European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)

Fourth report on Estonia [en] - [fr] - [ee]


Press Release – 02.03.2010

Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission publishes new report on Estonia

Strasbourg, 02.03.2010 – The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today published a new report on Estonia, examining racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in this country. ECRI’s Chair, Nils Muiznieks acknowledged that there had been improvements, but also expressed concern about the large number of stateless persons, the limited contact between Russian speakers and Estonians, high unemployment among minority groups and discrimination against Roma.

As regards positive developments, the 2008 Equal Treatment Act provides a sound framework for combating racism and related forms of discrimination in number of areas, such as employment, education, housing and social protection. The Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner has been charged with monitoring compliance with this Act.

The Estonian Integration Strategy 2008-2013 contains a number of valuable goals to address issues of concern to Russian-speaking minorities and stateless persons. These include providing Estonian language lessons, combating inequalities between Russians and Estonians in the employment sector, reducing the number of stateless persons as well as preserving the culture and identity of ethnic minorities.

Measures have been taken regarding Holocaust education and remembrance and teachers have been provided with pedagogical tools in this respect.

At the same time, the number of stateless persons, while gradually decreasing, is still as high as 8% of the population. The naturalisation process is still hampered by too stringent language and other requirements. It is important that dialogue be maintained between the authorities and persons without citizenship on the measures to be taken.

Contacts between the Russian-speaking minorities and Estonians are still too limited and the multicultural component of education should be developed further in order to bridge the gap between these communities. The transition to an education system capable of producing fluent Estonian speakers needs to be accompanied by additional training of teachers in Russian speaking schools. It requires the continuous involvement of both teachers and the Russian-speaker parents’ associations.

The unemployment rate among minority groups remains twice as high as for Estonians. There is still no adequate monitoring of the Language Inspectorate’s powers to assess employees’ language competence in the public and private employment sectors.

Roma are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, stereotypes and prejudice. In the field of education, Roma pupils are far more likely to drop out of school and they continue to be overrepresented in schools for mentally disabled children.

Judges and prosecutors are not sufficiently familiar with the criminal and civil provisions relating to racism and related forms of discrimination. There is no independent body to investigate allegations of ill-treatment by the police. Sufficient resources would also be needed for the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commission.

In its report, ECRI has made a number of recommendations, three of which require priority implementation and will be revisited by ECRI in two years’ time:

  • Ensure the quality of education offered to Russian-speaking children, for example by providing more training for Russian-speaking school teachers;
  • Reduce the number of persons without citizenship;
  • Tackle the undue placement of Roma children in special schools and ensure their reintegration in mainstream schools.

The report, including Government observations, is available on www.coe.int/ecri.

ECRI is an independent human rights body of the Council of Europe which monitors problems of racism and intolerance, prepares reports and issues recommendations to member states.