Declaration by the Estonian Tenants Association:
THE FORCED TENANTS ISSUE CAUSED A WAR OF WORDS
(www.DELFI.ee 13 June 2007 14:44)
From the shorthand records of session I of the XI Riigikogu on Wednesday 13 June 2007, at 13:00, where the 7th item on the agenda was housing policy. The session was chaired by Jüri Ratas, Vice-President of Riigikogu; questions were posed by Helle Kalda, Marika Tuus and Heimar Lenk and answered by Juhan Parts, Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications. We also have the reply to the board of the Tartu Forced Tenants Association from the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications from 19 June 2007.
A ‘war of words’ does indeed seem to be the appropriate phrase to describe what happened at Riigikogu, and more so, to describe the following active commenting – 191 comments – at the DELFI website. This clearly shows that these are still acute problems.
First, it must be added-emphasised that the following has been purposefully stated in the “Principles of Ownership Reform Act” (ORAS), passed on 13 June 1991:
§ 2. Purpose of ownership reform
(1) The purpose of ownership reform is to restructure ownership relations in order to ensure the inviolability of property and free enterprise, to undo the injustices caused by violation of the right of ownership and to create the preconditions for the transfer to a market economy.
(2) Return of property to or compensation of former owners or their legal successors for property in the course of ownership reform shall not prejudice the interests protected by law of other persons or cause new injustices.
It is exactly this second, purposeful provision concerning the ownership reform that some tend to overlook.
Secondly, it must be understood that the term restitution has not been given a legally grounded explanation-definition in that act, and the term is used as a euphemism for the expropriation of property in the form of gift-giving and theft, in order to cover up the indecent or even criminal nature of what is really happening. No-one regained the property of 1940 – be it land, a house or wood. Instead, they received, as a gift, the riches of today and as a result, when dwellings were transferred, someone else was dispossessed of this property because, by violating the law, they were robbed of the right and opportunity to privatize his home.
Thirdly, it is important to point out that Riigikogu has placed the execution of the entire ownership reform beyond the area of regulation of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms when Riigikogu included a reservation upon passing the “Act of Ratification of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” on 13 March 1996. And therefore, people’s proprietary rights in the ownership reform are being violated as a state policy, that is, giving property to some as a gift and robbing it from others is a legal activity in the Republic of Estonia. And so, in terms of the European legal sphere, we have in Estonia a state system which violates human rights in this aspect.
(After regaining its independence, Estonia has started extensive economic and social reforms which also include the restitution of property or compensation for property nationalised, confiscated, subjected to compulsory selling, collectivised or otherwise unlawfully expropriated in the period of annexation by the Soviet Union, to the previous owners or their successors; and the restructuring of the collective farming system and the privatisation of state ownership.
Pursuant to Article 64 in the Convention, the Republic of Estonia declares that the provisions of Article 1 in Protocol 1 do not extend to the ownership reform legislation which regulates the restitution of property or compensation for property nationalised, confiscated, subjected to compulsory selling, collectivised or otherwise unlawfully expropriated in the period of annexation by the Soviet Union; and the restructuring of the collective farming system and the privatisation of state ownership. The present reservation applies to the versions of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act(RT 1991, 21, 257; RT I 1994, 38,617; 40, 653; 51, 859; 94, 1609), Land Reform Act (RT 1991, 34, 426; RT I 1995, 10, 113), Agricultural Reform Act (RT 1992, 10, 143; 36, 474; RT I 1994, 52, 880), Privatisation Act (RT I 1993, 45, 639; 1994, 50, 846; 79, 1329; 83, 1448; 1995, 22, 327; 54, 881; 57, 979), Privation of Dwellings Act (RT I 1993, 23, 411; 1995, 44, 671; 57, 979; 1996, 2, 28), Unlawfully Expropriated Property Valuation and Compensation Act (RT I 1993, 30, 509; 1994, 8, 106; 51,859; 54, 905; 1995, 29, 357) and Collectivised Property Valuation Act(RT I 1993, 7, 104) in force at the time when the present act enters into force.)
The Resistance movement against such a state system started at the same time as the so-called restitution of property, but it did not gain larger ground until on 6 May 1993 when the Privatisation of Dwellings Act was passed and the process of the privatisation of dwellings and the restitution of dwellings to the legal successors began. That is when a social stratum of forced tenants, as subjects of law deprived of the right to privatise the dwelling in their use under a rental contract, developed, comprising an estimated 100 000 people. The resistance movement started by the people was called “Õiguslik Tasakaal” (Party For Legal Justice) and developed into a party of the same name which took part in the 1994 elections in the election coalition “Õiglus” (Justice) and in the 1996 elections in the election coalition of Keskerakond ( Estonian Central Party ).
Fourthly, the forced tenants understand that the state and the local governments have the obligation, as prescribed by law, to provide the forced tenants with a dwelling equivalent to the one which they were not able to privatise, or to give them funding for purchasing such a dwelling.
(ORAS § 121. Validity of residential lease contract in respect of returned residential building
(9): Tenants living in a returned residential building are entitled to receive a new dwelling pursuant to the procedure provided by the Privatisation of Dwellings Act or are entitled to apply for a loan or grant from the state or local government for resettlement or for purchase of a dwelling pursuant to the Use of Privatisation Proceeds Act.
Fifthly, it has been legally specified that what may result in a violation of subsection 2(2) of ORAS is exactly the order to return property, if beforehand it has been neglected to make sure that the transfer of property to the legal successor shall “not prejudice the interests protected by law of other persons [the forced tenants, in this case] or cause new injustices”. Namely, in 1998, the Tallinn Ownership Reform Office asked the law office HETA for their opinion about how to deal with the applications for the restitution of the unlawfully expropriated property of people who left Estonia under agreements signed with Germany. In their reply, the law office refers to the legal position of the Supreme Court from 1 November 1996 wherein the city government’s order to return property is regarded as an act which may violate the tenants’ rights to the privatisation of the dwelling.
The discussion was helpful in bolstering the opinion that the Estonian ownership reform must be completed, by remedying immediately the errors made in these 15 years by returning the properties which have been returned to owners in a criminal manner, and by compensating for the direct material damage caused by the errors and for the new injustices caused by the non-observance of law.
PS. These are the most valuable expressions of opinion in the war of words that we found: 13 June 2007 at 15:40 Poisonous ORAS; 13 June 2007 at 16:12 Have mercy on them and forgive me!; 13 June 2007 at 16:19 the 1996 article by Uluots; 13 June 2007 at 19:49 Enn: about the state’s irresponsible behaviour and its administrative incapability; 14 June 2007 at 01:17 Prophetic: It will come nevertheless, you will not escape it!