Justice minister ditches forest bill after landowners' complaint

Forest in Estonia (photo is illustrative).
Forest in Estonia (photo is illustrative). Source: Mirjam Mäekivi/ERR

Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) has left the Planning Act amendment bill on the table, saying it infringes landowners' basic right and enables the municipalities to establish restrictions too easily.

The Ministry of Finance is planning to amend the existing Forest Act by making amends to the Planning Act which, it is argued, would grant municipalities unlimited rights to limit logging while at the same time restricting ownership.

The ministry says municipalities should assess the proportionality of the proposed restrictions and consider compensating landowners for the restrictions, but there was no provision for this in the law, which would, however, leave local governments free to establish restrictions, with no requirement to pay compensation.

According to the Estonian landowners' association (Eesti omanike keskliit) and the private forest association (Erametsaliit), the amendment would deprive forest owners of guarantees that the restriction on the use of their property could only take place on the basis of an agreement. The two organizations therefore petitionedthe justice minister, asking him to intervene in amending the law and protecting what they called the fundamental rights of the owners.

"We are of the opinion that the restrictions established by the local government must be negotiated with the landowner in advance, and if no compromise is reached, an opportunity must be found to pay compensation to the landowner," Priidu Pärna, head of the owners' association, said.

The Ministry of Justice told ERR that Aeg did not approve the bill submitted by his own ministry, due to doubts about its constitutionality and the effects on landowners not having been assessed.

"The Ministry of Justice did not approve the bill, since its explanatory memorandum does not contain any analysis of the constitutionality of the bill's provisions," the ministry's public relations advisor, Kertu Laadoga, said.

The ministry also proposed that a norm should be written into the law which would oblige local government to assess the intensity of a restriction of the right of ownership, and to determine if paying compensation is justified.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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