The Estonian city of Narva is located near the Russian border and counts with a large Russian population, Source: Depositphotos

Estonia mulls limiting access to property market for non-EU citizens due to security concerns

Estonia mulls limiting access to property market for non-EU citizens due to security concerns

Many Russians own houses in the border regions of the Baltic country and this now creates a sense of unease

Estonia has already decided not to issue tourist visas to Russian citizens, however, there’s a new security concern related to the Baltic country’s eastern neighbour – the property rights of Russians in Estonia. In response, Veiko Kommusaar, the Deputy Chancellor of the Estonian Ministry of the Interior, has put forward the idea of limiting the possibility for non-EU citizens to buy property there.

In Estonia, Russian citizens have 41,351 properties, and Belarusian citizens have 919. Most have one apartment, but the most one person has are 24 properties. The problem, however, is that many of these properties are located in borderland areas, or near critical infrastructure. Given the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is now a concern in Estonia about whether this could potentially turn into a problem.

This is not about expropriation, however

For this purpose, the Ministry of the Interior is also preparing a draft law, but Mr Kommusaar said, speaking to ERR news agency, that it is not ready yet. Therefore, the Ministry of the Interior has not published the exact details yet.

Criticism in that regard may arise out of fear that the Estonian state would turn to confiscating and/or nationalizing the properties of individual citizens. While the majority of real estate owners live in Estonia with a residence permit, approximately 12 percent or 4,500 people may lose access to their real estate due to the visa ban.

Veiko Kommusaar explained that if a Russian citizen's property in Estonia remains in debt due to sanctions, this could indeed ultimately mean losing the property. This, however, according to the Deputy Chancellor would be the fault of the Kremlin ultimately.

"The cause of this is the Russian government, which decided to invade Ukraine, and of course, the Russian people are suffering because of this. This question is primarily for Russia itself, why do their people have to suffer because of what their regime is organizing. Indeed, if it is not possible for a person to find ways to deal with real estate, then an extreme consequence can occur. At the moment, we do not see that Estonia should take mitigating steps."

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