The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) is ready to reach compromise on legislation which it has opposed up to now, that party's leader, Martin Helme, says.
The Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act (NETS) is currently at the Riigkogu ready for its first reading (of three) and subsequent vote. While yesterday it was looking as if the bill – the focal point of recent protests over an interpretation of its intent as being to boost police powers excessively – might be still-born, now Helme says that wording has been found which is suitable both to his parties and to the Reform/Center coalition.
Writing on his social media account Wednesday, Helme wrote that: "We have exchanged views with the ruling parties on how to ensure that legislative changes needed to resolve the pandemic do not become a backdoor through which our freedoms and rights get taken away. In the course of these discussions, we have taken the protests to the streets."
However, since then, wording that is satisfactory has been found.
"If the compromise is approved by the [Riigikogu's social affairs] committee, we can withdraw our amendments," Helme said, referring to well over 100 proposed changes his party has tabled to the legislation so far.
At the core of the discussions lies the ability of the Health Board (Terviseamet) to summons the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in cases of non-compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
In practice, the PPA was present at Sunday's anti-NETS demonstration, acting as stewards, the authority said, in the light of what it called a lack of clear leadership from the ranks of the protesters, and also cooperated with Health Board personnel who were on the scene. Both bodies issued precepts on the day, while the PPA detained several people, in the process giving a photo opportunity for those claiming Estonia is drifting towards police state status.
Editor: Andrew Whyte