Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When enough is enough

Rene van der Linden, the Dutch chairman of PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) has apparently been swayed by Moscow's anti-Estonian propaganda. This is disturbing for several reasons, not the least of which is that it suggests that some of those who are nominally in charge of Europe's destiny may not have Europe's best interests at heart, and may actually be working against them. In late July and early August, van der Linden caused outrage in Estonia when on a working visit to Russia he criticized Estonia's treatment of its Russian-speaking minority and also the moving of the Soviet-era war memorial from central Tallinn to a military cemetery. On a recent visit to Estonia, the PACE chairman repeated these criticisms, and made further damaging charges and allegations against the country. Now the Estonian government's patience has finally broken, the Baltic Times reports:
Speaker of the Estonian parliament Ene Ergma has sent a letter to van der Linden, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), refuting numerous assertions he made during his recent visit to Estonia, reports BNS. According to Ergma, van der Linden's comments provoked widespread controversy and forced her to answer.

"Your recent repeated misleading statements have created confusion and bewilderment both in the Estonian public and internationally," wrote Ergma, of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union.

The speaker added that the inaccuracies did not hurt Estonia alone but discredited PACE and endangered its international standing.

"This leads to our request: give up spreading erroneous information about Estonia," Ergma said.

The speaker of the Estonian parliament referred to Van der Linden’s take on the voting rights of aliens in local elections and the right of juveniles to apply for Estonian citizenship.

"You repeatedly erroneously stated that stateless persons have no possibility of voting in local elections in this country. This assertion is a lie," Ergma wrote.

She pointed out that the Constitution adopted in a referendum in 1992 did not link the right of voting in local elections with citizenship but only with permanent residence in Estonia.

"According to our Local Government Councils Election Act, an alien who has attained eighteen years of age by the day of election, who resides permanently in the territory of the respective town of rural muunicipality and and resides in Estonia on the basis of long-term or permanent residence permit is entitled to vote the election," Ergma said.

The speaker said that van der Linden's assertion that children of stateless persons born in Estonia were not granted the right to Estonian citizenship was also wrong.

"The assertion is wrong as well," she said. "A person under 15 years old born in Estonia is granted Estonian citizenship by naturalization if his or her parents apply for it."

Ergma underlined that in that case the person has to take no tests or pass any additional clauses to be granted citizenship.

The parliament speaker added that van der Linden's attention had been drawn to his mistakes even while he was still in Tallinn and expressed amazement that the PACE president had apparently not made any effort to correct his erroneous statements.
Meanwhile, as Paul Goble points out, Russia is doing its utmost to organize its compatriots abroad.

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