As at end-2019, Estonia’s stateless – 75,599 – form 14.3 % of Europe’s (including Russia and Ukraine, excluding Turkey) stateless population (528,007), per UNHCR data. See p. 54 at https://www.rosalux.de/fileadmin/rls_uploads/pdfs/sonst_publikationen/atlasofthestateless2020_web_201021.pdf
B. Establishments under the authority of the Ministry of Justice
3. Conditions of detention
52. As regards the regime, the CPT acknowledges the efforts made by the Estonian authorities to provide sentenced prisoners with purposeful out-of-cell activities. It is also noteworthy that many sentenced prisoners benefited from an open-door regime for much of the day.
Further, at Tallinn Prison, almost one-third of the sentenced prisoners had access either to education (including language classes in Estonian) or to vocational training in workshops (such as carpentry, shoe repairs, welding and metalwork). At Tartu and Viru Prisons, such activities were offered to approximately one-fifth of the sentenced prisoners.
53. In the three prisons, remand prisoners generally had only very few opportunities for work and educational activities. 42 Further, they were usually not allowed to use the existing sports facilities, and other recreational activities were very limited.
42 For instance, at Tallinn Prison, seven remand inmates were enrolled in formal education and five attended Estonian language courses.
5. Other issues
d. legal remedies and complaints procedures
87. Further, prisoners could in principle lodge complaints with external bodies, in particular to the relevant Prison Committee60 and the Chancellor of Justice (Ombudsman).
60 For further details, see paragraph 101 of the report on the 2012 visit (CPT/Inf (2014) 1).
That said, a number of prisoners interviewed by the delegation appeared to be unaware of the existence of such complaints procedures. The CPT reiterates its recommendation that measures be taken in all prisons to provide prisoners with the necessary information, in a language they understand, on all existing external complaints mechanisms.
Document data: CPT/Inf (2019) 31; published 19.11.2019. Link: https://rm.coe.int/168098db93
3.1 The authors claim that the State party’s denial of restitution of their property amounts to a violation of articles 2, 14 and 26 of the Covenant. The authors are entitled to recover their property or to receive equivalent compensation. They claim that they suffered discrimination because other claimants in the same position were able to recover their property from the State party, regardless of whether they had received payments under the German Equalization of Burdens Act. In particular, Estonians living in Estonia were able to recover their property, which was not the case for those living abroad. Other Baltic Germans were also able to fully recover their property.
State party’s observations on admissibility and the merits
4.9 The authors have also failed to substantiate their claim that the State party’s courts discriminated against them on account of their Baltic German origin by deciding that they were not entitled to the return of property or compensation because they had already received compensation. In contrast with the Committee’s decisions in Simunek et al. (CCPR/C/54/D/516/1992) and Adam v. Czech Republic (CCPR/C/57/D/586/1994), the facts of the present case do not raise an issue under article 26 of the Covenant.
4.10 In the authors’ case, the applicable laws do not differentiate between former owners of expropriated property on any grounds, including those mentioned in article 26 of the Covenant. According to section 17 (5) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act, the only criterion for deciding whether a person covered by that provision can claim return or compensation is whether the property has already been returned to that person or whether he or she has received compensation. The authors have provided no arguments or evidence to substantiate their claim that in considering the payments received by their grandmother from Germany as compensation in the sense of section 17 (5) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act, the Court of Appeal was motivated by their Baltic German heritage. The authors have also failed to explain how the conditions established by section 17 (5) of that Act are linked to national or ethnic origin.
4.16 The authors have also not submitted any evidence to demonstrate that, contrary to article 26 of the Covenant, Baltic Germans were treated differently or less favorably than any other group of people, including native Estonians, who filed claims for return of or compensation for unlawfully expropriated property. Their statements about the “unpopularity” of granting restitution to the Baltic Germans are arbitrary and false. Even more arbitrary is to suggest that Estonian courts operate according to the alleged popularity or unpopularity of certain ethnic groups. Section 17 (5) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act applies to everyone, without distinction based on nationality, ethnic origin or any other ground. The only criterion is whether the property has been returned or compensation paid.
