Estonian Jewish group concerned over EKRE MP integration board appointment

Ruuben Kaalep at the Riigikogu.
Ruuben Kaalep at the Riigikogu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

An organization representing Estonia's Jewish community has expressed deep concern over the appointment of Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP Ruuben Kaalep to a state agency focused on integration, citing his alleged anti-semitic views.

Alla Jakobson, board chair of the Jewish Community of Estonia, has addressed Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE), stating that for the Jewish community, the Integration Foundation's (Integratsiooni Sihtasutus) activities, which helps preserve national identity and ensure its connection with Estonian culture, are vital for the development of Estonia as a diverse and multi-ethnic country.

The Integration Foundation lies under the culture ministry's remit.

Jakobson wrote: "In this regard, we believe that appointing to the foundation's board an individual who has publicly expressed his nationalistic, including anti-semitic, views does not meet the organizations stated aims, and sends out the wrong signal to our society.

Minister Hartman recalled civil servant Heidi Uustalu, along with society figure Andrus Tamme, from the Integration Foundation's board and appointed social and healthcare expert Georg Männik and Tartu city councilor Henri Kaselo (SDE), along with Kaalep, as their replacements, on three-year terms. The Ministry of Culture has justified Kaalep's appointment to the board on the grounds of all Riigikogu political parties needing to be represented at the foundation.

Kaalep told daily Postimees (link in Estonian) that his main aims while sitting on the board are to preserve Estonian-ness.

He said: "The integration program has over the past 30 years gone astray in its principles. Instead of Estophiles and admirers of Estonian national culture, citizens of one European country have been raised up, with a focus on democratic values, while ignoring the fact that the Estonian state was created for the self-determination of Estonians."

Kaalep first won a Riigikogu seat at the 2019 elections, but will not be running in the March 5, 2023 elections.

The Integration Foundation produces the weekly "Global Estonians" series published by ERR News.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Urmet Kook

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