Estonian President: I am worried

13.02.2012, 10:49

The following are excerpts of the interview that President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves gave to Postimees.

Speaking of Estonia, EU and the eurozone, Ilves said: “Estonia has no alternative to the European Union membership. Europe is losing its importance, but mainly because others – China, Brazil, etc. – are increasing theirs. I am worried because Europe is unable to do things that it should do. And I am especially worried because if its blamed on us, on the enlargement of EU to Eastern Europe… The old Europe that for 50 years has been enjoying the US economic support that every year invested 2-3 percent of its GDP in Europe got complacent. Not they are talking about lazy Latvians, Polish plumbers and Baltic criminals who step off in Helsinki in hundreds.”

Speaking of the Estonian state, Ilves said that the question is in efficiency. “For me the question is about finding the right balance. A wider question is whether the Estonian state is managed efficiently or whether we should take a cold accountant’s look at it. Having one’s own state is expensive. If we want to maintain and preserve it, there are costs that we need to bear. Take, for instance, Helsinki. With its suburbs it is almost as big as Estonia. Helsinki does not have its own army, but we do. Helsinki does not have embassies, but we do. We must. But the question that I am also asking is whether we really need so many embassies and in so many locations.

On the issue of politics and the veiled hints that Centre Party’s chairman Edgar Savisaar made in public that the question to raid Centre Party’s offices came either from Ilves or Ansip, Ilves answered: “Estonian President can give orders only to its own staff. This is absurd. I have heard another version that a UFO landed on the roof of the KAPO building and gave the order.“I know a little more about it than I can publicly say. If you remember, I was somewhat angry during these events. If you search a party office, then the prosecutors have to explain it to the public in somewhat more detail. Which is what they did not do at the beginning. Whatever I think of one or another party in Estonia, we have the rule of law and we have democracy. If you raid a party headquarters then there are higher rules that apply than if you lock up some common criminal.”

Speaking of plans to separate KAPO’s functions by transferring its anti-corruption activities to another institution, Ilves said that there is a wider topic. “Illegal financing of political parties is still illegal, but no longer criminally punishable in Estonia. When all Estonian parties pushed it through the parliament in major agreement, it was a blow to the Estonian justice system. If you send a signal that it is no longer criminal, then why you wonder that people are doing it.

In my statement in which I condemned violation of privacy of communication, I did not make a ruling, but simply condemned the fact. Does it mean that when you find a legal loophole and get away with it then you’re clean? It’s the same with residential permits scandal. I am an MP, I had a small side-business, but I did not violate any laws and did nothing wrong,” said Ilves, mockingly.

When asked why 90 percent of these scandals are related to the Centre Party, either in the form of asking Russians for financial assistance, stealing e-mails, putting up posters claiming that Estonians are Fascists and seem to be representing the interest of another country and not Estonia, Ilves answered that this was a particular side of democracy, its weakness and strength. “There are people whose views or upbringing is quite different than mine, but there you have it,” he said.

Speaking of Russia, Ilves said that one thing that we should understand globally is that Russia is stopping to be a superpower and the US is not taking Russia seriously any more. “It’s hard to be a shrinking major country that is no longer a superpower and this is when you start defining yourself through opposing to another country. I would say that the attitude of Europe and US towards Russia should be that of well-wishing and caring lack of interest. Unlike some other country we don’t arrange rhetoric coming from Russia. I will never win in a war of words that is smearing also us.”