Report: Estonia must ramp up fight against discrimination, hate speech

An EKRE-organized anti-LGBT+ protest in Tartu's Town Hall Square was met with counter-protesters. November 1, 2019.
An EKRE-organized anti-LGBT+ protest in Tartu's Town Hall Square was met with counter-protesters. November 1, 2019. Source: Madis Hindre/ERR

In a report and an opinion published Thursday, bodies under the remit of the Council of Europe (CoE) called on Estonia to ensure accessible and effective general anti-discrimination legislation, tackle racist and LGBT+-phobic hate speech as well as intensify efforts to integrate the country's national minorities.

In its report (link to PDF), the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) noted that there have been improvements in Estonia since its last report in 2015, according to a press release.

Improvements highlighted by the commission included the adoption of a "bullying-free education" concept and implementation of several bullying prevention programs, the increasing social acceptance of LGBT+ people, the initiation of measures to thwart hate speech, including a nationwide equality and inclusion campaign, the strengthening of victim support services, and efforts to increase the inclusion of Roma people, with a particular emphasis on Roma women.

The report also highlighted the resources that have been invested in the integration and inclusion of Estonia's Russian-speaking population and recipients of international protection, noting that the divide between the country's Estonian- and Russian-language schools had lessened somewhat with the development of immersion schools at the basic level and integrated schools at the secondary level.

Despite the progress achieved, the ECRI nonetheless found that some issues continued to be of concern in Estonia, and provided several recommendations to Estonian authorities accordingly, including to ensure that the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner is fully independent at the institutional and operational levels and provided with sufficient human and financial resources and to update legislation in several areas, including anti-discrimination laws and the legal framework on gender recognition and gender reassignment.

The commission also recommended setting up an interinstitutional working group to develop a comprehensive anti-hate speech strategy, as well as a broad group of relevant parties from Estonia's Russian-speaking and other non-Estonian communities to consult on the implementation of the country's education-related strategies.

Committee: Ensure Russian-language education

In its fifth opinion (link to PDF) on Estonia, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ACFC) issued a series of recommendations aimed at both further integrating Estonian society as a whole and supporting national minorities' participation therein.

Among other recommendations, the committee called on Estonian authorities to improve meaningful access of the country's Roma minority to education, to continue to address divides in Estonian- and Russian-language education and media, to ensure access to Russian-language instruction at all levels of the public education system and to intensify dialogue with representatives of the country's Russian minority.

The ACFC also called on consultation structures with minority groups to be expanded beyond just the cultural sphere and for adequate opportunities to be provided for minorities to provide input to and influence all decisions and issues affecting them, while also taking account of the diversity of views within various minority communities. It also called for the promotion of increased high-quality broadcasting in minority languages and about national minority cultures.

Notably, the committee also called on Estonia to maintain an open and constructive dialogue with the Setos regarding the status of their official recognition as a minority and their continued access to minority rights.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) is a human rights monitoring body specializing in matters related to the fight against racism, discrimination — on the grounds of race, ethnic or national origin, color, citizenship, religion, language, sexual orientation and gender identity — xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance in Europe.

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) is a comprehensive European treaty protecting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, the implementation of which is monitored by an advisory committee (ACFC).

The ACFC and ECRI coordinated their online meetings as well as an in-person visit to Estonia in July 2021.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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