Justice chancellor: Ministry messed up flight restriction changes

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise.
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Flight restrictions recently both simultaneously imposed and lifted by the economics affairs ministry violate administrative best practices, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise says.

Madise said that easing restrictions on direct flights within the EU/EEA while at the same time tightening up those on flights to non-EU, or "third", countries, such as Turkey, have not been carried out correctly, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported Tuesday.

The justice chancellor made her remarks in written form in an analysis of a ministry directive which changed the flights restrictions regime from the beginning of this week, overnight switching from a situation where direct flight links to nearly all European countries were off the table, to almost the reverse of that, ie. where flights are permitted to most of those states.

Madise primarily criticized the manner in which the changes were made, rather than their principle, saying that the full text of the current regulations are difficult to find, the entry into force date was not clearly stated, and that not all stakeholders had received the information.

Madise also said the transitional period between one set of regulations and another had not been sufficient – a common criticism of the current administration in how it implements coronavirus-related regulations, for example those concerning late-night alcohol sales.

An association representing tourist businesses may also take the matter to court, saying the government's activities are hindering an already blighted sector, and harming consumers.

Tiit Pruul, head of the Estonian Association of Tourism Companies  (Eesti Turismifirmade Liit), said that: "The news related to the directive has created a situation where the pace of sales of holiday trips planned for October (the school half-term break starts on October 19 – ed.) has slowed down even further, and there is a clear connection between this and the statements by ministers and ensuing public fear,"

"Taking things to court is in my opinion a final step. I would try to resolve the differences with the minister at the negotiating table," Pruuli added.

The regulation which means direct flights between Estonia and European countries with a coronavirus rate no higher than double the European average – currently a little under 200 per 100,000 inhabitants – can go ahead was announced late last week and came into force at the beginning of this week.

The previous regime saw flights barred to any countries with a rate higher than 25 per 100,000 inhabitants – which meant that many countries with lower rates than Estonia itself (currently a little over 50 per 100,000 - ed.) were on the blacklist.

Ülle Madise added that the recent economics affairs ministry directive is not sufficiently substantiated. 

"Insufficient reasoning is an error that makes it difficult to check the legality of the directive, but may be a sufficient reason to revoke it," she wrote.

"It must also be taken into account that the more intensely the fundamental rights are violated, the more thorough the reasons must be."

The actual assessment of the directive's legality is a matter for the courts, as is the question of damages and compensation, the chancellor added, stressing that she does not take a position on the necessity or legality of flight restrictions per se.

People who had booked and paid for charter trips to Turkey found that they could no longer travel after the change came into effect Monday.

Outside the EU/EEA, direct flights to and from Estonia are permitted in the case of Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Tunisia and Uruguay, and also China, with certain conditions.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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