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The Riigikogu began its autumn session with an opening sitting that included speeches by the President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor and President Toomas Hendrik Ilves

In his speech, the President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor noted that for the last six months of its term, this Riigikogu will work in a radically changed world. “A world where an empire has arrogantly embarked on broadening its sphere of influence by force. A world where tensions are fuelled by reviving the old North Korean practice of cross border abductions. A world where it has become clear that the end of the Cold War has been reversed. Behavioural norms that go back centuries no longer appeal, and new solutions are being sought,” Nestor said. 

Nestor said that the events in Ukraine only serve to remind us of more recent as well as of more ancient history. “Estonia has consistently supported and will continue to support the free and democratic development of Ukraine – we also do this in the parliament. After all, their choice is basically the same as ours. East or West, gulag or university,” Nestor said. He expressed his conviction that the Riigikogu would ratify the agreements signed in the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership with overwhelming support. 

Nestor noted that, since 1992, the Riigikogu has consciously kept two fields away from the majority-minority tug-of-war. These are foreign and defence policy. “We wish the same line of action and understanding to be continued in the dramatically strained new situation. This requires two things. Firstly, a more open communication between the government and the Riigikogu than might be commonly expected. Both the government and the Riigikogu committees have repeatedly demonstrated it during these critical times as well, and we can be sure that this cooperation is permanent. And secondly, a constructive exchange of opinions. The competition between parties on “who is the most Estonian” is out of place here. Unfortunately, there are already signs of that. In the case of the violent abduction of an Estonian official across the border to Russia on Friday, the experts must sense which opinions could harm the official as well as the Republic of Estonia, if voiced. Let us avoid this. Seriously,” Nestor said. 

When speaking of the Riigikogu elections upcoming in March next year, Nestor noted that Estonian NGOs have developed the tradition of encouraging political parties to respect good election practices during the election campaign. He admitted that not all the parties have heeded this call. “Despite this, I am encouraging you to start from the principles proposed by the NGOs also during the proceeding of draft legislation and discussions in the Riigikogu Plenary Assembly and the committees. For example, it is not difficult to praise or criticise an idea itself instead of the individual or the party who came up with it,” Nestor explained. He added that that was an encouragement, not a proposal. “This is why we cannot vote on that and take out a ten minute recess before the vote. And let us also be brave in coming up with new ideas concerning the ability of the elected body to better react to the events in the society,” Nestor said. He stressed that the Riigikogu cannot fall behind the development in the context of open society. It must be clear what actions are taken here and why. 

Nestor noted that it is only natural that parties wish to set themselves apart during the time running up to the elections. “At the same time, the troubled situation in Europe forces us to show the areas where we are ready to cooperate in the name of common interests. I sincerely hope that we manage to strike a balance here! I wish you all the success,” Nestor said. 

The President of the Republic Toomas Hendrik Ilves said that the events in our neighbourhood serve to remind us that security and wellbeing are not to be taken for granted. We need to make efforts for both. And there is good reason to make efforts. “Our right choices of the past: democracy, rule of law, European Union and NATO, form our best defence today. We should now be wise and strong enough to continue making the right choices,” Ilves said. 

The President finds that there is only one path to ensure the survival of the Estonian nation and culture. We must mould the kind of Estonia where our compatriots want to be, and that our friends want to visit. It is in our power. Since we are a small nation, it is possible to carry out changes quickly. The emergence and the implementation of the best ideas is easier here than in a large country. 

Ilves hopes that the participants of the spring election campaign will have enough conscience not to use two cheap means: promising money benefits without any sources of funding, and discrediting Estonia. He called to concentrate on choosing an honest path for the future instead. Ilves stressed: one can and must make important decisions using the mandate issued by the voter. “Because, as I mentioned last winter: what has brought us here will not get us any further,” Ilves sätted. 

The President said that, in the short perspective, the decision-makers may fall under harsh criticism. “People get cross when no reforms are made, but they will also bash the government for even the smallest of changes. This is how it is here and everywhere else. It is easy to stand together against something that is already there. It is harder, but wiser, to reach an agreement and to decide how to go on,” Ilves noted.

The President stressed that there are times when one can and should keep up the level and preserve stability. And there are times when old methods do not work anymore. “One has to take responsibility, make decisions, and act; come to terms with setbacks and console oneself with the fact that the just evaluation will come later, when the results of the reforms are at hand,” Ilves said. 

Thereafter, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, the Minister of Internal Affairs Hanno Pevkur, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Urve Palo and the Minister of Health and Labour Urmas Kruuse replied to interpellations in the Riigikogu.

The interpellations concerned the negative prospects of economic growth (No 411), the situation of the poor in Estonia (No 412), the regional influence of the activities of banks (No 416), the statements of the Prime Minister damaging the positions of Estonia (No 426), cyber bullying spreading in Estonia (No 421), the managing of Enterprise Estonia (No 409), fulfilment of the objectives of the activity of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications (No 415), the availability of specialised medical care (No 414) and the waiting lists for specialised medical care (No 418). 

The sitting ended at 7.33 p.m. 

The speeches made at the opening sitting are available (in Estonian) at: https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu 

Photos of the opening sitting of the autumn session: http://fotoalbum.riigikogu.ee/v/2014/Riigikogu/Sugisistungjargu+avaistung/ 

The Riigikogu Press Service