Streets of Tallinn April 27, 2007Photo: Ross Mayfield
TALLINN- A year after the deadly riots over the removalof a bronze soviet monument, Russian-Estonian relations appear to be improving.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet in an interview with the MK-Estonia daily said:"Inrecent months our relations have been gradually improving,"
He named an agreement on cultural cooperation signed a few months ago, aswell as festivities to mark the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estoniain Moscow as examples of furthercooperation.
"I had a very good meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign MinisterVladimir Titov, during which we talked about many things," Paet said.
The minister added that right now technical preparation of agreementsbetween the two countries is going on, specifically mentioning agreements onrescue at sea and on social insurance.
Commenting on the increase in the number of residents taking Russiancitizenship in Estonia, Paet said that hedoesn't like when people who live in Estoniaand have decided to stay here apply for another country's citizenship.
"It would be natural and normal if the people who live in Estoniahad Estonian citizenship, andnamely that is our goal," he said.
"Yes, we know that people opt for the citizenship of Russia for purelypragmatic reasons, since it is all the same whether you have an Estonian or a Russian passport -- youcan travel freely in the Schengen area without a visa, use the same rights andsocial guarantees," he said.
The minister added that despite the certain improvement in relations, Russia'sbehavior toward Estonia cannot be regarded asfriendly.
"On the one hand we're being criticized on the topic of nationalminorities, whereas on the other hand one's talking about offering free entryto Russia fornon-citizens, thus creating a paradoxical situation where non-citizens have bigadvantages over citizens," Paet said.
The news also came today that Metropolitan Kornili, head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the MoscowPatriarchate, has said that a cross of reconciliation should be erected in theplace of the monument
"I said that the peace of the dead and the peace of mind of the livingwill be disturbed. I made a proposal to put up a cross there. But does a crossever matter for the people who took down the monument?" said the leader ofthe Orthodox believers.
Metropolitan said he suggested a cross for the place that now stands emptybecause it was a burial site of soldiers killed in the war.
"We do always pray for the fatherland, for one's home country, for thefallen," he said.
Kornili drew a parallel with the tragic sinking of the Estoniaferry in 1994.
"A cross has been put up near the sea gates of Tallinnto remember that tragedy," he said. "Why not erect a cross forsoldiers killed on the battlefield? The war was horrible indeed. Estonians, the same people, fought onboth sides. No matter how it was, a cross will always reconciliate."