ECRI 5th report on Estonia (excerpts on integration), 2015



Estonia also conducted an integration programme over the period 2008-2013. The programme covered the needs of all vulnerable groups with emphasis on the integration of Russian-speaking citizens and people of undetermined citizenship. The results of the census carried out in 2011 bear witness to the impact of this programme, in particular a decrease in the number of persons of undetermined citizenship.

The programme was not only officially assessed but independent research and studies were also carried out. As a result, adjustments were made to the way it was implemented over the years and many major problems still needing to be solved have been identified. On this basis Estonia has adopted a further integration programme covering the years up to 2020.


Lastly, under the new integration programme 2020, the authorities should launch an information campaign for the attention of Russian-speakers and persons of undetermined citizenship to encourage them to take part in this programme.*

* This recommendation will be subject to a process of interim follow-up by ECRI no later than two years after the publication of this report.


I. Common topics


4. Integration policies
– Integration policies up to 2013

57. Various national integration policies were pursued in Estonia in the periods 2000- 2007 and 2008-2013. According to the Estonian authorities, these integration policies are based on the principle of equal treatment and focus on all the target groups of interest to ECRI. As described in ECRI’s previous reports, these policies – in the educational and cultural, social and economic, and legal and political fields – sought primarily to improve proficiency in Estonian for those for whom it is not the mother tongue, reduce the percentage of persons with undetermined citizenship, and narrow the gap in terms of employment and income between employees from various ethnic groups. With regard to the resources deployed, ECRI notes that in total, Estonia set aside a little over €45 million for its 2008-2013 integration strategy.

58. The most recent census, carried out in 2011, provides valuable information on the characteristics of the population targeted by these integration policies. According to this census,28 as at 31 December 2011, the population of Estonia stood at 1 294 455 persons, 29 24% of whom were of foreign origin (12% first generation, 8% second generation and 4% third generation). Concerning the use of Estonian, only 30% of the first generation foreign population, the average age of whom is over 60, are proficient in Estonian, compared with roughly 60% for the second and third generations. With regard to citizenship, the 2011 census shows that the rate of people with undetermined citizenship stood at less than 7% of the total population (i.e. 84 494 persons), whereas this same rate stood at 12% in 2000. Those holding Russian citizenship accounted for 7% of the overall population (89 913 persons).


29 This number stood at 1 312 300 as at 1 January 2015.

– The results of these policies

59. ECRI is of the opinion that the implementation of the Integration Strategy 2008- 2013 has produced noteworthy effects. It bases this assessment on a variety of studies. In 2011, at the request of the Ministry of Culture, the Political Studies Centre PRAXIS, the University of Tartu and EMOR (a company specialising in social research) carried out a study which indicated that progress had been made in all the objectives of the 2008-2013 policy. The only exception would appear to be the differences, which had slightly increased, between the employment remuneration rates of the various ethnic groups. These conclusions were confirmed by an evaluation, carried out by the Estonian authorities in 2014, of the implementation of the integration policy, which showed that achieving the objectives of the socio-economic dimension had suffered from the crisis which began in 2009. Lastly, ECRI notes that the data from the 2011 census (see § 58) clearly showed that the number of people with undetermined citizenship had fallen and that the number of people able to express themselves in Estonian had increased. Progress in both these areas were key objectives of the 2008-2013 integration strategy. 60. However, a more detailed analysis is necessary, as the issues surrounding integration, in ECRI’s view, go far beyond the substance of successive Estonian integration strategies. Such an analysis could draw on the detailed recommendations which ECRI made in the 4th cycle, in particular with regard to: language policies; consultation of organisations representing vulnerable groups, and especially the Russian-speaking minority, over implementation of the integration policy appropriate to their situation; support for teachers and schools in the transition to having 60% of subjects taught in Estonian for the higher secondary education cycle; conditions for being granted citizenship; equal treatment and reduction of inequalities in the employment field; the situation of the Roma; and the lack of data on equality.


