Ilves: 'We Must Focus on What Was Left Undone' During Years of Success
Eestlased Eestis 26 Dec 2012  EWR
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ERR News
In his annual end-of-year interview with ERR, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said that when it comes to long-range visions, much more attention could be devoted to life within Estonia, the social sector in particular.

"What do we need to do to improve education? What do we need to do to lessen social rifts? What can we do to make life in the countryside more sustainable?" he asked in response to ETV interviewer Priit Kuusk's question about the "next step" toward the end of the 40-minute interview.

He gave the Estonian government credit for not letting austerity erode social guarantees, but said the state should not stop there.

"Believe it or not, Estonia's Gini coefficient has become better during the crisis as the Estonian government, unlike other governments with a economic crisis, did not cut social benefits," he said.

"But we must not be satisfied with the current figure. We need to reduce the social rifts, we need to take a number of steps to guarantee that the countryside will not become deserted. Perhaps our next step is to focus on tending our own fields at home."

"We will now focus on what we left undone in the meanwhile," he said, referring to the era when the country was out earning plaudits for its rapid transition from the former socialist system.

He also touched on a number of specific issues:

Labor and immigration policy: In talking about the need to import IT specialists, often from non-EU countries, Ilves said: "It is a relatively strange situation where people who come to Estonia to study have to leave right away. I don't think it's especially smart for someone to come here, study for four years, learn Estonian and start liking it here, but then they have to leave."

The party financing scandal: "I don't believe there are sides here, to be honest […] I believe there are politicians who are used to doing things one way and they are not just in the government or governing coalition. But I think that political culture is changing."

Dialogue between people and their government: "We aren't in such a hurry anymore, we don't have the sense that if we don't decide it right away, if we don't solve the tax system or the privatization problem, the end of the world is nigh. We can discuss things at greater length and hear people out."

The role of the president: "One of my first principles when I took office in 2006 was that if a problem comes up I want to resolve it and not engage in some major public performance around it." Asked how many times he had called or e-mailed the prime minister during the political crisis, Ilves said: "Actually the president communicates with the prime minister all the time […] My experience is that if you want to accomplish something you don't have to go and make a big show of it."

The border treaty with Russia: "I recall that when Parliament was discussing the matter and the preamble was written, I was nearly the only person who said that it wasn't worth doing it, that our goal was a border treaty, and I will say it again: the border treaty is something that we need. We don't need to politicize the border treaty, it's more something that is just part of being a country. It doesn't have to be over-fetishized. It took Norwegians 40 years, Japan and Russia are still in a military standoff - they don't have a peace treaty between Japan and Russia as the successor of the Soviet Union."

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