On February 21, the Council of Europe delivered its third report on Estonia, which, by most accounts, "blasts" the Estonian Republic with criticism of how it treats its national minorities. Though the media has focused on some of the negative aspects of the report, there was some positive stuff.
Since the publication of ECRI’s second report on Estonia on 23 April 2002, progress has been made in a number of the fields highlighted in that report. The number of stateless people who have obtained Estonian citizenship has been steadily increasing....
Yes, but of course with a littl egood, comes a lot of bad.
However, a number of recommendations made in ECRI’s second report have not been implemented, or have only been partially implemented. Despite the above-mentioned amendments to the Law on Citizenship, there are still approximately 139 000 stateless people in Estonia...Estonia has moreover not adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law nor has it passed a law on the rights and status of national minorities...Furthermore, Estonia has not developed a consistent policy aimed at bringing the Estonian-speaking and Russian-speaking communities together...Estonia has yet to examine the full extent of the Holocaust in Estonia and to give it its rightful place in the national debate...Furthermore, the Roma community in Estonia is still disproportionately affected by unemployment and discrimination in the field of education and remains largely ignored by the authorities.
I am not going to wade into this stuff to heavily, but it looks like it caught the notice of the Estonian Foreign Ministry which prompty published a history of the Estonian Jewry on March 3.
Some key points (read it, it's interesting):
* At least 200 Estonian Jews fought in the War of Independence (1918-1920) to help establish the new Republic. Once Estonian independence had been achieved, the number of Jewish organisations increased noticeably. The Jewish elementary school in Tallinn was founded during the War of Independence in 1919. The Jewish secondary school in Tallinn was founded in 1924. During the Soviet occupation, at the beginning of World War II, the school was closed by the new authorities.
* In 1925, the Act of Cultural Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities was enacted in Estonia, giving minority groups, consisting of at least 3000 individuals, the right of self-determination in cultural matters. Financial support was provided by the state. In 1926, Jewish cultural autonomy was declared. For its tolerant policy towards Jews, a page was dedicated to the Republic of Estonia in the Golden Book of Jerusalem in 1927.
* With the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, Jewish cultural autonomy, in addition to the activities of Jewish organisations, was terminated. The teaching of Hebrew and Yiddish as well as lectures on Judaism and Jewish culture were banned. 414 Estonian Jews (10 per cent of the Jewish Community) were deported to Siberia in June 1941.
Sifting through all the nuances of official reports from organizations, like COE, which is based in Strasbourg, France, you tend to wonder - where do reports like this lead. What is the real point that Estonia does not do enough to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, for example? Estonia has dedicated memorials to the camps in their country, apologize (pretty regularly) for the participation of some Estonians in the Holocaust, enacted a national day of rememberance for Holocaust victims. What else are you supposed to do to appease the COE?
And how are minorities treated in the COE's neck of the woods? What did France look like last Autumn? Oh, that's right, it looked like this.
All of this leads one to question the relevance of reports like this and wonder where the line between political tool and genuine international concern is drawn.