Riigikogu and Supreme Council members who voted for independence in 1991 hold joint sitting
The Riigikogu and the August 20 Club held a joint sitting today in commemoration of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR declaring the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Among the guests was the speaker of parliament of Iceland, the first country to recognize Estonia again as an independent state.
In his speech at the sitting, President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor thanked the members of the August 20 Club, which is made up of all those who voted in favor of independence. “Estonia is and remains a free country. Our regained independence stands on decidedly safer ground today than ever before. The democratic and free people of the world are more intelligent and cooperate to defend their freedom. And we do that same work with out friends and allies,” Nestor said.
Juris Karlsons, former member of the Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR and president of the Latvian May 4 Club, said in his congratulatory address that in 1990 and 1991 they had fulfilled the promise given to their people and made the historic decision to vote in favor of the restoration of their countries’ independence, after an occupation that lasted half a century.
Ants Veetõusme, the chairman of the August 20 Club, said hearing chairman Ülo Nugis gavel the declaration into reality was a great joy to all the people that had assembled on Toompea and were waiting for the decision.
“Such a feeling of unity between the people and their representatives can only come into being very rarely, when decisions of enormous importance are made that the people have been waiting and longing for,” Veetõusme said.
With the decision to declare the country’s independence, a first stage of the reestablishment of the Republic of Estonia came to an end, he added.
Speaker of the Althing, the parliament of Iceland, Einar K. Guᵭfinnson, said that he would never forget the historic events of 1991. “I was proud of our government’s actions, led by prime minister Oddsson and foreign minister Hannibalsson. Our government steadfastly supported the Estonian demand to get back its independence, and was the first to recognize its independence. The news from Tallinn and the images of the brave Estonians who defended the TV tower are burned into my memory forever,” Guᵭfinnson said.
Also present was the speaker of the parliament of Denmark, the Folketing. Speaker Pia Kjærsgaard recalled how she visited Estonia in 1991 as a member of a delegation of her parliament. “I remember how cheerful and proud the citizens were that me met. I see such joy and pride also today,” she said. “The Estonians took back their independence with great courage, and without the use of violence,” she added.
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas thanked the members of the August 20 Club for their courage. He stressed the fact that newly independent Estonia had now lasted for more than a quarter of the Republic’s overall existence. “At the same time, a quarter of a century is just an instant in the history of mankind, and we can be all the more proud about what we achieved in this time,” Rõivas said.