Kristjan Kaldur

Political and institutional developments

One of the most important activities in the area concerning national minorities in 2012 was the initiation of the process of drawing up of the integration development plan “Integrating Estonia 2020” by the Ministry of Culture.[1] It establishes a development plan for years 2014-2020. In the course of creating the integration plan, cooperation with various stakeholders was initiated; the experts as well as the public are to be consulted in the course of the work.[2] Even though the preparations started a year before, the main material activities will take place in 2013. The integration plan should be submitted for the government’s approval in December of 2013. In wider terms it could be said that even though cardinal changes or essentially new activities were not carried out in integration in 2012, a stable course has been kept.

In addition to making preparations for the new integration plan the state of Estonia continued with programs and activities that were carried out in the previous years. For example, Estonia greatly supported teaching Estonian to various target groups and career training, cooperation activities aimed at Estonian residents of different nationalities were carried out. In comparison to previous years more attention was paid to reducing intolerance and promoting equal treatment in companies in Estonia in 2012.[3] One completely new activity has to be pointed out – offering free adaptation courses and the service of support persons to citizens of third states who have settled down in Estonia in the last three years – this target group had not been supported in the previous years.[4]

The view expressed by the Ministry of Justice concerned the topic of national minorities in Estonia, especially those with Russian as their mother tongue – that there would be no practical need to translate Estonian legal acts into Russian in the future.[5] Translating acts of law into Russian has been in significant decline since 2006 and the last larger translation was done by the then office of Ministry of Population in 2009. A large portion of acts of law that have been translated into Russian can currently only be read for a fee. According to the statement of the Ministry of Justice the state has no intention to translate Estonian acts of law into Russion for the reason that the working language of the state of Estonia is Estonian.[6] Although no great public discussion on this topic arose in Estonia some parties still considered translating acts of law into Russian very necessary. In the appraisal of the Legal Information Services Bureau ESTLEX particularly acts of law on language and citizenship ought to also be available in Russian. The reason for this is that most of applicants for citizenship and stateless persons speak Russian as their mother tongue and that would allow to prevent spreading of misinformation in this particular population.[7] The same stance has also been taken by Estonian Bar Association who believes that Russian language texts of acts of law need to be made more available for practical and not for political reasons.[8] In the appraisal of the Bar Association publishing Russian translations would bring about better protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of persons speaking Russian as their mother tongue as only reading acts of law in one’s mother tongue allows people to find their way in the legal order and unequivocally understand the laws across all parties.

Legislative developments

The view of political parties who formed a government coalition – the Reform party and the Pro Patria-Res Publica Union – on citizenship politics did not change significantly in 2012 either, as it had been agreed that the fundamental principles of citizenship politics will not be changed. Yet one of the important of topics in 2012 became the topic of double of multiple citizenships.[9] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs started an initiative in autumn, which would allow double citizenship to persons who are Estonian citizens by birth as well as citizens of another state.[10] The main problem and urgency regarding this topic is that the first generation who is affected by this issue will turn 18 in 2013. Therefore not a lot of time is left to pass this decision. However, in the appraisal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs it is such an important topic that decisions cannot be made rashly – thorough analyses and discussions need to be carried out first, including on the political level.[11] A common position was not reached on the topic of double citizenship in 2012.

As a member of the European Union Estonia has the obligation, according to the framework decision, to make incitement to hatred punishable by law. The Ministry of Justice is working on preparing a draft act to address this; the precise wording of it was put through two rounds of discussion in front of different parties in 2012 and one round of discussion in the beginning of 2013.[12] The purpose was to bring Estonian penal law regarding hate crimes into coordination with the requirements of EU’s framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia in the part that concerns incitement of hatred, considering hate motive as aggravating circumstances for every kind of offence and prohibition of hate-based organisations. The rights of national minorities are affected by the provision in the draft act amending § 58 of the Penal Code, according to which committing and offence based on hatred for the victim, for example for his citizenship, nationality or race is considered an aggravating circumstance (see the chapter on prohibition of discrimination to read more about this draft act).

