Remote Riigikogu sittings have not stopped MPs from meeting and traveling

Toompea Castle facade. The building houses the Riigikogu.
Toompea Castle facade. The building houses the Riigikogu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Although the Riigikogu has decided to go to remote sittings in November to curb the spread of the coronavirus, MPs are participating in face-to-face meetings and travel outside of Estonia.

Although the Riigikogu's different committees mostly hold video meetings, there are multiple meetings where committee members are in contact with ministry officials and other specialists. A Riigikogu spokesperson told ERR that these are also hybrid meetings, which guests can participate in from a distance.

So the Riigikogu's finance committee chose a new committee chair and deputy chair after Erki Savisaar (Center) took up the post of Minister of the Environment last week, the committee also discussed the 2022 state budget draft law. At a legal affairs committee sitting, Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) and Prosecutor General Andres Parmas participated from a distance.

With the remote and hybrid meetings implemented, the national defense committee and the foreign affairs committee, for example, went on a departure visit to the Tallinn Mine Harbor, where MPs were given an overview of the Navy's actions.

The national defense committee is also planning to make a visit to meet with President Alar Karis on Thursday. On the same day, multiple MPs are set to meet Finnish Parliament speaker Anu Vehviläinen, French Minister of Public Action and Accounts Olivier Dussopt, French ambassador to Estonia Eric Lamouroux and Indian foreign ministry official Reenat Sandhu.

Estonian Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas is set to visit Pärnu on Friday.

More than ten MPs are on foreign visits this week, Mart Võrklaev will travel to Israel; Riigikogu speaker Ratas will meet his Latvian and Lithuanian colleagues in Paris to meet with French National Assembly chair Richard Ferrand; Toomas Kivimägi, Helle-Moonika Helme, Helmen Kütt and Marika Tuus-Laul will head to Madrid for the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly; Heljo Pikhof and Sven Sester will observe parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan; Raimond Kaljulaid will head to Rome for a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe meeting; Heidy Purga will go to Brussels for an Alliance Of Her Summit; Marko Mihkelson, Eerik-Niiles Kross, Raivo Tamm, Indrek Saar and Maria Jufereva-Skuratovksi will be in Washington and New York.

The Riigikogu decided on November 9 that it would transition to hybrid sittings from November 10-25. MPs can participate from the Riigikogu halls, their cabinet within the Riigikogu building or from home. Opposition Isamaa and EKRE MPs were against the decision, but there were more MPs for the decision (62) than there are coalition MPs in the Riigikogu.

Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder, who was critical of the decision, told ERR that going to remote sittings is against the coalition's messages of keeping society open and complicates parliamentary work, making it tougher for the opposition to proceed the state budget bill for next year.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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