DON'T HURRY BACK: Van der Linden can probably discount Estonia as a future holiday destination
TALLINN 's Estonia's patience with Rene van der Linden has finally broken.
Speaker of the Estonian parliament Ene Ergma has sent a letter to van der Linden, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), refuting numerous assertions he made during his recent visit to Estonia, reports BNS. According to Ergma, van der Linden's comments provoked widespread controversy and forced her to answer.
"Your recent repeated misleading statements have created confusion and bewilderment both in the Estonian public and internationally," wrote Ergma, of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union.
The speaker added that the inaccuracies did not hurt Estonia alone but discredited PACE and endangered its international standing.
"This leads to our request: give up spreading erroneous information about Estonia," Ergma said.
The speaker of the Estonian parliament referred to Van der Linden's take on the voting rights of aliens in local elections and the right of juveniles to apply for Estonian citizenship.
"You repeatedly erroneously stated that stateless persons have no possibility of voting in local elections in this country. This assertion is a lie," Ergma wrote.
She pointed out that the Constitution adopted in a referendum in 1992 did not link the right of voting in local elections with citizenship but only with permanent residence in Estonia.
"According to our Local Government Councils Election Act, an alien who has attained eighteen years of age by the day of election, who resides permanently in the territory of the respective town of rural muunicipality and and resides in Estonia on the basis of long-term or permanent residence permit is entitled to vote the election," Ergma said.
The speaker said that van der Linden's assertion that children of stateless persons born in Estonia were not granted the right to Estonian citizenship was also wrong.
"The assertion is wrong as well," she said. "A person under 15 years old born in Estonia is granted Estonian citizenship by naturalization if his or her parents apply for it."
Ergma underlined that in that case the person has to take no tests or pass any additional clauses to be granted citizenship.
The parliament speaker added that van der Linden's attention had been drawn to his mistakes even while he was still in Tallinn and expressed amazement that the PACE president had apparently not made any effort to correct his erroneous statements.
Excerpts from the Estonian Citizenship Act and the Local Government Council Election Act were included with Ergma's letter, to confirm just how wide of the mark Van der Linden is.
Even before his latest visit, van der Linden was widely seen as being strongly pro-Russian. On his previous visit he was critical of Estonia's decision to relocate a Red Army memorial. On this visit he referred to there being "millions" of disenfranchised people in the Baltic states.
Van der Linden isn't the only diplomat to be the target of Estonian ire. Another recent visitor, the United Nations' special discrimination rapporteur Doudou Diene has also come under fire, this time from Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
In an interview with the regional newspaper Valgamaalane, Ilves told Estonians to be proud of their achievements.
"We need not pay attention to such propagandistic statements," Ilves said, commenting on Diene's advice that Estonia should have several offical languages.
"If Diene recommended that several official languages should be adopted in Estonia, I will recall that there are four million Turks living in Germany," he added. "Why doesn't that country have several official languages?"
Speaking of relations between Estonia and Russia, Ilves stated that the April disturbances, the so-called Bronze Soldier riots, had been planned long in advance - and not by Estonia.
"Russia has 143 million and Estonia 1.3 million inhabitants," he added. "It is supreme arrogance to believe that we are going to influence such a large country. If there is a desire to show us as being bad they will do it."
Ilves underlined that it was in Russia's interests to create a bad reputation for Estonia.