Statistics and Surveys

The “Integration Monitoring 2011” was published in March of 2012. (There have been monitoring reports on years 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008.) The monitoring focuses on analysing significant target groups of integration (national minorities) in language studies, in employment market, political participation, citizenship, relations between nations and media consumption.[13] The most important outcome of the monitoring is the realisation that immigrants and their descendants cannot be handled as a homogenous subject of integration, but six significant target groups and stakeholders of integration politics need to be differentiated between based on their current condition.[14] The monitoring also points out that if 61% of persons who are not Estonians claim to be moderately, significantly or completely integrated, then the portion of persons who are completely integrated is twice the size in comparison to results of the 2008 monitoring. The monitoring also concedes that the attitude of Estonians towards engaging of the Russian-speaking population has become more positive.

In autumn of 2012 the Tallinn office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) compiled an overview of the initial integration system in Estonia aimed at persons enjoying international immunity.[15] A systematic package of recommendations for integrating persons enjoying international immunity into the society in Estonia was compiled as a result of charting the situation. The main problem area is the fact that even though the current legislative basis is sufficient to guarantee measures facilitating integration of persons enjoying international immunity, its implementation in practice will remain insufficient. The main problems are the lack of sufficient support in finding accommodation and work, but also insufficient opportunities for learning the language. This topic is also important because the number of persons enjoying international immunity and asylum seekers has risen significantly in the last years while systematic integration activities for the target groups still don’t exist or are extremely modest.

The European Network against Racism published its annual report in March of 2012; its section about Estonia particularly emphasises the situation on the labour market. The report points out cases where the access to labour market of national minorities has been limited because of language requirements: for example in situations where the Estonian language requirement has been disproportionately high considering the specifics of the offered work, or the disproportionately high language requirements were set in Ida-Virumaa where most of the population speaks Russian.[16]

The topic of language skills was also raised by the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner who published an opinion in August 2012 regarding a complaint against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning discrimination based on nationality upon recruitment. The essence of the complaint filed with the commissioner was that the person applied to take part in a contest organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to fill diplomatic positions, but did not pass the round of filing applications, arguable for his insufficient skill of the Estonian language.[17] Another opinion published by the commissioner regarding discrimination based on nationality had to do with a complaint filed by a worker of Russian nationality against the company that favoured recruiting only Estonians to the new line, and a senior employee of Russian nationality was left aside. After a thorough investigation and hearing of the parties the commissioner remained of the opinion that the worker was not hired on the special line in 2010 and in 2011 because of his nationality.[18]

Noteworthy public discussions

The debate on topics of migration policy continued in 2012 as in 2011, mainly via the media. Several experts and top specialists have pointed out Estonia’s increased need for immigrant workers to promote progress and competitiveness.[19] At the same time the dangers that may accompany unconsidered immigration were also pointed out: immigration brings only short term gain, the clash of cultures is unavoidable, placing the emphasis on only immigration as a solution tends to view problems out of context and it is important to see the problem-solution packages a whole.[20] Yet the public discussion over migration politics in Estonia has been modest in 2012, which is why an inclusive debate involving all groups of the society needs to be initiated to reach a consensus as wide as possible and to find out opinions of the parties.[21] The opinion should be asked from politicians, entrepreneurs, employers, trade unions and regular citizens. It is important to consider that managing immigration is much easier in a situation where levels of immigration are low, instead of dealing with the issue when immigration is about to be widespread and hard to control.

Trends in 2012

Activities of national minorities and integration are generally long term and require tenacity. An ongoing trend which carried on in 2012 had to do with switching from education in Russian language to Estonian in schools with Russian education, which ended in September of 2011. Even though the switchover has formally ended its effectiveness and results can only be appraised in two years’ time when the first class that studied according to the new system graduates. Nevertheless, there were protests against the school reform in 2012. The NGO Russian School in Estonia organised a protest in Toompea in May of 2012 showing support for the protection of education in mother tongue in high schools offering education in Russian and for some of the Russian high schools wishing to choose the language of tuition themselves.[22]

