Juridica International is a special edition of Juridica, a journal of the Faculty of Law of the University of Tartu (founded in 1632), and was first published at the end of 1996. The purpose of the first special issue, directed primarily at foreign readers, was to give an overview of the current legal system in Estonia and to reflect on its past and current changes (legal reform). With this issue, I would like to stress that this time around the focus is on in-depth academic articles, depicting both integration into Europe and the current state of Estonian jurisprudence.
The strategic objective of Estonia today is to join the European Union. Thus, it is understandable that European Union law influences the Estonian legal system on the whole more and more. The approximation of current Estonian legislation to European Union law is of primary importance, followed by the harmonisation process.
Estonian lawyers must understand the principles of European Union law and be prepared to acquire a deeper understanding in specific areas. Judges need to understand how and under what conditions European Union law affects their judgements. Advocates and lawyers also must keep up with the changing legal system and be competent to provide appropriate legal assistance. To the best of its ability, the Faculty of Law of the University of Tartu has tried to be of assistance in this environment of change. It is important to provide a basic common knowledge of Estonian national law and of European Union law in order to harmonise the former with the latter. One example of this is the development of a course concerning European Union law and the Estonian legal system from the perspective of Estonian national law, which was prepared in co-operation with the Estonian Law Center.
The need to improve knowledge of European law is especially valid with regard to the students of the University of Tartu who must acquire the fundamental concepts, principles and legal theories of the legal environment in Europe. To date, this process has been fostered by the transformation of the Estonian legal system into a continental European legal system which is governed by common legal principles. It is obvious that students need to acquire education at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels necessary for the harmonisation process of the Estonian national legal system with European Union law.
A strategic step in that direction was the petitioning for the foundation of a chair of European Union law by the Faculty of Law. Harmonisation of national legal systems with European Union law is a two-way process whereby the national legal system moves toward European Union law and European Union law influences the national law. Foundation and development of a chair will provide the basis for systematic teaching and research of European Union law at the University of Tartu. Thus, based on academic research, one of the future goals will be to advise Estonian legal drafters, the representatives of executive power and the courts on the harmonisation of existing law with European Union law.
This special issue of Juridica International is published on the initiative of the Faculty of Law with the financial support of the Open Estonia Foundation (OEF) and the State Chancellery of Estonia. This English language publication would not have been possible without the enthusiastic help of the translators of the Estonian Translation and Legislative Support Centre, Silva Soomets of the Supreme Court and Heli Kergandberg. Many thanks to all the participants and success with future publications.