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Estonia proposes new rules preventing non-citizens from buying property near military facilities

by Nate Ostiller June 8, 2024 10:55 AM 2 min read
Estonian soldiers use a Javelin anti tank missile as they take part in a major drill as part of NATO's EFP (Enhanced Forward Presence) operation at the Tapa Estonian army camp near Rakvere, on Feb. 6, 2022. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images)
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Estonia's Interior Ministry has proposed new rules that would seek to limit the ability of non-citizens to buy property near military facilities, the Estonian media outlet ERR reported on June 7, citing a memo by Interior Minister Lauri Laanemets.

The measure is reportedly largely directed toward Russian and Belarusian citizens.

The proposal follows similar moves by Finland, which has also prevented the acquisition of certain types of property by Russian nationals on the grounds that it could "hinder" national defense.

"In Estonia, for example, there are apartments next to some very important sites where monitoring can be carried out," said Laanemets.

The memo cited a few specific examples, such as an apartment complex in Tallinn owned by a Russian businessman which is located a few hundred meters from the headquarters of Estonia's Defense Forces and another important military base.

Laanemets said that the ministry aims to produce a draft law by the end of the year to prevent "third-country nationals from buying real estate in Estonia around defense sites."

The measures will be less strict when it comes to Belarusians or Russians who have a permanent residence permit, Laanemets said.

"In general, we trust everyone who lives permanently in Estonia. We know who they are, we know their behavior," he added.

"But there could always be a situation where somebody from this country is cooperating with Russia or another country."

The specifics of what would be considered an area sensitive to Estonia's defense have not been ironed out yet.

"The simplest version here is to apply the authorization procedure," Laanemets said.

"That is, every time a person from a third country wants to carry out a (real estate) transaction (near a sensitive defense site), he or she has to obtain authorization."

Estonia's already strained relations with Russia have further deteriorated since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Estonia is also ranked first in terms of financial contributions to Ukraine as a percentage of its GDP.

At the same time, Russia has engaged in a number of aggressive actions toward Estonia since February 2022, such as an incident in May in which Russian border guards unilaterally removed border markings from a river that separates Russian and Estonian territory.

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