Andres Herkel, chairman of the opposition Free Party, has described it as disappointing that Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, chairman of the Center Party, has named the granting of Estonian citizenship without a language proficiency exam to everyone who has lived in the country for at least 25 years as the main topic of the next general elections in Estonia.
"It is disappointing that Ratas, who took office riding a wave of high expectations, wishes to see the unconditional handing out of Estonian citizenship as the main topic of the next Riigikogu elections," spokespeople quoted Herkel as saying. "At the same time, clear assessments of the pro-Kremlin actions of some members of the Center Party are something that is missing."
According to Herkel, Ratas should not identify himself as the moral successor of Edgar Savisaar, founder and former longtime chairman of the Center Party, "who wishes to impose zero-option citizenship oon Estonia accompanied by the uncontrolled handout of passports to stateless people." He said that in doing so, the prime minister was challenging the legal continuity that links prewar Estonia to the present Estonian state and is "the main conceptual base of the restoration of our independence."
Herkel said that the Estonian state must offer quality and accessible Estonian language courses to the people who wish to take the citizenship test and connect themselves with society and must altogether support them in this.
"Unfortunately, we have failed in doing so sometimes," Herkel noted. "Nevertheless, the number of people without citizenship has kept declining, from approximately 125,000 people ten years ago to approximately 80,000 people last year.
"Ratas' talk about a radical overturn of the citizenship policy looks even worse considering that he is unable to provide clear answers to questions about sanctioning Russia," the Free Party leader continued. "The Kremlin has not withdrawn its troops from Ukraine and is bombing civilians in Syria, where a prominent member of [Ratas'] party, Yana Toom, goes to drink coffee with the dictator al-Assad. Estonia's foreign policy must be consistent and the prime minister must not be dependent on the pro-Russia wing of the Center Party."
In an interview with Radio Svoboda, the Russian service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Ratas said that giving citizenship to everyone who has lived in Estonia for at least 25 years will be one of the main campaign points for the Center Party in the next elections. Answering a question from a journalist, Ratas asserted that there were no people influenced by the Kremlin in the Center Party.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla