Survey: Over half of stateless residents want to become citizens of Estonia

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Photo: Toomas Huik / Postimees

More than half of the people with undetermined citizenship living in Estonia would like to get Estonian citizenship but have difficulty mastering the official language to the necessary level, it appears from the findings of the survey titled «Monitoring of Integration in Estonian Society in 2015» published on Thursday.

According to the outcome of the survey commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, 57 percent of stateless residents wish to obtain Estonian citizenship. They most frequently name inability to master the Estonian language as the main obstacle to naturalization.

In addition the outcome of the survey reveals the absence of strong motivators to meet the conditions set for the acquisition of citizenship, as one in three stateless respondents say that not having citizenship does not affect their ability to live in Estonia. Besides it's easier for people who do not have Estonian citizenship to travel to Russia and other CIS states.

Citizens of Estonia make up 85 percent of the Estonian population and one-sixth of the population does not have Estonian citizenship. Of ethnic Russian residents of Estonia, 54 percent have Estonian citizenship, 24 percent Russian citizenship and 21 percent are stateless. Of ethnic Estonians 99.6 percent are citizens of Estonia.

From the viewpoint of integration policy it is causing concern that as much as 19 percent of the people of ethnic backgrounds other than Estonian who were born in Estonia and whose parents were also born in Estonia are not citizens of Estonia. The proportion of such residents has not declined compared with the previous similar survey taken in 2011. Besides there is as much as 34 percent of non-citizens among the so-called second generation, or people of ethnic backgrounds other than Estonian born in Estonia.

One-third of the people born in Estonia who do not have Estonian citizenship are young people of ages 15-34 and one-fifth of them describe their command of Estonian as good or very good. That such young people born in Estonia and having good command of Estonian language do not have full political rights and are staying apart from Estonian citizenry is a serious challenge to Estonia's integration policy, the authors of the survey say.

Considering the low opinion of this population segment of their command of Estonian, but also the bigger proportion of members of the older generations and people with vocational or high school education among them, inability to meet the set conditions may indeed be considered an obstacle to the acquisition of citizenship.

According to the survey, a remarkable change has taken place in recent years in the attitude of Estonians towards easing the procedures for obtaining citizenship, with the vast majority of Estonians now expressing the opinion that all children born in the Republic of Estonia should obtain Estonian citizenship by simplified procedure regardless of the citizenship of their parents, and the same should apply to other people who have born in the Republic of Estonia.

The integration monitoring survey is an independent in-depth survey of the field of integration commissioned by the Ministry of Culture that is carried out every three to four years. The survey of 2015 is the sixth such survey.

Research for the study, which sampled a total of 1,200 respondents in Estonia, was carried out in January and February this year. Additionally focus group interviews were conducted, which focused on multilingual schools, media consumption and employment opportunities for young people of different ethnic backgrounds.