Kristjan Kaldur

Political and institutional developments

One of the most important activities in the field of national minorities in 2013 was the continued devising of the development plan “Integrating Estonia 2020” by the Ministry of Culture. Although the development plan should have been presented to the government for authorization in December of 2013, this plan was unable to be fulfilled,[1] and according to the new plan the integration plan ought to be ready in the first half of 2014. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that several important activities took place in 2013 in the course of preparing the integration plan: various target groups of the integration plan were extensively consulted at national integration discussions, and several needs-based and feasibility studies were carried out in relation to integration topics (see below for a more detailed description of their activities).[2]

The further development of the current integration programme, lead by the Ministry of the Interior and extending it to new target groups must be mentioned as an important initiative. If the integration programme curated by the Integration and Migration Foundation Our People currently provides integration services only to citizens of third states, the purpose of creating the new support system is to offer integration training and the support person service to the target group, but also to new immigrants from the European Union and to persons enjoying international protection. According to the preliminary plans the new integration programme should be implemented in the second half of 2014.

Legislative developments

The position of political parties forming coalition in the government – the Reform Party and Pro Patria and Res Publica Union – on citizenship policy did not change much in 2013 either, as it had been agreed that the foundations of citizenship policy will not be altered. Similarly to 2012 an important topic of discussion in 2013 was the issue of multiple citizenships. The basis for this topic was the initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from autumn of 2012, which would allow persons who are citizens at birth multiple citizenships if the person is a citizen of another state by birth as well.[3]

Although discussions on the matter have lasted several years already, no agreement was reached on the issue of multiple citizenships in 2013 either. Nevertheless, it is noticeable that the positions of parties in the coalition are starting to differ on this issue more and more. The Ministry of the Interior published an analysis in summer of 2013, emphasising the effects to security, possible loyalty conflicts and controversy with consistency of citizenship policy that go along with multiple citizenship.[4]The Prime Minister, however, expressed an opinion that it is not possible to make far-reaching conclusions based on one analysis and that debates on this issue must continue.[5] A similar view has also been expressed by the chairman of the Constitutional Committee of Riigikogu[6] and several other experts have spoken on this topic, mainly in support of the changes.[7]

The rights of national minorities are also concerned in the draft act being drawn up at the Ministry of Justice, which aims to bring Estonia’s penal power regarding hate crimes into concordance with the requirements of EU’s framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia in the part that concerns incitement of hatred. The national minorities are affected by the provision in the draft act according to which committing an offence based on hatred for the victim, for example for his citizenship, nationality or race, is considered an aggravating circumstance. Although the work on the draft act started already in 2012 no significant changes happened to it in 2013.[8]

The amendments to the Aliens Act, which were long-awaited by entrepreneurs and universities, came into force 1 September 2013.[9] The motions to amend have been proceeded in cooperation with various participants (ministries, universities and entrepreneurs and their umbrella organisations, etc) since 2012 already. It is worth noting that the new act that came into force is an important step forward in order to simplify recruitment of mainly highly qualified aliens in Estonia, but also for enabling foreign degree students to remain in Estonia to look for work after their studies.[10]

National minorities, but most of all, residents of undetermined citizenship and citizens of 3rd countries living in Estonia, were also affected by the draft amending the Political Parties Act. One of the original motions to amend the draft act prescribed the restriction to allow donations to political parties only from persons with Estonian and EU Member State citizenships.[11] It is important to note that such a solution would not have allowed persons of undetermined citizenship and citizens of 3rd countries residing in Estonia, who have the right to vote in local elections to make donations.