4.17 The falseness of the authors’ claim that the Estonian authorities discriminate against Baltic Germans by refusing to return or to compensate for unlawfully expropriated property can be further demonstrated by several similar cases, in which the courts decided in claimants’ favor when there was no concrete evidence that compensation had been paid by Germany. These cases demonstrate that the solution is based on law and evidence, not on biases against certain ethnic groups. In the authors’ case, evidence existed to conclude that the compensation payments were indeed made and that they were made for the loss of their grandmother’s property in Tallinn.
Authors’ comments on the State party’s observations on admissibility and the merits
5.8 As to the merits, the relevant question before the Committee is to determine whether the State party’s authorities have discriminated against those who resettled in 1941. In particular, on 10 March 2008, the General Assembly of the Supreme Court held that these Baltic German resettlers must be treated equally to other subjects entitled to restitution and that applications for the return of property should be reconsidered. The authors therefore, had a legitimate expectation for the return of their property. However, in almost all the applications for return of property – that is, more than 30 cases – the Estonian authorities invoked evidence of compensation under the German Equalization of Burdens Act.
5.14 Lastly, the authors disagree that the two cases referred to by the State party represent proof of non-discrimination against Baltic Germans.
Issues and proceedings before the Committee
Consideration of admissibility
6.4 The Committee notes the authors’ claims under articles 2, 14 and 26 of the Covenant that they suffered discrimination and denial of justice by the State party’s courts and that the administrative and judicial proceedings between 1991 and 2013 have exceeded the reasonable time requirement.
6.9 The Committee notes that although the authors’ main claims relate to property rights, which are not themselves protected by the Covenant, the authors also allege that the decision of the Court of Appeal was discriminatory and amounted to denial of justice. In this connection, the Committee notes that the authors’ claims relate to the interpretation and application of domestic law and practice by the courts of the State party. The Committee recalls that it is generally for the courts of States parties to review facts and evidence, or the application of domestic legislation, in a particular case, unless it can be shown that such evaluation or application was clearly arbitrary or amounted to a manifest error or denial of justice, or that the court otherwise violated its obligation of independence and impartiality.
6.10 In the present case, the Committee notes that the authors have not demonstrated that the applicable domestic legislation – that is, section 17 (5) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act – provides for any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The Committee notes that the only criterion imposed by that section is whether the property in question has already been returned or compensation has already been paid. The Court of Appeal, after taking into account the authors’ situation, based its decision on that provision of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act. The authors have failed to demonstrate that the application of that law was discriminatory, or to cite any relevant jurisprudence that would show a different application of the law based on nationality. The Committee is therefore not in a position to conclude, on the basis of the material at its disposal, that the domestic courts acted arbitrarily or that their decision amounted to discrimination, arbitrariness or denial of justice. Accordingly, the Committee considers that this part of the communication is insufficiently substantiated for the purposes of admissibility and declares it inadmissible under article 2 of the Optional Protocol.
Document data: 08.11.2019, published 25.11.2019. CCPR/C/127/D/2499/2014 Link: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR%2fC%2f127%2fD%2f2499%2f2014 Also available in Russian and French
Promoting social cohesion through balanced policies on languages
The Advisory Committee on the FCNM has consistently emphasised, in respect of a range of countries, including Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, that policies on the use of languages should aim to reconcile the needs of different groups of speakers, those of the state and those of society as a whole, rather than deepening gaps between different groups based on linguistic differences [..]
Tackling discrimination based on language
Laws and policies that promote the use of a specific language should not result in discriminatory treatment of some groups of the population. Therefore, before introducing new measures regulating the use of languages, the authorities should carefully assess the possible disproportionate impact of such measures, especially on persons belonging to national minorities. The Advisory Committee on the FCNM has indeed highlighted that strict language requirements can constitute a disproportionate obstacle for persons belonging to national minorities in a range of areas, such as access to employment, participation in political life, and access to health care and education. In the case of Latvia and Estonia for instance, it deplored insufficient access for persons belonging to minorities to public positions due to overly strict language requirements.
