Kallas to look for compromise

Estonia 200 leader Kristina Kallas.

PHOTO: Madis Sinivee

Even though education is a matter close to the heart of Estonia 200 leader Kristina Kallas, she cannot imagine herself fighting for the post of education minister: ideas can also be realized by someone else.

You just took away Postimees’ editor-in-chief. In your opinion, how is the editorial to feel?

Lauri [Hussar] had to give the matter thought, and I presume he did. We talked about why he wants to go into politics.

Still, to what extent do you imagine what journalists are feeling?

I believe they are concerned, surprised. Perhaps they do not fully know what inspired that move.

Hussar said that Estonia 200 is a liberal-conservative party. You have so far been talking about a liberal force; will things take a turn for the conservative now?

No, they will remain liberal. Faith in personal freedoms is a core value for us. I believe Hussar was referring to the right wing.

Who came up with your infamous posters campaign?

The idea was cooked up right here in our office. The campaign is the responsibility of Meelis Niinepuu and has been helped by Toomas Uibo and others.

You drew flak over those posters from both political competitors and opinion leaders. How satisfied are you with the results?

It has been impossible to have a debate in the conditions of this avalanche of accusations we have been under for the past two weeks. We will be able to discuss this matter in election debates once passions die down.

You will meet the elections with a full list. Why have you paid so little attention to presenting your candidates?

We are like a political startup that got to work after the giants had already locked down their lists of candidates. We have managed to create a party in two months, draw up an election platform in a month, visited all corners of Estonia to involve people in politics. We are small, agile and dynamic; what we think in the morning may not be the same in the evening.

Our list is made up of 125 people who are experts in their chosen fields. We still have time in which to present them.

The voter is still buying into the unknown with you. To what extent are you, as a liberal, prepared to see a conservative wing rear its head?

What ties us together is the desire to carry out reforms that have been included in our program, as opposed to a desire to start a new ideological party. We are united in an idea of what needs to change, a vision of Estonia’s future. In-house differences exist only as far as the Russian-speaking part of the population is concerned. I see finding compromises as my role – that is why I’m in politics.

You said that we need to talk about ideas instead of promises. You will have promises sooner or later. When will that be?

We have made promises in our platform. They are steps we are willing to take if we are included in forming the government. They are based on a long-term vision. We are not simply promising people more money as we do not believe it is realistic.

We will not achieve a state that is always there for its people by way of consecutive one-off benefits hikes. It can be achieved by fixing the social insurance system, healthcare system, transport network.

In your first interview, you talked about winning the elections, while there is no certainty you will even make the election threshold. What is your own long-term plan?

Our goal is to make it to the Riigikogu and government to do the things outlined in our manifesto.

There are no guarantees you will be able to do that.

That is what we are working toward. If it does not happen – which I hold to be unlikely – we will continue to apply pressure, either in the Riigikogu or outside of it, in terms of the things we’ve talked about.

I’m not going anywhere. I’m willing to give it 100 percent, seeing as I am already in politics.

Let us presume you will make it to the government. There is only a single education portfolio. What other ministerial position do you see yourself in?

A minister’s office is not what I’m thinking about. Seriously. I think of myself as a person who wants to have a debate, see certain decisions made in this process and to have them realized. Kristina Kallas being the one who realizes them is not the most important thing.

Of course, I have no desire to become agriculture minister as I have no qualification or passion for it. My personal topic is education. But Kristina Kallas is not one to fight for a ministerial position until her last breath.

Which major partner would fit you better, the Center Party or the Reform Party?

Common elements can be found with both: we have education and social topics in common with Center and matters pertaining to the economy with Reform.

You’ve said you would not deal with the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE). What common elements can be found with Pro Patria and the Social Democrat Party?

With the social democrats, it is the same as with the centrists: the social domain and education. We probably have the least in common with Pro Patria. Still, we share a concern for regional policy.

Estonia pooling together in Tallinn is a negative development that has not been paid enough attention. While we cannot stop that process, we need political decisions to make sure someone still lives in Kallaste in 50 years’ time.

Estonia 200 is at the beginning of its life cycle. How do you plan to avoid the Free Party’s fate?

Why should Estonia 200 meet the same fate as the Free Party? I would not compare Estonia 200 and the Free Party.

Let us compare it with the big players. Do you wish to become a mass party?

We do not want to become a mass party. It has not been our goal to construct a party. The party is merely a tool to facilitate our entry into politics. We cannot take part in elections as a political movement. That is why we were forced to create a party.

The University of Tartu Narva College, where you used to work, has a painting by Maria Sildyarevich called «Sipsik (beloved Estonian children’s book character – ed.) and Cheburashka (beloved Russian children’s book character – ed.) Headed for Summer». It depicts Sipsik simply in a good mood and Cheburashka rowing their boat. What does that symbolize for you?

I bought that painting when I became principal of the school. It symbolizes the same thing I am saying today. Cheburashka and Sipsik, children’s heroes, need to be in the same boat. The same school and kindergarten.

Why is Cheburashka rowing the boat alone?

I suppose Sipsik is navigating and Cheburashka is doing the heavy lifting so to speak. I believe the author did not want to say that Estonians are taskmasters and Russians have to do all the hard work. For me, the important thing is that Russian children would know who Sipsik is and Estonian children Cheburashka. They might not know that today.