings with the Estonian Trade Union Confederation and the Estonian Employers’ Confederation. Continuing such broad-based discussions on the issues of the labour market is highly important.

We should also adopt a more venturesome way of thinking in developing the infrastructure. We plan on involving loans in carrying out national infrastructural investments. It is important to ensure that while developing the main roads, the smaller and gravel roads would not be left without funding. We need to contribute to a high-quality road network all over Estonia.

Efficiently governed Estonia means that the voice of our people will have an influence on governing also between elections. It also means that the state is effective and the means we have at our disposal are being used well and responsibly.

As an important principle, the opinions of Estonian people will be considered significantly more in various aspects of state governance, and direct democracy will be reinforced. Experts, business and citizen associations and the political forces represented in Estonia would all be constructive and equal partners for the government.

We will certainly continue with developing the zero bureaucracy project that makes it easier for our people and businesses to communicate with the state and reduces the time and labour needed.

I consider it very important to work on the national development strategy Estonia 2035 that brings together all the other national strategy documents and provides a uniform direction for the policymakers and deciders of various fields. As a result, an agreement based on values is born, setting forth the ways of ensuring a balanced development of our natural, social and economic environment. Therefore, the role of the state is to create the opportunities for the people of Estonia to contribute to improving the well-being of all of us.

Another political priority for the next four years will be the state reform. We wish to go on in this field by reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and the volume of the public sector. We will set out the contents and deadlines for stages of the state reform in our government action plan, and pass the relevant resolutions at the Riigikogu. At this point, I would definitely expect contribution and cooperation from all the parties of the parliament, the private sector, and citizen associations.

We will also support enhancing of the role of the Riigikogu in organisation of state affairs. One of the examples is establishing study committees agreed in the coalition agreement to develop the learning of the Estonian language and solving the population crisis. We will also carry out a broad-based revision of the state budget, reviewing all the sources of income and expenditure and assess their purposefulness.

Esteemed Members of the Riigikogu!

In everyday work, the government relies heavily on our capable officials and numerous specialists working for the state. They all do their jobs with great sense of mission and dedication, and the state can rely on them. Naturally, a large number of non-governmental organisations also play their part with their work and often voluntary contribution that is aimed at improving the development of our society and everyone’s well-being.

Our common value is created by businesses operating here, many of them clearly communicating responsibility for the well-being of the entire society in addition to their own personal success. Naturally, I also acknowledge our press that is dedicated, free and responsible in all its aspects.

I thank each and every person in Estonia from all my heart for their daily work and contribution. The sum of all our actions is far greater than a simple math could reflect. Our Estonia is a smiling Estonia.

Dear representatives of the people!

I worked in the Riigikogu for ten years and not a single day of those years was my party in the government. For that reason I understand perfectly what it means to contribute while being in the opposition and what could the differences of opinion with the coalition be like.

In my duties as the Prime Minister, I wish to be a partner that I would like to see as a member of the opposition seeking for solutions. I am always willing to exchange thoughts and cooperate with you. Also outside the formats of parliamentary work, by communicating directly.

Dear Mart and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia and dear Helir and Pro Patria! Dear members of my own Estonian Centre Party! I thank you for these six weeks. I am certain that the government we have put together will have a strong sense of cooperation and we will make a better future for the entire Estonia. Honourable Members of the Riigikogu, I thank you and ask for your support. Strength for our dear Estonia!