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The information contained on this page represents the situation as of 1 January 2014 and is a summary of the country report produced by the country expert from the network. The summary can be downloaded here as well. 

Vadim Poleštšuk

Country context

Estonia is a multi-ethnic society. As of 1 January 2013, the total population of Estonia was 1,286,479. About 30% of all population were ethnic non-Estonians. The biggest minority groups were ethnic Russians (25.2%), Ukrainians (1.7%), Byelorussians (1.0%) and Finns (0.6%).The number of racial minority members and Roma is very small.

Main principles and definitions

The general principles of equality and non-discrimination in Estonian law can be found in the Constitution (primarily Article 12). The Law on Equal Treatment includes detailed definitions of direct and indirect discrimination, and harassment.

Enforcing the law

In general discrimination disputes shall be resolved by a court or labour dispute committees (quasi-judicial body). Discrimination disputes shall also be resolved by the Chancellor of Justice by way of conciliation proceedings. Furthermore, people can file an application for an opinion concerning possible cases of discrimination with the Commissioner for Gender Equality and Equal Treatment (the Commissioner deals with discrimination on the grounds of sex and the grounds applicable in the context of the Law on Equal Treatment).

Main legislation

According to the Estonian Constitution, the norms stipulated by international treaties which have been ratified have priority over domestic legislation. Estonia has signed and ratified the vast majority of international instruments aimed at combating discrimination.

Material scope

Article 12 of the Constitution bans discrimination in all spheres of activities which are regulated and protected by the state.

The material scope of the Law on Equal Treatment is identical with that of the Directives for respective grounds.

Equality bodies

There are two equality bodies in Estonia: the Commissioner for Gender Equality and Equal Treatment (mandate to deal with grounds other than sex from January 2009) and the Chancellor of Justice (mandate from January 2004).

The Commissioner for Gender Equality and Equal Treatment is an independently acting expert appointed for five-year period by the Minister of Social Affairs. His or her activities, supported by the office, are funded by the state budget. The statute of the office is adopted by the Government of the Republic. As it was mentioned above, the Commissioner is dealing with discrimination on the grounds of sex and the grounds applicable in the context of the Law on Equal Treatment, i.e. ethnic origin, race, colour, religion or other beliefs, age, disability or sexual orientation.

Go to the European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities This initiative is financed by the EC Programme Progress. But the views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.