The problem that has come to light from the surveys of the last year is also associated with schools with Russian language education – that Russian youths’ awareness of democracy, fundamental rights and civil and political participation is often rather minimal,[23] which is why in addition to language studies more attention should be paid to general education on how to be a citizen. In July of 2012 the Estonian Institute of Human Rights also pointed out a possible breach of human rights in Estonia’s integration politics, which results in discrimination of graduates of Russian schools in the society as the curriculums of Russian schools do not guarantee their graduates equal opportunities to graduates of Estonian schools. In the institute’s appraisal the breach is taking place primarily because the school education provided does not guarantee the youth sufficiently necessary level of Estonian language skills.[24] The Ministry of Education did not agree that there were breaches of human rights in schools with Russian language education and stated their opinion that to their knowledge surveys to prove the opposite have not been carried out, and that language studies vary in different schools.[25]


  • Pay more attention to raising Russian youths’ awareness of democracy, fundamental rights and civil and political participation, in addition to language studies.
  • The government should study the reasons why teaching in Estonian in Russian schools does not provide all the graduates of Russian schools equal opportunities to graduates of Estonian schools in the civil society, including the labour market.
  • It is also important to thoroughly investigate cases of discrimination affecting the Russian-speaking population and eliminate the reasons for them in the employment sector.
  • The Ministry of Justice should review the policy according to which the Estonian acts of law are no longer translated into Russian and provide free access to acts of law that have already been translated.
  • The work on the draft act allowing double citizenship to persons who are Estonian citizens and citizens of another state at birth should be sped up.
  • Measures facilitating integration of persons enjoying international protection should be reviewed; that includes measures assisting in finding accommodation and employment, and analyse the reasons why they don’t work in practice. This is an urgent issue as the number of persons enjoying international protection and the asylum seekers has risen significantly in the few years.


[1] Also see the public consultation on participation website regarding proposal to compile “Lõimuv Eesti 2020”. Available at:

[2] A separate website for providing feedback has been created. Available at:

[3] One such example is the “Diversity Enriches” project, which in 2012 was aimed at promoting diversity in companies. Available at:

[4] MISA (2012). “Hiljuti Eestisse saabunud välismaalastele pakutakse tasuta kohanemisprogrammi” [Recent arrivals in Estonia are offered a free adaptation course]. 18.10.2012.

[5] Pau, Aivar (2012). “Valitsus lubab kõik Eesti seadused inglise keelde tõlkida” [The government promises to translate all Estonian acts into English]. ERR News, 27.09.2012.

[6] The report of Minister of Justice about implementation in 2011 (2012), “Õiguspoliitika arengusuunad aastani 2018” [Development directions of legal policies]. Riigikogu shorthand notes. 27. September 2012.

[7] Pau, Aivar (2012), “Riik tellib seaduste venekeelseid tõlkeid ikka edasi” [The state continues to order Russian translations of acts]. ERR News. 30.09.2012.

[8] Vaher, Toomas (2012), “Toomas Vaher: seadused tuleb tõlkida vene keelde” [Toomas Vaher: the acts must be translated into Russian]. Eesti Päevaleht. 11.04.2012.

[9] See the following viewpoints of this: Raivo Vetik in the article Koppel, Karin (2012), “Vetik: kodakondsusseadus ei lähe tegeliku eluga kokku” [Vetik: the Citizenship Act does not correspond with the real life]. ERR News. 14.02.2012; Indrek Teder in the article Ferman, Betina (2012), “Indrek Teder: Eesti kodakondsuspoliitika on liiga konservatiivne” [Indrek Teder: Estonia’s citizenship policy is too concervative]. ERR News. 13.02.2012; Igor Gräzin in the article Krujkov, Aleksander (2012), “Gräzin: kodakondsusseadust pole vaja muuta” [Gräzin: the Citizenship Act does not need to be amended]. ERR News. 14.02.2012; Juhan Kivirähk (2012), “Kivirähk: lihtsustagem kodakondsuse andmist” [Kivirähk: let’s simplify granting of citizenship]. Äripäev. 27.03.2012.

[10] Jaakson, Tiina (2012), “Siseminister sai ülesande topeltkodakondsuse üle pead murda” [The Minister of Justice got the task to ponder about double citizenship]. ERR News. 27.06.2012. According to the current legislation the person who, at birth, has citizenship of another state in addition to Estonia must choose which citizenship to keep upon turning 18.

[11] Ideon, Argo (2012), “Topeltkodakondsuse lubamine ujub vastuvoolu” [Allowing double citizenship – swimming upstream]. Postimees. 15.12.2012.

