TALLINN – Opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) MP Lauri Laanemets said that yet another concession by Prime Minister Juri Ratas to the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) endangers higher education as well as public health.
Laanemets, deputy chair of SDE, said that with the decision made on Monday, the government is demolishing higher education and sending a clear signal to foreign students, who are no longer welcome in the country from today.
"International students are not refugees who do not study or who live on grants as they are trying to indicate. They pay for their studies themselves, most of them do decent work. Students from outside Estonia work in the field of cyber defense, as couriers in the sharing economy, as conductors and in other areas of life," Laanemets said.
"EKRE has been engaging in the eye-for-an-eye trade again -- during the peak work season, farmers were held hostage to extort ideological restrictions in higher education. All in all, things are not getting better in the economy, bringing in new temporary foreign workers rather increases the risk of the virus spreading and restrictions on international students endanger the competitiveness of Estonian universities," the SDE MP said.
According to Laanemets, restricting the access of foreign students and their relatives to Estonia will reduce the revenue base of universities and put the funding of Estonian-language higher education under greater pressure.
"The price of Juri Ratas' coalition continues to be to turn Estonia into backwoods where universities deteriorate, where there would be few brains for innovation, where there is breaking of ties so that Estonia would be left alone in the world, so that talented young and enterprising people would move abroad. While at the beginning of the year, EKRE's own minister did not approve the amendments to the Aliens Act, then today, these same amendments have essentially been adopted without passing the round of involvement between ministries," Laanemets said.
According to him, it is unfortunate that without holding a public debate, the foundations of higher education policy have been changed and the reputation of the Estonian higher education system abroad has been sacrificed.
"Today, we can see that Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps is just a facade when it comes to major education policy decisions in order to stay in the coalition at all costs. The decision was made today, but all substantive rounds of involvement are still ongoing, a public debate has yet to be held. Is this the greater participation of the people that the gentlemen in the government are talking about?" Laanemets asked.