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Integration helps advance the values we share, says Speaker of Estonian Parliament

“Integration is important for us in terms of our national security, it makes sense politically and economically, but it also helps advance the values we share and provides an important societal and cultural connection,” today said the Speaker of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor, addressing the Standing Committee in Tallinn, referring to the international organisations Estonia joined since 1991. “We are Estonians, but we are Europeans as well.”

He also stressed that “Europe whole and free and at peace” was still not a reality but rather a goal to work towards. “While spreading fear and hatred is relatively easy, creating a society that functions on the principles of tolerance and mutual respect is difficult,” said Mr Nestor, who believes that moving in this direction requires long-term commitment to upholding personal freedoms and building representative and accountable institutions.

He pointed out that in Estonia, there was still a considerable amount of mistrust and intolerance in society, and that the current refugee crisis had brought these sentiments to the surface. “As everywhere in Europe, most of these fears are founded on insecurity and fear of the unknown,” Mr Nestor underlined.

“We are convinced that we can be successful only when Europe is successful. It makes sense economically and politically, but I believe that first and foremost, it is our shared values, respect for democracy, human rights, personal freedoms, openness and tolerance, that bind us together,” he concluded.