It is therefore crucial for countries to ensure that they have an effective anti-discrimination legal framework in place, which explicitly prohibits discrimination based on ethnic or national origin as well as on language, and, importantly, which foresees effective remedies for persons alleging such discrimination. [..]
Using incentives rather than sanctions to ensure implementation
A particularly important incentive is to ensure that there are enough opportunities for learning the state or official language and that the offer is accessible and of adequate quality. This is crucial to ensure access for all to a shared and common language. I read with interest the findings of a recent audit report about the teaching of Estonian language for adults in Estonia, which showed a shortage of funding and adequately trained teachers. The report indicated for example that in 2015, the plan was to offer free language classes to 540 persons, while in fact almost 6,000 people applied for such classes. Lack of funds and/or trained teachers and the quality of teaching materials have also been issues of concern in several other countries.
Document data: 29.10.2019. Link: https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/language-policies-should-accomodate-diversity-protect-minority-rights-and-defuse-tensions Also available in French and Russian
I. SUBSTANTIVE POLICY AREAS
1.2. Achievements and challenges
The most significant challenges highlighted by NRCPs include: school participation, absenteeism, early school-leaving, the transition from primary to secondary and the completion of secondary education. 13 [..]
13 AT, CY, EE, EL, ES, FR, HR, LT, NL
2.2. Achievements and challenges
NRCPs emphasise three main types of challenges: capacity of implementing structures 23 ; discrimination against Roma24; and attitudes and trust of Roma themselves25.
23 AT, EL, PL, PT, SK
24 EE, ES, LT, LV, NL, PT, RO
25 BG, EE, FR, NL, PT
II. FIGHTING DISCRIMINATION AND ANTIGYPSYISM
1. Focus of measures
Distribution of non-discrimination measures by relevance to the respective sub-areas of the Council Recommendation
|Fight antigypsyism by raising awareness about the benefits of Roma integration||AT, BE, BG, CZ, ES, IT, LT, LV, PT, SK, SE||[..]|
|Fight antigypsyism by raising awareness on diversity||AT, BE, BG, CZ, EE, ES, IT, LT, LV, PT, SE, SK||[..]|
2. Achievements and challenges
The achievements most often mentioned by NRCPs were: improving the conditions of Roma women and children47; combating antigypsyism by breaking stereotypes or promoting Roma culture and history 48 ; and involving all relevant actors (public authorities, civil society and Roma communities) in efforts to promote anti-discrimination49 .
47 BG, EE, ES, HU, HR, PT, SK
48 ES, FR, HU, LV
49 IT, ES, SI
Several NRCPs referred to challenges of improving access to legal protection and rights awareness50, as well as difficulties in fighting against stereotypes51 and improving the situation of Roma women and children.52 The mere fact that several Member States53 – including some with large Roma communities and several with very high rates of perceived discrimination among Roma – did not report any antidiscrimination measures underlines the gravity of challenges in this area.
50 AT, CZ, LT, PT
51 EE, ES, HR, LV
52 BG, ES, SK
53 CY, FR, EL, PL, RO
Document data: 06.09.2019 Link [with annexes not quoted here]: https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/report-implementation-national-roma-integration-strategies-2019_en
Summary of performance reports
13. While the share of students completing basic education at a Russian language-medium school and having achieved at least level B1 proficiency in Estonian15 has increased as compared with 2011 (56% in 2011; 61% in 2018), reaching the target for 2020 (90%) is not realistic. In order to best reflect the progress regarding the Estonian language skills of young people whose native language is other than Estonian, regardless whether they attend an Estonian-medium or a Russian-medium school or participate in an Estonian language immersion programme, we also monitor, besides graduates from Russian-medium basic schools, the Estonian language skills of those basic school graduates whose native language is other than Estonian16 – 69.2% of such students achieved at least level B1 in 2018.
