Chancellor of Justice Allar Jõks replied to the interpellation (No. 149) concerning a possible violation of § 41 (2) of the Local Government Organisation Act by Narva City Council, submitted on 23 March by four members of the Isamaaliit Faction. The interpellators wanted to know about the use of Russian as language of public administration in Narva City Council.
Chancellor of Justice explained that proceeding from the Constitution, the language of public administration of the whole state and local governments must be, as a rule, Estonian. The Act may, however, stipulate the procedure according to which the language of the majority of permanent residents of the relevant locality is used as the internal working language of a local government. As to the so-called external working language or the choice of language in residents? relations with administrative agencies, § 51 of the Constitution provides for everyone the right to address local governments and to receive responses in Estonian. The first sentence of § 41 (1) of the Local Government Organisation Act provides that the language of public administration in local governments is Estonian and the subsection 2 stresses that the sittings of councils and governments are held in Estonian. As regards the use of foreign languages, § 41 (3) of the Local Government Organisation Act refers to the Language Act, § 11 of which stipulates the following: ?In local governments where the majority of permanent residents are non-Estonian speakers, the language of the national minority constituting the majority of the permanent residents of the local government may be used alongside Estonian as the internal working language of the local government on the proposal of the corresponding local government council and by a decision of the Government of the Republic.?
Chancellor of Justice stated that the local governments had repeatedly addressed the Government for getting the permission mentioned in § 11 of the Language Act, but no permission has been given. The fact that the Language Act relates the notion of permanent resident to the national minority and thus to the Estonian citizenship, has excluded the grant of permission. According to the data of the Population Register, as of 1 March 2005, the number of people with Estonian citizenship formed 41.9 per cent of the residents of Narva, 31.6 per cent had Russian citizenship, the remaining are without citizenship or have citizenship of other states.
Chancellor of Justice in his reply to the interpellation gave a survey of the inspection carried out in Narva City Council about the use of Russian as the language of public administration, and he analysed it in the context of the current legislation.
The verbatim record of the Riigikogu sitting (in Estonian) can be found at: http://web.riigikogu.ee/ems/plsql/stenograms.form
The Riigikogu Press Service
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