15 hours with Sven at the Parliament

Author: Rain Veetõusme

Here you will find a description of Sven’s work-day in early 2007 – in this case, on Monday – in a form of narrative overview. Rain Veetõusme followed Sven like a “shadow” throughout the day.

Once I happened to hear someone in the company to say that members of the Parliament will be paid for nothing as they do not work at all. When I asked him how much he knows about the working day of the member of the Parliament, it turned out that this conclusion was made on the basis of what is going on at the Parliament hall. Then I asked Sven Sester how busy is the work-day of a member of the Parliament and Sven suggested that if I wish I could accompany him everywhere for the whole day to find out. Now I am going to tell you how the usual work day of a parliament member actually looks like.

Sven rings me on Sunday night, immediately after TV news, asking to be ready half past seven in the morning. Next morning I was awoken by Sven, who called me to remind of our early start at 7 a.m. Since we plan to go everywhere together, I leave my car at home and Sven picks me at my doorstep. Still sleepy, I ask for the reasons why his day starts so early. It turns out that the election-related tasks must be completed before the official work-day at the Parliament.

Riigikogu saal.8.00 a.m.-9.00 a.m. Meeting of Sven’s campaign team in Toompea castle.

A number of enthusiastic people are sitting around the table in Sven’s office. As time is pressing, the current situation of the election campaign and the most important tasks of the upcoming week are being discussed in a hurry. Together all of the spaces still empty will be filled in Sven’s planner calendar.* I’ll try to partake in the early morning flood of energy and to freshen my mind. I am totally aware of what is going around me little before 9.a.m.

9.00 a.m.-11.00 a.m. A meeting of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica in Toompea castle.

The working day starts at the Parliament. The agenda for the main hall of the Parliament, activities of commissions and the planned draft are reviewed as a result of the joint effort by about thirty deputies of the Parliament and officials of ten political groups.
Since the topics vary a great deal, I ask Sven if one has to be competent in all areas. Sven tells that this should be so in the end. „First, of course, the matter is being worked through by the deputies most competent in this and then they present the issues to others. This saves a significant amount of time because there may be hundreds of pending bills,” Sven explains.
As a Vice-Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, it is his duty to give an overview on the subject and he is stopping at length on the Advertising Act, the Electricity Act and the amendments made to these drafts. In a debate, the political group proposes to shift the alcohol advertising on television for later hours.
Two hours are filled with intense and complicated debate. The pace is tremendous.

11.00 a.m.-12.30 a.m. The meeting of the Economic Affairs Commission of the Parliament on Toompea.

Sven is rushing there from the group meeting to discuss his party´s proposals. I am forced to leave out this meeting because of my plans.

12.30 p.m.-1.30 p.m. Phone calls, emails, comments – on Toompea.

We are at Sven’s office, exchanging a few sentences. Sven is focused on answering e-mails, grabbing occasionally the phone to talk with callers. Among other people there are a couple of journalists calling and Sven comments on both the Electricity Act and economical relations between Estonia and Russia.

1.30 p.m.- 2.00 p.m. Lunch break at the Parliament café.

The computer will remain in the office, but not the phone. Rapid lunch is interrupted by continuous phone calls. Among callers, there are both colleagues and electors. Sven finds time to meet them all.

2.00 p.m.-3.00 p.m. The meeting of the European Union Affairs Committee.

The meeting is canceled. Sven said that members of the Commission had been previously notified of this and he planned instead to attend at the meeting of the Economic and Financial Working Group of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica. Moving between various meetings on Toompea actually does not take much time. The house is large enough, but an experienced member of the Parliament cannot get lost there. The latter, however, is not true about me, so I’ll try not lose sight of Sven. Ordinary people do not find issues of economics and finance easy to understand. So Sven tries to explain a few things to me, but due to the pace of work he must focus on the content of the meeting.

3.00 p.m. -3.30 p.m. The session of the Parliament.

Only deputies and secretaries of the hall are allowed to enter the Parliament hall. I head for the balcony, where the session can be followed by journalists and other interested parties. The Monday meetings do not last long. The drafts are not discussed, only the agenda is reviewed. After the session when walking in the hall I can have a few words with Sven. Sven finds that the Parliament sessions have become very short. „Activities of any kind seem to have ceased in the government. Bills are not submitted to the Parliament and the agendas have become very thin. Now, before the elections, members of the government make more efforts than ever, trying to show at the last hour how much hard work they have done,“ Sven tells us a moment before entering his office where the electors who have come to the meet him are already waiting.

3.30 p.m.-5.00 p.m. The meeting of electors on Toompea.

As Sven publishes regularly ads about the meetings with his electors in the district newspapers, next half an hour is filled with real life problems. One of visitor´s problem is the related to the return of lands near Tallinn, the other is concerned about the bus stop in Lasnamäe, third wants to talk about the apartment owners association who is regularly stealing the money. Sven seems to know the solution to every problem. As for the return of lands, he outlines rapidly a legal solution to the situation, the problem of the bus stop is immediately transmitted wirelessly to the advisor of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica and in case of the association Sven recommends to choose a new board and then carry out a checkup. If it the money is really gone, a statement should be given to the police.

5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sven is writing an article.

We have spent on Toompea already 9 hours. Sven offers me a refreshing bottle of water and recommends to start writing an article. His next hour is also spent on the paperwork. I put down my first notes to sum up the day, Sven, however, writes an article about the economic growth and the introduction of the euro. As earlier the phone does not leave him in peace even in those moments and he has to address at the same time a number of other problems. Among other things, Sven’s wife is calling to find out when he will be at home. I conclude from the answer that I, too, have still a long evening ahead.

6.00 p.m.- 9.45 p.m. Bridge at the cafe of the National Library.

After a day’s work Sven dedicates a little time also to his favorite hobby. After years of playing bridge, Sven visits the club every Monday evening, if possible, because of the club tournament. Moving around between 80 players, I remember that Sven has won the national championship in bridge and even took part in the Olympic Games as a member of the Estonian national team.

The tournament over, I am ready to go home. But, as it turns out, in vain.

9.45 p.m.- 11.30 p.m. Again to Toompea.

Sven admits that his article needs further elaboration and as he does not want to postpone the task for tomorrow which you can do today, he should complete it. I use the time for writing the article as well.

22.30 Home!

So, our work-day lasted only for 15 successive hours! Sven does not seem to be tired. However, he also admits that it´s time to make a small break for sleeping, because Tuesday won´t be an easier day.