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Mölder: We will definitely not change the Emergency Act before autumn

Tõnis Mölder (Center).
Tõnis Mölder (Center). Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

The chairman of the Social Affairs Committee, Tõnis Mölder, said despite the president's criticism of the Emergency and Communicable Diseases Prevention and Monitoring Acts, the Riigikogu has no plans to change it before the autumn.

On Friday morning Kaljulaid promulgated the bill but criticized the new bill as an example of bad legislation in form and substance.

The president expressed concerns over the bill reducing political responsibility and called on the parliament, government and constitutional institutions to carry out an in-depth review of steps taken during the emergency situation in order to be better prepared for future crises.

Speaking to ERR on Friday, Mölder said: "As for an amendment to the Emergency Act, this is not planned at the moment. As for the law on the control of communicable diseases, we have repeatedly stated the subject of the law could come back in the fall in its entirety to see where these bottlenecks still remain, which remained unaddressed in this fast-paced whole process."

He said no changes to the law will be made before the autumn, which is when the next wave of the coronavirus is expected to hit. As no one knows what form it will take, informed decisions cannot be made yet.

"Right now, before the start of the summer, we will definitely not change anything in a hurry," Mölder emphasized.

He believes that if the law is brought back to the Riigikogu, the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of the Interior could also be asked for their analysis. At present, the public debate has become too central to the Health Board, as the law refers to all crisis management agencies.

Mölder said he thought the government should be given more power in an emergency, as was the case in the original text of the act.

Speaking about President Kersti Kaljulaid's criticism of the Riigikogu, Mölder said it can sometimes be taken as recognition instead.

"The president says from her point of view, this is a quick and bumpy law-making. I would say that in an emergency, the Riigikogu must act quickly. The crisis means decisions must be taken quickly and with the potential parties in mind," Mölder said.

He added the role of political responsibility for a law containing inconsistencies would remain with the Riigikogu anyway.

Controversy revolves around the Emergency Act because there are concerns about increased powers granted to state agencies, including the Health Board (Terviseamet), which critics say are excessive, and go beyond those of the government itself, with the latter thus being able to dodge tough decision-making in potential future crises. The Riigikogu similarly has been relegated, critics say.

The law, a so-called "cluster law" which amends several different laws at once, has also been criticized for just that – being inherently complicated and in this case both halting the present emergency situation and moving the goalposts on what an emergency or crisis actually is, going forwards.

Eight Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MPs voted with the opposition Reform Party on one of the latter's two proposed amends to the bill earlier in the week. Since the other amend did not pass, Reform said that their amend was toothless and the bill was in effect a 'scrap law".

The State Chancellery rejected claims that the law contained technical defects, however, adding that it could go ahead despite being against the will of the legislator (in the case of the voted-down Reform amend). It passed its Riigikogu third reading on Wednesday.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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