Meri bows out

  • 2001-10-11
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - His term as Estonian president over, Lennart Meri this week wished his successor Arnold Ruutel luck and filed a constitutional amendment calling for direct presidential elections and the creation of a constitutional court.

"I hope the next president will be elected by the people," said Meri, handing the proposed amendments to Toomas Savi, speaker of the Parliament.

Under his proposals the constitutional court would be the supreme arbiter in interpreting the constitution and would also resolve arguments between the government, the president and Parliament.

"The court would provide the balance the Estonian state lacks today," said Meri.

On the afternoon of Oct. 8 Ruutel took the presidential oath before Parliament and announced three priorities, all of them considered to be in the domestic sphere: the demographic situation, education and employment.

"For the president of Estonia there can be no different Estonias," he said, referring to comparisons common in the media between a successful urban Estonia and the country's backward rural areas.

Meri and his wife welcomed Ruutel and the new first lady Ingrid Ruutel to the Kadriorg Palace at 2 p.m. on Oct. 8 and introduced them to the staff of the presidential chancellery.

An hour later a special session of Parliament began with Meri's speech, in which U.S. military action against Afghanistan was the subject of the first paragraph.

"Morally and juridically the war affects Estonia," he said, citing a paragraph from the Baltic Charter signed by the three Baltic republics and the U.S.A.

At 5 p.m. the ex-first couple hosted a reception at the Kadriorg Palace to bid farewell to foreign diplomats and top officials and to introduce them to the new presidential couple.

In a speech broadcast on the state-owned television channel ETV the previous evening Meri said: "I have a lot to tell you. Maybe you are expecting my political testimony, but there won't be one. I am not going to die, I will stay among you in Estonia.

"What can I say about the presidency? It was surely not an easy job. The media always criticize, regardless of the subject, as an end in itself."

Estonia was now at a crossroads, he said, facing the opportunity to join the European Union and NATO. "We have created good opportunities for ourselves. These opportunities need to be realized wisely.

"A steam roller is not a tool for integration. We have to find a consensus that will unite the governing coalition and the opposition for the sake of the Estonian state and the people. We can manage that. The political parties are learning and if they don't, they disappear."