Researchers' organizations condemn Helme utterance

Tallinna Ülikool PHOTO: Peeter Langovits

Estonian researchers’ organizations in a joint statement addressed to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, members of the Riigikogu and the Estonian public condemn declarations by Minister of the Interior Mart Helme aimed at Tallinn University.

The Estonian Young Academy of Sciences, Estonian Chamber of Research, the trade unions of the University of Tartu and Tallinn University said in their statement that the bizarre comments made by Helme with respect to teaching and research activities at Tallinn University are destructive by nature.

„Such fact-ignoring declarations against Estonia’s research and educational establishments by someone holding a minister’s position are unacceptable and destructive. The minister’s defamatory position insults both the university as well as its graduates and undermines the motivations of the people who are daily doing important work for the Republic of Estonia,“ the statement reads. 

The organizations said that the scientific quality of Estonian universities is assessed by independent international experts, while assessments and accreditation of the quality of teaching in colleges is carried out by the Estonian Quality Agency for Higher and Vocational Education.

„The minister in his statements has called into question the work of the said institutions and the experts thereof. Our position is that those who have been elected to govern the Republic of Estonia should be accurate and respectful in their declarations regarding research and educational establishments and also value education. We call on the prime minister to instruct members of his cabinet on how to express themselves in a way that is suitable to their position and how to remain committed to their field of work, as well as urge them to apologize to Estonian universities,“ it says in the statement.

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme said during an EKRE council meeting last Sunday that Tallinn University, “with its nonexistent level of research,” has “manifestly become a propaganda institution” that is “producing horse thieves.”

Helme’s utterance was more recently sharply condemned by leading members of the Center Party, Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab and chairman of the Tallinn city council Tiit Terik who have both graduated from Tallinn University. “Helme’s inappropriate remarks are not fitting for a minister and have nothing whatsoever to do with reality,” Aab and Terik were quoted to have said by Center Party spokespeople.

“One can only imagine how offended the lecturers, researchers, students and graduates of Tallinn University must feel. A declaration such as this does not just offend lecturers, students and graduates, but is also abusive and irresponsible,” their statement reads.