Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
And now Estonia feels the timing is right to remove the russian WWII memorial. The bear is now in a real bad mood.

I wish we had more people from Eastern Europe here to tell us how they feel about this.

by balbuz on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 11:35:30 AM EST
Events in Estonia have internal reasons, they are not related to Russia and took several years of campaigning and passing laws that allow government to interfere into what is essentially a local, city level, issue. Russia does not offer any meaningful support to Russians abroad, and Russian politicians rhetoric is on the memorial is just that - rhetoric for domestic consumption. Estonia is one of offshores for the Russian elite, there are common business interests, so government there has a free pass from Russia.

Issue here is with Russian (and Soviet) minority in Estonia (used to be 30% of population) and attempt by the government to once again show them the proper place in the country and remind the electorate who the real enemy (naturally, Estonia's own residents) is in the light of the coming economic troubles. But looks like government miscalculated the reaction of the Russians - I don't think they really expected several days of disorder, that borders will have to be closed (happened today) and that hangars will have to be filled with the arrested.

Russians in Estonia do not have citizenship rights, and discrimination increased in the last few years due to more nationalistic government. Russians have higher unemployment, less paying jobs, are under represented in management and government jobs. Problem is with Estonian "integration" policy: Russians ought to speak, think and live like Estonians. "Integration" means full assimilation and still monoethnic job places are quite common. Jobs are conditioned by government Estonian language exams, which were becoming more and more strict. Requirements include writing business papers and essays. Recent amendments to the language law allow language commission to re-examine a person while the whole exam process is universally considered arbitrary.

Government and media prop fake "pro-Russian" parties and only "model Russians" (slightly to the right of the government) are allowed mainstream media time. Another issue is schools: teachers in Russian schools are being
replaced by native speakers and number of subjects in Estonian are increased. Government program for those schools by design does not give correct or enough Russian and after high school the education level is
not enough for the college.

Russians do not have political voice, government actively arrests, intimidates, deports or uses language commissions to fire from jobs possible troublemakers.

What Russians in Estonia are saying is that there are preciously few cultural places at this point they were allowed to keep, including only one theater. Destroyed monument and tradition to go there on VE Day was exactly one of those places, thus the reaction.

So what it is a movement against oppression. Problem is, it's leaderless resistance and that government is not ready to view the conflict in political terms.

by blackhawk on Fri Apr 27th, 2007 at 11:42:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there a political party representing the the Russian speakers in Estonia? Of course, when you say "Russians in Estonia do not have citizenship rights" this includes electoral disenfranchisement, but the "integration" process must have allowed a number of Russian speakers to gain full citizenship. How many of these are there?

FQIW, at the latest European Parliament elections, The voter turnout in Estonia was one of the lowest of all member countries at only 26.8%. What this means is that, to elect one of Estonia's 6 MEPs one only needed 3% of the registered voters (in fact, 2% did suffice). I mention this because a Russian Estonian MEP would be able to raise awareness of the situation of the Russian minority at the EU level, which is quite necessary. I don't think many people are aware of what the EU got into itself in that regard.

We have discussed the Council of Europe's convention on regional and minority languages in connection with Ukraine. Maybe it is because the Russian speakers are actually disenfranchised that the isse is not current in Estonia.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 28th, 2007 at 08:47:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
About 10% of voters are former "aliens". Aliens are allowed to vote in local elections, but the problem, from Russian minority, agenda, is coming from the national level. Memorial debacle is an example: people, electorate and authorities of Tallinn were against dismantling, but the decision was made by national parliament. BTW, on local level Russian is used, but there is a problem with pressure on Russian schools and media.

Russian parties seem to be on the out: there are two of them (not a good idea, given 5% national parliament barrier), to squabble, let the private interests run amok, did nothing about closing of the Russian TV channel, the Russian Radio station and a newspaper.

So in recent elections Russian vote went to the Centrist party of Savisaar, which has European views on minority rights. This potentially makes the Centrist party less likely to blocked with, so, when expedient, they mute the aliens issue.

Problems are not going to be solved with more representation, it's more an issue of political culture and spirit: xenophobic and nationalist rhetoric is accepted from politicians, fact that decisions affecting schools and language commissions worsening the situation are pushed  from national level without consultations with the minority, discrimination in wages and positions, no dialog with minorities, educational policies and staffing that caused higher education rates for Estonians and aliens, equal in Soviet times, now differ two fold.

Today's Estonian biggest newspaper opines on Russians: Unknown Bastard.

by blackhawk on Sat Apr 28th, 2007 at 05:16:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sheesh, the European Commission's Country Profile for Estonia prior to EU accession has only this to say about the Russian minority:
Population: 1.36 million (2002), 80% citizens of Estonia, 7% citizens of other countries and 13% stateless.
Looking at the final progress report I realise that there doesn't seem to be any specific area of the EU Acquis where this issue fits. This is where a Bill of Rights would help.

Thre is, however, a couple of items from 2000 regarding language laws.

European Commission: Commission welcomes adoption of new Language law in Estonia (16/06/2000)

The Commission welcomes the new Language Law which was adopted yesterday by the Estonian Parliament. It notes with satisfaction that Estonia has thus followed its recommendations made in the Regular Report and Accession Partnership of October 1999 and worked towards compliance of the text with both international standards and the Europe Agreement.

"I warmly welcome this decision" said European Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen. "The result of today represents an important step towards striking the right balance between the legitimate objective of promoting and protecting the Estonian language with full respect of the international standards on minorities and compliance with Estonia's obligation under the Europe Agreement. This decision constitutes an additional step in Estonia's efforts to create a modern, democratic and inclusive society. The rapid consensus found in the Estonian Parliament is a clear indicator that there is a strong majority in favour of this objective".

The Commission is very confident that Estonia will also continue to strive towards reaching full compatibility with international standards and the Europe Agreement in the implementation of the law.

European Commission: Statement by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on The Estonian Language Law and the State Integration Programme (13/09/2000)

Statement by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on The Estonian Language Law and the State Integration Programme

The European Union welcomes the Estonian Parliament's adoption on 14 June of amendments to the Language Law. The Union notes with satisfaction that EU recommendations have been taken into account, thus bringing the law largely in conformity with the Europe Agreement. The Union supports the statement on the language law by the High Commissioner for National Minorities, Mr. Max Van Der Stoel in which he concludes that the law now largely complies with international standards. The Union trusts that the proper implementation of the law will be ensured.

At the same time the European Union acknowledges the Estonian government decision to adopt in March 2000 the State Integration Programme for the years 2000-2007. The State Integration Programme, complemented with a proper implementation plan, offers substantial scope for strengthening the process within Estonian society towards the integration of the non-Estonian speaking minority.

The Union considers these steps taken by Estonia as most encouraging signs of positive development in the integration process and will continue to work in close cooperation with the Estonian authorities to support this objective.

WTF is the "Europe Agreement"?

Europa Glossary: Europe agreement

A Europe agreement is a specific type of association agreement between the European Union and the Central and Eastern European countries that subsequently became EU candidate countries. The Europe agreement is based on respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the market economy.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 28th, 2007 at 05:36:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is from a Russian source, but it hopefully doesn't misrepresent the Council of Europe's [not to be confused with the Council of the European Union] report.

Mosnews: Council of Europe Concerned Over Racism in Estonia, Lithuania (22.02.2006)

Council of Europe's Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has released reports on racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance in four countries, including Estonia and Lithuania.


In Estonia, the number of stateless people who have obtained Estonian citizenship has been steadily increasing, the report said. But Estonia has not developed a consistent policy aimed at bringing the Estonian-speaking and Russian-speaking communities together. Estonia has yet to examine the full extent of the Holocaust in Estonia and to give it its rightful place in the national debate. The report also noted that the Roma community in Estonia was still disproportionately affected by unemployment and discrimination in the field of education.

The Council of Europe admitted that ethnic Russians in Estonia were faced with serious discrimination on the way to integration into society, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance said Tuesday. Estonia has failed to accept an anti-discrimination set of regulations and the law on rights and status of national minorities, the Gazeta.Ru news website quoted the ECRI report as saying. About 140,000 Russians residing in Estonia (some eleven percent of the population) have not been granted citizenship, particularly because of a strict Estonian language test.

Among the Russian population in Estonia, the rate of unemployment is disproportionately high, and the government has not developed a policy that would draw together Russian and Estonian nationals. The commission suggested that the Estonian authorities organized a body that would fight racism and ethnic discrimination.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Apr 28th, 2007 at 05:45:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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