C.Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
10.The Committee is concerned that the Equal Treatment Act only prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion or views, age, disability and sexual orientation in areas relating to working life and the acquisition of professional qualifications. It regrets the delay in amending the Act to broaden its scope and application to other social sectors. It is also concerned at the insufficient level of financial and human resources allocated to the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner to fully carry out the mandate (art. 2 (2)).
11. The Committee recommends that the State party amend without delay the Equal Treatment Act with a view (a) to ensuring that it prohibits all direct, indirect and intersectional forms of discrimination, on the grounds set out in article 2 (2) of the Covenant and in all spheres relevant to economic, social and cultural rights, and (b) to providing effective remedies for victims of discrimination, including through judicial and administrative proceedings. It also recommends that the State party allocate a sufficient level of financial and human resources to the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner for the effective functioning of the mandate. In this context, the Committee draws the attention of the State party to its general comment No. 20 (2009) on non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights.
Discrimination based on language
12.While noting the efforts made by the State party to increase opportunities for the non-Estonian-speaking population to learn the Estonian language, the Committee remains concerned at the persistent discrimination experienced by this population due to a lack of proficiency in the Estonian language. This has led to systemic discrimination affecting their enjoyment of Covenant rights, as illustrated by the high unemployment and poverty rates among the non-Estonian-speaking population (art. 2 (2)).
13. The Committee recommends that the State party address the systemic discrimination faced by the non-Estonian-speaking population in the enjoyment of the Covenant rights due to the language barrier, particularly in the areas of employment, housing education, health care, access to services indispensable for ensuring an adequate standard of living and enjoying cultural rights.
Persons with undetermined citizenship
14.While welcoming the overall achievement of the State party in reducing the number of persons with undetermined citizenship, the Committee remains concerned at the large number of such persons, comprising 5.5 per cent of the population as at 1 January 2019. The vast majority of such persons are citizens of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics who were not able to acquire Estonian citizenship due to their lack of proficiency in the Estonian language after the restoration of Estonian sovereignty in 1991. While welcoming amendments made to the Citizenship Law in 2015, under which Estonian citizenship is granted to children with undetermined citizenship born in the State party, the Committee is concerned that the amendments do not apply to stateless children aged between 15 and 18 years old as at 1 January 2016, children born to stateless parents who have not been legally resident in Estonia for the preceding five years and stateless children whose parents have Estonian nationality but are unable to transmit their citizenship to their child. It is further concerned at the lack of disaggregated data on the enjoyment by persons with undetermined citizenship of the Covenant rights (art. 2 (2)).
15. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Accelerate the acquisition of Estonian citizenship by persons with undetermined citizenship by removing the remaining obstacles;
(b) Grant Estonian citizenship to stateless children born in the State party regardless of their parents ’ legal status;
(c) Consider acceding to the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness;
(d) Collect data on the enjoyment by persons with undetermined citizenship of the Covenant rights and provide disaggregated data thereon in its next periodic report.
Right to education
48.The Committee appreciates the achievements made in the education sector, including the high educational attainment rate at the secondary level, the high proportion of adults with a tertiary qualification and the almost universal access to pre-primary education. The Committee remains concerned, however, at:
(g)The lack of flexibility in the implementation of the 60 per cent quota of teaching in Estonian in the Russian-speaking secondary schools and vocational schools. This often makes it difficult for Russian-speaking students in Russian-speaking schools to acquire mastery in core subjects that are taught only in Estonian and, in the case of vocational schools, leads to an insufficient number of qualified teachers capable of teaching the specialized subjects so as to adequately reflect this percentage and the school specificity (arts. 13, 14 and 15).
49. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(g) Gradually and flexibly implement the 60 per cent quota of teaching in Estonian in the Russian-speaking secondary schools and vocational schools, take measures to gradually increase the number of qualified teachers in vocational schools so as to better reflect the specificity of these schools and ensure that the quota does not undermine the right of children to education and is implemented in line with the principles stipulated in article 13 of the Covenant.
50.The Committee is concerned at:
(a)The punitive approach of the State party to enforcing the Language Act, including through the mandate and functions of the Language Inspectorate and the lack of monitoring of its activities, which may have an adverse impact on the implementation of the Integrating Estonia 2020 development plan;
(b)Administrative barriers against the use of patronymics in official personal documents, which restricts certain national minorities from enjoying their right to protect their cultural identity;
(c)The high threshold (50 per cent of residents must be minority language speakers) for allowing the use of a minority language in communications with the local authorities in areas where people belonging to a linguistic minority group reside traditionally or in substantial numbers;
(d)The excessive conditions for the use of traditional local names, street names and other public topographical indications in a minority language in areas where people belong to a linguistic minority reside traditionally or in substantial numbers;
(e)The fact that persons with undetermined citizenship are not in a position to fully enjoy their rights to take part in cultural life, including the cultural rights of persons belonging to national minorities (arts. 13 and 15).
51. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Remove all punitive elements of the enforcement of the Language Act, including by reviewing the mandate and functions of the Language Inspectorate and putting in place, with the participation of civil society, a mechanism to monitor its activities, and ensure the full implementation of the Integrating Estonia 2020 development plan;
(b) Remove all administrative barriers against the use of patronymics in official personal documents;
(c) Consider lowering the threshold for the use of a minority language to a reasonable level, with a view to facilitating communication with the local authorities in minority languages in areas where people belong to a linguistic minority group reside traditionally or in substantial number;
(d) Review the conditions for the use of traditional local names, street names and other public topographical indications in a minority language in areas where people belonging to a linguistic minority group reside traditionally or in substantial number;
(e) Remove all barriers to the acquisition of Estonian citizenship by persons of undetermined citizenship so that they can enjoy their right to take part in cultural life on the basis of equality with Estonian citizens.
Document data: 27.03.2019; E/C.12/EST/CO/3 Link: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=E/C.12/EST/CO/3 Also available in Russian