Ruutel says it was greed that split the nation

  • 2002-01-10
  • Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - Estonian President Arnold Ruutel held his first New Year speech on the national television station ETV minutes before the arrival of 2002. Ruutel, who is a former member of the opposition Estonian People's Union Party, had a number of rebukes for the falling ruling coalition, which in his words has placed party interests before the interests of the nation.

Ruutel said that the ethical and political crisis in Estonia had split the nation in two. Each side had totally different opportunities and lived with different value systems.

"If some people do not care what others think about the privatization of the power stations in Narva or Estonian railways, if the shutdown of railway traffic in south-east Estonia and the permission to generously rise prices for those enterprises with a market monopoly are regarded as just economic experiments, it makes no sense to call for national consensus. It's already there," he said.

"Fortunately, there are parties and entrepreneurs in Estonia for whom the interests of the Estonian state are the top priority. But their voices have remained weak amid the greed and egoism, which is unfortunately still prevailing."

He stressed that every individual of every age and interest group has the right to self-esteem. The September crisis in Parnu, when dozens of people died after drinking methanol-tainted moonshine, was a sign of too many people in Estonia living on the edge of an abyss seeking comfort or oblivion in drugs.

"We are flattered by the knowledge that when it comes to the openness of its economic environment Estonia is one of the top countries in the world. Our human development index is continually on the rise. But in spite of all this, the quality of life in Estonia is determined by the happiness of our people and by their capability to manage," said Ruutel.

"To link it only to a hefty income, material security, or heavy consumption would be too simple. The quality of life depends on whether a human being can feel dignified at any age and in any situation."

According to Ruutel, Estonia has had a lot to learn from its Nordic neighbors, which, owing to their well-balanced, people-centered economies and efficient regional policies, were turned into affluent societies with national self-esteem.

Ruutel, who, unlike his predecessor Meri, prefers inland trips to foreign ones, also preached the work of local municipalities, which to a great extent are shaping the face and the future of Estonia.