The Citizenship Policies of the Baltic States within the EU Framework on Minority Rights

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The ethnic landscape in the Baltic States is dominated by one large ethnic minority: Russians. Lithuania is an exception as here the first biggest ethnic minority are Poles, followed by Russians. The Baltic States have also significant Slavic minorities, such as Belarusians and Ukrainians. There are many barriers for people from different ethnic groups to overcome because the Baltic societies are segregated according to ethnicity across a number of dimensions: language, work and geography. During the Soviet period there were separate language schools, a system that reinforced ethnic separation. Labor market was also split along ethnic lines and a large proportion of ethnic minorities lived spatially segregated from the majority group and was concentrated mostly in urban centers. The impact of communist heritage and the construction of the post-communist state order had a negative impact on the integration process of the Russian minorities in those countries. The ethnic Russians had been heavily marginalized as many of them had no citizenship at all. As a result, they had limited access to labor-market and less social protection. However, the accession of the Baltic States to the European Union (EU) has succeeded in significantly changing policies with respect for and protection of minorities in the three Baltic countries. In the last years the ethnic Russians have in fact been partially accommodated through the consistency of the citizenship laws with the European Union norms, which precisely require the protection of minorities and respect for them. The aim of the study described herein is to investigate the historic roots of ethnic segregation between the native Baltic population and the Russian minority and show how the entry of the Baltic States into the EU has facilitated the process of promoting minority rights, especially from the perspective of granting citizenship right to Russian (and Polish) ethnic persons living in those countries.


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Cristina Carpinelli, is an expert of CEECs. She is a Scientific Committee Member of CeSPI (International Problems Study Centre of Milan). She is also a member of the Italian Association for History Studies on Central and Eastern Europe (AISSECO-Department of International Studies, University of Rome). Last published works: L’Unione Europea e le minoranze etniche. Case-Studies: Ungheria, Romania e Paesi Baltici (co-author: Massimo Congiu), CreateSpace-an Company, May 18, 2016; L’Europa dell’Est e i nuovi nazional-populismi. I casi polacco e ungherese (Co-author: Massimo Congiu), Bonomo Editore, Ottobre 2017.

Author: Aisseco

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