Rene van der Linden, the president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has told Estonia that it needs to speed up the rate of adoption of Estonian citizenship by the ~115,000 Estonian residents that remain stateless as of this year.
As much as I dislike van der Linden's glasses, tie, haircut, name, and ... well, just about everything about him, and wouldn't cry too much if he slipped on some Filet Americain and fell down a wormhole in time from which his Muscovite friends could never pull him out, he has a point.
His point is that given current rates of citizenship adoption, it could take 20 years until the last babushka in Sillamäe gets her navy blue passport embossed with the three blue lions of the seal of the Republic of Estonia. One must also wonder if Estonia's current citizenship laws leave people feeling more alienated from the republic rather than more "with it."
Foreign Minister Urmas Paet says Estonia shouldn't force its citizenship on anyone. He's right in that regard too. Imagine if Estonia had given citizenship to everyone that was in Estonia in 1991. That would mean that some guy who a) came to Estonia in 1989 and b) left Estonia for Australia [illegally] in 1992 would be the property of the Estonian embassy in Sydney. That, dear friends, would be really dumb.
Next year Mihkail Margelov (right) will probably take over as president of PACE. Nagu van der Linden, Margelov on tropp. Whereas I would not cry if van der Linden disappeared into a wormhole, with Margelov I would not shed a tear should the gel in his hair catch on fire, causing the rest of his body to spontaneously combust. While the smell would no doubt be nauseating, it would oddly smell better that the nonsense that is certain to erupt from his mouth as head of PACE.
But that is Estonia isn't it? Stuck between Filet Americain and a Borsch heart attack. I could see one way Estonia could speed up citizenship -- it could make the constitution part of the citizenship test available in all languages cited in its Law on Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities -- Swedish, Russian, and German. One could add Finnish too, as Ingrian Finns have set up a cultural autonomy in Estonia.
Oh, what a huge concession, I know. Tests on constitutions are difficult as it is. But this would send a message to PACE. That message. There are other minorities in Estonia. Other minorities, like Estonian Swedes, who are far smaller and at a far greater risk of losing their culture and language, unlike the Russian Estonians who are not at a similar risk. So why should one minority be protected more than any other? Also, isn't school reform taking care of the lack of Estonian fluency in Estonia? So why should Estonia bother with the 'carrot-stick' approach when it comes to citizenship?
I really don't think this concession will result in an avalanche of citizenship acquisition. Some don't even want citizenship because, for example, they want to be exempt from army service. But if it does help more people get citizenship fine. The more people that are tuned into the process, the less perhaps they'll listen to people like Mihkail Margelov and Rene van der Linden.
And believe me, I will be so very glad when they shut up.