Martin Hurt, deputy director of the International Center of Defense and Security, said he agrees with security expert Vladimir Juškin who said that the recent spike in unemployment in the mostly Russian-speaking region in Northeast Estonia is a security risk.
Juškin said the recent lay-off of over 600 people in Ida-Viru County is a great threat to Estonia's national security as a Russian-led hybrid war is going on, and those dissatisfied with authorities can be organized, leading to social eruptions, protests and eventually green men on the streets.
“The logic is there, but the risk after the closing of one company might not be that large. If the government does not tackle the problem, also taking into account the security aspect, then it is making a mistake,” Hurt told ERR.
He said the symbolic presence of the state is important in a sensitive region such as Ida-Viru County. Hurt added that ministers should visit the area to listen to the concerns of ordinary citizens.
“If something can be done, including retraining of people, then the state must not only try harder, but also be seen doing it,” he said.
Possible help from the EU's Globalization Adjustment Fund
Estonian MEP and former foreign minister Urmas Paet suggested that Estonia should ask the EU's Globalization Adjustment Fund for help. “The European Union has created legal norms to give additional aid to workers and help them return to the job market,” he said, adding that the new wave of unemployed in Ida-Viru County should be taken seriously.
Töötukassa, the employment office, said they are equipped to handle the 626 people out of work, and will offer each person laid off individual aid. Töötukassa will also meet with AS Nitrofert, a fertilizer producer making 426 people redundant.
Rannar Vassiljev, the health and labor minister, said the employment office has already reacted to the situation in Ida-Viru County, and Estonia will turn to the Globalization Adjustment Fund if necessary.
Besides Nitrofert, Eesti Energia is also decreasing staff numbers, by 200, although most will carry on for a few more months. Falling oil and energy prices, as well as a tax increase on natural gas, are the major reasons behind the lay-offs.
Finance Minister Sven Sester will meet with Ida-Viru County municipality heads next week in Jõhvi, with Pevkur and Social Protection Minister Margus Tsahkna traveling to the area the week after.
The county currently has 5,500 unemployed people and 509 unfilled jobs. Estonia's current unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, it was 7.7 percent a year ago.
Editor: J.M. Laats