Legal provisions are formalised in writing and their systematic whole is brought together in a document that satisfies certain requirements, called legislation. Through legislation, the state accords a generally binding force to certain rules of conduct. By means of legislation, the mutual relationships between the state and its citizens are determined and the communal life of citizens is organised.

Two types of legislation can be distinguished:

  • Legislation of general application – legislation that contains legal provisions (a rule of conduct of general nature that is generally binding and formally defined, created by a competent institution according to a certain procedure, and guaranteed by state coercion).
  • Legislation of specific application – legislation that does not contain a legal provision. Legislation of specific application includes, for example, decisions, orders and directives. This kind of legislation does not contain legal provisions and is meant for regulating specific cases.

Where is legislation available?

Pursuant to subsection 3 (2) of the Constitution, only published laws can be mandatory.

Estonian legislation is also available in English online on the website of the electronic Riigi Teataja (State Gazette). The official online publication of the Republic of Estonia, the electronic Riigi Teataja, makes it possible to search for legislation and read all currently effective full texts. Use of the database is free of charge. Registered users can order legal acts, court rulings and legal news by e-mail.

Publishers have produced compilations of legislation that can be bought from bookshops and borrowed from libraries. A set of full texts of the Riigi Teataja can be published on paper as a special edition upon request and at the expense of the client.

Legislation standard

In continental legal system, the legislative system has been hierarchically standardised. The foundation of the legislative system of a modern country consists in constitutions or constitutional laws. These are followed, in terms of conclusive force, by laws and then administrative legislation. An overview of legislation in the Estonian legal order:

  • Constitution (subsection 3 (1) and section 102 of the Constitution) – in the most general terms, the Constitution can be defined as a system of legal provisions whose provisions have a stronger legal force compared to other legal provisions and which determines the most fundamental relationships between people and the state as well as the basic principles of the public order.

  • Constitutional laws (subsection 104 (2) of the Constitution) – constitutional laws are the laws listed in subsection 104 (2) of the Constitution. They differ from other laws in that they can be adopted and amended only by majority vote of the composition of the Riigikogu (i.e. a minimum of 51 votes) and cannot be amended by the President with his or her decrees. Such laws include, for example, the Citizenship Act, the Referendum Act, the President of the Republic Election Act and other laws listed in subsection 104 (2).

  • ** Laws** (sections 65 and 105 of the Constitution) – in democratic countries, laws are understood in the formal sense as legislation adopted by the parliament under the name of laws or legislation adopted by the people by a referendum. In addition, laws are also understood in the material sense. These are legal instruments containing legal provisions or general rules of conduct, adopted by the parliament, the people or the executive power. Legislation of general application consists in legal instruments enforced by the state or a local government that contain legal provisions – generally binding rules of conduct that are directed at an undefined circle of people. A law is legislation of the highest conclusive force that has been adopted in the form of a law either by the Riigikogu according to Riigikogu rules of procedure or by means of a referendum in a manner prescribed by law.

  • Decrees (section 109 of the Constitution) – pursuant to section 109 of the Constitution, the President of the Republic can issue decrees that have the force of a law. The President of the Republic can issue decrees when there is urgent national need and the Riigikogu is unable to convene.

  • Regulations (section 87 of the Constitution) – subsection 87 (6) provides that the Government of the Republic shall issue regulations and orders on the basis of and for the compliance with the law, and subsection 94 (2) provides that a minister shall issue regulations and directives on the basis of and for the compliance with the law.

  • Legislation of a local government (section 139 of the Constitution) – section 139 of the Constitution provides that the Chancellor of Justice is an independent official in his or her activity who monitors the compliance of the legislation of general application of the legislative and executive power and of local governments with the Constitution and laws. Section 4 of the Local Government Organisation Act provides that local government bodies are:
    • the council – a representative body of the local government that is elected by the rural municipality’s or city’s residents with the right to vote in accordance with the Local Government Council Election Act.
    • the government – an executive body formed by the council.
  • Section 7 of the Local Government Organisation Act stipulates the legislation of the council and the government:
    • The council and the government have the right to issue regulations as legislation of general application.
    • The council has the right to adopt decisions and the government to issue orders as legislation of specific application.
    • The legislation of the council and the government is effective on the administrative territory of the respective local government unit.

The State Portal eesti.ee does not provide legal assistance, European e-Justice portal provides information on justice systems.

Compiled by: Ministry of Justice