The Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu did not agree with the government coalition's request for the expedited handling of bills related to the disbanding of the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK), which would have reduced the amount of time given to propose changes to the bill from the usual ten days to just four.
The bills were discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the Constitutional Committee on Thursday. Committee member Kaja Kallas (Reform) later told ERR that "Thankfully an Isamaa MP was against it."
The only Isamaa member that is on the committee is MP Siim Kiisler.
According to Kallas, the coalition justified the request for expedited handling by saying it was time-sensitive.
"They said that this was a time-sensitive bill," she said. "Unfortunately there were no answers to questions regarding why this was time-sensitive, whether it is related to the coronavirus crisis or the future economic crisis. We heard from the auditor general, who said that this is a very bad idea. We proposed hearing from the chancellor of justice; we proposed also hearing from the ERJK.
The committee decided to conclude the initial reading and move forward with the bill. The bill is to reach the Session Hall of the Riigikogu following a scheduled week of no sittings, Kallas said.
According to Kallas, the opposition Reform Party proposed extending the amount of time given to propose changes to the bill beyond the usual ten days, but this proposal was not supported by the committee.
"The government coalition wants to see this bill definitely passed before regular sittings end in June," she commented. "Typically it has been the case that topics that affect all parties are attempted to be handled in such a way that they are discussed with everyone. Now the opposition is considered nothing anymore; they don't even want to give any time to discuss this. And so this is where we have ended up."
Läänemets: Disbanding ERJK may be unconstitutional
According to Constitutional Committee deputy chairman Lauri Läänemets (SDE), the question remained at the committee's extraordinary meeting whether the bill submitted by the government coalition to disband the ERJK may be unconstitutional.
"Assigning the duty to supervise political party financing to the National Audit Office would mean the Audit Office's involvement in the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which certainly isn't compatible with the Constitution," Läänemets said. "While parties are nonprofits specifically, they have been established on the same bases as all other NGOs — of people's own free will. The responsibilities of the National Audit Office are strictly limited in the Constitution to ensure that public authority does not limit the activities of NGOs and businesses with its involvement, thus protecting the freedom of speech and entrepreneurial activity as well as democracy."
The Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu includes five coalition and four opposition MPs.
The coalition Center Party, Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa on Monday initiated the disbanding of the ERJK and reassigning of its duties to the National Audit Office. It was noted in the letter of explanation accompanying the bill that the composition of the ERJK does not fully comply with the criteria of independence.
Editor: Aili Vahtla