Rule of Law in Estonia

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

green
The Supreme Court and other judicial self-governance bodies play an important role in judicial appointments and other decisions on the justice system.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The level of perceived judicial independence is average among the general public and low among companies.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The Council for Administration of Courts plays an important role in determining the resources for the judiciary, and contributed to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Quality

green
Information and communication technologies in courts are advanced, and are being further developed to make the courts function smoothly despite the COVID-19 related challenges.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Efficiency

green
The Estonian justice system is working efficiently.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

yellow
Estonia scores 74/100 in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index and ranks 8th in the European Union and 18th globally.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A new anti-corruption strategy is in preparation.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Prevention

yellow
There are no comprehensive whistleblower protection rules in place.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Lobbying is not regulated.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Provisions have been introduced to regulate ‘revolving doors’.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Repressive measures

green
Competences in the prevention and fight against corruption are shared between different institutions.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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There has been some debate on the need for managers of state-owned companies to make their economic interest public.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

green
A planned reform aims to strengthen the independence of the media regulator - the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (ECPTRA).
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Estonian Press Council (Pressinõukogu) is a voluntary self-regulating body.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Transparency of Media

yellow
There are currently no specific legal provisions requiring the disclosure of ownership information.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Journalists' Protection

green
The right to information is established in the Constitution, and the Public Information Act regulates the public’s right to access information held by public authorities.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The framework for the protection of journalists is comprehensive.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

green
A new law-making environment and legislative policy guidelines are being developed to further enhance the user-friendliness and inclusiveness for the public and stakeholders.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Constitutional review is carried out by the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Review Chamber.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Estonia declared an emergency situation.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Civil Society

green
A new Civil Society Development Plan 2021-2030 is being developed.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Independent Authorities

green
Amendments broadened the mandate of the Office of the Chancellor for Justice (Ombudsperson).
View source | Our evaluation: green
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