Tunne Kelam to EU Parliament newcomers: represent Estonia, not your party

Tunne Kelam at the European Parliament, here highlighting the plight of Eston Kohver, an Estonian secret service operative detained for just over a year by the Russian Federation, after being seized at the border by FSB personnel in 2014. Source: ERR

Tunne Kelam (Isamaa/EPP) ran in his fourth European parliamentary elections on Sunday, having been an MEP since 2004. Appearing on ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera", he passed on some of his wisdom ahead of the results.

The E.U. is the foundation of our day-to-day lives, Kelam said.

"This is the bedrock which we all rely on, since if we aren't in the E.U. and NATO – and we only got into NATO because we had joined the E.U. – we would be under Russian influence. And then, all normalcy, even planting our potatoes, would be in jeopardy," he said.

When asked the highlights of his long stint at the European Parliament, he noted the Baltic Sea strategy, which was the initiative of all the newly-elected MEPs from the Central and Eastern European (CEE) E.U. expansion states, and was adopted in 2006.

"There is also the resolution which strongly supported Estonia in 2007, after coming under attack from Russia. I consider the European resolution 'European conscience and totalitarianism' to be an achievement", he went on, referring to the year of the "Bronze Soldier" riots, and the concurrent cyberattacks, thought to have been orchestrated by the Kremlin.

For newcomers going to Strasbourg for the first time, Kelam had the following advice: "The first consideration is, you don't represent your party there. Yes, you represent its principles, but you primarily represent Estonia as a whole. The other consideration is to stick to firm principles – you can't just philander about the place with everyone."

"Third, openness is important. You can't go there sulking that Estonia is so small, and we have suffered so much, and you thus have to understand and make exceptions for us; instead, you need to go there with a spirit of openness, which is not a very Estonian thing," he said.

Tunne Kelam, 82, played a critical role in the drive for Estonia's independence.

In 1972 he prepared, at enormous personal risk, a memorandum for the UN, subsequently smuggled out of the country, which demanded free elections in Estonia and the removal of occupying forces, an action which led to him losing his post as senior scientific editor for the Estonian Soviet Encyclopedia and demotion to night watchman on a chicken farm.

Following a loosening of repression under Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership, he was a founder member of the first non-Communist party in occupied Estonia and Soviet territory as a whole, the Estonian Independence Party (''Eesti Rahvusliku Sõltumatuse Partei'') and in 1990 was elected to the transitional Congress of Estonia.

He was later instrumental in the agreement between the congress and the Estonian Supreme Soviet in 1991, paving the way to full independence. He subsequently sat in the Riigikogu, serving as its vice speaker, and was first elected an MEP in 2004. 

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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