On Friday, the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) supported the positions of the Government on the European Agenda on Migration in accordance with the opinions of the Constitutional Committee, the Legal Affairs Committee, the Social Affairs Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Cultural Affairs Committee.
The Estonian position proceeds from the principle that we understand the need to mitigate the consequences of the Mediterranean migration crisis and to assist the countries under migration pressure, but the mechanisms of relocation and resettlement must remain voluntary for the Member States.
Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Kalle Palling said that the Riigikogu had given the Minister of the Interior a broad mandate for negotiations. “Today Estonia is in principle not ready to receive the 1064 war refugees and asylum seekers imposed by the European Commission quota, but we are ready to considerably increase our capability for receiving refugees and to negotiate on the number of refugees. For Estonia, increasing of readiness is more important than number, so that the people who are fleeing from their homes to escape the war would have the possibility to start a new life in Estonia already from the first day,” Palling said.
According to Estonia’s position, upon voluntary acceptance of refugees, the relevant agreement has to conform to the proportion of the country’s population and economy in the European Union. Besides that, it must be based on the precondition that the refugees themselves want to be relocated into Estonia. The Social Affairs Committee considered it important to add to Estonia’s position that the agreement on voluntary receiving of refugees must also correspond to the analysed possibilities of the country.
The Cultural Affairs Committee wanted to emphasise in Estonia’s position that an important aim in receiving refugees is to integrate them into the cultural and educational space of Estonia. This means language teaching, adaptation programmes, psychological support to both the refugees and the local population, training of local leadership, and much more. In the opinion of the Cultural Affairs Committee, the financial resources planned by the EU at the moment are insufficient and will need to be increased.
The Constitutional Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee stressed that in solving the migration crisis that has emerged in the European Union, the greatest attention must be paid to fighting against human trafficking and preventing the activities of smugglers of humans. Therefore the original reasons of the migration problems must be dealt with as a priority. By only addressing the consequences, by just relocating or resettling people, we actually encourage the activities of human traffickers. Therefore it is important to assist the countries in difficulties in establishing refugee camps and giving humanitarian aid. The EU also has to make efforts to get a mandate for acting on the spot in the countries of origin.
In the opinion of the Legal Affairs Committee, more attention has to be paid to drawing a distinction between the economic refugees and the war refugees. In the case of the economic refugees, the measures for returning them should be improved.