Estonia will not revoke Russian, Belarusian citizens' residence permits

The bridge in Narva connecting Estonia and Russia.
The bridge in Narva connecting Estonia and Russia. Source: ERR

Estonia is not planning to follow Lithuania and Latvia's lead and cancel residence permits for thousands of Russians and Belarusians.

Last week, Lithuanian authorities said 910 Belarusan citizens and 254 Russian citizens will not be able to renew or claim residency permits or visas. This follows the introduction of a mandatory survey testing people's values. It includes a question asking who Crimea belongs too.

Latvia will ask between 5,000-6,000 Russian citizens who have made little attempt to integrate and have not learned Latvian to leave the country next month.

Both countries say these people are a threat to national security.

But Estonia is not planning similar measures Minister of Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) told ERR on Monday.

Lauri Läänemets. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"We haven't discussed this proposal as such, that we would not make any questionnaires. It actually does not give any real picture of the people who might pose a threat. These people are very good at lying and putting down what we want to hear or see on the form," the minister said.

He pointed out language skills are already a requirement for renewing residency permits and obtaining permanent residency. Exceptions already exist for the elderly and those who studied in Estonian schools.

No language requirements changes are planned either, he said.

Läänemets emphasized that people with pro-Russian views who are a threat to Estonia's security will be found by the Internal Security Service (Kaitsepolitsei).

But former foreign minister and MP Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said foreigners living in Estonia could be questioned about their views.

Urmas Reinsalu. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"It is perfectly rational to carry it out in Estonia. It is a question of people's fundamental mindset and stronger fundamental values. People are entitled to their opinions, but the question is whether every opinion and every attitude justifies the privilege of an Estonian residence permit," he said.

Member of European Parliament Yana Toom (Center) criticized Latvia and Lithuania's plans.

"A person has lived in the country for 30 years. They have a permanent residence permit. When this permit was issued, the conditions were met. They have not broken the law. Now they are asking you to go and take an exam," Toom said.

The politician said that approximately 18,000 Russian citizens in Latvia and added she does not believe a third of them will be asked to leave the country.

"Collective deportation is prohibited under international law. It would be a very big scandal. I understand that this announcement was made in order to motivate people somehow," Toom explained. "Now the government has played itself into a corner with these demands. They probably didn't expect that around 6,000 people wouldn't turn up at all [to take the language exam]."

Yana Toom Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

While Estonia does not plan to revoke residents' permits en masse, it has already revoked several belonging to people who were deemed to be security threats and handed them 10-year Schengen area bans.  


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Helen Wright

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: