Today and 20 years ago. Which EU countries' citizens live in Estonia?

Posted on 15 May 2024, 15:17

While at the beginning of the new century it was mainly the inhabitants of Estonia who eagerly moved elsewhere in Europe, today more and more citizens of other European Union countries are settling in Estonia. Kristjan Erik Loik, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, takes a look at who has arrived here in the last 20 years.

This year marks 20 years since Estonia joined the European Union. In a series of data stories, Statistics Estonia explores what has been going on in Estonia and in the lives of Estonians during this time. 

Latvian, Lithuanian and Finnish citizens were the most numerous

Citizens of Latvia (1,410), Lithuania (1,100) and Finland (930) accounted for almost 90% of all EU citizens residing in Estonia in 2000, with only Swedish and German citizens also numbering more than 100. In addition, there were close to ten countries with no citizens living in Estonia at all. Such countries included, for example, Slovakia, Slovenia and Portugal. 

The composition of EU citizens residing in Estonia was fairly homogeneous. The list of countries and their ranking suggest that perhaps the foreign EU citizens were in Estonia primarily because of family ties. Around ten people from the more distant Western European countries such as Spain, Italy and France were living in Estonia, and with a few exceptions, almost no one from the former socialist countries had moved here.

Diversification of representation

By 2011, seven and a half years after joining the EU, and 11 years after the previous census, the number of EU citizens in Estonia had increased relatively little – by 2,500 inhabitants, i.e. to 6,500. Latvian, Lithuanian and Finnish citizens were still the most numerous, but their share had fallen to 72%. In other words, the composition had become more diverse. 

In addition to German and Swedish citizens, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland were now represented in Estonia with more than 100 citizens as well. Therefore, compared with the year 2000, people from further away in Western Europe had started immigrating to Estonia, but of former socialist countries, Poland was the only one with a larger representation. There was now just one country with zero citizens residing here and the number of all EU citizens was higher in 2011 than in 2000.

Top 15 citizenships of EU countries in Estonia

The biggest rise

As of the last population census (31 December 2021), there are 21,600 EU citizens living in Estonia, over three times more than a decade earlier. The bulk is made up of citizens of Latvia (5,000) and Finland (4,700) – their numbers have also tripled in ten years. 

The number of Lithuanians, on the other hand, has remained more stable. However, the share of citizens of these three countries among all EU citizens has fallen to 54%. Fourth place is still held by Germany with 1,800 citizens, while more than 1,000 inhabitants of Estonia are citizens of France (1,300) and Italy (1,270). In addition to these, 15 other countries are represented with more than 100 citizens. The number of citizens of almost all countries has increased several times between 2011 and 2021. 

Admittedly, the low reference base allows striking comparisons to be made. For instance, the number of Romanian citizens has increased 22-fold (32 in 2011, 711 in 2021), but the number of citizens from countries that had more than 100 citizens residing here already in 2011 has also multiplied. For example, the number of French citizens has grown almost 13-fold. The number of German citizens has increased four times, the number of Italian citizens almost six times and the number of Spanish citizens more than seven times. Relatively the smallest increase compared with 2011 is seen in the number of citizens of Lithuania (grown 1.4 times) and Denmark (2.3 times). 

Who is the average EU citizen living in Estonia?

Nearly two thirds of the EU citizens residing in Estonia are men. In fact, Czechia is the only country whose citizens living here are largely women. They, too, form a majority with just a few people. At the other extreme are Dutch citizens. In their case, men outnumber women by more than 4 to 1. The average EU citizen living in Estonia is 38 years old, four years younger than the average inhabitant of Estonia.

Two thirds of the European Union's citizens live in Harju county. For comparison, Harju county is home to 46% of the total population of Estonia. This is followed by Tartu county, where 11% of EU citizens reside. Thanks to Latvian citizens, Valga county ranks third, with 7% of the EU citizens living there. 

Perhaps these EU citizens are simply our long-absent compatriots who have acquired a new citizenship? However, in terms of ethnic nationality, Estonians make up only 1.3% of the immigrant EU citizens, and almost all of them hold passports from Finland, Sweden, Germany, Latvia or Lithuania, the same countries that were already predominantly represented here at the time of the 2000 census. The share of the Estonian-born among the EU citizens is already significantly higher – 11% –, but again the five countries mentioned above are mainly at play. 


In the 2021 census, a total of 1,331,824 inhabitants were enumerated in Estonia. 84.7% of them were Estonian citizens, 10.2% were citizens of foreign countries, and 5% were of undefined citizenship or holders of an alien's passport (the so-called grey passport). Citizens of the European Union accounted for 1.6% of the total population and 16% of all foreign citizens. 

More detailed data have been published in the statistical database.

When using Statistics Estonia’s data and graphs, please indicate the source.

For further information:

Heidi Kukk
Media Relations Manager
Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9181
press [at]