Analysis: President Rose Garden speech notable in domestic politics focus

ERR's Toomas Sildam at the president's annual Rose Garden reception on Tuesday.
ERR's Toomas Sildam at the president's annual Rose Garden reception on Tuesday. Source: ERR

President Kersti Kaljulaid's Restoration of Independence Day speech at the Kadriorg Palace Rose Garden on Tuesday evening was notable for its focus on domestic politics, according to ERR's senior political journalist Toomas Sildam.

"I think it was a very domestic and day-to-day politically focused speech," Sildam said, speaking to ETV news show Aktuaalne kaamera, broadcasting live from the event.

"Although no party or politician was mentioned, it was abundantly clear that she was referring to the present government coalition and EKRE. This did not involve reading between the lines so much as on the lines, " Sildam continued.

Last week's news was dominated by controversy after interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) unsuccessfully tried to unilaterally remove Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief Elmar Vaher. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) stood by Vaher and overruled the interior minister who forms a part of his government. Ratas, who met the president on Monday evening to discuss the situation, was not present at the Rose Garden reception.

The president also called on all present to uphold the principles of freedom and democracy which Estonia had achieved, as marked by the event and the national holiday on Tuesday.

"She called on us to be concerned about Estonia, and about Europe, as well as about climate issues. In short, to continue as we had been so far, before March 2019," Sildam said.

The March 3 general election saw the Reform Party win the largest number of seats, only to be locked out of coalition discussions which went on between Centre, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa. This lineup struck an agreement and entered office at the end of April.

In her address, the President recalled the events and those people whose courage and perseverance paved the way for the restoration of independence. The keywords were the Baltic appeal (where 45 citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania signed a letter to the UN demanding full disclosure of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which carved up much of Central and Eastern Europe between Soviet and Nazi spheres of influence, on the 40th anniversary of the pact's signing-ed.), and the Baltic Chain, with the overarching theme being the meaning of freedom then and now, according to Sildam.

"What do we expect from our country today? Still the same freedoms. The opportunity to walk the streets fearlessly. To express your thoughts. To love whoever we want," Kaljulaid said in her speech.

"The freedom to take action and even offer support in these endeavors. The freedom to express one's thoughts and opinions, also in state offices, without fear of repression," she continued.

"Even a very misguided statement somewhere on social media, if the commenter does not take responsibility for his or her position, can lead to a loss of faith among friends of Estonia in the consistency and value-based nature of our decisions. In a case where the will of a politician exceeds the limits set by the rule of law and illegally tries to reach a goal, the end of democratic Estonia could begin," the president added.

Together with her Lithuanian counterpart Gitanas Nausėda, on an official visit to the country, Kaljulaid presented pieces of rock taken from the barricades of the 1991 independence movement, traditionally given in gratitude for service to the country. One of the reicpients of these was Enn Tarto, one of the four Estonians to sign the Baltic Appeal in 1979, and another was Rein Veidemann, one of the organizers of the Baltic Chain 10 years later – a human chain stretching between all three Baltic Capitals on the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and often taken as the opening salvo in the final drive for independence in all three states.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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