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The amended law on the language which took effect in Estonia on Thursday envisages that the Estonian language is an official language which shall be spoken not only by state employees and private personnel offering services to the population, but by representatives of commercial and non-commercial structures and entrepreneurs doing business on their own.
The requirements for applicants passing a qualification test are to be established by the government. Qualification exams are not to be taken by people who were educated in secondary schools in Estonia even if the education was not completed, i. e. people who are ethnic Estonians, and a few representatives of the Russian-speaking population.
The overall Russian -speaking population needs at least 40 million crones or over three million dollars to pass a qualification test. Payments are charged in the form of a fee worth 150 crones charged each non-ethnic Estonian for a qualification test, plus 50 crones extra charged for a certificate issued to the applicant who has passed the qualification test.
These amendments debated by the Estonian parliament in February were criticised by deputies of the Russian faction only. MP Sergei Ivanov believes that the amendments to the law on the language give way to arbitrariness among officialdom.
The minority of the Russian parliamentarians defeated during the vote appealed to Estonian President Lennart Meri, asking not to enact the law since it offers a loophole for discrimination on language grounds and actually,imposes a ban on jobs for people who do not have a good enough command of the Estonian language.
Nevertheless, the parliamentary majority and the president have ignored both these recommendations and a negative opinion of the suggested amendments expressed by the OSCE Commissioner for affairs of ethnic minorities, Max Van der Stoel.
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