Hans-Gert Pöttering about Tunne Kelam:

Tunne Kelam is one of the top persons in restoring independence and parliamentary democracy to his country, which was illegally occupied by the Soviet Union for half a century. He has also had a key role in turning Estonian from East to the West, contributing decisively to the introduction of the rule of law society, to the creation of foundations of the newly born Estonian Republic and to the successful accession of his country to the European Union.

Born in Tallinn on July 10, 1936, Tunen Kelam was able to live only the first four years in independent Estonia. The following 51 years of his life were spent under the Soviet Union´s totalitarian rule which imposed on Estonia in 1940. He studied history but was unable to make career in this field because he refused to participate in official policy which aimed at distorting the real history to justify the Communist Party dictatorship. He became senior scientific editor of the Estonian Soviet Encyclopedia, and fought hard to make it as informative as possible despite official censorship. During Krhrushchev´s relative “thaw” period Tunne Kelam was also a popular lecturer and commentator on international affairs. However, his independent way of presenting the 1968 Prague spring reforms resulted in ousting him from the public life.
Tunne Kelam was engaged in organizing underground opposition groups which tired to keep alive the ideas of democracy and independence. In 1972, Kelam became the author of an appeal by two democratic groups to the United Nations, asking for help to evacuate the Soviet occupation troops and organize free elections. Tunne Kelam and his friends advocated for peaceful restoration of independence, based on the United Nation’s Charter and Estonia’s legal continuity which was recognized by the United States and other democratic powers. The Soviet KGB reacted to these activities, arresting several people for “slandering the Soviet Union”. Tunne Kelam narrowly escaped arrest but was fired from the Encyclopaedia and back listed. In spite of regular KGB harassment and surveillance, Tunne Kelam decided to continue his activities, relying on Moscow’s human rights commitments to the 1975 Helsinki Conference. For twelve following years he mediated information about the violation of human rights to the West and helped to spread among his countrymen news which the Soviet censorship suppressed. Tunne Kelam was particularly active in translating and distributing information about the Polish “Solidarity” movement. Already under Gorbachev´s rule, in 1985, he was officially warned by the KGB about his “anti-Soviet” activities.

Since 1987, Tunne Kelam, worked openly for the restoration of democracy and independence. In 1988 he was one of the founders of the Estonian National Independence Party – the first non-Communist political party in the Soviet Union. After this audacious attempt to break the monopoly of the Communist party succeeded, other parties followed suite. In 1989, Tunne Kelam became one of the initiators and leaders of the Citizens Committees´ movement which set the goal to register legal citizens of the de iure existing Estonian Republic. In one year, despite the resistance of the Soviet authorities, Citizens Committees became the most important civil initiative in Estonian history. Both at home and abroad, almost 800.000 persons, still having the Soviet passports, registered themselves as citizens of the Republic of Estonia. This became the most important referendum in favouring restoring Estonia as a fully independent state on the basis of legal continuity. In February 1990, the registered citizens elected Congress of Estonia which became a democratic alternative to the existing Supreme Soviet, having mandate to decide about the citizenship and other fundamental issues of Estonia. Tunne Kelam was elected chairman of this transition time parliament. In August 1991, he contributed decisively to the achievement of a national understanding between Congress of Estonia and the Supreme Soviet which resulted in restoration of independence.
Tunne Kelam was member of the Constitutional Assembly of Estonia in 1991-92. In 1992, he was elected to the first independence time parliament, the Riigikogu, and served as Vice-President of this body for 10 years. He contributed actively to the creation of a new legislative framework for the rule of law society. However, his main efforts were concentrated to international activities.

Tunne Kelam was invited to the European Parliament already before restoration of independent Estonia. In January 1990, he visited Strasbourg as a guest of the EPP group. He became actively engaged in the activities of the EDU and later joined the EPP. Kelam headed the first Estonian parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe and contributed to the adoption of Estonia as a full member of this organization in 1993. He also served as PACE Vice President and rapporteur for Ukraine (1997-2001).
In 1995, Tunne Kelam´s National Independence Party and Mart Laar´s Pro Patria merged under the name of Pro Patria Union. The consolidation of centre-right forces resulted in their election victory in 1999 and in the formation of Mart Laar´s second government. In 1996 Kelam was candidate for the post of Estonian president.
As the first Chairman of parliament’s European Affairs Committee (1997-2003), Tunne Kelam led the parliamentary efforts to successfully join the European Union. He was Co-Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. In 2002-2003, as a member of the Convention on the Future of Europe, Kelam participated in drafting the European Constitutional Treaty. Following the tradition of being a path-breaker at every stage of his life, Tunne Kelam became in 2003 one of the first six Estonian members of the European Parliament and joined the EPP-ED group.

Tunne Kelam has been spiritually close to the ideas of united Europe for many years. One of the sources of his inspiration was the Estonian translation of Coudenhove-Kalergi´s book “Total state – total man” which was published a few months before the Soviet take over of Estonia in 1940. He is an advocate of the practical importance of the common European cultural heritage and has been personally inspired by the Christian and ethical dimension of the European integration. Tunne Kelam has been associated with the Pan-European movement and has contributed to the several conferences organized under the auspices of Otto von Habsburg. Two years ago, he participated in publishing a selection of writings by Robert Schuman and wrote an introduction for the Estonian reader. One of his favourite quotations is Robert Schuman’s definition: “democracy is either Christian or it is non-existent. Because a non-Christian democracy leads only to anarchy or tyranny.”
In February 2006, on occasion of the 88th anniversary of the Estonian Republic, Tunne Kelam received for his contribution to the restoration of the Estonia’s independence and to the reinforcement of the statehood the highest decoration of Estonia – the Class One Order of the National Coat of Arms. It is worth mentioning that between 1919-2005 only five persons have been rewarded with the class One Order. This year four more individuals were added to the above mentioned company of honour, the former president Lennart Meri and Tunne Kelam among them.

Knowing his biography, one can understand the great personality of Tunne Kelam – what he has done for the liberty of his country and of Europe. We are proud to have Tunne Kelam in our group. It is a great honour to hand over today the Robert Schuman medal to our friend Tunne Kelam.