Chancellor of justice criticizes Russian-language Narva council session

Narva council chambers signage, in wintertime.
Narva council chambers signage, in wintertime. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has criticized the holding of a Narva city council session, which took place predominantly in the Russian language, earlier this month.

The Chancellor of Justice was responding to a request for her opinion on an August 15 session of the Narva City Council , which was held in the Russian language, for the most part. 

In her response, the justice chancellor stated that pursuant to the Constitution, the administration of both state and local government in its entirety should in general be conducted in the Estonian language.

Legislation may, however, stipulate the extent and order in which the language of the majority of the permanent residents of a respective locality is used, in the internal affairs of the local government, the justice chancellor said.

"Regarding the, as it were, choice of language of external affairs whereby residents communicate with authorities, the Constitution provides for the right of all to address local authorities in Estonian and to receive answers in Estonian."

The Local Government Organization Act stipulates that the language of administration in local government is Estonian, and emphasizes that legislature and executive sessions are to be held in Estonian.

The Chancellor of Justice points out that §11 of the Language Act stipulates that in a municipality where the language of the majority of permanent residents is not Estonian, the language of the majority of the permanent residents of said municipality may, at the proposal of the local government leadership and by decision of the national government, be used as a working language, in the course the local government's internal administration, in addition to Estonian.

However, Madise went on: "So far as the Chancellor of Justice is aware, the Government of the Republic has not made such a decision regarding the City of Narva." 

Narva city council held an official and public (and was live-linked via Youtube) session on August 15, in which deputies spoke mostly in Russian. 

While the issue of the tank monument located just outside the city, now relocated to a museum near Tallinn, was on the agenda, the majority of the council decided at short notice to abandon that debate.

The tank was removed and relocated on August 16.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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