TALLINN - President Arnold Ruutel said he wanted to represent Estonia at the May 1 EU enlargement ceremony in Dublin even though Prime Minister Juhan Parts had received an invitation to the historical event.
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern sent an invitation to Parts back in November to mark the 10 new countries' accession to the EU together with other European leaders. But Ruutel wants to go as well, and according to the daily Eesti Paevaleht the president's public relations adviser Eero Raun has admitted as much.
Raun said a decision allowing the president to go could be made once more information about the function was available.
"The prime minister's attendance is justified if it is an intergovernmental conference or a meeting like the European Council," Raun said. "If it is a ceremonial meeting, it is logical that the president will go."
The current Irish presidency of the European Union has planned festivities throughout the country at the end of April and the beginning of May, culminating in an Irish-style Welcome Day ceremony with the participation of EU leaders on May 1.
Asked whether the president or the prime minister should go to Dublin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee Marko Mihkelson said Parts should go.
"There is no question about it, as the invitation has been sent to the prime minister," Mihkelson said.
Head of the European affairs committee Rein Lang agreed, though he admitted that the question as to who should represent Estonia as full member of the EU and NATO had not been answered yet.
"There are different views on the issue," he admitted.
For instance, there was a misunderstanding between the head of state and the head of government in summer 2002 over who should go to the NATO summit in Prague where seven new countries, including Estonia, were invited to join the alliance. By August the situation was still not clear, until finally then Prime Minister Siim Kallas explained to Ruutel that there might be a last-minute need for Estonia to take additional obligations before NATO and the president would have no authority to do it.
Kallas went to Prague, but Ruutel subsequently attended the summit in Athens last year where the agreement on enlargement of the European Union was signed.
According to the constitution, the president is supreme commander of the armed forces and also represents Estonia in international relations.
In December Parliament's foreign affairs committee drew attention to the lack of coordination in Estonia's foreign policy and suggested that the president limit the number of trips abroad. Mihkelson then said that it would be sensible of the president to make only two state visits a year, if only in the interests of economy.
Last year Ruutel together with a retinue made three foreign visits - to Luxembourg, Malta and Romania. This January he visited Cyprus.
After consideration of "more intense foreign contacts" the presidential office's representation and reception expenses were increased in the 2004 state budget.