Citizens of other countries and stateless persons living in Estonia are being invited to take part in discussions on integration as a result of which a new integration plan is to be drawn up by the end of the year.
Grassroots integration discussions to be launched in Estonia
The forums will be held in Tallinn, Narva, Kohtla-Järve and Tartu, organizers from the Praxis think tank and the Tallinn-based Institute of Baltic Studies said.
Participants will be able to express views on topics like education and the labor market and make proposals for solving problems related to language learning, social services and citizenship. The proposals will be forwarded to drafters of the Integrating Estonia 2020 plan in May.
The aim of the integration plan, the first to be confirmed by the government, is to ensure equal opportunities for successful coping and welfare to all residents of Estonia regardless of their ethnicity and mother tongue.
"It is essential for citizens of other countries living in Estonia, for example Russian nationals, as well as recent immigrants, to be able to have a say in matters that affect their daily lives and for their opinions to reach decision-makers," Kristina Kallas from the Institute of Baltic Studies said.
"We're glad to see that around a hundred people have already expressed their wish to take part in integration discussions. Among those who have registered are citizens of countries such as Russia, Georgia and Moldova, but also the United States, Venezuela, Mexico, Tunisia and Indonesia," said one of the organizers of the discussions, Maiu Uus from the Praxis center for policy studies.This is so far the most extensive initiative in Estonia to engage non-citizens in shaping integration policy at the grassroots level, she added.
At the forums experts will provide overviews of the current state and problems of all the topics to be discussed. After that moderated discussions will be held on topics the participants deem to be most important and in the end proposals that would help solve the problems will be formulated.
Persons who are interested in pitching in can register till March 20 at www.etnoweb.ee/arutelud.
The discussions are led by the independent organizations Praxis and Institute of Baltic Studies. The initiative is supported by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, the Ministry of Culture and the Integration and Migration Foundation Our People (MISA).