ECRI report on Estonia

by Eleonora Mancinotti, ERIO on October 26th, 2015

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released its fifth report on Estonia on the 13th October. ECRI is an independent organ of the Council of Europe and assesses main trends in racism and discrimination issues in the Council’s member states. The European Roma Information Office (ERIO) is pleased to present ECRI’s findings related to the Roma population, which was treated in a dedicated section.

In this fifth report ECRI observes that the implementation of the Integration Strategy 2008-2013 has produced notable effects and national studies confirm that progress has been made. Nevertheless, ECRI believes that it is necessary to have a more meticulous analysis that could draw on the recommendations made in the 4th cycle regarding integration issues, including the situation of the Roma, and the methodologies that could be adopted to address them.

With regards to hate speech, ECRI underlined that racist comments on the Internet news portals and the under-reporting of cases of racial hatred or violence are a source of concern. According to the information given by the Estonian authorities, the judicial authorities have investigated five offences of incitement to hatred since 2010.

ECRI recommends that the Estonian authorities amend the Article 151 of the Criminal Code, removing the restriction whereby an offence cannot be deemed to have taken place unless it is proven that it entails a risk to the health, life or property of the victim. Another improvement that the authorities should implement is the adoption of a system to collect data and produce statistics of the cases of racist hate speech and violence brought to the attention of the police and/or being pursued through the courts.

As regards awareness-raising, the campaign “Diversity enriches” has produced a guide to promote broad public familiarity with the Equal Treatment Act in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs. ECRI underlines the importance of organising an extensive campaign to inform and raise awareness among the Estonian community about racist hate speech, the legal framework covering this field, and procedures for reporting or filing complaints against instances of such speech.

ECRI welcomes an important initiative inspired by its recommendations on combating the prejudices affecting the Roma. On October 2013 an exhibition opened entitled “We, the Roma” which has been implemented with the aim of promoting the uniqueness of the Roma trying to dispel the myths and stereotypes attributed to this ethnic group.

Concerning the urgency of removing Roma children who do not have special needs from special schools highlighted in ECRI’s 4th report, Estonian authorities have reported that only one Roma child was in a special school, further to a medical diagnosis. Moreover, the authorities have informed that in autumn 2014 the Ministry of Education and Research carried out a two-year project of educational counselling for teachers in order to keep Roma children who have a medical diagnosis of “mild intelligence challenge” in mainstream schools. ECRI reiterates its recommendations to the Estonian authorities to take measures to ensure that Roma children who do not have special needs are no longer placed in special schools.
You can read the full report here.

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