Further course of Soviet-era symbols law depends on president's approval

Detail of the cinema
Detail of the cinema "Kino Sõprus" building in the old center of Tallinn, in the Stalinist architectural style of the 1930s to 1950s. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Wednesday, the Riigikogu passed the Soviet-Era symbols act, notwithstanding the conclusion of the parliament's legal department that the law is unconstitutional. Now the bill has to be promulgated by President Alar Karis.

The law allows for the removal of Soviet insignia from public spaces.

According to the government's legal analysis, it is unclear to what extent the section of the building is supposed to be considered as "visible" to the general public and whether it is indeed "hostile."

In addition, the role and competence of the government commission that will examine this issue were deemed to be questionable, as was the fact that private individuals who own the buildings in question will be required to bring them into compliance with the new law in a short period of time and with their own funds.

The analysis emphasized that definitions were not made sufficiently clear, and thus the competence of local authorities to interpret the law would be lacking.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Justice argued that the law is constitutional.

"We evaluated and analyzed the act both when we drafted the legislation and when we later provided feedback on the legal department's viewpoint. The lawyers for our ministry have found that none of the concerns highlighted in the analysis of the Riigikogu's legal department is justified," Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa) said.

The only political party to vote against this legislation was the Center Party.

Anastassia Kovalenko-Kõlvart, a member of the parliamentary group, said that the wording was imprecise and that, during the procedure, it was unclear, for example, what the term "incitement to hatred" (vaenu õhutav hoone, literally meaning "hatred inciting building") referred to.

Kovalenko-Kõlvart said that if these structures are not brought into compliance, it would be permissible to demolish the entire building, which was one of the earliest warning signs of this plan that the faction drew attention to.T

The legislation expressly references only building components, Danilson-Järg explained, "in particular, only those parts that bear the emblems of the occupying forces."

Kristen Michal, a member of the Reform Party and the chair of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, said that they were in consultation with the Ministry of Justice regarding the legal department's criticism, and hence had agreed to one change: extending from three to six months the period in which owners have to bring their buildings to compliance with the law.

The bill was passed, leaving the president with the final decision.

"In the last moments of the meeting, the initiator presented a counter-analysis arguing that, from their perspective, everything is constitutional. We decided to refer the bill to the president after having examined different points of view; if the bill returns, the new composition can begin analyzing and correcting it," Michael explained.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Kristina Kersa

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