Kalle Palling: Refugees should pull the cart, not drag behind it (18)

9/15/2015 9:17 AM
Category: Opinion

The recent public debate around the European refugee crisis, and the letters many voters have sent to the political parties and members of the Parliament, are more and more resembling the situation in the early autumn of last year, when the society debated passing the Cohabitation Act, writes MP and Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Kalle Palling (Reform Party).

The refugee situation that has emerged in Europe does not depend on us, and hiding our heads in the sand won't solve the problem for the society or the people concerned. Comparing the refugees who are escaping the war with same sex couples may seem arbitrary, but both have equally given rise to anger and conflict in the society.

In this case, the conflict and hatred are even more pointless because while the Cohabitation Act is within the sole competence of our politicians and society, the receiving of refugees is not. At least not when we have decided to belong to the European Union, show solidarity and be fully fledged partners there.

If we want to see Europe as a solidary and strong community of member states that can tackle the problems in each direction of the compass, be it east or south, then we have to understand the role of Estonia as a cooperation partner. I repeat that these people would rather be in their homes, but it is not possible for them. They are escaping the war and looking for peace and the possibility to start a new life – and the alternative for them is a long, hard and hopeless life in a refugee camp.

The only possibility for Estonia is to show solidarity

All of our representatives in Brussels and in Strasbourg, regardless of their political background, have noted that the only possibility for Estonia is solidarity with the rest of EU. Without exaggeration: this can be the issue that determines the future of the EU or its dissolution. If not formally, then at least in essence. And we do not want to be left alone with our problems in the future, especially keeping in mind the recent security concerns.

But this coin also has the other side, the economic side. Most of the counterarguments depict the refugees as a mere source of expenditure – in addition to that, they are portrayed as a security threat and a threat to the survival of our nation. There is much less discussion about our low birth rate, shortage of labour and aging population. To make it simpler: if we want our pensions to rise also in the future, who will pay for it?

With zero migration, or if there was no immigration or emigration, in Europe the number of employees who are under 45 years of age would decrease by 10 percent during the next 10 years. In Estonia, we would have around 60,000 workers less, and that is without any emigration at all.

Aging population hinders the growth of productivity in the economic sector and robots (luckily) cannot replace humans everywhere. Although mass immigration has put several EU member states under great social pressure and brought about conflicts in the society, the economists and politicians agree on one thing: Europe needs immigrants in order to guarantee the sustainability of economy and the tax money for future pensions and other social benefits.

Our emigrants should not be compared with the refugees

Immigrants, especially the refugees, should not be seen as “refugees of convenience” who would come here only to get a free ride – we all know that our system of social benefits is certainly not an attractive point in that respect. Emigration from Estonia is slowing down, but it is still one of our greatest reasons for concern. However, one should not compare our emigrants, who use their freedom of movement for development and self-realisation, with the refugees who are escaping from war, repressions and discrimination.

Speaking particularly of the refugees as a special type of immigration, it is a fact that the benefits and costs related to receiving them have been studied much less than those of other types of immigration. One of the reasons for this is that the real contribution of refugees to economy becomes clear over a considerably longer time period because when they arrive in their host country, they have much less resources and preparation for adapting.

On the one hand, it means that it is not clear how beneficial they are to the economy, but on the other hand, neither do we have grounds for claiming that they are just a burden to our economic environment and social system.

No detailed research on the impacts of immigration has been conducted in regard to Europe, but a few years ago, the International Organisation for Migration published a research paper on the impact of refugees on the economy of Australia. This paper busted several myths and stereotypes connected with the refugees.

Level of education of the refugees

Many of our politicians and opinion leaders have described the refugees as illiterate, uneducated, lazy and violent. In reality, around 40 percent of the refugees have finished high school and 20 percent have university education, often they just do not have relevant documents to prove it, and they land on jobs where their skills go to waste and which do not motivate them.

Australian experience shows that in comparison to the locals, the employment rate is lower among the first generation refugees but among the next generation, the employment rate is higher at each level of education.

