… as Immanuel Kant puts it when discussing the need for an uncompromised rule of law. We still need to recall the Kantian point: laws need to be made so that they bring out the best sides even in the worst people. In my column in the Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht today, I defend the decision of the President of Estonia to veto the proposed amendments to the Estonian penal code that were made in order to better protect the state but would have been too restrictive of the citizens’ civil rights and thus incompatible with the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia.
There has been some discussion about the amendment of Estonia’s penal code for a while; as there are attempts to specify the nature of the crimes against the state, many critics panick about an upcoming “police state” – or, according to the pretty paranoid visions of some, it is there already. Well, obviously a police state is not what Estonians want or need, and even if that was hardly the government’s plan to promote it, one could not be too careful when specifying the extent of the basic political liberties. The President’s decision on July 1st to send the amended law back to the Parliament for clarification, to make sure that it will be in comformity with the Constitution and will not violate the citizen’s fundamental rights, including “the freedom of assembly, freedom to criticise public authority, and freedom to be involved in creative work and reach research conclusions that differ from common understanding,” indicates that democracy in Estonia is alive and well – there are disputes and discussions, and the rule of law is protected.
Here’s the link to the column in Estonian:
What I find a little weird in connection with this debate is the selective reaction of the Finnish press to the issue. Finland’s leading daily Helsingin Sanomat published a news story about the law amendment the day before the President issued his decision on it, declaring in its title: “Estonia’s new rebellion law will tighten discipline” (Viron uusi mellakkalaki tiukentaa kuria). The story has been written in a manner that provokes comments like “totalitarianism!” and “police state!”. However, although the information about the President’s veto was out in the afternoon of July 1st, HS wrote no follow-up on the next day, or the next. As far as Helsingin Sanomat is concerned, the law has been passed. They could have ignored the whole issue as Estonia’s not-so-newsworthy internal matter (as most Finnish media did), but once they took it up, wouldn’t it have been correct to mention the veto as well?