When I was elected to the EP, one of the messages that I heard during meetings with voters was "please do not disappear when you are in Brussels, please stay connected to Estonia." I was the most popular politician in my country. I received 65,000 votes, and the runner-up received 40,000. The difference is huge. And it was easy for me because people like me. However, even then, it's difficult to keep in contact.
So what I do are monthly online discussions, monthly texts in online newspapers and weekly updates on what is happening here. I am really active on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter for different groups. Twitter is mainly for foreigners. Facebook is for all generations in Estonia. Younger generation follows Insta. You just have to be creative.
I don't talk only about politics. There are some limits about how far I let the media into my private life. I will never invite journalists to my home. But I am showing photos of my dogs. And I negotiate with my kid about how much I can show my grandkids to the public.
My secret weapon is my dog. I have a 14-year-old mixed breed; his mother was in a shelter. His name is Rocky. When I see the people disappearing after all of my political statements, I publish a couple of photos of Rocky, he has his fun club, and people come back. I have two dogs. But Rocky is much more popular than my second dog, Scottish terrier. Rocky is much more popular than my grandkids, for that matter! So when I see that people are disappearing, I put a couple of photos with Rocky, they all come back and then I publish a political statement.
So you have to play all the time. Because if you only make political statements, people don't want that, especially during summer and nice weather. They don't want to hear about politics, they want to see you as a human being. Therefore, it is up to every person to decide how far they let the public attention go. There are many politicians in Estonia who let media into their bedrooms and everywhere. I do not. I am more conservative. For example, I have 3 grandkids. So my negotiations with my own kids are like this: I can show the face of one grandkid, and two others I can show only from the back or profile. You can see these pictures on my Facebook.
You have to be creative. And I think you have to talk to people frankly and openly. If you start speaking the bureaucratic language and the European Parliament language, they don't understand you. People in Estonia don't always understand what the European Parliament does. Whenever I try to speak about the European Parliament, they still ask about salaries, pensions and everything. So, talking, talking, talking, meeting people and working endlessly.
I would say that our civil society is already very robust. We started building it in 1991, and now it is really strong. I just can't imagine working without civil society.