Estonia has chosen Urmas Reitelmann, a member of the far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party and an overt racist, as its representative in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Reitelmann is known in Estonia for his outspoken racist statements; for example, he has called the people seeking refuge in the European Union “human garbage” and “comfort cockroaches”, and noted that “300,000 tibla are parasitizing in Estonia”, using a derogatory Estonian term for Russians.
He was chosen to be the country’s representative by the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the Estonian parliament. The majority of the parliament is in the hands of the current coalition, formed of the centre-left Centre Party, the conservative Isamaa and the far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE).
Manipulating the committee’s makeup in the coalition’s favour
According to the Estonian media, the parliament’s foreign affairs committee used to consist of 12 members – six from the governing coalition and six from the opposition. But on 8 October, the Centre Party appointed another one of its members, Siret Kotka-Repinski, to the committee and therefore created a majority for the coalition.
Reitelmann’s candidacy to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was, after that, approved with seven ayes and six nays – right along the coalition/opposition lines.
In 2015, during the migration crisis in the EU, Reitelmann said on social media that the people who arrive in Europe aren’t refugees, but “scum” and “human garbage”. “300,000 tibla are parasitizing in Estonia and they haven’t adapted, how can we turn millions of comfort cockroaches, who want to come here, into human beings?” he wrote.
The Assembly is dedicated to democracy and human rights
On 10 October, the day he was appointed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Reitelmann said in an interview with the Estonian radio station, Kuku, that the Assembly was a pointless talking room with little use. He also admitted he didn’t know a whole lot about what the Assembly is about.
What’s even stranger about the choice of the new representative is that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is an institution dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and it oversees the European Court of Human Rights.
The Assembly is the parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation international organisation, made up of 324 members drawn from the national parliaments of the Council of Europe’s member states. It is one of the two statutory bodies of the Council of Europe, along with the Committee of Ministers, the executive body representing governments, with which it holds an ongoing dialogue. According to Wikipedia, the Assembly is usually regarded as the “motor” of the organisation, holding governments to account on human rights issues, pressing states to maintain democratic standards, proposing fresh ideas and generating the momentum for reform.
Cover: Urmas Reitelmann. Photo: Facebook