In cooperation with BNS
TALLINN - A year after the deadly riots over the removal of a bronze soviet monument, Russian-Estonian relations appear to be improving.
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet in an interview with the MK-Estonia daily said : "In recent months our relations have been gradually improving,"
He named an agreement on cultural cooperation signed a few months ago, as well as festivities to mark the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in Moscow as examples of further cooperation.
"I had a very good meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov, during which we talked about many things," Paet said.
The minister added that right now technical preparation of agreements between the two countries is going on, specifically mentioning agreements on rescue at sea and on social insurance.
Commenting on the increase in the number of residents taking Russian citizenship in Estonia, Paet said that he doesn't like when people who live in Estonia and have decided to stay here apply for another country's citizenship.
"It would be natural and normal if the people who live in Estonia had Estonian citizenship, and namely that is our goal," he said.
"Yes, we know that people opt for the citizenship of Russia for purely pragmatic reasons, since it is all the same whether you have an Estonian or a Russian passport -- you can travel freely in the Schengen area without a visa, use the same rights and social guarantees," he said.
The minister added that despite the certain improvement in relations, Russia's behavior toward Estonia cannot be regarded as friendly.
"On the one hand we're being criticized on the topic of national minorities, whereas on the other hand one's talking about offering free entry to Russia for non-citizens, thus creating a paradoxical situation where non-citizens have big advantages over citizens," Paet said.
The news also came today that Metropolitan Kornili, head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has said that a cross of reconciliation should be erected in the place of the monument.
"I said that the peace of the dead and the peace of mind of the living will be disturbed. I made a proposal to put up a cross there. But does a cross ever matter for the people who took down the monument ?" said the leader of the Orthodox believers.
Metropolitan said he suggested a cross for the place that now stands empty because it was a burial site of soldiers killed in the war.
"We do always pray for the fatherland, for one's home country, for the fallen," he said.
Kornili drew a parallel with the tragic sinking of the Estonia ferry in 1994.
"A cross has been put up near the sea gates of Tallinn to remember that tragedy," he said. "Why not erect a cross for soldiers killed on the battlefield ? The war was horrible indeed. Estonians, the same people, fought on both sides. No matter how it was, a cross will always reconciliate.”