Integration index: Estonian policies halfway favorable (3)
According to the migration and integration policy study MIPEX 2015, Estonian integration policies are among the best in central and eastern Europe, but eligibility for citizenship is still one of the most restrictive in the EU and beyond.
Migrant Integration Policy Index 2015 information for Estonia was released and the results presented to the Estonian Parliament today, June 5.
Out of 38 countries, Estonia ranks 22nd overall, just several points ahead of Latvia and Lithuania. "Estonian policies can be seen as halfway favorable," the report found.
The country is doing well in the categories of labor market mobility (8th out of 38), permanent residence (5) and education (10), but much worse in terms of access to nationality (37) and anti-discrimination policies (34). That is to say that although non-EU citizens benefit from slightly more developed set of employment rights and targeted support to pursue jobs and training in Estonia than in many other countries, it is harder for them to take the final step for total naturalization – acquire Estonian citizenship.
Estonia and Latvia have serious problems with citizenship, the report states. The recent amendments to the Citizenship Act are an important step to reduce the number of stateless people in Estonia, "but a missed opportunity to include new immigrants and their children." Estonia still has no facilitation for spouses of its nationals, as opposed to most other countries.
The report suggests that "A right-based procedure and dual nationality for Estonia-born and foreigners meeting the requirements may build a common sense of belonging and trust and boost integration outcomes."
The report also reveals that there is a slight majority in Estonia with anti-immigrant attitudes: around half of the people do not believe that Estonia is a welcoming country for immigrants.
According to the report, racial, ethnic and religious discrimination is reportedly as common in Estonia as in the EU on average, with 4.3 percent saying that they have been discriminated against or harassed on those grounds.
Similarly, for Estonian residents experiencing racial/ethnic, religious or nationality based discrimination, the legal protections and support are newer and still weaker than in other EU countries. Estonia was one of the last countries to implement EU anti-discrimination law in 2009 and although it has made progress since then, access to justice is still limited.
"The major challenge now is to create the inclusive conditions for all residents to participate, trust and interact with each other in democratic life," the report reads.