Integration a sensitive topic in coalition negotiations
The Center Party, the Social Democrats, and IRL continued their coalition negotiations on Tuesday with the topic of integration. The three parties have a very different understanding of what integration should mean and how it should be supported. Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu (IRL) said on Tuesday morning that he was hopeful they could find common ground.
Center Party member and Member of the European Parliament for Estonia, Yana Toom, has asked the European Commission to assess whether or not Estonia’s Language Act met European legal norms and principles, ERR’s radio news reported on Tuesday.
Toom’s complaint is that the Estonian law sets the bar too high where professions and positions require a certain knowledge of Estonian. Past debates surrounding the topic included language requirements for bus and taxi drivers, for instance.
Matters of integration could turn out to be an issue in the Center Party, the Social Democrats, and IRL’s current coalition negotiations. Especially IRL has followed a restrictive approach, while the platforms of the Social Democrats and especially the Center Party are much more open.
For example, the Center Party’s platform includes a call to improve the availability of quality education in Russian, along with a warning that pushing through a education reform passed by the Riigikogu in 2007 would affect all of Estonia negatively.
The Social Democrats’ 2015 election platform included the aim to ensure that the children of parents who are not native speakers of Estonian learn to speak it well at primary as well as secondary and high school levels. Their platform also included an end of the discrimination of workers for their lack of Estonian, as well as making a program available for expedited naturalization for certain target groups.
This does not go together very well with IRL’s positions. IRL does not include integration in its party platform as a topic, but refers to it as a part of education and cultural policy. The party stresses though that Estonia is the home for all nationalities who live here.
Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu didn’t offer predictions how Tuesday’s negotiation round would turn out, but expressed hope that the parties would find common ground. They needed to agree what should be done, but also what shouldn’t be done, Reinsalu said.