Estonia scores 50/100, in line with the average score of MIPEX country (49). Estonian integration policies create as many obstacles as opportunities for integration. Estonia promotes a comprehensive approach to integration, but only goes halfway to actually guarantee equal rights, opportunities and security for immigrants. Estonia employs an approach that it is similar to the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries, but its policies still involve many more obstacles and less targeted support. Over the last five years, Estonia has increased its support on access to rights, equal opportunities, and long-term settlement for immigrants. Despite this, Estonia needs to invest more on all the three dimensions, especially to guarantee immigrants with the same basic rights as Estonian citizens. Access to basic rights for immigrants is weaker in Estonia than on average in MIPEX.
Estonia’s policies matter because they influence whether or not integration works as a two-way process. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Estonia’s current policies do not encourage the public to see immigrants as their neighbours and their equals. Gaps in Estonia’s health and integration policies can have major and direct implications for immigrants’ physical and mental health. The fact that Estonia denies immigrants the opportunity to be heard by politicians means that they are less likely to not only vote, but also to contribute to improving public life and attitudes. Its restrictive citizenship policies are the main factor behind its low naturalisation rate, the lowest in the EU. All of these weaknesses make newcomers and locals less likely to develop relationships, positive attitudes about each other and a common sense of belonging, trust and civic participation.
Internationally, the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries treat immigrants as equals, neighbours and potential citizens, and invest in integration as a two-way process for society. Under these inclusive policies, both immigrants and the public are more likely to interact together and think of each other as equals. Inclusive policies not only reinforce positive attitudes and interactions between the public and immigrants, but also create an overall sense of belonging and well-being and trust.
Estonia’s comprehensive approach to integration is more advanced than policies in the other Baltic states (i.e. Latvia and Lithuania) or in any other country in Central and Eastern Europe. Estonia’s comprehensive but minimum approach is most similar to the policies in Czechia.
- Labour market mobility: Slightly favourable: Migrant workers face some barriers in the access to employment and self-employment, but they enjoy equal access to higher education and vocational training, targeted measures and equal access to social security and assistance.
- Family reunification: Slightly favourable: Estonia generally guarantees equal treatment for Estonian and non-EU families, especially thanks to improvements introduced since 2016.
- Education: Slightly favourable: Estonia leads Baltics and Central Europe by responding to the diverse needs and opportunities of pupils speaking different languages.
- Health: Slightly unfavourable: Migrant patients benefit from limited entitlements and some basic information about general health services., These services receive hardly any support to become more responsive to migrant patients' specific health needs or barriers, a problem across the Baltics and Central Europe.
- Political participation: Unfavourable: Non-EU citizens have the local right to vote (with some restrictions) but they are discouraged from broader participation due to limited support and opportunities.
- Permanent residence: Slightly favourable: Non-EU citizens enjoy slightly favourable chances to become long-term residents with a secure future and equal rights to participate. Their opportunities for long-term residents provide them some of their best chances at integration in the country.
- Access to nationality: Unfavourable: Naturalisation is more restrictive in Estonia than in nearly all other developed democracies. A rights-based procedure and dual nationality for Estonian-born and foreigners meeting the requirements would build a common sense of belonging and trust and boost integration outcomes.
- Anti-discrimination: Halfway favourable: The legal protections and support for victims of discrimination in Estonia are weaker than in any other EU country, which can undermine awareness, reporting and trust among potential victims