TALLINN - The idea to give cultural autonomy to the Russian-speaking community of Estonia, floated by MEP Yana Toom from the ruling Center Party, would lead to the separation of East-Viru county from the rest of Estonia and cannot be supported, opposition Reform Party MP Kristen Michal said on Thursday.
Describing the proposal of Toom as being in the style of the 1990s and the Interfront movement that opposed Estonia's independence, Michal said that actually there's strong support already now in Estonia for those in favor of the idea that Estonian-language education must start from kindergarten.
"Last year, the idea put forward by us was supported also by a big majority of non-Estonian parents, over 70 percent. Yana Toom keeps trying to move in the opposite direction, speaking under the disguise of cultural autonomy actually of keeping Russian-speaking people in segregation, or effectively separating East-Viru county and increasing the share of Russian-language education. The Center Party's habit of saying different things in different languages is a pattern of behavior of the time of [Edgar] Savisaar, also today's message was given by Toom in Russian."
Michal said that the findings of the Human Development Report and in-depth surveys demonstrate that in Estonia good Estonian-language education is of benefit for a person's future, which "runs counter to the Center Party's wish to keep the two language spaces apart and say different things in Russian, as has been the custom since the Savisaar time."
According to Michal, chairman of the Center Party and Prime Minister Juri Ratas "said to the left and the right, and declared in writing in July 2017," that Yana Toom represents him and the policy of the Center Party.
"That declaration was issued after negotiations with Yana Toom and others considered to be impetuous so that it was clear that in the future they will be bound together in good and in bad. Today Toom let know that it is time to start fulfilling the promises given to her regarding giving preference to Russian-language education and on zero citizenship. Because as Toom and Savisaar have said, the Center Party belongs not to Juri, but it has to be kept in mind on whose votes in Narva, Tallinn, and consequently also in the national government, they stand," Michal said.
"It is clear that under the disguise of Russian cultural autonomy an utterly different goal is being pursued -- more of a sort that is awaited by the partner United Russia and the [Russian] embassy on Pikk Street. We will see at the elections whether this is approved in Estonia, or starting with Estonian-language education in kindergarten receives support instead. We also do not support the ideas of Toom and Ratas concerning zero citizenship, which means becoming a citizen without knowledge of the Estonian language and the Constitution," the Reform Party longtimer and former minister of economic affairs and communications said.