Editorial: such times sift out the statesmen

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Photo: Liis Treimann / Postimees

Keep Europe in one piece, unite and quiet Estonia, move ahead with strategic problems. A general recipe for the Riigikogu, this fall. 

Who in Estonia remembers the Greek debt right now? Still, just a few months ago, it was the Greek crisis that threatened the entire European unity. The latest news wipe off the lips and minds what only recently felt like must urgent, most threatening, most important.

At the moment, it’s refugees and hardly anything else. It’s all scattered, facts mixed with emotions, emotions with worldviews, compassion and fears with the fragments of truth in the news. This is humanly understandable and, to a degree, unavoidable in the public debate space. Meanwhile, it is the times of confusion that the best balance is needed of warm heart and cool head. This a politician must necessarily possess. These are the kinds of times that sift out the statesmen, as opposed to the sniffers of the winds.

Doubtless, EU unity is in Estonia’s strategic interests – this is Alpha and Omega. No need to repeat, any more, that the refugee crisis is pulling Europe apart. In the interests of our state and people, Estonian politicians need to quickly think and act to suggest what we could do to avoid Europe rending. Not limiting itself to be one to bargain for the lowest refugee quotas, we should actively offer solutions and help, as we are able, to others in Europe. On the other hand, we can’t merely be altruistic helpers but must demand from our partners that the Schengen system would not descent into a total farce, that help towards refugees would be booted outside the EU, that strategic solutions be found etc.

What is expected from statesmen and stateswomen is leadership, setting the tone. They cannot afford to fall apart as times get difficult above the average. Therefore, we expect a clear, peaceful and honestly realistic message to our nation. In any crisis, people want to know what to expect. Outright anger mongering and provocations must meet with explicit measures. Meanwhile, this can’t be the way the fears of the common people are countered – reasonable or not. What Estonian society now needs is what unites us, not what labels the camps.  

Let’s remember that any acute crisis does not do away with needs to deal with strategic challenges. Estonia is definitely not ready, not completed – from administrative and state reform to education and defence policy, from possible rearrangements in research and development to state enterprise management and transparency of politics. In confusing times, foundations for future must continue to be laid.