STRASBOURG - Rene van der Linden, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has responded to claims that he spread "erroneous information" on his recent visit to Estonia.
Speaker of the Estonian parliament Ene Ergma had sent a letter to van der Linden refuting several of assertions concerning the status of the Russian-speaking minority. According to Ergma, van der Linden's comments "created confusion and bewilderment both in the Estonian public and internationally."
In a notable departure from normal diplomatic language, she even referred to his "lies" at one point.
"Give up spreading erroneous information about Estonia," Ergma wrote.
Having been told about the contents of Ergma's letter by The Baltic Times, van der Linden expressed amazement at its contents.
"I am astonished that the Estonian Speaker has chosen to respond to second-hand reports of what I am alleged to have said, rather than to my position as clearly set out in the statement I made at the end of my visit to Estonia.
"In that statement - which has been on the Assembly's website for the last ten days - I made my position clear on citizenship and the rights of stateless persons.
"I invite anyone who wishes to know my views to read it."
Addressing Ergma, he said: "As I said in my previous letter to you, I appreciated the frank and positive discussions we enjoyed during our meeting and am therefore surprised to learn only via the media of the strong views you have subsequently expressed. To the best of my recollection, you never expressed such views to me during our meeting."
He said it was regrettable that he did not have an opportunity to reply to her letter 's which he received Oct. 2 's before it was made public. "I find it improper for such a public accusation to be made before giving me any right of reply."
Van der Linden's official statement at the conclusion of his visit says that "The most important challenge now is to fully integrate the Russian-speaking population, which should have the full range of rights and opportunities enjoyed by all European citizens.
"A significant part of the population of a European Union country cannot remain stateless. This integration should not be limited to citizenship, but be accompanied by active measures at citizen level to encourage voluntary integration, avoid any discrimination in the labour market and promote language learning."