Justice chancellor: Narva council sessions held in Russian may not be legal

Ülle Madise.
Ülle Madise. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Regularly and systemically holding Narva city council sessions in the Russian language may not be legitimate, in constitutional terms, according to Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise.

In an interview given to agricultural weekly Maaleht (link in Estonian) Madise said that in any event, it is the role of the council chair (in Narva, currently Vladimir Žavoronkov – ed.) to halt sessions being held in a foreign language, ie. any language other than Estonian.

This also raises the matter of whether questions asked in Russian at a council session were valid, and even if a session itself was held legally and a such should hold the same legislative status as an Estonian-language sitting.

While Estonia, like virtually all of continental Europe, is a civil law jurisdiction, Madise invoked precedent in tackling that question.

Madise told Maaleht that: "According to current case law, such an error would probably not be decisive, though at the same time, if this violation is systemic and if it deprives part of the community the opportunity to observe the council session, that situation may change."

"Then the matter may become serious enough, and in some cases it may even end with council decisions not having any validity," she went on.

As to whether taking away the right to vote from non-citizens would be in line with the Constitution, Madise replied that the largest franchise which could possibly be permitted is desirable, adding that if the Riigikogu voted in favor of taking away the right to vote, the matter would likely go to the Supreme Court.

The widest franchise in Estonian elections relates to local government elections, in which all permanent residents can vote. Next comes the EU elections, where all EU citizens resident in Estonia can vote, followed by the general election, in which only Estonian citizens are permitted to vote.

The presidential election is voted on by electors, MPs in the first instance, and an regional electoral college if earlier rounds prove inconclusive.

Madise told Maaleht that while she had not dealt with the issue of the removal and relocation of the Narva tank monument, which took place in August, in her opinion either the city or the state should have resolved the matter earlier.

Ultimately the state made the decision to move the tank, a Soviet-made T-34, to a museum near Tallinn, after local government had drawn a blank.

The original Maaleht piece (in Estonian) is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: Maaleht

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