Isamaa's plan for the protection of the Estonian language, announced on Monday, calls for a 15-fold increase in the fine for those who fail to meet language proficiency criteria, to nearly €10,000. In addition, the party wants to impose a language requirement on candidates for municipal office and restrict foreign language instruction in higher education.
"Individuals who do not meet the language proficiency requirements should face higher penalties, as the current maximum fine of €640 has been in effect since 2002. This is insufficient and should be raised to €9,600." According to Isamaa, all parliamentary parties could agree on this measure.
The party believes that the position of Estonian as a state language in society must be protected and expanded, and to that end, amendments to the Language Act should be adopted to ensure that legal persons under public law, state and local government foundations and authorities communicate in Estonian.
Isamaa would also like to see specific Estonian language standards for cab drivers and all service personnel, including platform operators who communicate with clients.
In addition, the plan stipulates that the law should be revised so that signs, signposts, outdoor advertising and other information in public spaces be in Estonian. "Even if another language is used, priority must be given to the Estonian language. The majority of audio public service announcements should be in Estonian," a plan specifies.
To ensure that Estonian is the primary working language of local governments, the party wants also candidates in local elections to be fluent in the language.
Furthermore, Isamaa's plan emphasizes the importance of higher education institutions defending Estonian-language higher education and research by ensuring that all students have the opportunity to study in Estonian and that curricula in other languages should be the exception rather than the rule.
Foreign students must also be taught the Estonian language and culture. Dissertations should be defended in Estonian or accompanied by an Estonian abstract.
"Estonia must continue to train master's-level translators in order to maintain Estonian's standing as an official language of the European Union. The Institute of the Estonian Language will continue to organize the language and the Estonian spelling dictionary will continue to set the written language standard," the plan stipulates.
Helir-Valdor Seeder, the chair of Isamaa, said that "the state of the Estonian language is good, but there are also many hurdles." During the Soviet era, all Estonians united in opposition to Russification, but now, in our freedom, we have lost our vigilance, he said. "If we examine the organization of society as a whole, the encroachment of the English language also poses a problem. We are currently battling on both fronts."
Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), the minister of education and research, said that the Language Board receives an increasing number of complaints each year from people who discover in public or when interacting with customer service that knowledge of Estonian alone is insufficient.
"The next four years will determine whether Estonia remains Estonia. These may appear to be lofty statements, and yet they are accurate. The extent of Estonian language use in the public sphere have rapidly declined in recent years. This has surprised both government officials and concerned citizens," Lukas said.
Editor: Kristina Kersa