Does PACE Chairman Rene van der Linden deserve to be fired? Social Democrat Deputy Leader Sven Mikser thinks so. Mikser told AFP today that van der Linden's consistent errors during his whirlwind Baltic tour in September were cause for sacking.
""He has compromised himself so much that we think he should be removed from his post," said Mikser, who as a Social Democrat and one time Center Party member is not exactly a rabid, Russian-hating Estonian nationalist.
It would be tempting to view the Estonian response to van der Linden's visit, which included a very long letter from Riigikogu Speaker Ene Ergma, as being typically defensive. But then there was the visit from Council of Europe Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg this week who, unlike van der Linden, had actually done his homework.
Also, as opposed to van der Linden, Hammarberg retained a respectful tone throughout today's press conference at the Estonian foreign ministry, and made several critiques -- Estonia's prisons need to be updated and are not in standard European conditions, and citizenship laws can be eased to make citizenship more attainable for non-citizens.
How so? Hammarberg said that the "age-out" option for citizenship acquisition should be lowered from its present level (all adults born before 1930) to a level younger (those aged 65 today, for example, were born in 1942). He also said that babies born to non-citizens that are eligible for citizenship should receive it automatically, rather than having to have their parents apply for it. Both tweaks in current laws should be able to ease citizenship requirements Hammarberg said.
Hammarberg also said that after his discussions with Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Population Affairs Minister Urve Palo that he felt there was consensus in the current government that such reforms could be adopted. He also praised (!) the Estonian government for its efforts thus far.
And because he made his critiques of Estonian policies respectfully and with some praise for the government, he was listened to. Meanwhile, van der Linden's Wikipedia profile is growing longer by the hour. His suggestions may not be implemented, but at least Hammarberg left Estonia the man less scorned.