Petition signed by 39,399 against ‘mass immigration’ handed to Riigikogu board (67)
The parliamentary group of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) handed a petition against mass immigration to President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (SDE) on Wednesday. EKRE tied the legitimacy of state power to how this petition was handled, party chairman Mart Helme made clear.
In detail, the petition demands a referendum on the government’s immigration and refugee policy so that it would be in the control of the voters, as well as making sure that immigration wouldn’t go beyond current numbers.
Most of the signatures were collected by mail, and during a street and town hall campaign. About a third of the signatures were collected online through the party’s website.
EKRE’s chairman Mart Helme said that the party had begun to collect signatures in summer 2015, when it became clear that the European Union was planning to introduce quotas, a centralized European immigration policy, and other similar means that violated basic EU agreements and the sovereignty of member states.
Together with the petition EKRE’s parliamentary group also submitted a bill that would set a referendum for Apr. 23, 2017, asking voters the question “Do you agree that the Republic of Estonia participates in the redistribution of immigrants arriving in the European Union?”.
According to Helme, such a vote would add legitimacy to the country’s immigration policy and provide a clear basis for the position the government would then have to take towards the European Union and its institutions. He added that giving the voters the possibility to say yes or no to this question would reassure the government for years to come that it took the opinion of the people into account.
Helme and his party are ready to tie the legitimacy of state power on the whole to this single question. Right now, the government acted without a mandate, and shortsightedly ignored dangers and problems and endangered everybody’s future, Helme said.
Defining mass immigration
So far, Estonia has taken in no more than a few dozen refugees under the EU redistribution system. About 220 are expected for this year. Despite the fact that authorities disagree on the maximum possible capacity, about 550 could be integrated in the labour market.
Compared to total immigration to Estonia in 2015, 550 refugees would amount to an additional 3.56%. As much as 52% of immigrants arriving in the country last year were actually Estonian citizens, which means that considering immigration overall, the share of foreigners settling in this country is small.
A total of 7,398 foreigners immigrated to Estonia in 2015, which amounts to 0.56% of the country’s population. In a similar comparison, 550 refugees per year amount to 0.04% of Estonia’s population.
Which means that it is now the Riigikogu's task to determine if an annual population increase of 0.04% constitutes mass immigration, and whether or not EKRE's stance that the legitimacy of state power should depend on the voters' answer to a single question dealing with a single policy issue has merit.