Coalition promises to pass Aliens Act amendments again unchanged

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform).
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). Source: Stenbock House

The ruling Reform-Center government coalition does not intend to make any changes to the amendments to the Aliens Act recently vetoed by President Alar Karis, and intends to pass them as-is, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said. Center MP Tõnis Mölder confirmed the same.

"We have of course considered the president's objections, but the Riigikogu will be handling it again and can pass it unchanged," Kallas told ERR on Friday. "The current plan is indeed to adopt it unchanged."

President Karis on April 21 vetoed a bill of amendments to the Aliens Act and Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens passed by the Riigikogu on April 11 as he found that the Riigikogu had breached procedural rules in passing it.

Mölder, a member of the standing Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu, likewise confirmed to ERR that the coalition intends to pass the legislative amendments again unchanged.

"How the Riigikogu proceeds from there will certainly be a matter of discussion in the weeks to come, but the coalition parties — the Center Party and the Reform Party — have already discussed this matter among themselves, and our starting position at the moment is that we will be moving forward with this bill unchanged," Mölder said on the air during Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" news program.

According to the MP, the bill will reach the Constitutional Committee at the beginning of next week, and it will be forwarded to a third reading again the week after next, to be passed again unchanged.

He said that the coalition is rushing this bill because the issue involved is urgent due to the arrival in the country of refugees from Ukraine, and this law will provide them with greater assurances regarding their presence in Estonia.

Asked why not consider reopening the bill, Mölder cited the fact that the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has promised to use every means possible to obstruct the passing of the amendments, and so doing so could prolong the process too much.

The Center MP also believed that the president's decision regarding the law could also be up to interpretation, meaning that he may not take the readopted amendments to the Supreme Court. Should Karis nonetheless do so, the coalition has a new plan for how to quickly resolve the issue, he said, adding that one possible option would be to tie the passing of the bill to confidence in the government.

The Estonian head of state considers it necessary to discuss the bill in the Riigikogu again and make a constitutional decision, the Office of the President announced last week.

EKRE chairman Mart Helme and Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder had both requested that the president veto the law.

In his decision, Karis said that, according to the Constitution, the passing of laws must take place in accordance with the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, but the latter had not been taken into account in this case.

In preparing for the third and final reading of the bill, the Constitutional Committee as leading committee on this bill had in one provision replaced the word "spouse" with the words "close relative."

Under the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, ahead of its third reading, the leading committee is permitted to draw up the final text of a bill, making any necessary clarifying linguistic or technical corrections. These corrections may include typos or corrections to numbering or references. Replacing the word "spouse" with the words "close relative," however, is not a clarification, but rather a substantive change.

In this instance, the conditions for implementing a provision were changed following the completion of the bill's second reading, and in its amended form the provision creates a different legal situation, the president said.

By making a substantive change between the second and third readings of the bill, the Riigikogu violated procedural rules, thus distorting the parliamentary decision-making process and essentially not allowing some MPs to fully participate in shaping the law.

Based on procedural rules, the final vote takes place at the third reading, and MPs and parliamentary groups no longer have the opportunity to submit proposals to amend the bill.

The earliest the Riigikogu could begin discussing the bill again is at its May 2 sitting.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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