TALLIN, October 8 (RIA Novosti) - The Estonian opposition Center Party proposed an amendment to the Estonian law on citizenship on Wednesday, allowing anyone born in Estonia or arriving in the country before it regained independence in 1991 to receive Estonian citizenship without the need to pass any citizenship exams.
According to Center Party member Mikhail Stalnukhin the amendment would help solve the grave situation where thousands of the people living in Estonia are considered non-citizens. "It is regrettable that tens of thousands of people in Estonia, living here for decades, have not become citizens yet. They have had children and grandchildren in Estonia, they have spent all their lives here. But, alas, we do not accept them before they pass various exams and receive certificates," Stalnukhin was quoted as saying, by the Estonian Delfi news portal.
After regaining its independence in 1991, Estonia granted citizenship only to those who had lived (or whose parents had lived) in the country before 1940. All other applicants were able to acquire Estonian citizenship through naturalization. They needed to pass an oral and written examination, testing their knowledge of Estonian and to answer questions in Estonian on the fundamentals of the country's Constitution and the law on citizenship.
The population of Estonia currently stands at about 1,3 million and about 84 percent of them hold Estonian citizenship. However, more than 100,000 people in Estonia hold Russian citizenship and another 90,000 are stateless. Moscow and international organizations have repeatedly criticized Estonia for not solving the situation with non-citizens.