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Estonia: Council Of Europe Calls For Quicker Naturalization

Tallinn, 20 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer has called on Estonia to speed up its naturalization processs, as more than one in 10 people in the country still have no citizenship 12 years after Estonia broke away from the Soviet Union. Schwimmer said in a speech in Tallinn to mark the 10th anniversary of Estonia's membership in the Council of Europe that "Estonia should continue efforts to increase the rate of naturalization of the large non-Estonian minority."

Approximately 170,000 of Estonia's 1.4 million population are stateless, most of them Russians who used to be Soviet citizens but have not become citizens of Estonia, Russia, or any other country.

During the 50-year occupation of Estonia by the Soviet Union, which ended in 1991, the Soviet authorities resettled thousands of Russians to Estonia.