Members of the Riigikogu,
Honourable President Kersti Kaljulaid, I am really happy that you have decided to keep alive the tradition started and carried by Presidents Lennart Meri, Arnold Rüütel and Toomas Hendrik Ilves that the President of the Republic attends and also speaks at the first autumn sitting of the Riigikogu.
Government of the Republic, constitutional institutions, Excellencies, good people here at home and around the world!
Although my speech will be dedicated to work as always, please allow me to start on a note of appreciation. Because one important anniversary in our life passed somehow too quietly, in my opinion. A couple of words about the best law of the Republic of Estonia. As the President of the Riigikogu, I inevitably find myself in situations where I tend to compare us with others who have shared the same fate. Where something went well, or on the contrary, badly and has to be redone. And if things have gone well in Estonia for some reason, I look for an answer to the question “Why?”, and always end up finding one and the same law. This law is the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, which was approved by a large majority of people on 28 June 1992. Dear members of the Constitutional Assembly, I thank you, first of all as the citizen of the Republic of Estonia, for the work you did already more than 25 years ago from now. Thank you for respecting the rights and freedoms of the people, for the preservation and development of the Estonian language and culture, for the parliamentary system of governance that suits the open world, for the fundamental principles of the election system that meets the expectations of the society, and for the balanced constitutional review. To be honest, the life of politicians would have been simpler if they could have acted according to some other, certainly also democratic constitution. You did not give this possibility to your successors, and you did right.
However, nothing that is made by man is eternal, and if something can be made better, this is what should be done. Therefore today we speak, if not very loudly yet, of the need to reform the state. It is certainly necessary, but let us not forget to ask what the purpose of the changes is. Why we are making one or another change. What we will win, what we will lose. And in no case should we let ourselves lose or even risk something in the phenomenon called democracy. I believe we all would like to live in a country where people are well-off. It is not possible to create such a country without democracy. I will discuss one topic here a little.
Some say it is important – and I am not ashamed to speak of it here – how many members the Riigikogu will have in the future. Very specific and popular thing, understandable to all. Unfortunately it would not make the state much “cheaper”, but it is thought to have a significant meaning.
In the case of the Riigikogu as a democratically elected body that searches for balance in the society, in my opinion, quite another number is more important. How many world views or political parties could here be by the will of the people? Four, dear colleagues, was too few in my opinion. Three would be the lowest limit. Two would be standing on the edge of an abyss, where it is not really possible to believe that the country can be governed consistently. Today, the support of five percent of people leaves nobody out of the body elected by the people. Yes, maybe as few as five seats, but still. But what could a faction with, let us say, two members achieve?
Or another example. It is said that our prime ministers do not have enough power. They have to keep peace in the coalition and conciliate different opinions. In my opinion, all our prime ministers have successfully managed to do that. And if we gave the prime minister the power to ride roughshod over the cabinet, then it would be easy to predict the result. While we have two coalitions on the average during the term of one Riigikogu at present, with a prime minister with greater powers we would have at least four. And now a question: would it not be a threat to democracy to drift from one government crisis to the next, because the voters would be fed up with it one day? I think history has taught us that getting tired of parliamentarianism may one day lead to silent surrender.
And let us pay respects to the work of our predecessors also in regard to constitutional review. Like the engineers say, this machine works, and works well. All presidents and chancellors of justice have followed their mandate, the judicial power in Estonia is independent. And this is how it has to be. I see no need to reduce the power of the parliament elected by the people and to create another chamber beside it, which would – no matter at whose request – approve all laws and resolutions, and which would not be elected by the people and would therefore be called the constitutional court.
When we reform the state, democracy, and the right to decide belonging to the highest power, or the voters, should not be the losers.
I invite you, my dear colleagues in the Riigikogu, to think also of the Riigikogu’s organisation of work during reforming of the state. For example: is the number of our committees really what it should be? Does it not disturb you that the natural wish to hold a parliamentary debate becomes possible in our plenary assembly only when the supervisory rights of the Riigikogu are used in a slightly smarter way? The interpellations on Monday are about the only possibility that our present rules of procedure provide today. Or why do the proposals of the Chancellor of Justice, to which the plenary has almost unanimously agreed, get stuck somewhere with us? Because we wait for a bill as such from the government. In a parliamentary republic, these bills should be born in this house without much trouble.
The state reform will be successful if we try to find an answer to the question of how the power could be more modern and open. When we look for an answer to the question of how to be lower-budget or more efficient, we can succeed in some things, but at the same time also cut our finger. And cut painfully.
But during the coming months, the local elections in October will add sparkle and sizzle to our work here in this hall. As will the results of these elections. Wishing you all success, I dare to remind you that no allowances in their Riigikogu work will be made to those who get elected to the local government council. Therefore think well whether you will be able to perform two functions after being elected. Maybe it would be right to make a choice here. I see no reason to be ashamed when a person starts their work and activities in the local government only after the end of the Riigikogu mandate. Because nobody has to get there without standing as a candidate and being elected. Unfortunately there are still some outstanding issues relating to the administrative reform, and we are looking forward to the positions of the Supreme Court. Here one has to admit that the government’s decisions on forced mergers also added fuel to the fire instead of calming it down. But the decision of the Supreme Court will certainly be fair and just.
Honourable President! I would not be honest to myself if I did not touch upon the following issue. The Riigikogu will definitely also pass a decision on the sugar tax law, which was not proclaimed. I do not know today, nor can I predict, what this decision will be like. But I consider it my duty here and today to explain that, in regard to several acts that are in force already, in establishing various conditions, the Riigikogu has proceeded from the position that a supermarket is a supermarket, and a ship is a ship and not a supermarket. Maybe this position has been wrong, but hopefully we will reach a common understanding.
Dear compatriots. I hope that the understanding that the Registered Partnership Act in no way harasses the people it does not concern, which is increasingly spreading in the society, will in the course of time reach also this hall. Maybe we will be able to pass the implementing acts then.
Honourable ambassadors. No matter what our government coalitions are like, Estonia is a firm supporter of international cooperation and meets its allied commitments. This conviction, which I have repeatedly told you, is based on the knowledge that the voters simply would not elect a parliament that thinks otherwise. This has been, is and remains so. You will tell me later how successful our Presidency of the EU Council was. But the parliament is doing its best.
Members of the Riigikogu, The Republic of Estonia will soon be one hundred years old. Knowing you, I believe this knowledge will first of all put you in the mood for work. Because already Tammsaare admitted that without it, there will not be love.
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