President: Estonia needs parlt to be its guide

  • 2021-09-13
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - The moral turmoil of the last few years proves beyond a doubt that Estonia needs the Riigikogu to be its guide, President Kersti Kaljulaid said in a speech made in the Riigikogu on Monday.

"Dear Riigikogu -- the moral turmoil of the last few years, which everything surrounding the pandemic and vaccination has shown to us as a litmus test, proves beyond a doubt that Estonia needs the Riigikogu to be its guide. A Riigikogu that persistently puts into words our freedoms and responsibility in this kaleidoscopic life with which the world’s turning presents us," the president said.

According to Kaljulaid, the Riigikogu must be an institution the country trusts when we are seeking consensus for important decisions that will have long-lasting effects. The tone of public attention that shadowed the presidential election showed this certainly is not the case today. "If Estonian citizens were to feel that the Riigikogu is truly a body that represents the views of all who live here -- one where decisions take different worldviews into account while honoring the framework of freedoms, rights, and obligations enshrined in our Constitution -- then perhaps they would also be prepared to give the parliament more breathing room and generous trust to consider who will be the next Estonian president. I believe that much of the aggravation came from people simply regarding the Riigikogu as incompetent. They did not trust it to make a crucial decision in a manner and a way that has been trusted for 30 years," the president said.

"Are public officials to blame for making decisions when politicians fail to do so? They are not. An official has to decide something when there a lack of political guidance. Estonia’s public officials recognize responsibility -- they do not leave society guessing. But this shouldn’t be the case. Politicians should make the decision," Kaljulaid said, adding that it is not fair to have public officials decide the new balance between rights and freedoms -- the head of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, the head of the Estonian defense forces, directors of hospitals and ambulance services, or company CEOs.

"The balance is yours to make, dear Riigikogu. And, I might add -- public ire tends to fall upon those who made the decisions. Not on the Riigikogu. Even so, working from the passenger seat will have its long-term effects on the Riigikogu, too," Kaljulaid said.

"I’d like all these agreements to be made in the Riigikogu, not merely show up on your desks for approval. I would like the role of Riigikogu committees to never be limited to simply making changes in bills, a large share of which are also currently delivered by ministry officials and initiated by comments made to the drafts from outside the Riigikogu. I’d like the substantive, complex, and, for some, unavoidably uncomfortable agreements and compromises to be made transparently, as a result of meaningful debates, and right here in this hall," the president said.

Kaljulaid added that "there are members of the Riigikogu who consistently forget that anytime anyone opens their mouth to speak in this hall, they are not only addressing the individual asking or replying to a question, but are speaking to the Estonian people". "Whether it is an issue of intelligence or purposeful mockery of the parliamentary system -- only they can say," she said.

"Either way, a Riigikogu that has relinquished control over the wheel or simply lost it over the years, a Riigikogu that often doesn’t even take itself seriously, is putting the future of parliamentary democracy at risk. If people one day grow impatient and find that parliamentarianism isn’t for us, then there will unfortunately be actors who will use the situation to their own advantage," the president added.