Estonian Parliamentarian: This is important for our future

Speech from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Debates

On January 25th 2006, The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), which brings together parliamentarians from 46 European countries, passed a resolution entitled “Need for international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes” at its plenary session. The resolution was passed by 99 votes to 42, which caught the attention of countries all over the world. Europe is the place where the spectre of Communism was born. This resolution passed by PACE heralded a new beginning of an international condemnation of totalitarian communist regimes.

Before voting on the resolution, the plenary session held over two hours of intensive debates. Parliamentarians from different countries made speeches at the meeting, outlining their personal experiences and opinions of communist regimes. Clearharmony will publish these speeches to bring attention to the crimes of the world’s largest communist regime — the Chinese Communist Party — which has brutally oppressed Falun Gong practitioners for almost seven years resulting in almost three thousand deaths and at least 44,000 documented abuses of torture.

The following speech is by Ms Saks, a parliamentarian representing Estonia:

If the Council of Europe really values the rule of law, democracy and human rights, we should apply the same criteria to the evaluation of our recent past. We are talking not about a distant era – about the period of slavery – but about the history that most of us have seen with our own eyes. And that is why we need the truth most of all. Unfortunately, in reality, such personal involvement makes it difficult for some people to admit what really happened.

I asked to speak to express my support for the draft resolution and to condemn the crimes of totalitarian communism – and I do that, despite the fact that I was a member of the Communist Party of Estonia. It is not now important why that was the case, but I am not proud of it today, not least because it severely hurt the feelings of my parents, who suffered under the regime. I believe that I am the sternest judge here. I hope that the efforts that I have made to terminate the regime and to build up democracy in Estonia have mitigated the harm that I did by being a member of the Communist Party.

Like a similar document that was adopted by the Estonian Parliament in 2002, this draft resolution does not make me responsible for crimes that I did not commit. Any personal involvement in genocide or crimes against humanity can be judged only by a court. That is why I find absurd the claims made by some members of my political group that, by condemning totalitarian communism, we also condemn people who are among us.

I find ridiculous the statement made in the international media by a so-called Russian expert that the President of Estonia should be condemned, together with this draft resolution, because of his communist past. With the name of Mr Arnold Rüütel, there were mentioned the names of the Lithuanian Prime Minister, the President of Moldova and the former President of Poland. Even the President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Barroso, was included in that list. This morning my party group added Angela Merckel, the German Chancellor, to that group of people. That is total nonsense – or, on the contrary, it was a purposeful effort to mislead the public in order to avoid the truth.

Dear colleagues, why do I consider that the adoption of the draft resolution is of the utmost importance? I do so not because we would clear the accounts of the past, but because we should keep them in mind today and tomorrow. We cannot be sure that those events will never happen again if we do not do that.

Dear comrades from the Socialist Group, last year the Estonian Social Democratic Party celebrated its 100th anniversary. For half of those years, our party was forbidden to exist, and members of our party were among the first victims of the communist regime in 1940.

It is now crucial for modern social democracy to draw a very clear line between crimes committed and the values that we treasure. That is important for our future. I hope that my children and grandchildren will never experience the horror that my parents have gone through.

More information on the resolution “Need for international condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes” can be found at

Note: Founded on May 5th 1949, the Council of Europe (COE) has 46 member countries and has its headquarters in Strasbourg, France. The COE aims to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, to develop continent-wide agreements to standardise member countries’ social and legal practices, and to promote awareness of a European identity based on shared values and cutting across different cultures. The highest decision-making body is the Committee of Ministers, composed of the 46 Foreign ministers or their Strasbourg-based deputies (ambassadors/permanent representatives). The European Human Rights Court is a body under the Council of Europe.

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