Culture minister: Citizenship rules must be relaxed (28)
Minister of Culture Indrek Saar (Social Democrat) said hurdles to getting Estonian citizenship should be loosened. Coalition partners are skeptical.
Citing a study commissioned by the ministry, Saar told ETV Estonians have become more tolerant and people of other ethnicities are considered to be part of the Estonian nation, adding that for those reasons, a wider debate on citizenship requirements is in order.
“If we look at the general attitude in society, then opinions on whether a multicultural society only has negative sides or also positive sides, have become more positive. From that, people are ready to debate over a simplified process for gaining citizenship.” Saar said.
He said citizenship would encourage people to become more active on the job market and strengthen ties with Estonia.
According to the study, language is the main obstacle in gaining Estonian citizenship. “Certainly we must evaluate how to motivate people who currently do not have a sufficient command of the Estonian language and are unable to pass the citizenship exam, to sit the exam or to study,” he said.
Martin Helme, EKRE Parliament faction head, said that making rules more flexible could open doors to new problems. “If we currently live with the problem of a probable wave of immigration from the south of European borders, then easing those language and citizenship requirements would also apply to the new immigrants, not only the Russian-era ones. And that is an active plan to dismantle the Estonian nation state and under no circumstances can we agree to this.”
Reform Party minister Jürgen Ligi said the government would not agree to relaxing requirements, while Center Party deputy head Enn Eesmaa said the idea for a debate is good, adding that he remains reserved on loosening the language requirements.
IRL's Mart Nutt said easing language requirements would equal dropping all language requirements, adding that in reality, many living in Estonia have little interest in getting citizenship. He added that those with an Estonian passport have to apply for a Russian visa while those without do not.