The same research also indicates that the refugees are very entrepreneurial as well as successful: they are especially active in establishing small and medium-size enterprises, and the percentage of self-employed people is also higher among the refugees. Many refugees had been successful business people in their former homeland, and with the new perspective and attitudes they have brought to their host country, it is perhaps even easier for them to find their own niche on the market than it is for the locals.

Support to the immigration of refugees should partially proceed from their earlier work experience and language skills, because these are the things that ensure their easier integration into the society and the economic space. The example of Denmark has shown that enterprising immigrants also give an impetus to less-educated locals to contribute to educating and training themselves in order to be competitive on the labour market.

Quota will not take us further

In Estonia, we should think of how to implement our legislation and institutions so that the transition period would be as painless and effective as possible, both from the standpoint of the refugees and the state. In the negotiations with the European Commission, we have honestly admitted that today our readiness for receiving refugees is almost non-existent; we simply have not been active in this issue.

Forced quota will not take us further, but this does not mean that we should not contribute to the readiness to voluntarily receive the number of war refugees that is similar to the original quota. But this requires the smooth cooperation of very many institutions, the state, local governments and the third sector.

As in Finland, the background check of the war refugees and other necessary procedures should be conducted already before their arrival in Estonia, so that the refugees would have the possibility to start with their new life from their very first day here. The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund has the know-how and experience in finding employment for people. It is then necessary to find housing in as many local governments across Estonia as possible, and naturally to teach the language. The best precondition for learning the language is motivating work in an Estonian-language environment.

We must contribute to readiness?

In conclusion: we should be aware that we will receive refugees in any case, let their number be 10 or 1,000. We must contribute to the readiness to integrate them into our economic space, because if we learn from good examples, the refugees would not be an item of expenditure, but a possible new stimulus to our economy.

The rural regions that are far from the hubs need working hands and new breath in the communities, so that the local life would not expire. The refugees who look for peace and stable environment may be at least a partial solution to marginalization of certain areas in Estonia, and to the problem of competitive businesses finding employees in rural regions.

All that we need for the successful receiving and integrating of refugees is to modernise our system – to reduce bureaucracy, make language teaching more effective and help them find a place in our society. Let’s find them a place among the Estonians and spare the future from today’s hostilities.

If our attitude toward the refugees is rejection, we also reject the talents, “refugees of convenience” and tourists, whom we usually look forward to receiving. Hatred and unfounded opposition to all that is new and unfamiliar is anything but attractive. The choice is between being an open country or not, and there are no exceptions here. Or should we order a new image project ’#NotWelcomeToEstonia’ from Enterprise Estonia to replace the original slogan ’WelcomeToEstonia?’. I disagree!

S. Tambur, M. Oll

The name field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 1024 characters

Message forwarded to the editor

This Ip-address has limited access

See also

There are no comments yet. Be the first!

Reply to comment

Reply to comment

Laadi juurde ({{take2}})
The name field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 1024 characters
Add new comment
  • foto
    Opinion digest: Open Enterprise Estonia’s consultation services and assessments to competition

    Enterprise Estonia handed out advice to companies, and assessed whether or not they should receive public support, without being economically accountable, lawyer Taivo Ruus wrote in a Postimees opinion piece on Monday. This needed to change, and these activities delegated to professionals.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: The Reform Party’s new role

    After 17 years in government, Reform needed to find to a new role, and instead of being the manager of the Estonian state become a debater. How the party would get used to its new position, no longer able to dictate the political agenda, remained to be seen, said political scientist Mari-Liis Jakobson in a comment on Vikerraadio on Friday.

  • foto
    Andrus Karnau: Minister of Rural Affairs likely to be replaced

    Speaking on Sunday’s Raadio 2 broadcast of "State of the Union," radio show host Andrus Karnau found that the scandal to break out last week involving Martin Repinski’s goat farm was likely to culminate on Monday in his replacement as a minister of the newly-installed Estonian government.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Baltic states on front line of new Cold War

    While the Baltic states would prefer full defensive capability, NATO is emphasizing its reinforcements’ function as a deterrent. The alliance would have to round off its military presence in the area with diplomacy, and political stability and dedication to liberal democratic values would play an important role maintaining the West’s solidarity, columnist Ahto Lobjakas wrote in an opinion piece published in daily Postimees.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Putting Rail Baltica in its strategic context

    In an opinion piece in daily Postimees, former EU commissioner Siim Kallas points out that Rail Baltica goes far beyond considerations of its route on Estonian soil, and the money the government will have to invest. On the contrary, there is a broader European meaning that includes considering the strategic situation of Estonia.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Dynasties and democracy don't go well together

    Speaking about the recent US presidential elections on Vikerraadio’s Sunday broadcast of "Samost and Rumm," hosts Anvar Samost and Hannes Rumm recognized that Donald Trump’s election win is being considered as the destruction of two political dynasties there, however democracy and dynasties don’t go well together anyway.

  • foto
    Opinion: Estonia’s lasting isolation

    The fact that too many foreign journalists do not understand the Estonian language, and that they have no access to the local political culture and its players, has distorted reports abroad of what happened this week, writes ERR News editor Dario Cavegn.

  • foto
    Alo Lõhmus: Left turns and ‘silent submission’

    The embarrassing conflation of the Reform Party’s self-image with the Estonian state is proof that it is high time they are sent into opposition, says journalist Alo Lõhmus.

  • foto
    Opinion: Getting rid of ruling party's privileges doesn't damage Estonia's reputation

    On Friday, the ministers of the Social Democrats (SDE) and the Pro Patra and Res Publica Union (IRL) began calling back Reform Party members from the boards of state-owned companies and funds. The Reform Party’s reaction was an announcement published on Sunday — a rather strange one, finds ERR News editor Dario Cavegn.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Ärma is more than just numbers

    Ärma Farm’s funding scandal was overshadowing the achievements of Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ presidency, including the fact that Estonia had benefited from state visits that Ilves hosted in Ärma, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) said to ERR on Thursday.

  • foto
    Benno Schirrmeister: Do Estonians dream of electric sheep?

    On a journalist exchange in Estonia, Benno Schirrmeister of Bremen’s TAZ is highly informed, yet a blank slate as far as a foreigner’s experience of Estonia is concerned. In his first op-ed about Tallinn, he spots something beyond IT that Estonia could advertise — but doesn’t.

  • foto
    Erkki Bahovski: Was 1940 approach better than modern journalism's 'war hysteria'?

    Linguist Urmas Sutrop has claimed that Estonian journalism is scaring people with the specter of war. Editor-in-Chief of monthly magazine Diplomaatia Erkki Bahovski, however, doesn’t agree.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Kremlin in danger of losing sense of reality

    According to Ingo Mannteufel, head of the Department for Russia and Europe at Deutsche Welle, there is a possibility of the Kremlin starting to believe its own propaganda, which could lead to dangerous decisions both domestically and internationally.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Estonia’s stagnating politics

    Estonia’s largest political parties had been going through the most serious crisis in their existence, and on top of that they had lost their most important function, namely to formulate a vision of the country’s future, daily Postimees wrote in its Friday editorial.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Putin exploiting power vacuum created by U.S. presidential elections

    According to director of Tallinn’s International Centre for Defence and Security and former ambassador to Russia, Jüri Luik, the increased tensions over the past few weeks between Russia and the West indicate Putin’s wish to exploit the ambiguous mood before the U.S. presidential elections as much as possible.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Time to return to discussing serious issues

    In a stinging opinion piece in published in the daily Eesti Päevaleht, member of the Riigikogu Eerik-Niiles Kross (Reform) condemned the Estonian media as well as the country’s elites for their obsession with what he sees as pointless topics, while disregarding the last few weeks’ unsettling developments concerning Russia.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Legally speaking, everything is proper

    After Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ decade in office, and after he promoted Estonia like no other president did before him, his legacy is now tainted by the fact that he seems to have gone for a substantial state grant in 2006 that he never put to use — and of which he will now pay back just a tenth.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Closer to Warsaw, farther away from Estonia

    In a recent opinion piece in daily Postimees, columnist Ahto Lobjakas wrote that one way to look at Rail Baltic was as a step towards the level other countries had already reached in terms of speed and comfort of their railway connections. The main weakness of this point of view was the fact that in Estonia, it lacked the necessary social context.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Leadership change in Reform needed for potential coalition with Center Party

    For a potential future coalition with the Center Party, the Reform Party needed to change its leader as well, Social Democratic MP and chairman of the Riigikogu’s Foreign Affairs Committee Sven Mikser wrote in a comment on social media on Friday.

