Cablegate: Estonia Offers Free Citizenship Courses


DE RUEHTL #0988 3071034
R 031034Z NOV 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary. The number of stateless people living in
Estonia has declined significantly since 1992. A new
program to provide citizenship training to non-citizens is
being jointly funded by the GOE and the EU. It will help
up to 10,000 more stateless people meet the qualifications
for citizenship. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has
pledged to increase by one third the 2006 budget of the
Non-Estonian Integration Foundation, which administers the
courses and conducts other work designed to integrate non-
citizens into Estonian society. End Summary.

2. (U) Since 1992, Estonian citizenship by naturalization
has been granted to about 140,000 people. Last November,
the number of those naturalized surpassed that of stateless
people, so-called "gray passport holders," who currently
make up approximately 9 percent of Estonia's population, or about
131,000 individuals. To become Estonian citizens, gray
passport holders must fulfill certain residency
requirements, earn an Estonian language lower-level
proficiency certificate, and pass a citizenship exam. As
the citizenship exam is given only in Estonian, poor
language skills present a significant obstacle to many
Russian speakers wishing to obtain citizenship.

3. (U) The Non-Estonians' Integration Foundation (NEIF) is
a GOE-founded and funded institution with the objective of
initiating, supporting, and coordinating projects aimed at
the integration of Estonian society. According to surveys
conducted by the NEIF, approximately 60 percent of the
remaining stateless people would like to acquire Estonian
citizenship. In response to these findings, last summer
the NEIF announced a joint 7.98 million EEK effort
(approximately USD $652,000) with the EU to offer free
nationwide citizenship courses. Training will be organized
for up to 10,000 people, including 3,000 school children
attending Russian language schools. A total of 80
instructors were trained and certified to teach the
courses. While instruction is mainly in Estonian,
instructors are equipped to switch back and forth between
Estonian and Russian to ensure classroom comprehension.
Starting on July 31, the NEIF began offering the course in
Tallinn, Johvi, Narva, and Tartu. To date, a total of
2,341 people have registered for the extended (25-hour) and
the abbreviated (5-hour) courses; 494 students have
completed the long course and 215 the short course. The
program also offers its graduates the opportunity to take
the citizenship exam at the different class sites each
week. Normally, the exam is only offered once a month at
the Examination and Qualification Centers in Tallinn,
Narva, Tartu, and Kohtla Jarve.

4. (U) Although many course attendees still lack
sufficient Estonian language skills to pass the citizenship
exam, the NEIF points out that in taking the initiative to
attend after-work classes, stateless people are
demonstrating their motivation and perseverance to become
Estonian citizens. A Political Section Assistant recently
attended one of the Tallinn classes and was encouraged by
the level of student participation and motivation he
witnessed. When asked, many students indicated that they
would also be interested in attending after-work Estonian
language courses if offered. (Note. Currently, those who
successfully obtain an Estonian language lower-level
proficiency certificate may apply to the Government for
reimbursement of the cost of the Estonian language classes
they took in preparation for the exam. The Government will
not, however, pre-pay for the classes. End Note.) The
citizenship project, which is scheduled to run through
August 2007, also includes an information campaign to
promote more citizenship applications. In recognition of
the effectiveness of the citizenship programs, the Ministry
of Education has pledged to increase the NEIF's 2006 budget
by one third, from 20 to 30 million Kroons, (approximately
from USD $1,634,000 to USD $2,451,000).


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