Estonia Politics in the 1990’s

Estonia returned to being an independent state in September 1991, after having tenaciously pursued the goal of separation from the USSR, Estonia he found himself faced with a problematic situation both in relation to his own international position and internally. The concern to escape from Moscow’s sphere of influence fueled the trend towards rapid integration into Western political, economic and military structures (in particular NATO and the European Union), while the disintegration of the Soviet market had serious repercussions on the economic situation. of the country and its political stability. Furthermore, the concern to preserve the national cultural identity took on the character of a policy of discrimination against the Slavic minorities (Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians) present in Estonia, further hindering relations with Moscow.

There were several points of friction in the relations between Estonia and Russia after the dissolution of the USSR: in particular the Estonian request for a rapid withdrawal of the ex-Soviet troops stationed in the country and passed under the control of Moscow, a withdrawal which was however carried out by the latter between 1992 and 1994. While the demarcation of the border, as amended in 1944, was stopped by negotiations, the question of the Russian minority rights continued to fuel the tension between the two countries, especially after the adoption in 1991 a controversial citizenship law (amended several times in the early 1990s). The latter provided for the automatic recognition of citizenship only for those who had resided in Estonia from before 1940 and for their descendants, establishing a complex naturalization procedure for the other residents (mostly of Russian nationality).

After independence, Estonia it engaged in a diversification of its international relations and in the first half of the decade ties with Finland and with Western European countries were strengthened. Member of the Council of States of the Baltic Sea since 1992 and of the Council of Europe since 1993, in July 1995 the Estonia he entered into an association agreement with the European Union, to which he applied for membership in December; in March 1998 the negotiations for the accession of Estonia (unique among the Baltic countries) to the European Union. In 1994 the Estonia joined, together with other ex-Soviet states,, but the prospect of full membership of the alliance was hampered by the negative opinion expressed by Russia. In the same years a process of integration with the other Baltic republics was developed and in July 1996 an agreement was reached with Latvia on maritime borders, the subject of disputes in the previous months.

The first political elections after independence took place in September 1992, after the launch, in July, of a Constitution that introduced a parliamentary system (replacing the Soviet one of 1978). The affirmation of the center-right forces led to the formation, in October, of a coalition government led by M. Laar, leader of the National Party of the Fatherland, while another exponent of the same party, L. Meri, was elected president of the Repubblica (confirmed in 1996). The transition process towards a market economy, which had already begun in the Soviet period, was accelerated, but the emergence of tensions within the majority led to the fall of the government (October 1994) and its replacement by a new center-right coalition, while the social costs of the reforms and the difficult economic situation of the country eroded the consensus base of the government forces. Even after the elections of March 1995 and the birth of a centrist coalition executive, chaired by T. Vahi, leader of the Estonian coalition party, the political life of the country continued to be characterized by marked instability. In March 1999, although the legislative elections had registered the success of the Center Party, then in the opposition, which won 28 of the 101 seats available, a center-right coalition government was formed consisting of the National Party of the Fatherland (Isamaaliit), the Moderates and the Reform Party, led by former Prime Minister M. Laar.

Estonia Politics in the 1990's