Culture minister: Anyone who finished Estonian school should be able to pass citizenship exam
Minister of Culture Indrek Saar (SDE) finds that all those who finish school in Estonia should also be able to pass the citizenship exam. Saar invited the Ministry of the Interior on Wednesday to think about how young holders of the alien’s passport can be motivated to become Estonian citizens.
Saar pointed out to ERR’s Estonian news portal on Wednesday that the last integration survey in 2015 had identified two factors that kept stateless residents from applying for Estonian citizenship: the level of difficulty of the citizenship exam, and the possibility to travel to Russia and other CIS countries visa free.
Following the entering into force of a 2008 Russian presidential decree on Aug. 17, stateless residents of Estonia born after February 1992 can no longer enter Russia without a visa. But as they all went to school in Estonia after the country’s re-independence, at least all those who finished their education should be able to pass the exam, Saar said.
The minister remarked that citizenship policy was in the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, while integration was with the Ministry of Culture. According to Saar, his ministry has already taken up the subject and made the suggestion that they should work together to find a way to motivate stateless residents between the age of 15 and 24 to apply for Estonian citizenship.
Such a step was in the interest of Estonia, Saar said, as citizenship increased the connection between the state and the individual. All those who lived here permanently, regarded Estonia their home country, and wished to be a part of Estonian society should be Estonian citizens, he added.
The changes to the citizenship law that entered into force this year followed the same idea, Saar said. Applying for citizenship has been made simpler, double citizenship for minors allowed in some cases, and automatic citizenship for all children born in Estonia to stateless residents guaranteed.
According to the Police and Border Guard Board, 743 minors have been granted Estonian citizenship this year. They also state that there are 1,203 stateless residents under 24 that could apply for Estonian citizenship. “These youth are our own,” Saar said. “It’s my wish that these 1,203 would become Estonian citizens.”
Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said on Wednesday that there are ways for anyone who would like to become a citizen. He also pointed to the fact that the number of stateless residents has been decreasing for years. “The more people decide to take on Estonian citizenship, the better most importantly for them, as they live here, wish to participate in everyday life, and enjoy the advantages that all Estonian citizens have, for example connected to travel,” Pevkur said.