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Everyone who follows me on Twitter probably got sick of my countdown to Estonia, which started at least a month before I left! I had the most wonderful, amazing, inspiring time in Tallinn, Estonia and my photos don’t do it justice. The colors of the city were mesmerizing and absolutely breathtaking!
I went to Estonia to visit my friend, Greg, who was interning at the USA embassy in Tallinn. He spoiled me with such a wonderful time there :) We went to a governmental reception (which a PoliSci nerd like me really enjoys), the sauna (!), and the Estonian National Opera. Plus I ate lots of yummy, yummy food…including the best hot chocolate of my life. Greg swears that the only reason he invited me along was a) to take pictures to prove to his mother that he actually was in Estonia and b) to have extra suitcase room for him. Well, I think I fulfilled the photo aspect but I might have taken up the entire suitcase! Somehow I went from just bringing a carry-on to Estonia to bringing a suitcase that weighed almost the maximum amount. Oops, sorry Greg!
I took a tour of the Estonian Parliament and found out that a new Prime Minister was appointed in late March (2014)! He’s 34 years old…what??? I feel like I need to start doing something with my life ;) I don’t fully understand the Parliament but I will try my best to explain everything I do know. The general public elects the members of Parliament but not the Prime Minister or President. The President is appointed by Parliament and then the President appoints the Prime Minister (after consulting with Parliament). The President is the head of state whereas the Prime Minister is the head of government. However, there are many checks and balances put on the Prime Minister to limit his power. There was quite a controversy in appointing the new Prime Minister because the initial candidate did not accept the position (there were some scandals surrounding him).
The main party in control is the Estonian Reform Party. There are four parties represented in Parliament currently. The coalition just switched from the Estonian Centre Party (with the second highest amount of seats in Parliament) to the Social Democratic Party (the smallest party in Parliament). This switch occurred because one of the main priorities/concerns of the Social Democratic Party is border protection against Russia. Currently, Estonia has no border treaty with Russia and with the recent events in Crimea/Ukraine, Estonians are becoming increasingly worried that their country could be invaded next. The Social Democratic Party wants to build up defenses along the Estonian-Russian border and to increase security there. Furthermore, the last party represented in the Estonian Parliament is Pro Patria and Res Publica Union, which has very strong support from the Russian citizens living in Estonia (about 25% of all individuals living in Estonia are Russian and/or of Russian background) and they are more sympathetic towards the Russian cause. According to my tour guide, this party has some sort of secret treaty/alliance with the Russian government that makes people very uneasy.
And we thought American politics were scandalous! :)