Statistics and surveys

Several important activities and background surveys for a better overview of the integration field and for creating input were carried out in the course of preparation for the new development plan “Integrating Estonia 2020” in 2013. National discussions on integration organised by Praxis Centre for Policy Studies and the Institute of Baltic Studies, which proactively included the target groups of the integration plan, and aimed to include foreign citizens residing in Estonia in the decision making process and gather their proposals for the development plan and its implementation plan was a remarkable activity in the field. A survey report was based on the integration discussions, which included a wide range of recommendations and proposals divided by topics (employment, education, access to public services, participation in community and decision making processes, cultural diversity and learning the Estonian language).[12]

A survey was prepared in the course of preparing the integration plan, which observes promotion of equal treatment and instances of unequal treatment that have arisen on the Estonian labour market on the basis of nationality, race, colour and language.[13] A survey of social groups in integration was also prepared, which aims to analyse the experiences, needs, expectations and opportunities of 3rd country citizens and other, until now less researched target and interest groups of integration policy in the integration process.[14]

Several important surveys were carried out in language learning and education. Migration Foundation Our People ordered a survey on the effect of developing language learning programmes in 2013, which concludes that although the goals  for language learning programmes have been achieved from the implementation point of view, it is hard to evaluate the actual effect of language learning programmes due to somewhat vague wording of the goals.[15] Nevertheless, it is admitted that the activity of Migration Foundation Our People has provided the opportunity to develop and try various methods for language teaching, implement a more systematic approach, and offer language teaching and improve language skills among many of the target group members.

A survey on new immigrant students’ academic achievements and educational opportunities, which aims to chart the academic level and social coping of new immigrant students studying at general education schools in Estonia was also published in 2013.[16] Also the situation of bilingual studies in Russian-speaking schools was charted.[17]

Good practices

An example of a good practice was the organising of national integration discussions aiming to bring together and consult with various target groups of the integration plan to generate input for the new strategy.[18] Citizens’ panel method was used across Estonia (which had been relatively seldom used in Estonia before) to gather information from more than 170 citizens of other countries and persons of undetermined citizenship residing in Estonia, which was the basis of a thorough report along with recommendations and suggestions (see above for integration discussions).

An example of a good practice is also the opening up of the free e-learning course “Keeleklikk” to English-based users, which had thus far been available only to Russian-based persons.[19]

Noteworthy public discussions

National minorities in Estonia, especially Russian-speaking residents of Tallinn, were drawn into the focus of the public attention also at the local government elections in autumn of 2013. After the Tallinn election results were published a debate broke out in various media environments over whether and how the results were influenced by preferring of one party by a significant part of the Russian-speaking residents. An active exchange of ideas took place immediately after the elections on what the other political powers ought to do to mobilise the Russian-speakers’ votes better.[20]

Similarly to the two previous years the discussion on immigration policy continued in 2013, mostly in the press. Several experts and top specialists have pointed out the increased need for foreign labour for improvement of Estonia’s development and competitiveness.[21] At the same time, opinions against immigration and statements disparaging immigration are expressed in public.[22] It is worth noting that the discussion on immigration largely takes place via the press or in narrow academic circles. For a regular person, this is still a foreign topic and several views linked to immigration, as well as fears and prejudices are standing due to lack of information: for example, what is Estonia’s current immigration policy and its purposes (it is selective), what is the background of current immigrants (foreign students and top specialists), etc. Therefore, it is worth emphasising also this year that creation of a cross-ministries migration strategy or a vision is vital and a wide-based discussion including all social groups must be initiated to prepare it.

Trends in 2013

The problem of children of undetermined citizenship in Estonia continues to be in the focus also on an international level.[23] The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks drew attention to the fact that since citizenship is one of the important foundations for human rights, the children born in Estonian territory should automatically be given Estonian citizenship at the time of their birth. A politician of a governing party has already expressed their position in this question, that the current acts allow the children of parents without citizenship to get citizenship without additional conditions, and the important matter is not the automatic giving of citizenship, but that the parents’ will to get citizenship of one state or another is clearly fixed.[24] The commissioner for human rights has offered a compromise option that in addition to automatic citizenship the parents who do not wish Estonian citizenship for their child can give it up in simplified procedure.[25]


