President Kersti Kaljulaid addressed the Riigikogu's Constitutional Committee Monday, where she said that under the Estonian the relationship between state and citizen was not one of vassal and overlord, but instead one which valued universal freedoms and humanity.
Speaking before the public session on the 100th anniversary of the first Estonian constitution, the president said that: "Our constitutional order, as the people decided in 1992, is highly focused on people. First, come the people...The state and all of its institutions are there for their citizens. According to our constitution, the link between the state and its citizens is not a vassal relationship nor the relationship between the carer and the cared for."
The president added that the people, in whom is vested the supreme political authority, did not simply want the majority to rule over the minority in Estonia when they approved the constitution.
"The Estonian people clearly wanted all of us to be free in our choices. They didn't want the state to ever tell us again how and where and in which way we have to live," the president went on, according to a press release.
At the same time, the head of state stressed that such an approach to the state, where the citizen is not merely a plaything of the state, someone to be lorded over or utilized for the achievement of the state's goals, or raw material which can be forced to perform certain activities, puts high demands on the leaders of the state.
"The only reason for the citizens of a state with such a constitution to support the state in its aspirations and goals is the free will of the citizens. Free will arises from respect for one's state and its institutions. Free will arises from understanding the state's goals. Free will also arises when a citizen sees their role in shaping and achieving the goals of their state."
President Kaljulaid added that it is difficult for citizens to feel any kind of love for a state where everyone knows that they may become the object of the wrath or mockery of its leaders.
"There is less interest in how things are doing [in that situation]. People would then find a way to live their lives without having an active relationship with the state. This, of course, is convenient for those who want to lead without having to explain their decisions, without having open discussions."
In her speech, President Kaljulaid also highlighted the danger of complacency with achievements or an assurance that we cannot be knocked off course.
"During stages of peaceful development in history, societies are likely to develop complacency over what they have achieved. They feel that the only way is up. They even feel that sometimes, there is room for decisions that entail a huge risk of rolling down a little because at the end of the day, there is nothing existentially dangerous in this. However, these moments can become turning points in history."
At the end of her speech, the president once more stressed the importance of individual freedoms:
"The constitution of Estonia is an act established for the free citizens of a free state, which can only be kept alive by citizens who are truly free. Our constitution does everything to ensure that every adult citizen would want to think along with their state and consider its future when thinking about their own, whether they decide where to live, who to become or how many children to have. The constitution of Estonia was not established to give the state control over its citizens," she added.
The first constitution was adopted by the freely elected Estonian Constituent Assembly on 15 June 192. The current and fourth constitution was signed into being in 1992.
Editor: Andrew Whyte