Estonia formally notifies Council of Europe of emergency situation end

Estonia’s Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe Rasmus Lumi (left).
Estonia’s Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe Rasmus Lumi (left). Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Estonia has informed the Council of Europen (CoE) of its conclusion of the emergency situation declared on March 12, in accordance with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The move is somewhat of a hedge against any possible future complaints related to the body and the convention.

The country's permanent representative to the CoE, Rasmus Lumi, formally informed the council's secretary general of the development on Saturday, and the accompanying termination of the derogation lodged pursuant to Article 15 of ECHR, BNS reports.

Due to the measures imposed, this is a situation which corresponds to the situation of public emergency named in Article 15 of the convention.

The objective of the notice was to ensure that the ECHR take the severity of the situation into consideration when handling possible future complaints, BNS reports.

All measures taken can be subjected to judicial review, including in the ECHR framweork, and also through the application of Article 15.

Estonia informed the CoE that it had activated Article 15 in late March, though this did not reach the media for several days.

Article 15 provides an opportunity to partly restrict freedoms, including religious freedoms and freedom of expression, it is reported.

MEP Urmas Paet (Reform), a former foreign minister, said at the time that the notification had been unnecessary, since a totally separate provision regulates the freedom of assembly in the human rights convention, he said, adding that the majority of democracies in the CoE had not provided such notification.

Early on in May, churches in Estonia rang their bells at set times on weekdays in protest at the ongoing lockdown, which meant services could only take place online. Soon after this, they were permitted to open their doors for worship (in fact this Sunday is the first sabbath following the move-ed.), on the understanding they'd be following the 2+2 rule and other strictures..

As the Estonian government has decided to conclude the emergency situation on May 17, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also informing other international organizations, including the (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) OSCE, and the UN, on whose security council Estonia holds a non-permanent seat, of the development.

The emergency situation was originally scheduled to last to the end of May, but was later extended. Similar emergency situations in many other European countries will be ongoing into June, such as in the case of Estonia's northern neighbor, Finland, or even into late August, as in the case of Norway.

In Estonia, the emergency situation (eriolukord) is to be replaced by a less severe situation variously translated as simply "emergency", or "crisis situation" (Estonian: Hädaolukord) and which has also been hotly debated at the highest level, in the framework of the post-emergency situation landscape, and changes to the relevant acts.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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