Indrek Tarand offers his side of the Toompea story

Indrek Tarand MEP.
Indrek Tarand MEP. Source: Ann Vaida

Indrek Tarand MEP has offered his side of the story on the confrontation with Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) politicians and supporters last Monday, 26 November.

As reported on ERR News, Mr Tarand was filmed from multiple angles being bundled away at an EKRE rally opposing to the UN Global Compact on Migration, which faced its vote in the Riigikogu that day. Mr Tarand, running for the Social Democratic Party (SDE) in the March general election, was shoved off a podium he had mounted, and after an exchange of views with EKRE supporters, a scuffle ensued during which he fell over and was kicked at least once.

Writing on SDE's website, in a lengthy piece entitled ''I Beg Your Pardon!'', (from 1970 hit ''I never promised you a rose garden'' by country singer Lynn Anderson) Mr Tarand began by offering his apologies for his role in the episode.

I beg your pardon...

''To start off, I would like to ask for forgiveness from all quarters,'' Mr Tarand wrote. ''I got myself involved in a dispute, though my original intention was one of reconciliation...I didn't realise that the majority of people gathered at Lossi Square [the plaza on which Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu, fronts-ed.] thought the place was an enclosed sanctuary where some sort of sacred rite is performed,'' he continued.

''Had I realised this, I would have started my speech differently. I misjudged people's moods, which was not a good thing,'' he wrote.

''Worse still, the leaders [ie. The EKRE leadership] also made such an impression. The Governor's Garden [the park running adjacent to Lossi Plats, often used for official ceremonies-ed.] is not the private property of any particular political party which can be closed off to other citizens for some extravagant ceremony. Moreover holding tempestuous meetings like this one does not absolve the leadership of responsibilities and their oblication to respect democracy as a whole and citizen's rights,'' he continued.

Events now simmered down

Mr Tarand also noted the EKRE event touched him personally: ''I also saw a couple of friends at the meeting – actual friends, not Facebook 'friends', and after seeing that I concluded that Estonian society is deeply broken, and I need to consider what I can do to alleviate things''.

Mr Tarand also apologised to the SDE, whose leadership was present during the incident, reassuring them that there was nothing to fear regarding any possible violent repercussions and that things had simmered down somewhat.

Concerning whether any offence was committed, Mr Tarand was similarly certain that there was nothing really to worry about and that with multiple videos of the incident from bystanders' phones, the courts and the police could come to the right decision. The police had declined to investigate Mr Tarand further; EKRE itself has filed a complaint with the North District Prosecutor's office.

Philosophical appraisal of the situation

In the rest of his piece, Mr Tarand leaned heavily on academics, thinkers and other figures both past and present, in answering EKRE's points and surmising recent events and the current political climate.

''Kalev Leetaru [an Estonian-American entrepreneur and adacemic-ed.] has studied how the vulgarisation of public debate, uncultured language and swear words, the stigmatisation of opponents and the emergence of an echo chamber in disseminating information can lead to violence and conflict in actuality,'' Mr Tarand continued, stating that the phenomena emerge from a need for a sense of belonging, particularly to something ''great'', which in turn gets spread as apposite slogans (presumably as in ''Let's Make America Great Again'').

''These people need to be heard, but at the same time also engaged in conversation and since noone had done that up to that point, it fell on me to engage,'' he continued.

What Indrek Tarand meant to say on Toompea last Monday

Mr Tarand also set out what he would have liked to have said to the EKRE supporters, given the chance, including cautioning against words like ''traitor'', given actual traitors included the convicted Hermann Simm and Aleksei Dressen, and such terminology should not apply to Estonian leaders. Such terms had been used to describe even the president (one EKRE placard depicted a mock up of a bearded Kersti Kaljulaid in full taliban-style headgear, with the slogan ''allahu akbar'').

Migration is a major issue, Mr Tarand continued, with as many as 350 million people on the move globally. Whilst the vast majority of these will not end up in Estonia, some people will come here and for this reason clear debate is needed. Places like the Riigikogu are the best venues for this. He also cautioned against following the ''new Habsburg'' nations of Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland (who are not acceding to the UN compact), instead saying Estonia is much better off in the international framework of the UN and EU.

He would also have pointed out that Estonia has valuable lessons to learn from the forced migration of the Soviet era.