  • Speed up work on a draft act allowing persons who have citizenship by birth to have multiple citizenships in case the person has Estonian citizenship by birth and the citizenship of another state (for example, EU Member State). Multiple citizenships are allowed for EU citizens in Germany as well as in Latvia as of 1 October 2013, for example. Citizenship is not automatically a basis for a loyalty conflict and it must be considered that Estonia is becoming increasingly international despite the Citizenship Act, and more children may have multiple citizenships at birth.
  • The activity in the field of national minorities and integration is generally long term and requires consistency. It is, therefore, good to see a large number of surveys in the field. However, active cross-country activities mobilising target groups of integration plans, such as discussions on integration, should continue, and naturalised citizens and/or the Estonian natives should be included.
  • The problem of children of undetermined citizenship still needs solving. One of the solutions could be to automatically give Estonian citizenship to children of parents of undetermined citizenship, leaving the parents the option to give it up in simplified manner, should they wish to.
  • The opposition based on nationality in elections (or in planning elections) polarising voters and making integration of Estonia’s society in all groups of residents harder, should be stopped.
  • It is necessary to create a cross-ministries migration strategy and to include various parties for its planning. This would also significantly alleviate the lack of information among the local residents. A large portion of people’s fears and prejudices about immigration stem from lack of knowledge, including the lack of knowledge of the state’s long term political goals in immigration – who are wanted, for what goals and how many.

[1] Ideon, Argo. Postimees. „Suur osa valitsuse tänavuse tööplaani punkte jääb hiljaks“ [A large portion of the government’s points of the work plan will be late]. 2013. 31.12.2013.

[2] See the process or compiling the integration plan in more detail. Available at:

[3] Jaakson, Tiina. ERR. „Siseminister sai ülesande topeltkodakondsuse üle pead murda“ [The Minister of the Interior’s task is to figure out multiple citizenship]. 2012. News. 27.06.2012. According to the current legislation the person who at birth acquires another citizenship in addition to Estonian citizenship must choose his or her citizenship when turning 18.

[4] Ministry of the Interior. 2013. „Mitmikkodakondsus: analüüs“ [Analysis of multiple citizenship].

[5] Luts, Priit. ERR News. „Topeltkodakondsuse lubamisest on kujunemas valitsuse tüliõun“ [Multiple citizenship is becoming an issue of debate for the government]. 13.06.2013.

[6] Kund, Oliver. Postimees. „Ministrite vaidlus topeltkodakondsuse üle võib lõppeda riigikogu sekkumisega“ [Debate of ministers over multiple citizenship may end with the involvement of Riigikogu]. 13.06.2013.

[7] For example Vello Pettai in article Koppel, Karin. ERR News. „Pettai: IRLil on topeltkodakondsust oma ajaloo tõttu raske toetada„ [Pettai: Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica find it hard to support multiple citizenship due to their history]. 20.01.2013; Raivo Vetik in article Koppel, Karin. ERR News. „Vetik: kodakondsusseadus ei lähe tegeliku eluga kokku“ [Vetik: the Citizenship Act does not work in real life]. 14.02.2013; Rein Taagepera in article „Kas Eesti võiks lubada topeltkodakondsust?“ [Could Estonia allow multiple citizenship?]. EPL. 11.01.2013. See earlier statements in Human Rights report 2012.

[8] See more on Ministry of Justice’s website: „Vaenu õhutamise vastane eelnõu“ [A draft act against incitement of hatred]. Available at:

[9] See the development of the draft act on Riigikogu’s website. Available at:

[11] See the progress of the draft act on Riigikogu’s website. Available at:

[12] Uus, Maiu ja Kristjan Kaldur. „Euroopa kolmandate riikide kodanike lõimumisarutelude aruanne“ [Integration report of citizens of third states in Europe]. Praxis Centre for Policy Studies and the Institute of Baltic Studies. 2013.

[13] Kallas, Kristina et al. „Võrdse kohtlemise edendamine ja teadlikkus Eestis: uuringuaruanne“ [Promotion and awareness of equal treatment in Estonia: progress report]. Institute of Baltic Studies and the Institute of International and Social Studies at Tallinn University. 2013.

