EU flags removed from Riigikogu reflect current realities, speaker says

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

New Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) ordered the European Union flag to be removed from the parliament's white hall, opposition MP Marko Mihkelson (Reform) said on Monday afternoon, according to BNS. In response, Põlluaas said the removal reflected the fact that Estonia no longer holds the rotating Council of the EU presidency.

"President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas didn't have the courage to admit to the chamber today that he single-handedly gave an order last week to remove the flags of the EU from the White Hall of the Riigikogu," Mihkelson, who chaired the Riigikogu foreign affairs committee in its last composition, reportedly stated on his social media page.

"The flags had been standing there next to two Estonian national flags for several years. Is this democracy the EKRE way? A nice present from the second person in the state on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the accession of Estonia to the EU," he went on.

Estonia joined the EU in 2004, and NATO in the same year.

MP Marko Mihkelson (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Mr Mihkelson went on to point out the standoff in parliament on the sigining in of the new cabinet, with President Kersti Kaljulaid appearing with a sweatshirt embalzoned with the words ''Sõna on vaba'' (''speech is free''), leaving the chamber when Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) It minister Marti Kuusik came to take his oath, while some EKRE Mps remained seated when the government signed their oaths (the actual text was only read out by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre)).

''We have never had this kind of circus in Estonia earlier. And the main responsibility for it lies with Juri Ratas of course," Mihkelson continued.

Allegations of domestic violence have been made against Marti Kuusik by unnamed sources; Kuusik denies the claims.

EU flags will be wheeled out when foreign visiting dignitaries merit it

Additionally, speaker Põlluaas seemed to repeatedly refer to a President Kersti Kaljurand, during Monday's proceedings.

As to his explanation for removing the EU flags, Põlluaas stated that this was due to Estonia no longer holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, which it did in the latter half of 2017.

"Four Estonian flags used fly in the White Hall of the Riigikogu, from the regaining of our independence, until the summer of 2017, when two were replaced with the starred European flag. In [January] 2018 the presidency ended. Last week, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Riigikogu and I requested the EU flags being replaced and the tricolors returning again for that duration," Polluaas said, quoted by EKRE spokespersons.

"When high-ranking representatives of other countries come to the Riigikogu for a visit, we will bring out the starred [ie. EU] flags again. In the meantime, only Estonian national flags, which are a sign of our sovereignty, will fly in the White Hall," Polluaas added.

The EU flag was originally designed for the unrelated Council of Europe, founded in 1949 (the flag emerged six years later) and intended to reflect the whole of Europe. The flag was later adopted by the European Community, the forerunner of the EU, in 1985. The 12 stars on the flag is unrelated to the number of member states, though coincidentally at the time of the signing of the Maastricht Treaty which made the EU a fact in 1992, there were 12 EU member states.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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