An international conference dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Estonian independent notariat on “Notary’s Role and Challenges in Changing Europe” was held in Tallinn on 1 November. The conference marked the entry into force of the Notaries Act, which lays the foundation for the restoration of the independent notariat and for the activities of the Chamber of Notaries.
The Minister of Justice, Hanno Pevkur, said that the notaries had successfully managed the new duties assigned to them over time. In his opinion notaries’ competences could be further extended in the future. The Minister thought, for example, that the notaries could have exclusive competence to settle divorce in cases where there were no disputes between the parties. He envisaged a more significant role for the notaries in securing legal order and preventing legal disputes in courts.
The President of the International Union of Notaries (UINL), Jean-Paul Decorps, pointed to the growing role of notaries in preventing conflicts in society and emphasised that the state could not be expected to manage everything, but would rather have to concentrate on its main functions, delegating some of its competences to other institutions. This is where notaries could serve as a link between the state and citizens. In addition, Jean-Paul Decorps stressed the importance of cross-border movement of documents and the duty of notaries to ensure the legal certainty of documents.
The President of the Council of the Notariats of the European Union (CNUE), Frank Molitor, pointed to the future of European Law: “There is no doubt about it: the future belongs to European Private International Law (harmonisation of conflict rules and determination of a sole applicable law), and, in the medium term, to European Law as such. With European Company Law, Common European Sales Law, Consumer Protection Law and, shortly, mortgage credit matters, completely new legal instruments (unknown to traditional national Civil Law concepts) will emerge. The choice of law and the modification of contractual clauses made by a judge are two striking examples of this trend. In the long run, national law will not survive since it is, from the European point of view, too fragmented and therefore not practical for the needs of an open society whose main characteristics are the free movement of goods, people and services.”
The President of the Estonian Chamber of Notaries, Anne Saaber, said that in twenty years the Estonian notary had become an institution exercising public authority, and while offering public services, the notary was more and more involved in providing legal counsel and explaining transactions. Anne Saaber referred to the Estonian notariat’s transition to a fully electronic information system, the E-Notary, in 2007. She said that while the E-Notary system was evolving constantly, innovation in the notariat was not limited to electronic registers only. For example, in 2009, notaries were granted the right to compete in the legal services market and to provide services that were not within the sole competence of notaries.