[14] Nimmerfeldt, Gerli et al. „Lõimumisvaldkonna sotsiaalsete gruppide uuring: uuringu raport“ [Social groups’ study of integration area]. Institute of International and Social Studies at Tallinn University. 2013.

[15] Saar Poll. „Keeleõppe arendamise programmide mõju uuring“ [Survey on the effect of developing language learning programmes]. 2013. See also Migration Foundation Our People’s comment on the survey Masing, Kadri. ERR News. „Uuring: keeleõpe ei oma lõimumisel suurt rolli“ [Survey: language learning does not play a great role in integration]. 25.06.2013.

[16] Kasemets, Liis et al. MindPark. „Uusimmigrantõpilaste akadeemiline ja sotsiaalne toimetulek Eesti üldhariduskoolis“ [New immigrants’ academic and social coping in Estonia’s general education schools]. 2013.

[17] Metslang, Helena et al. 2013. „Kakskeelne õpe vene õppekeelega koolis: uuringu lõpparuanne“ [Bilingual study in Russian language schools: final report].The Institute of Estonian Language and Culture at Tallinn University.

[19] Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. „Avatakse ingliskeelne eesti keele e-õppe kursus Keeleklikk“ [English-based e-learning course “Keeleklikk” for Estonian commences]. 15.03.2013.

[20] See some examples of this Ladõnskaja, Viktoria. „Miks venelased valisid Savisaare?“ [Why did Russians vote for Savisaar?]. Eesti Ekspress. 24.10.2013; Kooli, Rain. ERR News. „ Mihkel Solvak: IRL püüab saada esimeseks kaotajaks, Reformi- ja Keskerakond heroiseerivad minevikku“ [Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica try to be the first loser, the Reform and Central Party are idealising the past]. 17.09.2013; Nael, Merili. ERR News. „Politoloog: Eesti valimiste ületamatu teema on rahvusküsimus“ [Political scientist: the issue of nationality is the unsolvable issue of Estonian elections]. 21.10.2013; an interesting exchange on Allan Martinson’s Facebook page. 20.10.2013. Available at:

[21] See more on these viewpoints, for example: head of Playtech Estonia Kaari Simson in the article. „Playtech: välistööjõu Eestisse toomise protsessi kiirenemisest on abi“ [Playtech: importing foreign labour into Estonia would speed up process]. BNS. E24. 16.04.2013; LHV analyst Heido Vitsur in article Kahu, Oliver. „Vitsur: peame harjuma teisest rahvusest töötajatega“ [Vitsur: we must get used to employees of other nationalities]. ERR News. 09.06.2013; Abdul Turay in article „Abdul Turay: lõpetage juba!“ [Abdul Turay: enough aready!]. Postimees. 28.05.2013; Swedbank’s head economist Tõnu Mertsina in article „Tõnu Mertsina: 1300 sisserändajat aastas on Eesti jaoks vähe“ [Tõnu Mertsina: 1300 immigrants a year is too few for Estonia]. Postimees. 11.12.2013; EPL editorial. „Juhtkiri: Targem sisserändepoliitika“ [Editorial: a smarter immigration policy]. 28.03.2013. Also see Human Rights report 2012.

[22] See such statements for example in: Martin Helme in article Teder, Merike. 2013. „Martin Helme soovitus immigratsioonipoliitikaks: kui on must, näita ust“ [Martin Helme’s recommendation for immigration policy: if they’re black show them the door]. Postimees. 29.05.2013.

[23] Council of Europe. 2013. “Estonia should eliminate child statelessness”. 20.06.2013.

[24] Randlaid, Sven. „Nutt: kodakondsuseta lapsed ei ole Eestis probleem“ [Nutt: stateless children are not a problem in Estonia]. ERR News. 30.08.2011.

[25] See also Council of Europe’s report on Estonia: Council of Europe. 2013. „Report by Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, following his visit to Estonia, from 25 to 27 March 2013“.