President: Trust local governments to run life in their regions

Kersti Kaljulaid at the opening of the Riigikogu last month.
Kersti Kaljulaid at the opening of the Riigikogu last month. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

While addressing the first autumn session of the parliament on Monday, President Kersti Kaljulaid stressed the importance of giving local governments an independent budget but also said that it does not help the advancement of local interests, if the definition of family is made a central issue in our local elections.

Kaljulaid said that she is very glad that freedoms, rights, and obligations have been discussed so extensively this year, so it will be possible to heal the splits that have formed before they result in irreversible damage.

"When some people feel that they have no say in Estonian life, then it is in no way positive for those who feel that they, conversely, do. A hand must be extended to those who feel that their state has failed them, but it must be done in a way that others are not made to feel the very same hand has caused the state to fail them in turn," she added.

The president also said that in a real welfare state, greater positive attention is always given to those who are, for some reason, in a weaker position - minorities, single parents and their children, low-income families, disabled persons.

"There is no point in separating minorities into those, who deserve society's support and those, who are seemingly less worthy of it. Everyone feels like a minority at one time or another. Yet knowing that your rights and interests, that your happiness will not be steamrolled because to society, you're simply an insignificant discomfort - because there aren't that many of you - is the nature of the welfare state, as well as its citizens' source of security and freedom," the head of state stressed.

Of course, also the members of the parliament notice if someone somewhere is feeling down or unwell, Kaljulaid underscored, adding that still the majority of those who notice and act are in local governments. It is the Riigikogu who holds the key to helpers having more opportunities as the reforms continue.

"I've made my way through nearly all of our newly merged local governments. Their municipal councils and council chairpersons have one great, common request for you, members of the Riigikogu - greater trust. Give them a proper budget, too - one that is made independent of state programs and party-earmarked funding, and is instead contingent upon the diligence and abilities of that municipality's people and entrepreneurs," she added.

The president noted that it will do nothing for municipal elders and councils if a poll on the definition of family is made a central issue in our local elections, because the discussion will overshadow necessary debate over the continued strengthening of our local governments, and will only scorn those who are incapable of reacting to local problems for lack of resources.

"And that discussion demeans the people of Estonia, because its intention is to create a false impression that the outcome will amend the Constitution. It will not," the head of state added.

Kaljulaid also addressed the worry that the year has been complicated, and for the first time in 30 years has brought the feeling that quite many of our fellow nations which emerged from behind the Iron Curtain are working towards a more prosperous and secure future with greater effectiveness.

"Something is wrong with our ability to grasp the big picture. Or with our ability to respond to it," she explained, and added that these long-term developmental risks must be mitigated with smart leadership in the hall of Riigikogu.

Speaker: COVID-19 situation not about to end any time soon

Speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The COVID-19 situation will not end any time soon and the course thereof is unpredictable, Riigikogu speaker said in his speech at the Estonian parliament's opening session on Monday.

"Thus, we must do everything to minimize risks to people's lives and health and ensure the functioning and recovery of our society and economy," Henn Põlluaas said.

"For that purpose, we have introduced a number of important and worthwhile measures, but we cannot rest just yet. As we saw with COVID-19, admitting urgent issues into handling and resolving them immediately is often a matter of vital importance. We mustn't dramatize the situation, of course, however. What we need is a balanced approach," he added.

Põlluaas said that Estonia is among world leaders in terms of its provision of digital services. A comprehensive discussion of relations between technology, politics and the parliament is required, however, according to the Riigikogu speaker.

"In spring, we amended the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act to enable the electronic holding of plenary sessions in a crisis situation during which the parliament cannot convene physically. We've been developing a platform for this purpose the entire summer and it is now in the testing phase. Only a few parliaments in the world have this option of holding e-sessions, and I dare say that ours surpasses them all. We'll all be able to test it in the near future," he said.

Põlluaas also spoke about the tasks faced by members of the parliament and said that while MPs' approaches to problems may differ, the parliament undoubtedly shares the opinion that the state must, in any case, try to improve the lives of Estonian people.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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