President of the Republic at the opening session of the Riigikogu, 4 April 2011
Respected XII Riigikogu,
ladies and gentlemen,
The elections have taken place, the results have been announced and one hundred and one representatives of the Estonian people have taken up office.
As in many other countries, we also have the habit of numbering the composition of our parliament.
This is done because every parliament will turn a new page. Every Riigikogu has a new mandate. Every member of the Riigikogu will start again and anew today.
This means that you must not be bound by what has been, should you find that what was done does not really work.
This means that you can do things differently and in a new way, if they did not work as required when done in the old way.
Essentially, follow your convictions. Do what you feel is right.
The Constitution has decreed the Riigikogu to last through time. On the one hand, this will place you with the obligation of being worthy of your predecessors, and to maintain and promote what was done here before.
The attitude adopted by the Estonian people with respect to the Parliament and also its country in ten, fifty and one hundred years will depend on you.
Every one of you has this one, yet completely exceptional prerogative: to represent the people, supported by the trust shown by the potentates of the supreme power and adopt decisions, that will determine the fate of the country.
Therefore, each and every member of the Riigikogu shall have double the responsibility. He/she must earn his or her mandate and represent the will of his or her electorate. But he/she will also be responsible for the Parliament, the sequence numbers of which shall keep growing as long as the Republic of Estonia survives.
My ladies and gentlemen.
The most important attribute of a member of the Riigikogu is the understanding that he/she has been appointed to serve. To serve his/her electorate, to serve his/her country.
This service may come at a high price, as we can see when looking at the memorial plaque in the courtyard of the parliament building, which is dedicated to the members of the Riigikogu who perished under the repressions of the occupational regime.
Let us not forget – not even for a second – that serving your country is an honour.
This honour shall not be distinguished by gender, age, political party or polling station. This is a capital that is accustomed to measuring the efficiency of your work on the day your authority in this building shall end.
And together let us hope that there will be more moral capital to hand down to your descendants than you found here yourself today.
If the needle of your moral compass points in the right direction, and if you proceed with an awareness that the language of this country and nation and our culture and mentality will sustain our country and every person, this shall not be a difficult task. And most certainly, this will not be unattainable.
You turn a new page, but you stand on a solid foundation.
I would like to thank the XI Riigikogu, which had to exercise its authorities during times that were complicated in many ways.
Many promises that were given liberally to the people when we were on the top of the economic growth wave crumbled under the strength of the credit crunch.
The war in Georgia changed the security policy structure of Europe and shattered the belief that the European security structure and its primary ideas, which developed twenty years ago, shall last forever.
Street riots in Tallinn forced us to reconsider the gaps in our integration and education policies and confirmed that the Soviet ways of thinking are difficult to eradicate.
But we also have to admit that at that moment Estonia became an international example that has been often used as a reference for a country that is adapting rapidly to changing economic conditions.
Some countries postponed painful decisions; some never made then. They face more difficulties today; their future is uncertain.
We will not take pleasure in knowing this. The difficulties of others will not even slightly diminish the difficulties and bitterness in our families and companies that have been sown by the harsh economic decline.
But Estonia coped. Just as we can see today in nature, the first signs of dynamic growth can also be observed in the Estonian economy.
For that, I want to acknowledge the people who kept cool heads;
the government, which adopted inevitable decisions promptly;
I want to thank the Riigikogu, which preferred co-operation to opposition and paralysis.
A month ago, the electorate appraised the work that was done. But not only that. It sent hope to Toompea with a message for the next possible setback to be softer and less unexpected.
The electorate invested its faith in the Republic of Estonia becoming more caring, smarter and better in the next four years to come.
My ladies and gentlemen.
The good work done that was mostly done by your predecessors has been overshadowed by some conflicts with the Constitution and inane slips of pen. I have been consistently pointing these out to you.
Everybody makes mistakes; this is human. Countries sometimes adopt wrong decisions and wish for the best. The errors can be later corrected – provided that we are lucky.
But negligence and inattention and the deliberate and purposeful ignoring of the Constitution should be something that is completely ruled out, from day one, by the XII Riigikogu.
