Estonian justice minister does not approve alcohol law amendments

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Photo: Eero Vabamägi

Estonia's Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu did not approve Health and Labor Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski's plans for restricting the advertising and sale of alcohol saying the bill of amendments did not sufficiently prove the need for and expediency of the planned measures.

The Ministry of Justice supports the bill's objective to protect public health from the risks of alcohol consumption, but the objective should be achieved in a way that burdens the society the least and is the most cost-effective, Reinsalu said.

«The Justice Ministry withholds its consent for bills which have not been preceded by an intention to develop legislation,» Reinsalu said in his reply to the Ministry of Social Affairs. An intention to develop legislation is supposed to establish whether it is absolutely necessary to change laws to solve a problem or whether the problem could be solved in some other way, he explained.

The justice minister said the analysis of the constitutionality of the proposed measures contained in the explanatory note to the bill is incomplete as it only deals with the freedom of enterprise but leaves out freedom of expression and right of ownership, for instance, and brings no proof of the necessity of the measures. The problems of the bill probably could have been eliminated had it passed the phase of intention, he says.

In Reinsalu's words, it is not clear whether the planned changes are mainly aimed at reducing damage to health, restricting access to alcohol for minors, reducing average alcohol consumption or reducing the number of alcohol addicts. Each objective addresses a different problem and different measures are most efficient for achieving each of them, he argues.

The bill also does not address the risk of an increase in illicit booze resulting from restricting the availability of alcohol, the justice minister notes.

The minister of economic affairs and infrastructure, Kristen Michal, likewise withheld his consent for the proposed changes.