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The President of the Republic at the opening of the 8th session of the Riigikogu Plenary Assembly September 11, 2006
11.09.2006


Dear people of Estonia!
Distinguished Members of the Riigikogu and the Government of the Republic!
Excellencies!

The activities of the current composition of the Riigikogu have made history as new opportunities made it possible to set higher goals and also to reach them. I would like to thank you for the attention you paid to the problems that both younger and older generations have to face. Taking care of young families and children means taking care of our future. This is an essential guarantee for ensuring the preservation of our nation for ages to come.

Your credentials in the Riigikogu will last for half a year more. After that people will assess how their representatives have used the credit of confidence that had been given to you. That confidence can be redeemed only by your deeds. I believe that during the next months you will take a critical look at your activities and assess how much of that credit of confidence you have used or left unused.

I would like to believe that the becoming autumn will cool down overboiling pre-election emotions and will create possibilities for correct political discussions. It is essential to bear in mind our national interests and not to exchange them for small change when playing the power game. Politics that determine Estonia’s development today and in the future should have more scientific accuracy and correctness and also the spirituality and figurativeness of art. Alas, with the help of our mass media attempts are made to make politics based upon quite different principles.

Three years ago, when you had just received your mandate from people, while speaking in front of you I spoke of shared responsibility. I had in mind cooperation between different levels of state power that is mutually supportive and serves the interests of people while taking into account the role and competence of each level.

Today I would like to add that we must not sacrifice the principles of cooperation and shared responsibility in order to achieve short-term political goals and narrow political ambitions. If cooperation were replaced by confrontation, the whole foundation would crumble down – people would lose their trust in bodies of state power, but also in the state as a whole.

At today’s opening session I would like, first of all, to touch upon some positive experiences, where already achieved agreements have been passed like a baton by one composition of the Riigikogu to the next one. This has guaranteed continuity and stability of democratic development. After that, I would like to highlight some issues that rise above election fight and that could be solved before your authorities in the Riigikogu will be over.

Our constitution treats the state’s internal and external peace as having equal value. Thanks to the support given by the present composition of the Riigikogu and during the term of its authorities, Estonia acceded to the European Union and NATO and that has given an essential guarantee for peace, security and stability both for our state and for the whole region.

It gratifies to see that the majority of our people are convinced in the rightness of Estonia’s main foreign policy choices. This is confirmed by the support to NATO as well as to the European Union that has stayed at about 70 percent.

There is no doubt that such secure anchoring of our state’s international position has had a favourable impact on our economic development. In recent years Estonia’s economic growth has been rapid and during this summer reached even 12 percent

At the same time, public opinion polls confirm the existence of an understanding that in order to be seriously taken members we have to give our contribution to the unity of the European Union and NATO. This is seen first of all in high support to the strengthening of our national defence capability and to the fulfilment of our international obligations.

Having the support of people, Estonia has all prerequisites for acting as a constructive and trustworthy state. Now, when the atmosphere is heated by elections, I would like to call upon our parties and politicians to think about the foreign policy dimension of the steps taken and the reputation of the Republic of Estonia in the world.

We have to understand that there are limits also for confrontations in internal politics and crossing the boundaries here may endanger our relations with our partners that we have built with serious efforts for many years, and we can also endanger the reputation of our state. I am sure that Estonia also in the future will meet its obligations both to its partners and international organisations

The expectations of Estonian people towards the European Union have grown considerably. In the circumstances where the fulfilment of several essential tasks has to be carried out under difficult conditions, it is expected that politicians would make much bigger contribution to the development of the European Union. In order to find solutions we have to act wisely also when our internal policy is experiencing a tense period.

Considering the EU’s regional policy goals we have to strengthen our cooperation with our neighbours in the Baltic and Nordic countries. Cooperation with Russia that is based on mutual interests has also to be supported. Positive changes in the relations between the two countries in the fields of culture, education as well as in economy might lead Russian political circles closer to an honest and unprejudiced understanding of history.

Estonia continuously places high priority on avoiding the appearance of crisis hotbeds and the escalation of tension that leads to new conflicts, to avoiding the recurrence of the tragedy that happened in New York five years ago, to securing peace and stability in the world. Regrettably, the threat of terror has not lessened yet. Therefore, alongside with creating security measures we have to deal also with the causes of terrorism and have to enhance our contribution to security and development cooperation.

Since the regaining of our independence and the accession to the European Union we have accumulated valuable experiences of developing democracy and market economy in a transition country. This needs to be systematized and critically analysed so that we could more efficiently assist those countries that would like to benefit from our experience.

