Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 134

Estonia has opened the door to permanent residency for most of the non-native, non-citizen Russian population. Under a legislative amendment approved by parliament, new rules for granting permanent residency permits took effect yesterday. Holders of temporary residency permits are now entitled to receive permanent residency permits if they have lived in Estonia for at least three years (at the date of application) with both a legal domicile and source of income. Only Russian military personnel and felons convicted to a year or more in prison are excluded. The application tax is symbolic and may be waived. Permanent residents have the right to practice any occupation and enjoy full social benefits.

Approximately 250,000 of Estonia’s 300,000 temporary residents are eligible for permanent residency under the new rules. Those eligible include the approximately 100,000 Russians who have already opted for and received Russian citizenship but chose to stay in Estonia. In all, approximately one-half of Estonia’s non-native Russian population is now being offered permanent residency. The country’s total population is approximately 1.5 million, an estimated 40 percent of whom are Russians/”Russian-speakers” as a result of organized settlement during the Soviet era.

Under Estonia’s citizenship law, all those born in Estonia before the Soviet occupation and their descendants are citizens, regardless of ethnicity. In 1995 and thereafter, the country granted temporary residency permits to non-citizens. That in itself represented a significant concession to the settler population, and implicitly so to Moscow, which failed to acknowledge it. Most permits are for five years, expiring in 2000 or shortly thereafter, with no initial commitment by the Estonian state to renew, let alone upgrade, that status. The state is now offering the upgrade, and doing so well ahead of the expiration of the term. (BNS, Russian agencies, July 7 through 13)