The Administrative Court ruled yesterday in favour of the City of Tallinn in its dispute with the central government over the future ownership of the Blackheads House in Tallinn Old Town.
The court did not offer an opinion on whether the building should be returned to the Blackheads, but abolished the government resolution in which the government rejected the proposal of the Tallinn City Council not to return the building to the historic brotherhood. The court found that it was not clear whether the building would remain open to public once it is transferred to the brotherhood.
According to the court, the government has not properly interpreted the law in handling the return issue, but the court did not provide a justified opinion on whether the building should be returned to the organization. In principle, the court found that the building can be returned to its rightful owners only if there are guarantees that it will not make it more difficult for the local government to fulfil its public duties.
In this regard, the court ruled that the government’s view that a draft contract which the brotherhood has submitted to the City of Tallinn for signature is not a sufficient guarantee that the local government can continue fulfilling its current duties. It said that even if the contract is signed, it was so unspecific that it is not clear whether the return of the building to the brotherhood is justified or not.
The court also noted that since the Blackhead Brotherhood has had no significant activities in Tallinn since 1991, one needs more in-depth analysis to assess that the brotherhood has organization capacity and will, as the owner of the Blackheads House, to develop cultural activities in the building in the same degree as at present. Ants Nõmper, attorney at law and representative of the brotherhood in Estonia, has said that the lack of its own building is one reason why the brotherhood has not been publicly known in Tallinn since 1991.
The court ruling can be appealed within 30 days. According to Nõmper, the court ruling is likely to be appealed. Commenting the court ruling, Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar said that it was proof of objectivity and independence. Savisaar said that the initiative and courage of residents of Tallinn in protecting the city’s assets deserved credit.
He urged the central government to accept the court ruling and stop forcing the City to give up the building to the organization. “I don’t think they should start this process for the third time,” said Savisaar, urging the government not to appeal the ruling. On June 28, the government adopted a resolution to return the building to the Blackheads Brotherhood saying that if the building is not returned, it would affect the brotherhood’s rights more than the rights of the local government, ie Tallinn.
The government also claims that the brotherhood has made at least five attempts to start negotiations with the City about the future use of the building, but Tallinn city government has not been willing to negotiate. The brotherhood claims that the draft contract that it has proposed offers to continue using the building in the current form for cultural purposes and without term.
City of Tallinn disputed the resolution saying that the application to return the building was filed by Bruderschaft der Schwarzenhäupter aus Reval e.V. that operates in Germany and, according to Tallinn, is not justified for the property as the legal successor because the activities of the organization have been interrupted.