Mr Tarand would have finished off his speech, which would have taken about two minutes, he claimed, by drawing the audience's attention to a book called ''Exodus'', by Paul Collier of Oxford University, which he was prepared to provide them with free of charge. ''Exodus'' attempts to address the issue of migration by calling on western governments to replace the current, often ''guilt''-driven policies, with more rational approaches which will better help solve issues of global poverty.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Mr Tarand went on to quote the words of 17th century English metaphysical poet and cleric John Donne, whose work ''No Man is an Island'', originally a piece of prose, ended up bequeathing its alternate title to Ernest Hemingway's most famous novel.

The epithet would suit all positions on the Estonian political spectrum, he wrote, including EKRE's, though the latter add the qualifier that ''violence is abhorrent, but...''. Such a position is regrettable, and, Mr Tarand argues, ''challenges Scottish philosopher [actually English – ed.] John Locke's discovery that violence must be a state monopoly, and cannot be sanctioned by any other body''.*

Mr Tarand named EKRE leaders and associates who he said effectively advocate violence, including party chair Mart Helme, his son Martin, also an EKRE MP, and other MPs such as Jaak Madison and Peeter Ernits, as well as family values campaigner and lawyer Varro Vooglaid. He likened their position to Ernst Röhm, the leader of the SA, the paramilitary wing of the National Socialist Party in 1930s Germany, a man once favoured but subsequently assassinated as a possible leadership rival after the SA's raison d'être (ie. facilitating the Nazi seizure of power) had evaporated.

Mr Tarand also name-checked former NKVD chief Lavrenty Beria in the piece, who experienced a similar fall from grace (and execution) after the death of Stalin.

Cui bono?

''Before raising things to boiling point, we can all ask ourselves the classic question 'cui bono?','' he continued.

Mr Tarand drew further, recent, parallels on the apparent cheapness of a human life in today's climate, from a murder case which happened in the south Estonian town of Valga on the same day as the Toompea protest, where a man was killed after refusing to give a smoke to his assailant.

''Are we now in a position to say that 'it's sad that the person was killed, but why oh why did he not just give the guy a cigarette?','' Mr Tarand wrote, also drawing on the biblical parable of the adulterous woman from John's Gospel.**

'''Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,' said Christ; doubtless the EKRE leadership would say something like 'these aren't stones were throwing, just little pebbles, stop playing the victim card'''.

Mr Tarand also cited the example of Israeli settlement towns in Palestine as an example of how things are not always black and white (since the policy has parallels with the Soviet Union's one towards Estonia and Latvia, he stated).

Chinchillas and pizza parlours

Mr Tarand used much of the rest of the piece to note the strange sensationalising of the story in the media, with pieces focussing on it rather than asking him straight up questions about the UN compact or the Kerch Strait incident.

The editor-in-chief of lifestyle portal elu24 ran either the video of the incident or similarly violent content, Mr Tarand stated, pointing out the inconsistency given they are reportedly an animal rights' activist: ''Is the life of a chinchilla really worth more than that of a human?'' he wrote.

ERR also came under scrutiny, following a light-hearted, satirical piece which had Mr Tarand invading a children's pizza party and caused mayhem, replete with an archive photo of a scantily clad Mr Tarand bathing in what looks like the fountain at one of central Tallinn's parks.

Mr Tarand finished up noting that another social democrat (actually a member of what was originally the Estonian branch of the Socialist Revolutionary party), poet Gustav Suits, had expressed the hope that Estonians would become a nation a hunderd years ago. However, others were a long way from that goal still, according to Mr Tarand.

He then returned to the religious theme by stating that the sacrifice of the father (his own father, Andres Tarand, was prime minister for just a year, 1994-1995) and the son (ie. himself) was a high price to pay for a nevertheless worthwhile aim, before wishing all readers a peaceful and non-violent Christmas.

Indrek Tarand has been an MEP since 2009. An independent, he sits with the European Green Party in Strasbourg. His SDE candidacy was announced in September; at the time he had not joined the party (not a necessary pre-requisite for running).

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*In fact, Locke (1632-1704) asserted only government by consent of the governed and which protected the natural rights of life, liberty, and estate was good government. In the absence of these, or at least consent, an "appeal to heaven" rebellion was valid, according to Locke.

**possibly a later addition.

Editor: Andrew Whyte


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