Dear listeners!
An essential guarantee for internal peace of the state is the existence of legal order that is stable and responds flexibly to the needs of society, and is based on the Constitution. Lately, we have heard quite a lot of critical remarks about the Constitution. This makes us ask if our foundation is strong enough to support the building of our rapidly developing legal system. Our law professors also asked that question when they analysed the balance of powers in the draft worked out by the Constituent Assembly. The political background of that time influenced the decision to leave out the provision of direct election of the president as a significant balancing mechanism.

Also the draft that was proposed by President Meri before he left the office reached an impasse. The additions and amendments introduced in the cause of legislative proceedings disregarded the underlying logic of the Constitution and its theoretical framework. The Riigikogu should take it as an educative example when it undertakes to realise the promise of the parties to introduce direct election of the president by the people. I hope that the Riigikogu has enough determination for that.

Next year, on June 28, fifteen years will pass from the adoption of our Constitution. This is a proper landmark and should give a new impetus to the drafting of amendments to our Constitution. The current Riigikogu could initiate this praiseworthy work.

Protection of constitutional rights is an essential part of our shared responsibilities. The primary guarantee of the strength and efficiency of a legal system is the respect towards it. Contradiction between the society’s feeling of justice and legal provisions should be also a serious signal to our legislators. It is possible to avoid such conflict involving general public into the process of legislative drafting. In so doing our laws would be better understood and complied with.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about the absence of the vision of Estonia’s future and visionaries. Instead of complaining we should recall that the Riigikogu and the Government have enforced numerous development plans that include goals for many fields. Among them we find a long-term national strategy for Estonia: Sustainable Estonia 21. We have to put those plans on the table again and check them against changes that have already happened, our needs and possibilities and to formulate the most essential activities. In so doing we shall have our plan for the future that has a clear aim - to secure the preservation of our nation and our own state.

We certainly must increase the involvement of local government in big policy making processes, in making and implementing decisions that have impact to the development of the whole of Estonia.

I have repeatedly stressed that local government is the main pillar of democratic governance and the primary guarantee of society’s stable development. For more efficient functioning of local government we need additional legal guarantees of stable revenue base of local governments. We also have to continue with transferring land into municipal ownership and with supporting cooperation between local governments at a regional level.

Alongside with looking into the future, it is also useful to cast a look at what we have right in front of us. Failing to do that we could stumble and loose sight of our target. Directly speaking, we have to solve the questions that are currently causing unfounded doubts about the state’s capabilities, as the everyday well being of people depend on them.

Traffic hooligans dominate the streets and roads, and hundreds of people perish in accidents. Doctors and rescue workers do not reach people in time to save their lives or property. Train and bus services are becoming less frequent and unreliable. Many young people drop out of school before finishing basic school. Too many people live below poverty level.

Solving of those problems would help to create a much more safe and secure living environment. This is also what people first and foremost expect from the state. When in the 1970-ies the number of traffic accidents in Finland grew rapidly, the state increased its investments into road safety and introducing several restrictive measures succeeded in improving the situation very quickly.

It is within the power of the Riigikogu to allocate budgetary means in order to mitigate shortcomings. But traffic culture, similarly to people’s behaviour in general, can be influenced by everybody using good examples. I expect that first of all our public figures: politicians, but also business leaders, intellectuals and sportsmen will take the lead.

Those who attempt to ridicule everyday needs of our citizens probably do not grasp the real content and meaning of problems. “Patching roofs of schoolhouses” is a phrase used in political rhetoric and though it is used in figurative meaning, it indicates the practical problems that local governments have to face every day. While belittling those problems by using derisive language, also legitimate aspirations of local governments and educational institutions are being ridiculed.

Having in mind long-term national interests our teachers play a very important role. At the same time our state has not valued the work of teachers according to the weight they carries, as a teacher’s salary is often lower than the average salary in Estonia. I call upon the Riigikogu to use all available means to establish some kind of balance here.

Our rapid economic growth and the assistance granted by the EU have made it possible to draw up ever more bigger budgets and gives hope to having a supplementary budget again. It may be that the years of abundance have made us a little arrogant, or have provoked too optimistic expectations. To justify the people’s trust we have to use today’s opportunities fairly and economically.

In order to secure the growth of well-being of Estonian citizens we need long-term investments into education, health care and infrastructure. Those investments will help to strengthen the foundation of knowledge-based economy and create conditions for innovation and technological development. In case of an efficient investment, foresightedness and good planning are more important than a fast result.


Distinguished members of the Riigikogu!

Looking back we can say that Estonia has been successful. As we look ahead we wish that everybody in this country could partake in sharing the fruit of success. I hope that all our state institutions will stay conscious of their responsibility towards this country where we all live and will feel sympathy towards the people they have to serve. I call upon you to act all together in the name of our common values so that Estonia could grow bigger and bigger in the eyes of its citizens.

Thank you for your attention.
See you in October!


© 2006 Office of the President l tel: + 372 631 6202 l fax: + 372 631 6250 l sekretarvpk.ee