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The President of the Republic visited the Island of Kihnu

President Arnold Rüütel and Mrs Ingrid Rüütel on their four-day tour of small islands visited Kihnu where they, coming from Manilaid, arrived yesterday afternoon. During a tour of the island and several discussion and meetings, the President was given an overview of the life on the island.

At a discussion circle, which took place yesterday, the President was provided with a detailed overview of the problems of small islands. It was noted during the discussion that the Small Islands Act going to take effect in the next year had a wider meaning than just its impact on small islands, since it was to regulate participatory democracy in any small community. It was suggested that, on the one hand, it was community's own concern how to use possibilities arising therefrom, but, on the other hand, the state's concern too, who should help ensure the economic and cultural sustainability of islands.

Municipality Mayor Johannes Leas hosting the discussion opined that the state should promote not only tourism but also traditional lines of trade of small islands. Furthermore, he found that land should not be turned into an object of speculation and that municipalities should have the right of first refusal on land.

The President of the Republic said that, for this purpose, the first step should be, to become at the state level aware of the real value of the specific way of life and environment on islands, and the second one, to identify the means and possibilities for their preservation.

The County Governor of Pärnumaa, Toomas Kivimägi, opined that the above act would merely create preconditions to stand up for one’s rights and to capitalize on development possibilities, but to make the act work, scores of implementing legislation needed to be worked out and enacted.

The President and Mrs Ingrid Rüütel paid a call on the oldest resident of Kihnu, Maria KösterYesterday evening, the President and Mrs Ingrid Rüütel paid a call on the oldest resident of Kihnu, Maria Köster. They also visited the Museum, Church and School of Kihnu, and viewed an exhibition of the works of local master craftsmen at the farm named Mõnu. The day ended with a folk festival where Ingrid Rüütel presented a book on Estonian folk songs entitled ''Vana Kannel VII: 2 Kihnu regilaulud.''

This morning, the President of the Republic at Kihnu's harbour met with local fishermen who broached several problems. Our inshore fishermen had to compete with trawlers, and that in a situation where they, due to extremely low fish prices, were not able to purchase modern fishing equipment. On top of that, they couldn’t accumulate money for investments, and the lack of collaterals hindered them from borrowing.

In President Rüütel's estimation, the market and the situation of fishermen could be stabilized if long-term contracts were concluded, and the European Union, too, would open new possibilities.

Thereafter, the President of the Republic and Mrs Ingrid Rüütel at the Community Centre of Kihnu talked with local entrepreneurs, leaders of the municipality, and activists of local cultural and educational life about the present and future of Kihnu. The islanders noted that their traditional lines of business had taken the back seat, since the state had failed to make people believe that these trades would enable them to earn their living in future. Tourism had become the most important source of income, but tourism, too, in a closed community like theirs, could be developed only on the basis of their traditional way of life. They also found that, in a small community like this, no trade in itself could pay off and therefore, the state should support education, folklore, handicraft, transportation, fishing and farming in small communities. Ingrid Rüütel and Ants Laansalu from the Ministry of Agriculture assured that all of this could be supported by the European Union.

President Rüütel summing up noted that residents of small islands, just like fishermen and farmers, should join together in order to protect their rights. At the same time, the state as well should attach importance to continuation of the islanders' way of life, and that - regarding both budget and taxation, and working out support programmes.

Having departed from Kihnu on a border-guard helicopter, the President and Mrs Ingrid Rüütel at noon arrived in Ruhnu.

Office of the President
Kadriorg, July 10, 2003

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