72. ECRI notes that various initiatives have been carried in connection with equal treatment. These are a “Campaign to raise awareness of equal treatment and promote tolerance”, launched in 2009 which was evaluated in 2011, the “Improving awareness of equal treatment” project run in 2010 and 2011, the “Equal treatment in the workplace” project run in 2012, and the regular “Diversity enriches” campaigns run by the Tallinn University of Technology.46 However, according to a detailed analysis carried out by the Institute of Baltic Studies and the Institute of International and Social Studies in the University of Tallinn, a number of worrying points remain: there is a significant discrepancy between the general public’s perception of equal treatment and its legal definition; public sector officials have poor awareness of the role they should be playing in promoting equal treatment and they tend to evaluate equal treatment cases based on their own intuitive understanding of the problem;47 Russian speakers were more apt to feel discriminated against;48 and lastly, the legal obligation placed on employers to promote the principle of equal treatment was generally not widely known, nor the fact that it also applied to the private sector.49 ECRI notes that the consequence of this situation is that a significant number of Russian speakers feel excluded from Estonian society and have developed a reaction ranging from a growing feeling of social uselessness and resignation, through an attitude of passive resistance resulting in the unwillingness to learn Estonian or apply for citizenship, to the wish to leave Estonia.50


47 Kallas et al. 2013: p. 40.

48 Kallas et al. 2013: p. 42.

49 Kallas et al. 2013: p. 40.

50 Kallas et al. 2013: p. 45


– The new integration policy adopted in December 2014

78. Estonia has regularly carried out interim evaluations of its successive strategies (in 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008). In 2014, the authorities carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the 2008-2013 integration policy. They acknowledged the difficulties inherent in the transition to 60% of subjects to be taught in Estonian in upper secondary schools, the wage gaps between Estonians and other ethnic groups, the slowing down of the process for acquiring Estonian nationality and the need to take into account the specific features of the different target groups.

79. Accordingly, in December 2014, Estonia adopted a new integration policy following intense consultations at national level, involving about 1 300 persons. The results of the consultation process were presented at a discussion day held in May 2013. A special website54 in Estonian, Russian and English was created to gather working materials and inputs, and to provide information to the public. Summaries of the discussions are publically available on the Internet. 55 Covering the period up to 2020, the new integration policy addresses the main shortcomings referred to above. The integration process will no longer be seen as a bilateral process, but as a multilateral effort involving all components of society. For example, language courses will place a greater emphasis on exchanges, in particular to increase contacts between the various components of Estonian society. Cultural diversity will be recognised and promoted, for example by introducing multilingualism in the cultural institutions open to the public. The services providing assistance in finding employment will be reorganised so as to take greater account of individual needs in order to help people from different cultural and language backgrounds find a job. The new policy will also cover newly arrived immigrants as a separate target group with specific measures.


55 and

80. ECRI recommends that the authorities take advantage of the launch of the 2020 integration strategy to run an information campaign for all vulnerable groups, and in particular the Russian-speaking minority and/or persons of undetermined citizenship, placing the emphasis on the fact that the state believes that each of these groups should integrate fully into Estonian society and that they are welcome there.

81. ECRI also hopes that the new approach will afford the authorities the opportunity to correct a major policy problem. According to the Estonian authorities, integration policies should offer a package of measures which would apply to all the persons concerned, rather than framing policies specific to particular vulnerable groups. ECRI can understand the Estonian state’s wish to devise an overall strategy and thereby ensure equal treatment for all citizens and residents, but bearing in mind that each vulnerable group has its own individual needs, ECRI believes that this approach is incompatible with the development of specific action plans. ECRI refers in this connection to the terms of its GPR No. 7, paragraph 5 of which stipulates that the law should provide that special measures may be taken, without these being considered as discrimination, so as to facilitate full participation in all areas of life. ECRI considers, mutatis mutandis, that such provisions should be taken with regard to the implementation of integration strategies.

82. ECRI recommends that the authorities divide the 2020 integration strategy into specific action plans for each vulnerable group concerned, ensuring that they consult the representatives of these groups in identifying the problems encountered, defining the specific objectives to be achieved and in the monitoring of the implementation of these specific action plans.



The two specific recommendations for which ECRI requests priority implementation from the authorities of Estonia are the following:


– ECRI recommends that the authorities take advantage of the launch of the 2020 integration strategy to run an information campaign for all vulnerable groups, and in particular the Russian-speaking minority and/or persons of undetermined citizenship, placing the emphasis on the fact that the state believes that each of these groups should integrate fully into Estonian society and that they are welcome there.

A process of interim follow-up for these two recommendations will be conducted by ECRI no later than two years following the publication of this report.

Document data: CRI(201 5)36 Adopted 16.06.2015, public 13.10.2015. Link: Also available in French and Estonian

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