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At the opening of the Riigikogu autumn session, the President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor and the President of the Republic Toomas Hendrik Ilves made speeches.

In his speech, Nestor touched upon current issues of political life, and the focus was on tolerance which is connected with the refugee issue, the Registered Partnership Act, as well as the complicated international situation.

“I wish that, when discussing the refugee issues, we would speak of the most important aspect, that is, only of how to receive refugees. Let us teach the Estonian language to those who arrive here, explain our traditions to them, provide education for the children and work for the parents. If we respect them, they will respect us,” Nestor said. He noted that Estonia is free world. And this is a world that respects the multitude of opinions, human freedoms, including the right to be different. “You see, it is possible to approach the question of tolerance both emotionally and rationally. For example, why should the majority be against allowing everyone in this country to organize their lives in a dignified way? To live together, to be happy,” Nestor stressed.

“It will soon get even hotter in our society that is already heated up by the refugee issue because, as a task that remained unfinished by the previous Riigikogu, the implementation part of the Registered Partnership Act will also have to be passed. What irritates and frustrates me particularly is the fact that the people who feel hit by the so-called tolerance attack claim that they are protecting Estonia and the Estonian identity. Who gave you this right?” Nestor said. He emphasised that, at the moment, only we, here and now, can and must take care of the present and the future of the Estonian people, language and culture. In order to do that, we need to create and build, not hate and burn. At the end of his speech, Nestor expressed a hope that the elections of the Riigikogu are finally over by now. “You have a lot of work, difficult choices, and very difficult choices ahead of you.” He wished the MPs success, willingness to cooperate, and respect for colleagues.

In his speech, Ilves placed an emphasis on discussing both international and domestic problems.

“Let us face the truth: right now we, I mean Europe, are being threatened by an unprecedented wave of war refugees entering our countries. We are seeing a new Migration Period, something that was last seen over a thousand years ago. It has been foretold for years, and today, I fear, it is here,” Ilves said. He highlighted the lesson that Estonia should never stay alone, that Estonia has to be together with others, be among the decision-makers, and that staying alive also means contributing to solving common problems. This lesson is as important now as it has been during all the years of our existence as a de facto independent country.

The President noted that, in order to cope with all that, and to make important decisions, we must restore politeness in our conversations. This has been completely lost in recent years, and particularly in recent months. The language that was once used only by anonymous commentators has reached politics. The comments forum itself has changed as well: it has become vulgar and threatening. Ilves said that he was expecting the Riigikogu to begin to tackle this issue.

Ilves urged all to understand that farmers had not gathered to Toompea just to protest that day. “Their anxiety and concern about agriculture and rural life in general is well founded. For various reasons, pig farming and dairy cattle farming have been hit the hardest,” Ilves said. “Let the Estonian parliament and the Estonian Government be allies to Estonian farmers now, and let us find possibilities to support them urgently. If this means extraordinary crisis aid, the aid will have to be given. If this means paying transitional supports from the state budget as allowed by the European Union, the support will have to be paid,” Ilves noted.

The President of the Republic said: “If this parliament needs a task and a narrative, I would formulate it so: Let us make Estonia newer. Let us start doing serious work and discard substituting activities. We must not be getting under the feet of events: education, state reform, swine fever and receiving of war refugees from third states are issues that should have been and could have been tackled long before the crisis was at hand. But for some reason such troubles nearly always hit Estonia unexpectedly.” The President expressed the hope that an efficient parliament can foresee problems and manage the processes.

Türnpu Male Choir of the Tallinn Male Choir Society, conducted by conductor Ene Kangron, who performed at the opening sitting, created a festive atmosphere.

The member of the Riigikogu Siim Valmar Kiisler, who assumed office to substitute Jaak Aaviksoo, took the oath of office before the Riigikogu. The Minister of Entrepreneurship Liisa Oviir, the Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso and the Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski who were appointed to office today also took the oath of office.

Then, ministers replied to seven interpellations submitted by members of the Riigikogu.

The Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu replied to the interpellation concerning the collective address “Stop the Overfeeding of Political Parties!”; the Minister of Rural Affairs Urmas Kruuse replied to the interpellation concerning African swine fever; the Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand replied to the interpellation concerning blank foreign passports of Ukraine and the receiving of refugees into Estonia; the Minister of Culture Indrek Saar replied to the interpellations concerning the obtaining of health insurance cover by creative persons who earn income on the basis of a contract under the law of obligations, and the financing of unexpected expenditures of sports federations.

Due to the absence of the minister, the Riigikogu did not deliberate the interpellations to the Minister of Education and Research Jürgen Ligi. The interpellations concerned the valuing of the work of nursery school teachers, and school lunch.

During the open microphone, Jaak Madisson and Märt Sults took the floor.

The sitting ended at 8.07 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201509141500

Photos of the opening sitting: https://fotoalbum.riigikogu.ee/v/Riigikogu/XIII+Riigikogu/14092015/

Video of the speech by the President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor: https://youtu.be/f1iXB9K0F30

Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu

(NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)

Riigikogu Press Service

Gunnar Paal, 631 6351, 5190 2837

[email protected]