Recommendations by people from 25 different countries focus on such policy areas as employment, education, access to public services, participation in the local community and policy-making processes, cultural diversity and learning Estonian. The objectives of the project were to include third-country nationals living in Estonia in decision-making processes and to garner recommendations contributing to the development of the national Strategy on Integration and Social Cohesion and its implementation plan.
“Several challenges remain in the field of integration – it’s impossible to single out one major problem or recommendation,†said Praxis analyst Maiu Uus, one of the organizers of the process, commenting on the results of the debates. “The most important result was getting confirmation that integration is a shared responsibility and that the success of the new strategy depends on the success of the cooperation between ministries and state offices. The recommendations presented in the report will help experts in various fields develop activities in the coming years.â€
The debates at the open forums were constructive, lively and mostly focused on positives, as the main objective was to work on finding solutions. “There’s no reason to think that this part of the population consists of extremists or that they’re highly critical,†said Uus, adding that there is clear consensus regarding the new direction of the development plan in focussing more on joint activities that bring together different national groups.
“It was clearly visible from all of the debates that access to information is a problem for both ethnic Russian speakers who’ve lived here longer and newly arrived immigrants,†explained Kristina Kallas from the Institute of Baltic Studies. “It’s often been mentioned how the Russian-speaking population lives in a different infosphere compared to Estonians, but now it’s become clear that newly arrived English-speaking immigrants aren’t well informed about daily life in Estonia either.â€
A number of key issues were also raised in regard to how informed people are. For example, those taking part in the debates remain concerned not only about the varying quality of language teaching, but also the availability (or rather lack) of language practice opportunities and language courses, particularly outside of Tallinn and Tartu. Representatives of both the Russian-speaking and new immigrant groups also highlighted ostracism by Estonians as a problem area, which often manifests itself in direct or indirect discrimination.
As in previous surveys, the foreigners who participated in the Russian- and English-language debates considered it important that Estonia’s laws be made available to them in a language they understand. “In that respect it’s disappointing that the proposal in the Riigikogu yesterday to have the country’s laws translated into Russian didn’t make it beyond a first reading after just 40 minutes of discussion,†analysts remarked.
Among other things, the report highlights that the expectations of the target group of a reduction in bureaucracy are high and that proposals in this area touch on the quality of the provision of service at Citizenship and Migration Board offices.
The largest group taking part in the debates in Tallinn, Tartu and Ida-Viru County was Russian citizens, while the number of American citizens was proportionally larger and the number of stateless citizens proportionally smaller than their overall representation among the population.
The organizers of the Open Forums on Integration and the authors of the final report are the politically independent organisations the Praxis Center for Policy Studies and the Institute of Baltic Studies (IBS). The project is being funded by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, the Ministry of Culture and the ‘Our People’ Integration and Migration Foundation (MISA).

Report in Estonian Report in Russian Report in English