TALLINN – Estonia's Minister of Culture Piret Hartman said on Thursday that a compromise has been reached with the minister of justice and that Soviet monuments that incite hatred must be removed from public space in Estonia.
"The government today forwarded to the Riigikogu a bill initiated by the Ministry of Justice, which regulates the removal of symbols that incite hatred and support the occupation regime. The Ministry of Culture stands for Estonia's cultural heritage. Finding a compromise with the minister of justice took time. I am glad that we have reached a solution that involves, when it comes to monuments, the expertise of the National Heritage Board in the whole process more clearly than before and gives the agency clearer decision-making powers," the Social Democrat minister said.
Hartman acknowledged the creative associations, which have presented their views on the issue. She said she fully agrees with the representatives of creative associations that substantive and professional analysis is necessary in the case of sites of significant cultural value.
The draft approved by the government provides for a government committee to be set up to assess items that are controversial or where a third opinion is sought. The committee's task is to take into account the various aspects and to issue an additional opinion.
"It must certainly include a representative of the National Heritage Board, but it is also possible to appoint other experts as members. It is important for the assessment made by the committee to be as comprehensive as possible. The committee's position will not be mandatory for the National Heritage Board, but will serve as an additional input," Hartman said.
"The government's position is that Soviet monuments that incite hatred must be removed from public space. This is also my position. I have constantly emphasized in the discussion about monuments -- it is important to give experts more say in order to avoid the adoption of politically charged decisions," the minister said, adding that we need to distinguish between monuments that incite or romanticize war, and symbols or buildings that are considered by experts to be of significant historical or cultural value.