Distinguished Attendees, People of Narva College and Other Narva Residents,
I am glad to be in Narva again for the first time in a few years. I used to travel here more often when I worked for Eesti Energia, but I talked to local community leaders here at least once when I was affiliated with the University of Tartu. At the time, the discussion concerned relating to the European Union and its EU assistance.
Since that time, a lot of water has flowed into the sea and Estonia has improved. Today we are preparing to financially stand on our own two legs once again – Estonia will probably receive much fewer resources from the EU Cohesion Fund because we can act on our own now. Yet being here today at the University of Tartu, I am happy to say that the European research funds are open to all bright minds and there are no restrictions on how much a given country can receive.
But our main resource has never come from elsewhere. Our main resource is industrious, educated and hard-working people. In 25 years, we have gone from having the status of a very poor transition country with a middling income level to an OECD member state.
How have we done this? That is a question I was asked many times on my first visit to Latvia and Lithuania. For that reason, I have had to give it much thought and try to put Estonia's success story into words. It is something I have also been asked many times in Western Europe, but there the answer is simple and clichéd: There was no money, so we just had to do things more efficiently, and it happened to be an era when the right digital tools were developing very rapidly.
That explanation does not work in the other Baltic states. It cannot work, because our starting position was the same. So there must have been some specific differences along our respective paths. Those differences are not the product of some predetermined choice made by Fate. The difference in our paths lies in the way that our societies, people and communities think. Not that one is better than another, but the current decade is something that every society has created for itself, with the decisions it made 20 years ago or more. Voters with their choices, citizens with other choices, academicians with theirs.
President Kersti Kaljulaid is today on a visit to France where she will meet in the Élysée Palace with the President of France, Francois Hollande, take part in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit and in a round table on security in Europe at Institut Français des Relations Internationales (the French Institute of International Relations).
President Kersti Kaljulaid, patron of the national volunteers' thanksgiving event, presented the decorations of volunteers today in the Winter Garden of Estonia Theatre with the creators of Kodukant, the Estonian Village Movement. "If we were to add up the work that volunteers all over Estonia do – as much as dispassionate statistics and studies will allow – this would add up to full-time annual work done by approximately 10,000 people," said the Head of State.
President Kersti Kaljulaid today visited the training field of the Defence Forces in Männiku, where she met with reservists who were summoned to an additional reservist training, Okas (Quilll). The Head of State also paid a visit to the Defence League training, Põhjatäht (North Star), in Ülemiste.