Coalition outsmarts EKRE

PHOTO: Liis Treimann

National conservatives were craftily robbed of an opportunity to pound their chests. The national anthem will be included in the law but will not get a separate act.

The coalition that found itself over the barrel in connection with the Conservative People’s Party’s (EKRE) national anthem bill turned the tables on the party yesterday. While it is probable no minister regarded the anthem bill as among even one hundred most important questions, members of the cabinet decided to support EKRE’s bill last month.

The only one to remain opposed was Minister of Culture Indrek Saar (SDE) who did not see the need to regulate the anthem on the legislative level. Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu (IRL) was clearly in favor of the plan.

Even though the government found that the anthem bill is rather unnecessary, no one wants having shot down the bill to show up on their resume before parliamentary elections. And so, the government thought it best to support the bill in principle.

The Riigikogu Constitutional Committee decided yesterday that there will be no national anthem act and instead the anthem will be mentioned in the Estonian Flag Act. The latter will be complemented with the following sentence: “Upon hoisting the Estonian flag on the Tall Hermann Tower the musical signature of the opening phrases of Friedrich Pacius’ song “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” (lyrics by Voldemar Jannsen) as the Estonian national anthem will be used, while upon the lowering of the flag a signature based on a fragment of Gustav Ernesaks’ (lyrics by Lydia Koidula) song “Mu isamaa on minu arm” will be used.”

To borrow soccer terms, a good pass by EKRE culminated in a goal scored against the party.

Member of the committee and EKRE Riigikogu faction Jaak Madison said something like that was expected.

“It was too much to hope for other parliament parties to be able to accept the fact EKRE has managed to introduce important draft legislation that would help elevate the national anthem to the same level as the flag and coat of arms,” he said. “We can write somewhere that this is the anthem and that is how it will remain, but it is a matter of good legislative drafting. Can an initiative that has been approved by the government not pass because it came from EKRE? It is peculiar, ugly, and shameful.”

Committee member Mart Nutt (IRL) said there were several reasons for the decision. “Talking about a proper law, it would have been a single line as many of EKRE’s proposals concerned the procedure of listening to the anthem and relevant behavior which is not something that needs to be regulated by law,” he said. “Would there be sense in writing a law consisting of a single line of text? I think not.”

The committee only discussed the bills for a short time yesterday. The anthem bill was voted down and the flag act amendment passed.

Nutt said the amendment solves EKRE’s concern over a debate of changing the anthem. “It makes it impossible to change the anthem outside of amending the law,” he assured.

Both bills will reach the floor next week, irrespective of the committee’s endorsement. The flag act amendment will be presented by none other than EKRE’s Jaak Madison. “I decided to do it as a ploy,” he said.

EKRE proposed draft legislation that would designate “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” by Pacius (music) and Jannsen (lyrics) as Estonia’s national anthem in January. The party’s bill also included instructions of when and how the anthem can be played. People who were against EKRE’s initiative included Equality Commissioner Liisa Pakosta.