[12] See more on homepage of Ministry of Justice “Vaenu õhutamise vastane eelnõu” [Draft legislation against incitement of hatred]. Available at:

[13] AS Emor, Poliitikauuringute Keskus Praxis, Tartu Ülikool (2012), “Eesti ühiskonna integratsiooni monitooring 2011” [Integration monitoring of the Estonian society 2011]. Ordered by Ministry of Culture.

[14] Kultuuriministeerium, Poliitikauuringute Keskus Praxis (2012), “Eesti ühiskonna 2011.aasta integratsiooni monitooring: kokkuvõte” [The summary of integration monitoring of the Estonian society 2011].

[15] IOM Tallinn (2012), “Rahvusvahelise kaitse saanud isikute integratsioon Eesti ühiskonda: hetkeolukorra kaardistus ning ettepanekud integratsiooni toetavate meetmete täiustamiseks” [Integration of persons enjoying international immunity into Estonian society: charting the current situation and proposals for perfecting measures supporting integration].

[16] Kovalenko, Julia (2012), ENAR Shadow report: Estonia, European Network Against Racism.

[17] See more in: Sepper, Mari-Liis (2012), “Seoses kaebusega Välisministeeriumi vastu, mis puudutab tööle värbamisel tema diskrimineerimist rahvuse tõttu” [In relation to application against Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning discrimination based on nationality upon recruitment]. The Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner. 16.08.2012.

[18] See more in: Niitra, Sirje (2012), “Volinik: Instrumentarium eelistas töölevõtmisel eestlasi” [Commissioner: Instrumentrium favoured Estonians when hiring]. Tarbija24. 30.08.2012.

[19] On such views see, for example: head of Skype Estonia, Paananen, Tiit (2012), “Paananen: migratsioon on ainus võimalus” [Paananen: migration is the only option]. Äripäev. 24.05.2012; head economist of Swedbank Group in the article Poom, Raimo (2012), “Swedbanki tippspetsialist: Eestit aitaks immigratsioon” [Top specialist of Swedbank: immigration would help Estonia]. Eesti Päevaleht. 11.06.2012;  Reinaas, Marek (2012), “Migrandist saab messias” [The migrant will become the messiah]. Äripäev. 11.07.2012; Hans H. Luik (2012), “Selge see, et keegi Eestisse kolib. Kes?” [It is clear someone will move to Estonia. Who?]. Eesti Ekspress. 27.09.2012.

[20] On such views see, for example: Andrus Saar in the article Krjukov, Aleksander (2012), “Saar: immigratsioon toob endaga rohkem probleeme kui leevendust” [Saar: immigration will bring more problems that relief]. ERR News. 13.06.2012; Allan Puur in the article Masing, Kadri (2012), “Puur: majanduskasv soodustab pigem sisserännet, mitte vastupidi” [Puur: expansion will facilitate immigration, not the other way round]. ERR News. 13.06.2012.

[21] The need for establishing inter-ministries migration strategy has also been emphasized by Estonian contact point of European Migration Network. See Kaska, Veronika and Valdaru, Kert (2012), “Elamislubade kuritarvitamine töörändes” [Abuse of residence permits in work migration].

[22] Koppel, Karin (2012), “Vene Kool Eestis korraldas Toompeal miitingu” [The Russian School in Estonia organised a protest at Toompea]. ERR News. 20.05.2012.

[23] Kallas, Kristina (2012), “Narva gümnasistide teadlikkus põhiõigustest ning osalemine ühiskondlikus ja poliitilises elus”, Balti Uuringute Instituut.

[24] Estonian Institute of Human Rights (2012), ” Inimõiguste Instituut juhib tähelepanu olulisele inimõigusrikkumisele. Pöördumine Kultuuriministeeriumi, Haridus- ja Teadusministeeriumi ning Misa poole” [The Institute of Human Rights turns attention to an important breach of human rights. A communication to the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education nad Research and MISA]. 09.07.2012.

[25] Kund, Oliver (2012), “Haridusministeerium: vene noorte keeleoskamatusega ei saa nõustuda” [Ministry of Education: the Russian youths’ lack of language skills cannot be agreed with]. Postimees. 11.07.2012.