TALLINN - While addressing the first session of the Estonian parliament, President Kersti Kaljulaid stressed the importance of giving local governments an independent budget, but also that it does not help the advancement of local interests, if the definition of family is made a central issue in our local elections.
Kaljulaid said that she is very glad that freedoms, rights, and obligations have been discussed so extensively this year, so it will be possible to heal the splits that have formed before they result in irreversible damage.
"When some people feel that they have no say in Estonian life, then it is in no way positive for those who feel that they, conversely, do. A hand must be extended to those who feel that their state has failed them, but it must be done in a way that others are not made to feel the very same hand has caused the state to fail them in turn," she added.
The president also said that in a real welfare state, greater positive attention is always given to those who are, for some reason, in a weaker position --minorities, single parents and their children, low-income families, disabled persons.
"There is no point in separating minorities into those, who deserve society's support and those, who are seemingly less worthy of it. Everyone feels like a minority at one time or another. Yet knowing that your rights and interests, that your happiness will not be steamrolled because to society, you're simply an insignificant discomfort -- because there aren't that many of you -- is the nature of the welfare state, as well as its citizens' source of security and freedom,” the head of state stressed.
Of course also the members of the parliament notice if someone somewhere is feeling down or unwell, Kaljulaid underscored, adding that still the majority of those who notice and act are in local governments. It is the Riigikogu who holds the key to helpers having more opportunities as the reforms continue.
"I've made my way through nearly all of our newly merged local governments. Their municipal councils and council chairpersons have one great, common request for you, members of the Riigikogu -- greater trust. Give them a proper budget, too -- one that is made independent of state programs and party-earmarked funding, and is instead contingent upon the diligence and abilities of that municipality's people and entrepreneurs," she added.
The president noted that it will do nothing for municipal elders and councils if a poll on the definition of family is made a central issue in our local elections, because the discussion will overshadow necessary debate over the continued strengthening of our local governments, and will only scorn those who are incapable of reacting to local problems for lack of resources.
"And that discussion demeans the people of Estonia, because its intention is to create a false impression that the outcome will amend the Constitution. It will not," the head of state added.
Kaljulaid also addressed the worry that the year has been complicated, and for the first time in 30 years has brought the feeling that quite many of our fellow nations which emerged from behind the Iron Curtain are working towards a more prosperous and secure future with greater effectiveness.
"Something is wrong with our ability to grasp the big picture. Or with our ability to respond to it," she explained, and added that these long-term developmental risks must be mitigated with smart leadership in the hall of Riigikogu.