15 Source: Innove and EHIS.
16 Source: Innove and EHIS.
14. After the partial adoption of Estonian as the language of instruction in Russian-medium upper secondary schools, 1. the language skills of school leavers have somewhat improved. While 23% of school leavers failed to achieve a B2 language proficiency level before the transfer, in 2018 the share of such students was 19% (data from EHIS and EIS). The share of students who achieve a high score in the level B2 test (over 75 points) and would be able to sit the level C1 test has also increased – in recent years, nearly two thirds of those who sat an exam of Estonian as a second language scored high marks.
In the 2018/2019 academic year, the number of general education teachers was 15,465; 94% of them have at least B2 and 88% C1 level language skills in Estonian. These indicators have not improved in recent years – in 2012, 93% of general education teachers had at least B2-level knowledge of Estonian and 87% at least C1. Estonian language skills among teachers of pre-primary establishments are somewhat weaker. In the academic year 2018/2019, there was a total of 1,929 (general education, vocational and preprimary) teachers (8% of total teaching staff) with inadequate Estonian language skills. Improving language skills is important not only for adopting Estonian as the language of instruction (e.g. in upper secondary schools) but also because in schools where teachers’ language skills are inadequate17, those of their students are also weaker.
17 Teachers using Estonian as the language of instruction or teachers teaching Estonian – at least level C1; all other teachers – at least level B2.
Estonian language and estonianness
5. English is the most popular foreign language in Estonian schools (as elsewhere in Europe) – the number of students learning English is nearly double those learning Russian, the second most popular foreign language (2018/2019 academic year)31. A survey on foreign language skills conducted in early 2018 showed that English is most beneficial in the labour market – in most fields a good command of English means a significant pay rise. More attention should be paid to improving the foreign language skills of people whose native language is other than Estonian. According to PIIAC 2012, only 4% of Estonians in the youngest age group (16-24-year-olds) did not speak English, but among people whose native language is Russian the share of such people was 27%. 80% of Estonians and 46% of non-Estonians have a good command of English.
31 Source: EHIS.
Document data: 2019. Link: https://www.hm.ee/sites/default/files/htm_koolialgusepakett_a4_eng.pdf
79. In its observations before the Court, the LRTK stated that the decision of 18 May 2016 had been taken on the ground that a programme broadcast on the channel NTV Mir Lithuania contained false information which incited hostility and hatred based on nationality against the Baltic countries concerning the collaboration of Lithuanians and Latvians in connection with the Holocaust and the allegedly nationalistic and neo-Nazi internal policies of the Baltic countries, policies which were said to be a threat to the Russian national minority living in those countries. That programme was addressed, according to the LRTK, in a targeted manner to the Russian-speaking minority in Lithuania and aimed, by the use of various propaganda techniques, to influence negatively and suggestively the opinion of that social group relating to the internal and external policies of the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Estonia and the Republic of Latvia, to accentuate the divisions and polarisation of society, and to emphasise the tension in the Eastern European region created by Western countries and the Russian Federation’s role of victim.
80. It does not appear from the documents before the Court that those statements are contested, which is, however, for the referring court to ascertain. On that basis, a measure such as that at issue in the main proceedings must be regarded as pursuing, in general, a public policy objective.
Document data: C-622/17, Judgment of the Court (Second Chamber) of 04.07.2019, Baltic Media Alliance Ltd v Lietuvos radijo ir televizijos komisija. Link: http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf;jsessionid=BDEEF892B6091B14D3F57493FD010CE6?text=&docid=215786&pageIndex=0&doclang=en Also available in Lithuanian and other languages
Publisher’s note: Minority issues are also raised in Advocate-General’s opinion in this case, http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=211201&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1 para. 76
I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Persons belonging to national minorities with Estonian citizenship enjoy full electoral rights. However, despite notable efforts in facilitating integration and naturalization, a considerable number of residents “with undetermined citizenship”, most of ethnic Russian background, are
disenfranchised in national elections. Minorities-related issues did not feature prominently in the campaign and most parties avoided divisive rhetoric. However, some parties’ initiatives that were perceived as alluding to ethnic divisions and carrying nationalistic undertones were of
concern among national minorities.
