Home Guard Up in Arms Over Citizenship Requirements for Youth Members ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

The new Defense League Act stipulates that only Estonian citizens can become members of the home guard's youth wings, a change that has members up in arms.

The act, which came into effect on April 1 this year, states that only Estonian citizens aged 7-18 may sign up with the Noored Kotkad (Young Eagles) or Kodutütred (Home Daughters) youth groups, adding that anyone without Estonian citizenship must be expelled, ETV reported on Wednesday.

"We are in the business of raising decent Estonian citizens. [...] If there are, in our groups, a few non-citizens, that does not affect our activities," said Ivar Rooma, a instructor at the Alutaguse Young Eagles unit.

Membership in the Defense League is only open to citizens. But Rooma said the youth organizations could serve as a tool for integrating civically active youth who have not been naturalized.  

Rooma said that joining the Defense League after turning 18 may be an incentive to choosing Estonian citizenship, if they were youth members previously.

"A Russian, Ukrainian, Moldovan boy or girl, who lives in Estonia, doesn't have Estonian citizenship, but is pro-Estonia, is very useful to our nation," said Marianne Mikko, a Social Democrat MP and member of the National Defense Committee.

Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu also backed the removal of the citizenship requirement.

The Defense League has made a proposal to the Defense Committee to amend the law.

According to ETV, the number of children without Estonian citizenship currently in the youth ranks of the home guard is between five and 100.