Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Estonian Minister Of

Published: Tue 18 Sep 2007 11:54 AM
R 181154Z SEP 07
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) SUMMARY: During a meeting September 12 with the
Ambassador, Minister of Population and Ethnic Affairs Urve
Palo reiterated the GOE's commitment to encouraging
"stateless" residents to acquire citizenship. At the same
time, however, Palo noted a lack of motivation among
Russian speakers to learn Estonian. Palo described GOE
plans to increase Russian language television programming
in Estonia through establishment of another state-owned TV
station. The Ambassador commended GOE integration efforts
and reiterated the need for Estonia to counter more
effectively anti-Estonian propaganda prevalent in many
Russian Federation media sources. END SUMMARY
2. (SBU) On September 12, the Ambassador met with Minister
of Population Urve Palo to discuss integration and
citizenship issues. The Ambassador commended GOE efforts
to promote integration and acquisition of citizenship for
stateless people and expressed interest in the status of
the approximately 115,000 people with "undetermined
citizenship" currently residing in Estonia. Palo noted
that about one-third of the stateless people in Estonia are
under 20 years of age, one-third are between the ages of 20
and 45 and one-third are over the age of 45. She commented
that she herself was surprised to learn that only 10% are
70 years or older.
3. Palo emphasized that all residents of Estonia,
regardless of their citizenship status, enjoy many of the
rights of Estonian citizens, including social security
benefits and the ability to vote in local elections. In
addition, Palo said, under a new European Union (EU)
Directive, holders of long-term European residency permits
can work in all other EU states. The only benefits of
Estonian citizenship not enjoyed by stateless residents are
the ability to vote in national elections and to work in
the civil service or as police. As a result, many Russians
speakers living in Estonia do not see a pressing need to
acquire Estonian citizenship.
4. (U) Palo acknowledged that the requirement to learn
Estonian in order to become a citizen is an obstacle for
some Russian speakers. However, she added, many Russian
speakers living in Estonia do learn other languages. For
example, Palo has met many Russian speakers who have
learned English or Finnish in order to compete for high
paying jobs in Estonia and other EU countries.
5. (U) The Ambassador and Palo discussed the need for more
Russian programming on Estonian TV to balance the anti-
Estonian propaganda which is prevalent on most Russian
Federation-based television stations. Palo said she is
working with the Minister of Culture to launch a second
state-owned TV channel (ETV2) in September 2008. The plan
is for ETV2 to broadcast 2 to 3 hours of original Russian
language programming during prime time hours. The rest of
the time, Estonian-language programs will have Russian
subtitles. Palo noted that initially some members of the
Cabinet opposed this idea, but it now enjoys broad support
in the Government.
6. (SBU) BIO NOTES: Prime Minister Ansip appointed Urve
Palo to the position of Minister for Population and Ethnic
Affairs in April 2007. As Minister, she is responsible for
helping to integrate Estonia's minority population and
developing the GOE's Integration Plan. Palo is a member of
the Estonian Social Democratic Party and a newcomer to
politics. Prior to serving in government, Palo spent the
majority of her career in business as the director of
Saint-Gonbain Eesti AS, a wholesale firm that markets
insulation materials, acoustic suspended ceilings and
plaster stone products in Estonia. Palo received a degree
in Economics from Tartu University and a Master's Degree in
international business administration from the Estonian
Business School.
7. (SBU) Palo's relative inexperience has been in evidence
on a few occasions when she has made statements that were
inconsistent with GOE policy. In August, on the eve of the
new school year (during which Russian high schools would
begin teaching the first of several courses in Estonian),
an Estonian media source cited Palo as saying that the GOE
should explore proposals to give the Estonian citizenship
exam in Russian. She quickly backed down, noting that it
was "only an idea" and "worthy of discussion."
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