The Estonian Ministry of Culture has submitted to public consultation the draft of The Strategy of Integration and Social Cohesion in Estonia “Lõimuv Eesti 2020”. The strategy formulates Estonia’s aims and means in the field of integration for the next seven years.
According to Urve Tiidus, the Minister of Culture, Estonia has had a clearly defined policy of integration for the past 15 years, “As a society, we have become wiser during that time and the concept of integration has also evolved.” “While in mid-'90s we talked about integrating non-Estonians into the society, we now consider integration as a process of facilitating social cohesion that stems from the active participation of individuals in the society and the common values they share”, Tiidus notes.
The process of drawing up the strategy took almost one and a half years, involving many experts in the field and almost a thousand people via public consultations that took place all over Estonia. Anne-Ly Reimaa, the Undersecretary for Cultural Diversity in the Ministry of Culture, underlines that the new strategy aims to support initiatives that promote active involvement of people in the society. “We have prioritised supporting and strengthening the common communication sphere,” Reimaa adds.
The education system, activities targeting young people as well as the development of civil society have a vital role in facilitating integration. In order for all people living in Estonia to participate in the society, the State continues to support people in acquiring Estonian language skills, obtaining citizenship and the provision of information on practical matters. Societal participation is also facilitated by labour-market measures provided on an individual basis by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. As integration cuts through many policy fields, emphasis is put on strong coordination between the ministries responsible for the varied activities, but also between public, private and non-governmental organisations.
The strategy also brings more focus on newly arrived immigrants and their adaptation into the society. To facilitate this, services and support networks are developed and implemented. Measures aimed at newly arrived immigrants are overseen by the Ministry of Interior.
“Studies and the implementation of the Estonian Integration Strategy 2008–2013 have shown that people have different needs and expectations when in comes to integration. But what is important, is having contact and sharing experiences with others in the society. In order to aid people in having this common ground, we aim to support cultural establishments like museums, theatres and concert halls in providing their programme in a multitude of languages. We hope to bring Estonian culture closer to people with this novel type of “cultural immersion”, Reimaa concludes.
The Strategy of Integration and Social Cohesion in Estonia “Lõimuv Eesti 2020” follows the two former initiatives - the Estonian Integration Strategy 2008–2013 and the state programme “Integration in Estonian Society 2000-2007”. The planned budget of the strategy for the upcoming sever years is 32,5 million euros.