By Helen Wright
Is immigration to Estonia a benefit, a threat, or neither? The panel for the talk ‘Immigration in Estonia: Benefit, natural necessity or threat?’, which was lead by ERR News’s Andrew Whyte, discussed how and who should control migration, attitudes towards immigrants, and integration of Estonia’s migrant communities.
Foreign Minister and Isamaa Riigikogu member Urmas Reinsalu called immigration a “rising issue” which is increasingly important to people.
CEO of HML Project Management Leo O’Neill said his home country Ireland looked at migration in a different way. It was encouraged; “we needed more people,” he said. He also suggested the issues around migration were “about colour”. This was something Reinsalu denied, arguing it was about the preservation of a small nation. The “core idea is that we ourselves, our elected bodies, will decide,” he said.
O’Neill also said that politicians needed to lead by example and create a good atmosphere around discussions of migration. “At the moment it has that sort of really anti-migrant and negative feel in the public [conversation].” Peep Peterson, Head of the Estonian Trade Union Confederation, agreed and saying people have to work together and that it was “unfortunate that there was a sense of racism” in Estonia. He also said that Ukrainians working in the country could help Estonians to see them as individuals and “normal people”.
Peterson said he supported plans that the government were working on to join up companies and who works for them to get a better picture of the economy.
Riigikogu member for EKRE Anti Poolamets said there were enough people in the European Union and more people did not need to be brought in from third countries. He also said that more people should come home and not work abroad.