Speaker of Parliament Ene Ergma said she was confident her decision to bar Finnish Education Minister Krista Kiuru from addressing the Estonian Parliament in a session set for this Thursday was not taken the wrong way.
"I talked it over with her and I get the feeling the Finnish education minister did not even know where she had been invited," Ergma told uudised.err.ee.
Ergma, a member of coalition party IRL, had objected on the grounds that the invitation extended to Kiuru by Estonia's Social Democrats was for an internal political debate, not an information gathering session.
That would have set a precedent in parliamentary norms, according to Ergma, who said that she would see to it that no foreign politicians would take part in internal debates while she is in office. Such a precedent, she said, would not constitute a danger - it would just make the lawmaking institution look like less of an authority.
Parliament's assembly hall, Ergma said, "is a place for political debate. We have allowed heads of state and speakers of other countries here during state visits. They present, make political addresses, but they don't take part in debate," Ergma said.
Deputy Speaker Jüri Ratas, who is from the opposition Center Party, was in agreement with Ergma.
Before the speaker had said "no" to the Social Democrats, she had offered to compromise by including Estonia's education minister, Ergma's fellow party member, in the program.
But the Social Democrats refused. Furthermore, they said Ergma had broken rules of procedure by intervening with a faction's organization of a debate over an issue of national importance.
"It is unfortunate that Parliament's leadership, whose central duties include standing up for Parliament's reputation, is instead tearing it down," said Social Democratic Chairman Sven Mikser.
The Social Democrats decided yesterday to go on with holding the session by moving it to a conference hall, which Ergma said she had initially offered as a compromise. The session will focus on the quality and accessibility of education from a regional perspective.