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Poettering about in Estonia

  • 2007-08-17
  • By TBT staff and wire reports
NARVA - President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering has been touring Estonia on a fact-finding about the attitudes of the Russian-speaking minority.

Between Wednesday 15 and Friday 17 Aug, the German Europarliamentarian held a series of meetings with representative groups and summarised his findings in an interview with the Postimees newspaper.

"Life under the Communist dictatorship has left a very strong mark on Estonians. It is connected with liberty. That understanding, I think, is not very widesperead in Russia," he said.

Poettering said that it was necessary to make a thorough study of history in order to come to mutual understanding through learning and discussions. "It will then be possible to move on. It is important that the two communities should communicate with each other," he said.

Speaking about his visit to Narva, Poettering said that he found it was positive that representatives of all the communities he met with saw Estonia as their homeland. "I didn't get the impression of Russian-speakers wishing to leave Estonia and they see their future in this country," he said.

Poettering said non-Estonian-speakers had raised the language problem at their meetings, saying that it was very difficult for them to speak Estonian as they lived in a Russian-speaking community. Poettering expressed the opinion that Russian-speakers should be helped to learn Estonian.

"Some of them felt better in Estonia while others said that there was discrimination against them but it was positive that everyone saw Estonia as their homeland," he said, while regarding as necessary that assertions of the violation of human rights should be investigated.

Hans-Gert Poettering, a German conservative, was elected president of the European Parliament this January, when he took over the seat from Spanish Socialist Josep Borrell in accordance with a rotation agreement between the two major factions of the assembly.

Meanwhile another contribution to the debate on Estonian-Russian relations has come from the British economic magazine The Economist.

In a strongly-worded feature entitled "The truth about eSStonia", the publication defends Estonia's citizenship policy and rails against Moscow's tendency to accuse Estonia of harboring fascist sympathies.

"Estonians look back on the Nazi occupation with loathing. Their country was caught between the hammer and the anvil in 1939, and whatever they did, only suffering and destruction awaited them," the article explains.

"What really annoys the Kremlin crowd is that Estonians regarded the arrival of the Red Army in 1944-45 not as a liberation, but as the exchange of one ghastly occupation for another."

The Economist goes on to claim that Estionia's stance on citizenship "has worked rather well. Nearly 150,000 people have gained Estonian citizenship; only 8.5% remain stateless."

UK-Russian relations are just as strained as Estonian-Russian relations at the moment with a round of diplomatic expulsions following in the wake of Russia's refusal to extradite a suspect in the murder of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko.