Arnold Rüütel, Estonia's former president, expressed strict opposition to the refugee distribution plan, proposed by the European Commission.
In an interview with Maaleht, given days before the EU heads of state decided against compulsory quotas, but agreed to help Italy and other southern European states with migrant flow, Rüütel argued that the EC's plan under which Estonia would have needed to adopt 1,064 displaced persons, is “a big threat to Estonia as a nation state and would violate its sovereignty.”
“We cannot let others tell us how many refugees we have to take. The non-indigenous share of population in Estonia is already one of the largest in Europe,” Rüütel said, presumably an indication of large number of Russian-speakers who immigrated to the country during the Soviet occupation.
Rüütel added that Estonia's participation in solving the migration crisis has to take into account the country's resources and it is preferable to help the people in their own regions, rather than adopt them in Europe.
“In my opinion, we should do everything we can to ensure that the refugees would have at least primary means to survive in their own or neighboring country, to make sure that they will return to their home as soon as the conflict situations have normalized."
On June 26, EU government heads agreed not to follow through with the EC's migrant quota plan to solve the Mediterranean refugee crisis. It was decided that a voluntary agreement between the countries is preferable to a forced obligation. However, EU leaders agreed that a new proposal will be put forward in July on how to resettle the 60,000 refugees, 40,000 of whom are currently in Italy and Greece, and 20,000 in refugee camps outside of the EU. This will be based on all member states agreeing to resettle asylum seekers on voluntary basis.
Estonia will now get a stronger say in how many refugees it will receive. The National Audit Office of Estonia is currently preparing an audit to analyze the capacity of the state in various areas, including education, social protection, integration, healthcare and so on, to accept refugees.
Arnold Rüütel served as the high-ranking communist leader of Soviet-occupied Estonia, being the last chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR. In 2001, he was elected the third President of Estonia, and served until 2006. He is honorary chairman of Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), which is fiercely against immigration.
Editor: S. Tambur