This report offers a number of recommendations to support efforts to bring elections in Estonia closer in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections. Recommendations relate to [..], and further facilitating participation of persons belonging to national minorities. ODIHR stands ready to assist the authorities to further improve the electoral process and to address the
recommendations contained in this and previous reports.
IV. LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND ELECTORAL SYSTEM
A number of prior ODIHR recommendations remain to be addressed, including those related to the disenfranchisement of citizens imprisoned for criminal offences, the prohibition of outdoor political advertising, lacunas in party and campaign finance regulations, and the need to further enhance national minority participation. According to ODIHR EET interlocutors, proposed amendments in these areas were discussed by the outgoing parliament, but did not reach the necessary political consensus for adoption.
VIII. PARTICIPATION OF NATIONAL MINORITIES
Estonia’s 1.3 million population includes persons of 192 ethnicities.26 The largest ethnic groups include Estonians (69 per cent), Russians (25 per cent), Ukrainians (1.7 per cent), and Belarussians and Finns (each less than 1 per cent). The government maintains active programs to promote the integration of national minorities in various spheres of public life, and many ODIHR EET interlocutors noted positive trends in this respect. At the same time, the representation of national minorities in the public sector remains low. This is often a result of a limited knowledge of the official Estonian language, despite many free language courses offered in an attempt to remedy the situation. Some international bodies have recommended enhanced efforts to ensure greater participation of persons belonging to national minorities in public life, including in parliament.27
26 See the 2011 Population and Housing Census. The next population census is due in 2020-2021.
27 See the 2014 CERD Concluding observations on the combined tenth and eleventh periodic reports of Estonia, paragraph 14
Estonia’s population also includes a significant group of residents with “undetermined citizenship”, which results from the country’s citizenship policy implemented following the restoration of independence.28 The proportion of such persons decreased steadily from 32 to 6 per cent in the last 25 years, and as of 1 January 2019, their number was 75,191.29 Such persons can vote in local elections (but cannot stand), and they are unable to vote in national elections, join political parties, or work in state or local government offices. While they have the possibility to naturalize, many lack incentives to do so or face difficulties passing naturalization exams. Most residents with “undetermined citizenship” are of voting age and belong to the Russian minority. Many acknowledge a preference for retaining the “undetermined citizenship” status that allows visa-free travel within the European Union and to the Russian Federation, which, in their opinion, outweighs the benefit of full political rights as naturalized Estonian citizens.30
28 After the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991, citizenship was automatically granted only to holders of Estonian citizenship prior to 16 June 1940, as well as their descendants. Long-term residents of Estonia and their descendants who did not receive Estonian citizenship automatically, did not obtain another citizenship, nor naturalized as Estonian citizens, are officially referred to as “persons of undetermined citizenship”.
29 Data as of 5 March 2019, provided by the Population Register.
30 In a positive step, the Citizenship Act was amended in 2016 to further facilitate naturalization for children and elderly persons with “undetermined citizenship”
The existing legal framework allows for full and equal electoral participation of national minority representatives who hold citizenship. While there are no official statistics on candidates’ ethnic background, political parties informed the ODIHR EET that they include representatives of national minorities on party lists, even if there are no such requirements or special measures prescribed by law. The largest parties campaigned actively in areas predominantly inhabited by Russian-speaking persons, also in Russian language.
While several parties appealed to avoid using divisive rhetoric concerning minorities-related issues in the campaign, some politicians continued to question the loyalty of non-ethnic Estonian political actors and activists. There appears to be, however, a notable pro-EU sentiment, across most party platforms and among the majority of Estonian citizens, regardless of their ethnic background or linguistic affiliation.
