MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) - Estonian Finance Minister Jurgen Ligi came under criticism Thursday after he lashed out at the country’s education minister, warning him that “a son of an immigrant” should be careful in his remarks on Estonia’s Soviet past, the local television channels said.
This came after the two ministers had a standoff during a TV show on Wednesday night over their take on the origins behind the outflow of young people from the country.
Speaking at the late-night show Foorum, Jurgen Ligi accused the Soviets of hindering Estonia’s economic development, which supposedly resulted in increased youth migration. Education Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski and the only Cabinet member with Russian minority background dismissed this allegation, saying it would be wrong to keep blaming the Soviet Union, which collapsed 23 years before.
To this, Ligi replied on Facebook that “it is exactly this ignorance about what we started with, which has been the main stimulus behind the outflow of young people. The Minister should have urged everyone to work harder and said that things have been looking up for us, and instead he said that the Soviets were not to blame. As a son of an immigrant, he should mind [his words].”
Ligi went back on his comment and apologized before Ossinovski a few hours later, although the education minister has not accepted the apology yet.
“Personally, I wouldn’t stay in parliament after that, since it is there for each and every resident of Estonia,” Ossinovski said.
He was echoed by Defense Minister Sven Mikser, who also leads the Social democratic Party, while Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said he hoped the education minister would forgive the chief of finance. The prime minister also said he hoped the standoff would not “escalate into a serious conflict between government members”.
Estonia has a sizable Russian minority population, who are often stigmatized over the country’s Soviet past. Many ethnic Russian people in Estonia have been denied citizenship for decades, in what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described as “a disgrace to today’s Europe.”