Center Party Deputy Chairman and Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps said on ETV program "Kahekõne" on Thursday night that the party's cooperation protocol with Russia's ruling party United Russia is of symbolic significance for Estonia's Russian-speaking population and the party does not dare revoke it.
"Just as much as [the cooperation protocol] is symbolic and negative for many people watching today, it is very symbolic for [Estonia's] Russian population," said Reps on the program. "That is psychological — there is no need for any evidence whether it works or not, whether it is a friendship or it isn't. It is — thus it is."
There was a fairly serious discussion in the party at the time unfortunately, she noted, and votes were fairly equally divided. "There were people who said that we are making a distinction, and there were people who said that we weren't," Reps continued. "Thankfully the rational decision prevailed that we do not currently dare revoke it on the level that we would vote in the council on breaking off the so-called agreement; we all said unanimously, that for so long as Russia continues to violate international law, the [cooperation protocol] would be shelved."
Reps explained that the cooperation protocol was not operational. "There were supposed to be exchanges on the committee level; there were supposed to be entire work groups that were to begin work," she recalled, adding that the cooperation protocol had been signed at the National Library of Estonia in Tallinn.
"We did it for the Russians — we did it because at the time, everyone was seeking very good relations with Russia," stated the party vice-chairman. "That was an entirely different situation, when, as we recall, there was even downright talk in the EU and even in NATO of joint exercises. It was this great, friendly time, where it was said that Russia was no longer enemy, rather that there were new challenges."
Reps said that it was a really great time then, admitting that it had to be said that one was proud to travel to Moscow. "We even sent an entire trainload of students there; the students and teachers alike were very satisfied," she recalled. "We talked about how we would all start going to the Hermitage together twice a year. But times have changed."
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla