Reinsalu: Narva tank must be removed within a month
The Soviet-era tank monument in Narva should be removed within a month to stop tensions mounting and a similar situation to the Bronze Soldier arising, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said on Wednesday. An extraordinary Riigikogu session could be held to change the necessary laws, he believes.
"The negative thing we remember from the saga of the Bronze Soldier was that the conflict was allowed to develop. As the government did not make a decision, thousands gathered there to protest. Hostile Russian actors were given the opportunity to stir things up, so it ended with a crisis, and that is what we learned," Reinsalu told ERR.
"If there are already signs that provocateurs are acting, then, of course, this issue must be resolved as soon as possible according to the rule of law and an end put to this matter, we cannot let provocateurs manipulate us [or] our whole nation," Reinsalu said.
Government officials are currently analyzing the legal conditions required to move the tank.
Although the Riigikogu is currently on its summer recess until September, Reinsalu said MPs could be recalled to vote on legislation during an extraordinary session.
"The Latvians managed it, so can we," the foreign minister said.
"Of course, the parliamentary procedure takes time, but in my opinion, it is realistic to solve the issue within the month," he said, saying the process should not be drawn out for the next six months.
Every decision has a cost, both in terms of social tensions and security, Reinsalu added.
"Society is ready and waiting for this decision. Just stalling alone is not in the interest of the Estonian state, the security of the Estonian state, or the Estonian people, thus a decision must be made," he said.
"The tank has become a symbol, but symbols have their own magic power. Symbols are used to judge who we are and what society's values are," he argued.
As there are many communist monuments still on display, if the tank is removed, public attention may then move to another.
"And then it makes sense to solve this issue as a whole, of course. If there is political opposition in the local government, then the state must protect the public interest," he said.
The tank in Narva, "Tank T-34", is a monument located on the left bank of the Narva River marking the spot where Soviet forces crossed the river to repel occupying German forces from the city. Estonians view the statue as a symbol of the 50 years of occupation that followed.
In 2007, riots broke out in Estonia's capital after a Soviet-era statue, the "Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn", known as the Bronze Soldier, was removed from the city center.
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Editor: Mari Peegel, Helen Wright