Prime Minsiter Jüri Ratas on Wednesday rejected criticism concerning his proposal to grant Estonian citizenship to everyone who has lived in the country for at least 25 years, saying that it wouldn't mean introducing a zero-option citizenship law and stressing that currently stateless residents would still have to fulfill the loyalty requirement set out in Estonia's Citizenship Act.
"I have definitely not said that this is about zero-option," Ratas told lawmakers during Wednesday's dedicated Question Time in the Riigikogu. "I am committed to Article 6 of the Citizenship Act and do not question any of its provisions."
Under Article 6 of Estonia's Citizenship Act, an alien who wishes to acquire Estonian citizenship must be of at least 15 years of age, hold a long-term residence permit or the right of permanent residence, must have lived in Estonia for at least eight years on the basis of a residence permit or by right of residence, five years of which must have been on a permanent basis, be proficient in the Estonian language in accordance with the requirements provided separately in the same law, have a registered place of residence in Estonia and be loyal to the Estonian state.
In a recent interview with Radio Svoboda, the Russian service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Ratas, the Prime Minister of Estonia and chairman of the Center Party, said that granting citizenship to everyone who has lived in Estonia for at least 25 years, or since 1991, will be one of the primary campaign points for the Center Party in the next elections.
Ratas told lawmakers on Wednesday, however, that the Center Party would not support a zero-option citizenship law if this were to be proposed by another political party.
He said that his proposal had had been prompted by the need to increase cohesion in Estonian society. Commenting on the timing of the proposal, Ratas added that it is better to discuss the matter two years before general elections than immediately before them.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla