Officials disguised their arbitrary action with lies

Kadri Tammepuu
, ajakirjanik
Photo: Mailiis Ollino
  • Estonia has a great need for trained nurses.
  • Officials planned to allow the entry of all nurses from abroad.
  • Politicians rejected the plan of the Ministry of Social Affairs.

The proposal for faster employment of Ukrainian doctors and nurses was rejected at the latest sitting of the Riigikogu Social Affairs Committee. Officials described the extension of special treatment to all citizens of third countries a political decision but the politicians viewed it as the officials’ exceeding of their powers or an insidious ploy to postpone the decision at least until the autumn. There is a shortage of four hundred nurses in Estonia and the war refugees from Ukraine were viewed as an opportunity to overcome it. Although the main wave of refugees arrived already half a year ago and the most active newcomers have already learned some Estonian, they will not get a work permit anytime soon.

Postimees investigated a week ago why it is planned to employ the Ukrainian nurses for three years below their abilities and why those who have a higher education in nursing have to compete with our high school students in Estonian in order to start training from scratch. The Ministry of Social Affairs then replied that they had submitted a proposal to the Riigikogu in June to grant war refugees the status of a person with limited rights, but the Social Affairs Committee rejected this idea.

They were solving completely different problems

"What you were told is a direct lie,” emphasized Heiki Kranich (RE), who participated in the committee sitting as a substitute member of Hele Everaus.

“At that time, we were solving completely different issues when the ministry suddenly put the proposal on the table,” recalled committee member Priit Sibul (Isamaa). “We were told that the change was supposed to help the Ukrainian nurses, but when we started to investigate the matter more closely, it turned out that the letter said something else”

Vootele Veldre, policy designer of the department of mental health of the Ministry of Social Affairs, admitted to the committee members that the “unnamed foreign countries” included in the bill actually include all countries that are not members of the European Union or the European Economic Community.

Sibul says that this means all citizens of third countries. “Residents of the Russian Federation, Belarusians and, for example, Ethiopians. Of course, I objected when, under the slogan of helping Ukrainians, they wanted to let into Estonia everyone who wanted to come.”

According to Veldre's idea, it would be possible to later set restrictions for some countries in the implementing regulation if so desired.

“If the law formulates a principle very broadly, which is later restricted in a regulation, this implementation act may turn out to be illegal,” Kranich emphasized. In addition, the bill would also have contradicted the public opinion.

According to Helen Trelin, advisor of the department of health system development, the ministry made a conscious choice after a discussion with legal experts. Ukraine was not mentioned in the bill for two reasons: the concept of “temporary protection” does not fit into the healthcare framework law, and in addition, this status could be applied for by citizens of other countries who would be discriminated against in this case.

Instead of naming Ukraine directly, a time limit was proposed for all arrivals from third countries. It would have taken two years – in a shorter period of time, higher education institutions would not be able to accept those who wish to continue their studies, but students already have their own guarantees.

Sibul does not believe that Ukraine can be set apart in other areas but not in health care. “I wonder how and where from does this political order or understanding come that some people would simply be exempted from the quota?” he said.

According to Trelin, the officials did not make this up. “After all, this was political will,” she said.

The ministry's proposal was sabotage

According to Kranich, the official's story is not true. “The political will was to make concessions for nurses and doctors who came to Estonia from Ukraine, who could get the opportunity to work here according to a simplified procedure, but the proposal from the ministry sabotaged this will,” he emphasized.

"The proposal was worded precisely in such a way that it would not be passed. Later, it could have been said that the politicians made that decision,” said Kranich, according to whom there are frequent attempts to introduce regulations completely unsuitable for Estonia within the framework of some other bill. That is why the said proposal was voted down in the committee.

Before being sent to the Social Affairs Committee, the bill was signed by Signe Riisalo (RE), who had taken over from the former Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (KE) a day ago. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (RE) had just dismissed the ministers of the Central Party, including Kiik. Postimees cold not contact Riisalo for comment. The current Minister of Health and Labor Peep Peterson (SDE) was similarly unavailable.