EU turns blind eye to Baltic apartheid

Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority population will be alienated further after parliament turned down an amendment to the Citizenship Law, which would have naturalised children of non-citizens born in Estonia. The Baltic state has a population of just und

In all, 400,000 Russians live in Estonia. Most of them have to pass tests in Estonian at their workplaces. If they fail – they will be fined or even fired.

“You always feel scared because they could come and check your Estonian at anytime. It's terrible. We actually do not speak too much in Estonian; society here is ethnically divided: Russians associate with Russians, Estonians with Estonians and never with Russians,” says Tatyana Gordeeva Russian in Estonia

After gaining independence in the 1990s, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania passed a series of laws to promote their languages putting in place strict requirements for naturalization and citizenship.

The rights of Russians in Estonia are being violated and some people believe the current Estonia is less democratic than the Soviet Estonian republic was.

“In Estonia there is an apartheid regime. Now it is obvious that there is no more integration. It is the EU that is guilty as they took Estonia as a member of the EU. They are misinformed and  need to force more critics towards Estonia,” says Finnish journalist Leena Hietanen who worked in Tallinn for years and wrote a book “Estonian cold war”.

Many teachers aged between 30 and 70 in Russian schools may lose their jobs as Russian teachers often fail to meet new language standards.

“We all can communicate in Estonian in our every day life but these exams are nothing to do with the real needs of Russians living in Estonia. They are formal. We did not learn Estonian in the USSR while there were many opportunities for every citizen to learn Russian. Now we lack the right to choose. We are forced to pass these exams,” complains Mariam Rannak, Maardu Russian school director.

Estonian officials say new amendments which have been in force since July 2008 would not push everybody to reset Estonian automatically.

“If an employer is happy with their staff there will be no need for extra exams. Those who passed the exams before July 1999 will just need to confirm their knowledge,” insists deputy secretary general of Estonian education and research ministry Katri Raik.

Estonia and other Baltic states entered the EU in 2004. Brussels has on several occasions recognised that the human rights of the Russian minority have been violated. But up to the present day, after 17 years of independence, Russians in Estonia still do not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as ordinary Estonians.