Max van der Stoel leaves Estonia on a high note

  • 2000-08-31
  • Sergei Stepanov
NARVA, Estonia - Max van der Stoel, National Minorities High Commissioner of OSCE, visited northeastern Estonia for the last time on Aug. 24.

His term as high commissioner will end in January, 2001, and he wanted to meet the municipal governments of Narva and Johvi in order to prepare recommendations on the area's problems with the integration process for his successor.

Van der Stoel also visited Tartu University College in Narva, where he attended an international conference, "Education and Integration." The conference addressed a unique aspect of the integration process in Estonia - special education for school teachers and their role in the integration process.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, van der Stoel said that some people confuse integration with assimilation.

But in reality, the new integration program leads the two sides - minorities and the majority - to take part in the process with respect for each other's cultural, ethnic and language diversities.

This is the only way this kind of integration will be successful, he said.

No doubt, Estonia today has big changes in store for securing a successful future inside the European democratic society. The new integration program will attempt to shift the majority and minority opposition to collaboration.

The High Commissioner told The Baltic Times that he hoped the number of stateless persons in Estonia, currently at around 200,000, will decrease constantly.

"More and more people will find a way for naturalization. I got the impression that more Russian speakers in this country do have a working knowledge of the Estonian language, and it will help them to pass through the naturalization process," van der Stoel said.

Van der Stoel assessed his mission in Estonia as successful.

"I appreciated that the Estonian government has used my recommendations and improved some laws. The Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar said that my work and the work of OSCE mission was useful for Estonia," he said.

After van der Stoel's mission is over, he will do some lecturing in universities in the Netherlands and write his memoirs.