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Intercultural Dialogue Europe



Major Challenges 

Relations between Estonians and Russians (existence of parallel society where 1/3 of the population speak Russian, but not Estonian). Fear of Estonians to loose identity and own values, or become minority ("statistical genocide"). Further strengthening of civil society.

Main Interpretations

Strong affirmation of Estonia as a multicultural society, principles of cultural pluralism, aiming at social cohesion.

1. General authority

No general authority, but coordination role of the

Minister for Population and Ethnic Affairs (without Portfolio) as part of the State Chancellery

Responsible for the elaboration of the National Action Plan (NAP).

POLICIES: The NAP Integration in Estonian Society 2000/2007 aims at enhancing the (mainly Russian speaking) minorities' capacity to integrate into Estonian society. Two main objectives: social harmonisation of society (focussing on citizenship, language training and education) and the maintenance of ethnic differences (cultural rights of ethnic minorities); the new programme 2008-2013 will pay greater attention to socio-economic integration.

Non-Estonians' Integration Foundation

Responsible for the implementation - with most ministries involved - of the NAP.

EYID-coordination body:

Open Estonia Foundation

National implementation strategy: (http://ec.europa.eu/culture/eac/dialogue/strategies_en.html)

2.  Culture

Ministry of Culture

Providing regular support for NGOs dealing with minority cultures. The Law on Cultural Autonomy enables minorities to create representative boards responsible for cultural activities of the minority group.


  • Support for proactive measures to guarantee cultural diversity, e.g. ensuring professional successors to the Estonian Russian Theatre including: 12 students to study in the Moscow Art Academy, publication of cultural magazines in Russian, small Russian theatres in Estonia etc.
  • Setomaa Cultural Programme, initiated in 2003: an ongoing national programme aiming to support the cultural activity of Seto people (South-Estonian language minority who have strong traditions and feelings of identity).

3. Education

Schools operate in Esto­nian, Russian (and sign language). Russian schools are expected to gradually enhance the share of teaching in Estonian to 60% of the curricula. Mixed Estonian-Russian schools are in rapid decrease.

Ministry of Education and Research

Intercultural education is part of the school teaching plan (within civic education). Universities offer students from non-Estonian language schools the opportunity to spend one additional year studying the Estonian language and culture.

4. Youth

Ministry of Education and Research (see above)

Civil Society (EX):

Active Estonian Youth (TEN)

Strongly European oriented youth organization, international exchange programmes.

Estonian Debating Society

Estonian NGO of the Year 2004, coordinates debate forum. With about 700 members in secondary schools and universities, it is running events that further ICD. Their debate tournaments are open to all participants who can speak Estonian. Special "three-language tournaments" are held, where Estonian teams debate each other in Estonian, non-Estonian teams in Russian and when the two meet, English is used as a language of the debate to ensure equality.

PLUS: There are several other organizations e.g. the Open Republic Youth Association also working with non-Estonians.

5. Sports

Ministry of Culture (see above)

No related activity, the use of sport for integration is not yet developed.

6. Other domestic responsibilities of importance for ICD

President of the Republic's Roundtable on National Minorities

Aiming at the promotion of stability, dialogue and mutual understanding between different population groups residing in Estonia. In 1993, the President of the Republic instituted the Roundtable as a standing conference of representatives of ethnic minorities and stateless persons residing in Estonia and of political parties. Regular meetings take place on matters of political and public life, including societal, ethnic, economic and social-political issues, with a main focus on education and curricula.

Ministry of Social Affairs

POLICIES: Estonian National Report on Strategies for Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2006-2008. The preparation and monitoring of the report was realized with strong active participation of the target groups, i.e. NGOs and social partners which is considered as an example of best practice, increasing transparency and dialogue, thus leading to a stronger identification of the population with political goals and public programmes.

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

Ministry of Internal Affairs

PLUS: EU funded research programmes in multiculturalism have been co-funded with Estonian resources. Project funded under the EU PHARE programme Language Training and Teaching in Estonian for Non-Estonian Speakers (with students from abroad staying with local families).

7. Trans-border / International ICD programmes

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Over 40 cultural co-operation agreements, set up in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and Research.