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 discussed topical issues of political life that are connected with refugees, and touched upon matters pertaining to Brexit, security issues, international cooperation, and the concerns that have arisen in the national life in Estonia.
Nestor pointed out issues relating to the administrative reform. “The Riigikogu is keenly looking forward to draft Acts that are proposed in the plans of the administrative reform. It is our wish that this reform would bring about public authority with greater possibilities at the local level. There is not much time left. However, the Riigikogu needs time for both discussions and making decisions,” Nestor stressed.
The President of the Riigikogu asked rhetorically if it is reasonable that the judiciary gives the legislator an indication of a need to adopt one or another Act. “And if we can anticipate that, then why do we linger?” Nestor said. In connection with the implementing acts of the Registered Partnership Act, he noted that the fact that the Registered Partnership Act has been in force for the past nine months has not brought about any changes to our family life. “I believe that hundred members of the Riigikogu can confirm the same. If we are still afraid of something, then what is it? It is in our power to solve the situation where a court has made a judgment in view of the interests of children, but the population register cannot execute the court judgment because it, figuratively speaking, lacks “such” columns. I call on you once again to have a wider understanding of a happy person,” Nestor said.
Mentioning presidential elections as the hottest issue in Estonia today, the President of the Riigikogu said that he wished the electoral body of the Riigikogu success in electing the new President of the Republic of Estonia. “Unfortunately, also this time, the issue of whether the current procedure is actually the correct procedure for electing the President proved one of the most debated,” Nestor noted. According to his deep personal conviction this is the most inappropriate time for such a debate. “I call on you to suspend this issue for these twelve days that remain until the presidential election. After that, the discussion can be resumed, starting from direct election and ending with the elimination of the position,” Nestor said.
In his speech, Ilves stressed that, on the one hand, every time a member of the Riigikogu presses a button in this hall, irrespective of the colour of the button, it will affect at least 1.3 million people outside the assembly hall. On the other hand, this word or explanation should have the same role.
“You know what the Riigikogu is facing during this working year. The situation of the Health Insurance Fund, and ensuring medical care for our ageing population in a sustainable way. Competitiveness of Estonian agriculture during difficult times. Invigorating the economy. Subsistence of people. Dissipation of the public sector across the counties and preserving life in county centres, arguments over only four attraction centres, administrative reform, and the future of state reform more broadly. Possible changes in the tax policy and shaping excise duty rates taking into account the close neighbourhood of Estonia. Integration of refugees. E-Estonia, and ensuring that fast internet connections reach more people,” Ilves said.
Besides all that, the President attached importance to issues related to foreign and security policy. They include the impact of Brexit, and the future of the European Union. The continually precarious security in Europe. The ongoing migration crisis. The spreading of populism.
“Of course, this is not the final list. Estonia is a member of the EU and NATO, and thus our parliament deals with everything that surrounds and affects us, here and further afield. Figuratively speaking, you find on your desks everything from the issues of the EU Presidency to limiting the opportunities to take the driving test in county centres,” Ilves explained.
“This is the role of the parliament in a parliamentary nation, characterised also by a reasonable cooperation between the coalition and the opposition, in addition to the daily interaction with the non-governmental sector. A strong civil society that loudly draws attention to shortcomings when needed will never replace the parliament, but it supports the parliament in a functioning democracy,” the President stressed.
The boys’ choir “Estonia”, conducted by conductor Hirvo Surva, who performed at the opening sitting, created a festive atmosphere.
Then, ministers replied to five interpellations submitted by members of the Riigikogu.
The Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso replied to the interpellation concerning the health of persons liable to national defence obligation (No. 230).
The Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kristen Michal replied to the interpellation concerning completion of the ferries for the lines between large islands, and political responsibility (No. 222) and the interpellation concerning accidents with gas appliances (No. 226).
The Minister of the Environment Marko Pomerants replied to the interpellation concerning placing Apollo sea area under protection (No. 223) and the interpellation concerning water traffic on Lake Viljandi (No. 227).
During the open microphone, Märt Sults, Heimar Lenk and Peeter Ernits took the floor.
The sitting ended at 6.44 p.m.
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.)
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