I  N  T  E  R  E  T  H  N  I  C
News archive of Center for Interethnic Cooperation
Back to the archive of CIC

Non-citizens of Estonia will become citizens of the EU

On Thursday the Russian-speaking population of Estonia went to the streets to protest against the disgraceful status of being a �non-citizen�. During the action, which was approved by the authorities, in the mainly Russian-speaking district of Tallin Lasnamyaz the logo of the most important Russian-speaking party (the United National Party) and a plaster cast of the �grey passport� were lifted on two balloons.

The protest action �The grey passport � a disgrace for Europe� was carried out mainly by young people. Today Estonia has 1.4 million inhabitants, among those about 150,000 people who do not have any citizenship or who possess the so-called �grey passports�. In neighboring Latvia there are even more �non-citizens� � 480,000, every fifth inhabitant there lacks basic human rights.

�These people, especially the young, feel aggrieved from a political, economical and moral point of view�, says Andrej Zarenkov, one of the organizers of the action. �They do not have the right to be elected for local or state authorities or to vote in parliamentary elections. They cannot work for state or city councils of the executive power, and even in the private sector they are asked about their citizenship, whereupon they are refused.�

After the three Baltic States joined the united Europe, the EU had to urgently develop a directive to legalize the status of this huge amount of �non-citizens�. They implemented the concept of the �permanent EU resident�. The non-citizens of Estonia can count on the automatic accordance of the status of a permanent EU resident thanks to the directive � 2003/109/EU. It was passed on November 25th 2005, and the EU countries, including Estonia, will implement it in their national legislation by January 23rd 2006.

The mentioned directive defines the status of citizens of third countries who live on the territory of the country in question for a longer period of time. All non-citizens of Estonia are in this category. The new status is essential for the non-citizens to work legally, to study and to live in another EU country for more than three months or visit without a visa (once Estonia joins the Schengen treaty). Additional advantages are the right to hand in petitions to the European Parliament and ombudsmen and in some cases the right to get official EU documents.

The directive was developed to bring the rights of non-citizens closer to the rights of citizens, to enable people to move freely within Europe and to make the labor-market more mobile. However, the directive makes it clear that citizens of third countries must not become a burden for the EU countries. Therefore claiming permanent EU resident status will have to prove that they have a stable income and enough money to support themselves and their relatives.

The directive states that the financial position does not determine the awarding of the status of a permanent EU resident. The main criteria is the length of legal residence in the country in question. According to the directive, five years residence is required before an application can be submitted. The claimant has to prove, however, that in this period of time he has already managed to settle in. Thus in these five years he should not be out of the country for more than ten months.

The countries can at their own discretion lay down one more condition for the awarding of the status of a permanent EU resident, the �accordance of a certain level of integration� (a possible cause of action for protectors of the national language).

The decision about awarding the status of citizens of a third country who are permanent residents should be taken by the local authorities not later than six months after the application was submitted.

The Estonian authorities do not hurry to fulfill the instructions of the EU leadership. According to Andrej Zarenkov, the question about the rights of �non-citizens� remains unsettled, although the EU and the Council of Europe have already criticized Tallin. �The presence of people without citizenship in Estonia � that is a real disgrace for Europe�, stated one of the organizers of the action.

As the director of the Institute of European Rights Mark Entin says, �in theory the directive has already come into force, but it is worth considering that every EU country has two years to adapt it to local circumstances and include it in the legislation. After January 23rd 2006 every person residing in the EU will, in accordance with EU law, be able to challenge in usual legal form the actions of the authorities which are contradicting the directive. At the same time, concerning the conditions the directive keeps a certain liberty for the countries.


Source: gazeta.ru

� 1993-2003

If you have some interesting information about interethnic situation in your region or about activity of your organisation, we would be glad to post it on our website [email protected]