Principal Value of the Strategy “Estonia 2035” Lies in Its Development Process
Jaak Valge (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Riina Sikkut (Social Democratic Party), Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa), and Erki Savisaar (Centre Party) discussed the Estonia 2035 strategy in the panel of the Riigikogu Toimetised on 14 October. The discussion was moderated by Tiina Kaalep.
Representatives of the parliamentary parties came together in a RiTo panel to discuss whether the objectives set in the strategy document Estonia 2035 were too general, or showed an adequate level of generalisation. The participants agreed that the preparatory process of the strategy benefitted from the involvement of a large portion of the Estonian population, setting a great example of participation. At the same time, not all the political parties were confident that the authors of the final version considered all their proposals equally.
Critical remarks were directed at the numerical objectives in the annex of the strategy, which seemed at least in part utopical.
JAAK VALGE: Two of our priorities have been included. One important objective formulated in the strategy is that the number of native Estonian speakers must not decrease in Estonia. This is vital, and we insisted on its inclusion. So when we talk about increasing Estonia’s population, which we know can be done through migration, we do not support that. Of course, there must be migration – that goes without saying – but the newcomers must not outnumber the Estonians and turn the native population into a minority.
Another priority that was entered at our proposal concerns involvement. For a cohesive society to function and citizens to be involved in the decision making process in Estonia, public initiatives and referendums must be simplified. And the strategy now includes that in two sections at our proposal.
RIINA SIKKUT: I was amazed at how well the strategy has been brought into conformity with the Constitution, and harmonised with it: the sections on the Estonian language and culture, and on the rule of law. Usually, our development plans tend to spring from nothing or out of thin air, but this one has made a full circle. The Constitution has been taken as the starting point, and has been extended and elaborated more in detail in certain directions. I do not see that any controversial value issues have been introduced, or resolved.
ERKI SAVISAAR: Whatever the future brings, we need this general document with a broad outlook. The major flaw of strategic documents is that they are left gathering dust on a shelf and in the best case scenario are picked up again only when their term runs out. I believe that these documents should be consistently adapted; they do not need to be reviewed yearly but regularly, e.g. every five years – what has gone according to the plan, what has changed – and the objectives should be formulated again. The vision about what path to take to make Estonia more united, cohesive, healthier, and richer – I think that these are excellent general objectives. I do not see any cause for conflict between the political parties in this. That is the objective we all strive towards. Our best hope is to find an action plan that would take us there.
HELIR-VALDOR SEEDER: The document has a twofold value for me: firstly, the world continues towards openness and integration, and documents must also be integrated; and secondly, the different fields and priorities must be balanced. If we draft narrow specialised development plans without viewing the broader events in Estonia and around the world, these are not rooted in the reality and will never work. We need to see the whole background system and I think a strategic development document must view the whole, and I feel that this has been the intention here. I think some of that has been achieved. It looks at all the fields, as well as the development processes outside Estonia. It makes sense to expect that the events of the last years – the possible diminishing significance and weight of international organisations – in turn force the Member States to face a new situation in shaping both the foreign and the security policy; in economy, there is also a potential risk of increased protectionism in countries, etc. The document encompasses in a broader and more comprehensive way the development that also affects Estonia, and I think that this is invaluable.