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Symbols of occupation prohibited in Estonia’s construction law

Estonia’s parliament has passed amendments to the construction law prohibiting the construction of buildings or monuments with publicly visible symbols of hatred or justification of occupation, acts of aggression, genocide or war crimes or crimes against humanity, the BNS agency reported.

The amendments adopted on Wednesday provide a clear legal basis for local authorities to remove inappropriate monuments and symbols. They specify which buildings are prohibited and give guidelines for resolving any disputes.

Incitement to hatred was previously banned under the Penal Code, but similar provisions did not function in Estonia’s construction law.

“The changes will finally make it possible to prove the historical truth and complete the removal of monuments justifying the occupation. Of course, the victims and their descendants have been waiting for this the most, but it is undoubtedly important for the country as a whole, especially given Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine,” Estonian Justice Minister Lea Danilson-Järg said.

“The decision does not mean that all monuments or building elements bearing symbols of the occupation era are subject to automatic removal. Any kind of demolition is an absolute last resort, and our goal is not to deal with every five-pointed red star found in Estonia,” she added.

“However, if there are symbols on a building that are found to be in conflict with the new requirement, a decision must be made as to whether the symbols can be covered up or removed,” the minister noted.

After the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany struck a secret agreement in 1940 to divide Europe into fascist and communist “spheres of influence,” Estonia became a socialist republic dependent on Moscow. The country regained independence in 1991.

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