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29 Dec, 2022 16:41

EU state to force Ukrainian refugees to learn language

Estonia does not want “a new community” in the country “that doesn’t speak Estonian,” PM Kaja Kallas says
EU state to force Ukrainian refugees to learn language

Ukrainian refugees in Estonia should learn the host nation’s language, the Baltic nation’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, has said. She made the remarks in an interview with the Russian-language ETV+ channel, aired on Tuesday.

“Estonian language courses are also important. We don’t want a new community in Estonia that doesn’t speak Estonian,” Kallas stated. “Even if they return [to Ukraine], and 80% of the refugees say they want to return, why not have a group of people in Ukraine who speak Estonian? There is nothing wrong with that. So, yes, that’s the course we took from the very beginning.”

The refugees fleeing the conflict between Moscow and Kiev have already put a heavy strain on the country’s economy, Kallas said. “We have some 40,000 of those who have received temporary protection status. Those who apply for temporary protection are, so to speak, our pain and our joy. These people access our benefits system and have a distinct impact on our taxpayers,” the PM noted, adding that “there are no places where they can live, no jobs, no places in schools.”

Estonia, along with other Baltic states, has been among the hardline supporters of Ukraine amid the conflict with Moscow, strongly backing the EU-wide sanctions on Russia.

Among other things, the country’s parliament passed a bill to completely phase out Russian-language schooling earlier this month. Kallas defended the measure, which affects the Russian ethnic minority – around a quarter of the nation’s population of 1.3 million. She insisted the reform is an entirely “normal” thing for Europe.

“There are a lot of children in Europe who get schooled in a language other than their mother tongue. This is normal. Children quickly learn another language. Of course, this reform could have been carried out many years ago, but for some reason, everyone hoped that the problem would go away on its own. It did not, thus these laws had to be passed,” she said at the time.

The PM’s comments on Estonian courses for Ukrainian refugees did not escape Moscow’s attention. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova took to Telegram to respond: “Kaja, Adolf [Hitler] would be proud of you. Without you it would be much more difficult to prove the dehumanization of the collective West. Estonia for Estonians, right? Say it already, and stop palping the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with your sweaty palms.”