Opinion: Annual state decoration awardees often resemble their awarders ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Toomas Sildam-
Toomas Sildam- Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Without taking anything away from the role of the President of Estonia and her team, the annual list of recipients of the highest awards Estonia can bestow, tends to resemble those who are giving out the award; however, this means we can all have an influence on future lists, writes ERR's Toomas Sildam.

As per tradition, the president picked a selection of people to decorate whose commitment to their profession or to the community has made Estonia a better place. This is why those awarded numbered just 112.

However, she also gave another important criterion in her choices, linked with her sovereign decision as head of state. This criterion is summed up by loyalty to the principles on which modern Estonia is based – openness and democracy, knowledge and enterprise, caring and awareness.

This set of criteria helps us understand the make-up of this year's list of recipients. Entrepreneurs, care workers, teachers, lecturers, scientists, cultural figures, preservers of the national memory, protectors of the Estonian language...

In view of the president's activities over the past year, many people from Ida-Viru County, and especially Narva, are of course on the list [President Kaljulaid has put a particular focus on this region of Estonia, even basing herself in Narva and working out of that border city, for a total of four weeks over the second half of 2018-ed.] .

We can add to this the two somewhat august expressions of gratitude bestowed on the recently-departed former Secretary of State, Heiki Loot, who had been in that role for a long time, and the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,  Priit Pikamäe, soon to take up a post as European Court of Justice (ECJ) Advocate General in Luxembourg [both men received the Order of the National Coat of Arms, Third Class-ed.].

No politicians on this list

One notable absence is also a part of tradition, namely that there are no politicians nominated for any awards. Naturally this would have been a delicate matter in any case, particularly this year as we lead up to the general election in March and the European elections in May, as any decorations could have been interpreted as a personal endorsement or expressing a political preference. The president is, of course, a neutral when it comes to party politics.

It is nevertheless still tempting to scan the list of awardees for the bright stars and big names, whose contribution can easily be summed up in one sentence. But by taking such an attitude, we would be making ourselves a trap. Estonia gives its thanks via the decorations, not only for those known to us from the TV or the papers. Estonia also appreciates those who have gone the extra mile beyond their daily routine, or volunteered their time and experience to improve something, often whilst balancing that with family life.

In short, the are relied upon by Estonia. These people give a certain gloss and appeal to the list, especially after President Kaljulaid's predecessor, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, cut the regular awards list from several hundred to around a hundred.

One more thought, if I may. It still may look to many of use, that there is somebody who has been unfairly left off the list.

As noted above, without taking anything away from the president and her team, the list of recipients is simply a reflection of those giving out the awards. This means we all have the opportunity to shape the list, however, by paying attention to those around us who we think deserve recognition, and even by boldly proposing them to the president's office.

Naturally the head of state is under no obligation to pick anyone, but this would at least give the opportunity for them to be considered. That way, some of these suggestions may make the list next year, and receive Estonia's highest levels of gratitude.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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