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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: EU Enlargement  
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EDITIONS
EU Enlargement Tuesday, 10 March, 1998, 17:36 GMT
Estonia: country report
Estonia and its neighbours
The European Commission has recommended that negotiations to join the Union should begin with Estonia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Cyprus.

The Commission's report on Estonia is summarised below.

Estonia presents the characteristics of a democracy, with stable institutions, guaranteeing the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. There are no major problems over respect for fundamental rights, but Estonia needs to take measures to accelerate naturalisation procedures to enable the Russian-speaking non-citizens to become better integrated into Estonian society. The traditional conceptual definition of 'minority' is of little use in the Estonian example, as the situation of non-nationals also needs to be taken into consideration.

Around 35% of the total population consists of minorities, the largest group of which are Russian. The minorities live mainly in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, and the north-eastern quarter of the country, where they account for up to 95% of the total population. The Soviet Union's policy of encouraging the settlement of Russian speakers in Estonia is largely responsible for the present situation.

The effectiveness of the police in Estonia has sometimes been called into question given the rise in organised crime and corruption. Major efforts are currently being made to reorganise and modernise the force.

Almost 80% of the working population has higher secondary education or more. Enrolment rates are comparable to those of most European countries. One in ten pupils is at university and expertise is high in specific areas, such as mathematics and science.

Estonia can be regarded as a functioning market economy, and it should be able to make the necessary progress to cope with the competitive pressure and market forces within the Union in medium term.

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