20 August of this year is the twentieth anniversary of the day Estonia again became an independent state.
Today, twenty years later, many people tend to think that the Estonian state is ready. It is true that in twenty years Estonia has travelled a long way in its development, and often there are no clear memories of the situation from which we started. Looking back, it can be said that the right course was chosen, and this course has been kept. But the state is certainly not ready yet. It is possible that there are spheres where the development has reached a deadlock, and where changes are needed. One of such spheres is the foreign affairs. Twenty years ago it was useful for the country to have a single foreign policy to achieve its goals, but by now foreign policy has become an elitist field where there is a shortage of expert participants. But it would be perfectly normal to have a public debate also over foreign policy issues. Matti Maasikas, who knows everything about foreign service but is at the moment serving the European Commission, writes about the developments of Estonian foreign policy and the challenges facing it in his essay “The Third Phase of Estonian Foreign Policy – Normal Business Day”.
After the elections in March. Estonia got a new Riigikogu. Only four political parties made it to the parliament, which is the smallest number of parties in Estonian parliament after the restoration of independence. Is it good or bad, is it few or many? Will the debate at the Riigikogu become more substantial when there is a clear coalition and a clear opposition? We will get an answer to that in four years. But certainly the emergence of new strong political forces or the division of existing ones cannot be ruled out in the future.
One of the issues where the attitudes of the Estonian society cannot be considered modern in any way is the attitude towards equality. Each time somebody in Estonia raises the issue of lack of equal opportunities, let it be in participation in public politics, labour market or some other sphere, the debate ends rather quickly with the conclusion that our society is not ready for changes. It is really too much to expect that the generation of 40–50-year-olds that at present holds the leading positions would be ready for a very thorough change in their choices and understandings. It seems we have to wait for the time when a new generation not holding on to old, fixed ideas sometimes originating from the 19th century takes over. When it is no longer strange and exceptional that a man stands for the equal treatment of men and women. But until then we have to admit that 20 women in a new parliament of 101 members and one female minister in the government is not a European result.
Striving towards stability is human and understandable. We should not allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep by what we have achieved because when we wake up, it may turn out we were not ready enough for changes.