Campaigning can be carried out in Estonian and other languages. Under the Language Act, outdoor advertising in a foreign language should also contain a version in Estonian, presented not less visibly. Compliance is enforced by the Language Inspectorate and there were no reported instances in the context of these elections. Voting materials and information in polling stations and on ballots were provided in Estonian. General election-related information was also available in Russian and English, including on the SEO website, as well as in print and broadcast media. The public broadcaster and some private outlets held election debates in both Estonian and Russian languages, and some in English.
While minorities-related issues did not feature prominently in the campaign, one issue that featured prominently was the status of Russian-language schools, which is set to change as part of ongoing education reforms, and over which political parties remain divided. While the Centre Party campaigned on a promise to maintain the joint Estonian- and Russian-language school system, both the Reform and EKRE parties plan to abolish the Russian-language schools, to the dissatisfaction of many members of the Russian-speaking community. Representatives of several minority communities expressed concern regarding some activities that they perceived as carrying nationalistic undertones. 31
31 This included, for instance, the Estonia 200 poster campaign alluding to ethnic divisions, and EKRE’s torchlight procession organized on Estonia’s Independence Day one week before the elections.
ODIHR EET interlocutors in the Ida-Viru region, which is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Russians, expressed appreciation for the government’s recent outreach efforts, including the temporary relocation of some public offices from the capital to the region. The establishment of a TV channel in Russian by the Estonian Public Broadcaster was also welcomed. Voting data from the region indicates, however, a lower level of political participation compared to the national average.32
32 Voter turnout was recorded at 48.2 per cent compared to 63.7 per cent nationwide
Authorities should enhance their efforts of promoting the participation of persons belonging to national minorities in public and political life, as well as take steps to further increase the naturalization rate among persons with “undetermined citizenship”, with a view to granting them full suffrage rights.
These recommendations, as contained throughout the text, are offered with a view to further enhance the conduct of elections in Estonia and to support efforts to bring them fully in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections. These recommendations should be read in conjunction with past ODIHR recommendations that remain to be addressed.33 [..]
33 In paragraph 25 of the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Document, OSCE participating States committed themselves “to follow up promptly the ODIHR’s election assessment and recommendations”. The follow-up of prior recommendations is assessed by the ODIHR EET as follows: from the final report on the 2015 parliamentary elections, recommendation 9 is mostly implemented, while recommendations 1, 5 and 11 are implemented partially; recommendations 6 and 7 are no longer valid.
10. Authorities should enhance their efforts of promoting the participation of persons belonging to national minorities in public and political life, as well as take steps to further increase the naturalization rate among persons with “undetermined citizenship”, with a view to granting them full suffrage rights.
Document data: 27.06.2019. Link: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/estonia/424229?download=true Also available in Estonian: https://www.osce.org/et/odihr/elections/estonia/429065?download=true
ANNEX TABLE 1. Refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees (refugees and IDPs), stateless persons, and others of concern to UNHCR by country/territory of asylum | end-2018 (ctnd)
territory of asylum
|Persons under UNHCR’s statelessness mandate|
21 Almost all people recorded as being stateless have permanent residence and enjoy more rights than foreseen in the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons
Document data: 19.06.2019. Link: https://www.unhcr.org/5d08d7ee7.pdf , see p. 66. The total number of people under UNHCR statelessness mandate in the EU is 396,474, so Estonia accounts for 19.6 %.
4 Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance
4.2. Lack of policy responses to racism, ethnic discrimination and hate crime
Assisting national authorities with hate-crime recording
The full implementation of EU law entails ensuring that the police properly identify hate crime victims and record racist motivation at the time of reporting. Doing so will support the investigation and prosecution of hate crime and will provide the basis for victim support. Proper recording of hate crime is still not a reality in many EU Member States, FRA’s evidence shows.
Upon request from the Member States, FRA, together with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), offers technical assistance to national authorities to improve their ability to record and collect hate crime data and thus provide better support to victims, through national workshops. Between December 2017 and the end of 2018, such workshops took place in Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia, and more are already scheduled for 2019.
Document data: June 2019; ISBN 978-92-9474-591-0 Link: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2019-fundamental-rights-report-2019_en.pdf