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Paet: Ensuring Protection of National Minorities and Promoting Their Cultures is Government’s Priority

09.06.2011

No. 409-E

While meeting today with High Commissioner for National Minorities of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Knut Vollebaek, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasised that ensuring the protection of national minorities and promoting their cultures is an important priority of the government of Estonia.

In talking about integration, Foreign Minister Paet said that the proportion of people with undetermined citizenship in Estonia has steadily decreased. “Reducing the number of people with undetermined citizenship has been an important priority of the government, and today the number has fallen to about 96 000 people,” Paet asserted. He added that Estonia plans to continue with its current citizenship policy, but the focus of integration is shifting more and more to young people, which is why the current reform of Russian-language upper secondary schools is so important. The foreign minister also noted that the requirements for acquiring Estonian citizenship are transparent and feasible. “This is convincingly demonstrated by the tens of thousands of people who have acquired citizenship,” said Paet.

Foreign Minister Paet also noted that it is the responsibility of the Estonian state to guarantee all children a good education, and preparations for the transition to partial Estonian-language instruction in Russian-language upper secondary schools have been going on for a long time. “Changes in the educational sector are necessary in order to ensure that all young people, regardless of ethnic background, receive a quality education and thereby have a more competitive position in the job market,” said Paet.

Paet and Vollebaek also discussed matters related to language legislation. The foreign minister emphasised that promoting the proper usage of the national language is in every nation’s best interest, and Estonia is no exception. “Language requirements for certain positions are justified and the work of the language inspectorate is transparent and legal,” Paet added.

While talking about developments in the world in general, Foreign Minister Paet noted that the abolition of Georgian-language education in Georgia’s occupied territories is cause for concern. The foreign minister added that this is one reason we consider it necessary to have an international presence in the region, including that of the OSCE.

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