I wish you courage to review the legal acts that are not working as originally intended.
Amend the laws that work badly, insufficiently or are a total failure, as this will solidify faith in a country, based on a rule of law, and constitutional order.
About every law, ask – do we need it? Do the benefits and clarity expected from a new law outweigh the accompanying confusion and possible setbacks?
Ask about every article and every line in the budget – will this contribute to the well being of the people? Will it make Estonia bigger and better?
My ladies and gentlemen.
Four and a half years ago, when I took up office, I defined here, in this very hall, a dream for Estonia – but, above all, for myself – which could be considered a commitment.
I did hope, back then, that on the 20th anniversary of restoring our independence Estonia would be able to look and act as if the occupation had never happened.
We have largely reached this goal. In 20 years, we have regained a lot of what we had lost over 50 years. We have largely been able to avoid the mistakes that once caused the destruction of our country. In contrast to that time, we can and want to discuss our difficulties in public.
This is an achievement of the Estonian people, our entrepreneurs and intellectuals, our third sector and media, Estonian civil servants, and different compositions of government and parliament.
We know the troubles and difficulties that the new Riigikogu and the Government, which is to take office soon, has received a mandate to solve from its electorate.
We know our weaknesses, which were ruthlessly revealed by the recent economic crisis.
If Estonia is doing well, our economy is growing and the sun is shining; everything appears to be fine.
But if the economy goes into decline, a heavy snowfall or strong wind will interrupt traffic, cause blackouts and carry away roofs; our country will be breaking apart at the seams.
The state will become helpless at the very moment when its citizens are relying on its support and help.
Estonia is still short of resources of strength. It has been optimised too heavily in places.
The performance of any machine – much less the performance of the state machine – can never be designed based on ideal conditions.
We must count our blessings for being given the opportunity to rebuild our country, which has saved us from the bitter shocks in Estonia and from those in our immediate borders.
Now, as a more mature, wealthier nation and as a member of the best organisations in the world, it is our duty to make society more cohesive and therefore stronger.
Let this become our next objective.
Over the last four years, Estonia’s place in the world and Europe has changed, almost unnoticeably. The economic crisis saw the division of Europe into old and new, east and west, as obsolete, even inappropriate.
Today, the credibility of the European Union Member States is more and more dependent on each state’s reasonable behaviour. The position of once being on the winning side of the Cold War and having beautiful infrastructures built with the assistance from the former structural funds has less and less value.
Estonia is a grown-up country now and this is how we are being treated. This brings a commitment to help others, whether we do this in Afghanistan, along the coasts of Somalia or within the Nordic Battle Group. But also by contributing to the European stabilisation mechanism to support those who have not done as well as Estonia.
Our growing freedom and opportunities to travel around the world mean that our country will be more and more committed to protecting its citizens throughout the world.
My ladies and gentlemen.
When we begin to put some substance into the mandate granted by our electorate, we must ask ourselves, directly and honestly:
Is life everywhere in Estonia equally worth living?
Will all our talents blossom?
Does the education provided by our universities meet the needs of our smartest young people?
Do our basic schools, vocational schools and gymnasiums prepare young people to cope and find work in the economy of the 21st century?
Will the best ideas become decisions that promote common interests?
Are the constitutional rights of citizens refutably protected, always and everywhere?
Are we all, regardless of our native language and culture, happy right here, in Estonia?
As long as the answer is negative or even hesitant, we should not worry about our lack of objectives.
Estonia’s next objective is to shape our country into a living environment that our kin will not leave, where people will return to, having gained enriching experiences, and where all the friends of Estonia will want to live, accomplish their goals and enrich our shared lives.
And only then will we have a country that looks and acts as if the occupation never happened.
This is a goal worth the effort of surpassing oneself; this deserves suppressing personal ego and the pettiness of political parties and calls for substantial co-operation between the coalition and the opposition.
You, the respected members of the XII Riigikogu, have a chance to turn a new page, reach this objective and thereby serve your country and your people in the best possible way.
For that, I wish you strength. Thank you.