Estonia gets down to amending language law

  • 2000-02-10
TALLINN (BNS) - Preliminary work to bring the Estonian language law into agreement with recommendations of the European Union has already started, but for the time being, Estonia is planning to limit itself to softening some government decrees.

Representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the State Chancellery, as well as MP Mart Nutt met in Population Minister Katrin Saks's office on Feb.3 to discuss amendment of the language law.

"As the first option, we will propose changes to government decrees issued on the basis of the language law, and see what the European Commission says," Pro Patria Union's Nutt, regarded as an expert of language and citizenship issues, said.

If the language law has to be amended, the amendments won't be big, said Nutt, who belongs to the parliament's European affairs committee.

At the same time, a comparison will be made between the Estonian and the Latvian language laws.

"In Latvia, stipulations of the language law are tougher than in Estonia, but they haven't drawn any criticism from the European Commission," Nutt said.

The working group will make its proposals concerning a solution to the problem within two or three weeks, Nutt said.

The Estonian Foreign Minister said on Feb. 7 that the Estonian language law must be amended.

"Like other laws, the Estonian language law must not be at variance with EU rules, and some of the present questionable points must be eliminated to achieve this," Foreign Ministry press secretary Taavi Toom said.

Toom said this pertains to requirements of the EU's domestic market, not the minorities issue.

Estonian officials have said the European Commission's criticism was caused above all because of fears of limitations to EU citizens opportunities to practice business in Estonia as a result of the language requirements.

A decree of July 27, on the implementation of the language law established the requirement of proficiency in Estonian for the time being only to employees of the public sector.

Prime Minister Mart Laar admitted on Feb. 8 that there are clearly overemphasized points in the Estonian language law.

"The European Union's aim is certainly not to weaken the status of Estonian," he said.