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Estonia weighs referendum on migration policy

The opposition Estonian Centre Party (KE) has urged a referendum on the migration issue. The public support the idea unlike the coalition politicians who do not consider it a necessity, according to stolitsa.ee.

The working group of the Centre Party’s parliamentary faction led by Oudekki Loone has been charged to analyze the migration policy of Estonia within a month. European parliamentarian Yana Toom says the problem needs to be discussed, as the government cannot and does not want to explain its decisions. “Such an emotional attitude to the refugee problem is quite clear, given our domestic problems – unemployment and poverty,” Toom says. Oudekki Loone, in turn, says the referendum is necessary, as the refugee problem and migration policy were not discussed before the last elections. She thinks the referendum is a good opportunity to express one’s views on the issue.  Yana Toom’s Bureau has recently published the results of the public opinion poll that was conducted at her request: one-fourth of the polled (74.1%) do not want to co-exist with refugees, while less than one percent of the respondents do not mind co-existing with them. 

Edgar Savisaar, leader of the Centre Party, supports the idea of a nation-wide referendum. “They say the government sometimes has to do the right cause despite the public will. They justified in such way the privatization, writing-off the savings of elderly people, appointment of their men to profitable posts, provision of tax preferences to the rich, and the care for the Swedish banks as for the apple of eye. Of course, there are issues where politician should come out as initiators and persuade the people, and they had more than enough time to do it. If they failed to explain the matter to the people, maybe Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and his team should admit their defeat and leave,” Edgar Savisaar said. He is not sure that the results of the supposed nation-wide vote on the migration policy are predetermined. He brings the example of the referendum on Estonia’s joining the EU – then less votes “against” were registered than it was planned. He thinks that open nation-wide debates are good as both the sides get a chance to present their arguments and gain the ear. 

 “I am sure that the people of Estonia are firmer than some may think. We do not need standing bolt-upright before Brussels and Washington shivering with fear of losing their protection and support and doing everything we are told to do.” Savisaar says. He is sure that they try to persuade the people that they are helpless. Savisaar says he trusts in the wisdom of the people of Estonia rather than in the failed policy of the prime minister.

However, the politicians of the coalition parties do not support the idea of the Centre Party. Einar Vallbaum, a parliamentarian from Pro Partia and Res Publica Union, says there is no need in a referendum. Social-democrat Andres Anvelt also believes that Estonia does not need such an event. “There is no mass migration. Estonia just needs to shelter a little more than 500 people that fled war. We should understand that Estonia has not only rights but also commitments to the EU. Therefore, a referendum on the migration issue can be inherently assessed as a referendum on withdrawal from the European Union,” Anvelt says.

Leader of the People’s Unity Party Kristiina Ojuland has different views. She says the Estonian Cabinet comprises Brussel’s henchmen who do not dare to insist on the interests of their own people.  She recalled that the governments of Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Denmark have refused from the refugee quotas. She supported the position of the Centre Party.

The idea of the nation-wide referendum is supported by a number of prominent people, such as artist Neeme Lall, who thinks that the referendum would bring back the right to decision making to the people of Estonia. Yet, he says, the ruling system has created a legislation that greatly impedes the nation-wide vote. 

The last referendum (for joining the EU) was held in 2003. “Referendum on the migration policy is necessary for both the people and the government to learn an impartial assessment of its activity without faking the poll results. The government members have been neglecting the opinion of the population for a long time already. At least, look at the recent increase of the excise tax despite protests. Meantime, the ordinary people whose views are neglected will have to carry the heavy financial burden and cultural peculiarities of migrants from the countries of militant Islam,” says businessman Yevgeny Zubri. Publicist Andrey Demenkov says referendum is “an important tool to settle issues concerning most of the citizens.” However, he says, there are issues that should not be set to public vote, as the response may depend on the momentary circumstances.  Therefore, the publicist says, “in democratic countries the interests of voters are presented by competent politicians.”

TV host Tatyana Lavrova compares the referendum with an assembly of residents, as there are decisions that the administration has no right to adopt without the consent of the residents. “I agree that people should help each other. However, the process should be organized so that neither of the parties is affected. Is our healthcare system able to cope with the viruses those people will bring with them? There are many issues, but no answers to any,” she says.

TV correspondent Mati Talvik is sure that the outcome of the referendum is predetermined, so there is no need in it. “We will have prejudices against refugees and fear that they will be behaving as bad as they do in other European countries. If we fail to fulfill our commitments, the EU will find the way to press us, as Estonia needs Europe’s funds like air to breathe,” Talvik says.

Recently one of the readers of stolitsa.ee contacted the editorial office to share the impressions she got when visiting her son who studies in Dusseldorf, Germany. The woman was shocked how the city has changed. She said her son goes nowhere for the fear of terror assaults and attacks. Police do not patrol in public places and during public events. She said stores are flooded with dark-skinned people who steal everything they can, while guards and sellers just show them the door and do not even call police. In her words, if migrants are caught committing more serious crimes, they are not even deported, as there is nowhere to deport them.  “If such a country like Germany can do nothing, what will happen to Estonia when migrants arrive?” the woman said with fear.

Permalink: eadaily.com/en/news/2016/02/21/estonia-weighs-referendum-on-migration-policy
Published on February 21st, 2016 06:33 PM
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