Opposition parties want Riigikogu debate on Aliens Act amendments

Riigikogu main hall.
Riigikogu main hall. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Riigikogu's constitutional affairs committee is due to discus amendments to the main act relating to immigration in Estonia, after President Alar Karis declined to give assent to the bill making the amendments, on a technicality.

While the Reform-Center coalition wants the bill to pass into force unchanged, opposition parties want a substantive discussion, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Sunday.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said that: "We have, of course, reviewed the president's objections, but the Riigikogu will review the bill and could adopt it unchanged. At the moment, the plan is to do so."

Center MP and constitutional committee member Tõnis Mölder told AK that: "We can see that very many different sectors, including the IT sector, are awaiting the bill's rapid processing. Another important consideration is certainly that there are many sections within the bill which will help refugees from the war in Ukraine here, and we would definitely like to move forward with this quickly."

The week before last, the president refused to sign the law into being, on the grounds that Riigkogu procedural rules had been breached.

Chair of the opposition Isamaa, Helir-Valdor Seeder, says that since the bill alters fundamentally the foundations of migration policy, it requires substantive debate at the legislature.

Seeder said: "The basics of the entire migration policy should be separated from the urgent issue concerning refugees and asylum seekers and quickly accepted by refugees and refugees, while there is time to discuss the rest of the issue in Estonia."

The opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) says that it, too, wants to debate the bill at the Riigikogu; the Social Democrats (SDE) would like a discussion at constitutional committee-level.

SDE deputy chair Eduard Odinets said: "There are two substantive issues at play here. One concerns Ukrainian workers, and the other concerns all other foreign workers, whose wage claims are being eased. I think we might continue the debate on the wage demands at the Rigiikogu, but not the debate on Ukrainian requirements."

The Riigikogu passed the amendments to the Aliens Act on April 11.

The legislative changes make getting a job easier for Ukrainian war refugees, as well as the chance to extend permits to work to three years.

For legislation to enter into force, it must receive presidential assent, after passing three votes at parliament. If the head of state returns the legislation unsigned and again declines to give their assent after the bill returns (either amended or unamended), the matter can be taken to the Supreme Court.

The procedural rules which the head of state says were broken while the bill was being processed concerned amendments between second and third (and final) readings at the chamber.

At this point, only cosmetic amendments such as correcting typos or citations may be made, but a more substantive change – namely altering the term "spouse" to "close relative" - had been made by the constitutional committee, it is reported.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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