  • foto
    Matthew Crandall: President Ilves’ global impact

    The greatest accomplishment of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is that he branded Estonia as a modern and innovative 21st century country, and brought it out of post-Soviet obscurity, writes Tallinn University’s Matthew Crandall.

  • foto
    The shackles of history and modern life in the fast lane: Estonia's experience in the migration crisis

    The uncertain public performances of Estonian politicians and poor explanatory work were to blame for a considerable increase in public distrust during the migration crisis, found ERR journalist Greete Palmiste, working in Bremen on an international journalists' exchange, in an opinion piece written for German publication taz.die Tageszeitung.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Kersti Kaljulaid on the concepts of ethical nationalism and confident Estonians

    On Friday, Aug. 12, Estonian representative to the European Court of Auditors Kersti Kaljulaid delivered a patriotic speech on the Postimees Stage at the 2016 Opinion Festival in Paide in which she expanded on two words and two respective ideas she found important for her country that were represented by the two letter Es in its native-language name Eesti: eetiline (ethical) and enesekindel (confident).

  • foto
    This mess we're in: Picking up the pieces after Saturday's elections

    From Saturday’s election fiasco to Tuesday’s sudden emergence of a likely cross-party candidate: ERR News editor Dario Cavegn makes an attempt at explaining Estonia’s seemingly chaotic quest to find its next president.

  • foto
    Opinion: The decline of Estonian as a language of science starts abroad

    The Estonian language as a language of science is only sustainable in those subject areas that offer undergraduate courses in Estonian, and with which students begin their university education, finds ERR science portal editor Marju Himma.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Current approach to reform won't help municipalities

    The Center Party’s presidential candidate, Mailis Reps, wrote in an opinion piece published in daily Postimees on Sunday that the Administrative Reform Act was a disappointment to Estonia’s municipalities, and that relations between local and central government were in a crisis.

  • foto
    Opinion: Jüri Nikolajev in response to the Ida-Viru secret memo

    Describing himself as "wearily spiteful" instead of angry, ERR's Narva correspondent Jüri Nikolajev responded to the top secret memo on Ida-Viru County that leaked recently, calling Estonians to figuratively not leave their property laying around if they did not want anyone else to take it for themselves.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Sulev Vedler on the secret memo on Ida-Viru County

    In 2015, the Government Security Committee received a secret memo containing a dark assessment of the future of Ida-Viru County, Estonia's most northeastern and predominantly Russian-speaking county, which was compiled by Ilmar Raag, who worked as a strategic communicatins advisor at the Stenbock House at the time. Estonian journalist Sulev Vedler responded to the memo by compiling various reactions to issues it addressed.

  • foto
    Opinion: Alo Lõhmus on the definition of Estonian citizen by blood

    Journalist Alo Lõhmus explored the right to Estonian citizenship by "jus sanguinis," Latin for right of blood, as it relates to one's eligibility to run for president — an issue which has had particular attention drawn to it recently after members of a competing political party attempted to cast doubt on the status of presidential candidate Marina Kaljurand's Estonian citizenship.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Erkki Bahovski on Finland and the alleged Baltic scheming

    Columnist Erkki Bahovski commented on the curious, decidedly defensive turn that seemed to be taken by Finland's Social Democrats following the release of a lengthy report by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (UPI) which suggested that Russia, in its own self-interest, is attempting to hamper Finland's total integration with the West.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Siim Kallas thinks real estate tax effective way to finance local government

    The Reform Party’s presidential candidate, Siim Kallas, said in an opinion piece published in daily Postimees that an estate tax, more precisely a tax levied on real estate, could be considered to finance local government.