Estonian MEP Yana Toom said the European Commission must investigate whether Estonia's language laws are in accordance with norms and principles of EU laws. Toom has sent a respective request to the Commission's Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Department.
Marianne Thyssen, the commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labor Mobility, told Toom that it is up to each nation to implement its own language policy, but laws can not be unproportional and can not discriminate citizens of other nations.
She said the proportionality of language requirements should be weighed against the specific work tasks.
“EU member states should not prohibit the freedom of movement, but our language laws undoubtedly restricts the local Russian-speaking population as well as EU citizens on the whole,” Toom said.
Toom said many language requirements are unjustified, “for example, it is baffling why a trolleybus driver must be able to write short essays,” she said, adding that there are absurd requirements for kindergarten teachers and heads of building unions.
The Language Act drops requirements for foreign experts and specialists working in Estonia short-term. Toom said the European Court recently ruled that Belgium violates EU laws by forcing EU citizens to take a language exam in one certain institution. “As Estonian rules do not fundamentally differ from Belgium's laws, then it is not hard to establish violations to EU laws,” Toom said.
The Commission must now decide whether the question merits an investigation. If so, and Estonia is found guilty, the nation will be given time to synchronize its laws, or face a lawsuit by the European Commission.
Sergei Metlev, an adviser to the Free Party faction, said Estonia's laws are already in line with EU requirements, but more focus is needed on actually providing possibilities to learn the Estonian language in Estonia.
Metlev said it will be hard to provide Russian-speaking children a decent life in Estonia if they are divided already in kindergartens from the Estonian language and culture.
He said around half of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia does not speak the language and there are few opportunities to study the language for free, adding that Toom should focus on the availability of Estonian-language classes instead of on legal acrobatics.
Editor: J.M. Laats