Lawyer: In stepping aside on restrictions, Riigikogu is not doing its job

Paul Keres.
Paul Keres. Source: ERR

New restrictions announced by the government on Tuesday are not sufficiently substantiated, lawyer Paul Keres argues. Announcements of such decisions, important issues concerning the day-to-day life of the state, should be backed up by their reasons, while the Riigikogu being left out of the process means it is also not performing its function, Keres said in an interview with ERR which follows.

How would you describe the process by which the government has acted, as did the previous government, where proposed restrictions are announced on a Tuesday, then an explanatory statement follows later. Is this normal?

I don't think it's particularly normal; I'm not even sure if it's legal. The government imposes restrictions via a general arrangement, which is an administrative act. If an administrative act is announced in advance, and then the reasons are subsequently given, I do not think that this is in line with administrative best practices.

If we do actually notice, in fact it is never at the time the restrictions are announced, on a Tuesday or a Wednesday; at that we do not really know the reasons why restrictions of this type are coming at this time. These can always be found later, in some laconic explanatory memorandum.

In fact, it would be more appropriate to set out these restrictions correctly in a document, and to include the reasons in the same document.

Can it really be seen in any way that the government is, as it were, "testing" the public, as to whether the public ready to tolerate these steps or not? Then approve them or dismiss them, and then set things out better in the explanatory memorandum?

First, they may be able to strike any completely insane thoughts off right away if they see that there is a great deal of public pushback or resentment. Also, if they do indeed see that the public is strongly in opposition to the proposed restrictions, they will have bought extra time to find the reasons.

If you look at what was said on Tuesday in its content, is it legal?

That is hard to say; it depends very much on the rationale. In my mind, I cannot think of a justification for the legitimacy of restricting the freedom of movement of perfectly healthy.

With the new restrictions, the only effective measure to now prove the safety of infection, i.e. testing, has been removed. How this helps to stop the virus from spreading is very difficult for me to understand.

We can expect many people to go to court. Is this a situation where that is now justified?

I cannot and do not want to give this type of advice to the public. It depends on each individual's specific situation. I think that this type of a restriction causes inconvenience to people, but it can also be an existential issue for companies, because again, their clientele gets reduced. So far as I have read, many of them are already on the verge of life or death.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said on Tuesday that, since the number of visitors to theaters and cinemas, for example, is estimated by the government to fall by about ten percent, this is not a sufficient justification to pay the support. What is this assessment of how the support should be set, in which cases should support be paid and in which not? A ten percent loss is still a loss.

It is a loss. On the one hand, this is a political decision, but on the other, the legal view is that if the state causes damage through its decisions and policies, there must be mechanisms in place to compensate for that damage and to claim compensation for it.

What the basis of their claim that there will be only a ten percent reduction, we do not know.

Estonia is a parliamentary state and, once again the parliament, has been completely left out of the decision. What do you recommend the opposition do in the current situation?

I do not see it as a case of parliament being excluded. What I see is that parliament has voluntarily stepped aside on this issue, and allowed the government to go ahead.

As such, in my opinion, parliament is thus not doing its job. This concerns both the opposition and the coalition. However, these are very important issues concerning the life of the state, and whether you are in opposition or in office, this is parliament's domain.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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