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Minister Urve Palo replied to five interpellations, concerning the formation of the council of the Compatriots’ Programme (No 188), the perspective of the Office of the Minister for Population and Ethnic Affairs (No 189), citizenship policy (No 190), the situation of non-Estonians in labour market (No 191) and language training (No 192), submitted by members of the Estonian Centre Party Faction.

Answering the interpellation about citizenship policy, Palo said that the number of stateless people had been decreasing year by year. “If 32 per cent of the Estonian population had no citizenship in 1992, then the number of persons with undefined citizenship has dropped below 8 per cent in Estonia by today. So there has been a great progress,” the Minister evaluated the situation. At the end of February, there were 109 728 people with undefined citizenship in Estonia and 2774 of them were children of less than 15 years of age whose both parents have undefined citizenship. A total of 421 347 people of other nationalities live in Estonia and half of them have acquired Estonian citizenship by today, and half of the remaining 200 000 are citizens of other states, mostly citizens of the Russian Federation, and half are stateless. “In 2000–2003, the rate of naturalisation was four or five thousand people per year. 2004 and 2005 were exceptional as Estonia’s accession to the European Union increased people’s motivation to acquire citizenship,” noted Palo. The resolution made in summer 2006, according to which the status of stateless persons was declared to be equal to the status of persons who have a residence permit of a long-term resident in the European Union, and stateless persons can travel and work without visa in the European Union Member States, had a negative impact on citizenship motivation. “Applying for citizenship has been decreasing since then. People are pragmatic and they often base their decisions on what is necessary and useful, and this is understandable. The resolution adopted by the Russian Federation last year, to the effect that persons with undefined citizenship can travel to the Russian Federation without visa, also has a negative impact on applying for the Estonian citizenship, for pragmatic considerations,” stated Palo.

The Minister gave a statistical overview showing that, while an average of 50 people per month had applied for Estonian citizenship in the last quarter of 2008, the number has been 142 and 150, respectively, in January and February 2009. The number of persons with undefined citizenship decreased by a total of 353 persons in February.

The Minister of Justice Rein Lang replied to six interpellations, concerning legalisation of unilateral salary reduction (No 178), leniency programme (No 201), development objectives of criminal policy (No 202), legal translation (No 203), crime statistics (No 204) and SMS-loans (No 205), submitted by members of the Estonian Centre Party Faction.

The Minister of Internal Affairs Jüri Pihl replied to six interpellations, concerning the problems of border crossing in South-East Estonia and Ida-Virumaa (No 152), the security of pensioners (No 206), Kuressaare Rescue and Police House (No 207), alleged business interests of the Prime Minister (No 208), fines (No 209) and internal security (No 211), submitted by members of the Estonian Centre Party Faction, and the interpellation concerning the activities of the police in the Social Centre Volk (No 272), submitted by the Estonian Green Party Faction.

The Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts replied to nine interpellations submitted by members of the Estonian Centre Party Faction, concerning the Baltic Power Plant (No 147), the Residential Fund (No 165), Estonian Air (No 166), the possible change of administration of the Estonian energy policy and energy sector (No 228), combating cartel agreements (No 229), the Oil Shale Technology Development Centre (No 230), maintenance of roads in South-East Estonia (No 231), construction of a nuclear power station (No 232) and the development plan for fuel and energy sector (No 233).

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet replied to the interpellation concerning the problems of border crossing in South-East Estonia and Ida-Virumaa (No 153), submitted by members of the Estonian Centre Party Faction.

On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Identity Documents Act, the Consular Act, the Penal Code and the State Fees Act (395 SE), initiated by the Government, was excluded from the agenda for the working week.

The sitting ended at 10.06 p.m.

The Riigikogu Press Service