Minister of Internal Affairs, head of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) Lauri Läänemets has sent a letter to Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa), urging the ministry to expedite its own bill to empower the Political Parties Funding Surveillance Committee (ERJK).
Läänemets recalled that the justice ministry tabled draft legislation to amend the Political Parties Act and Credit Institutions Act back in May to which the Ministry of Internal Affairs replied on June 20.
"I am asking the justice minister to find ways of expediting the bill that would render supervision of party funding more effective," Läänemets wrote, adding that the bill would bring more effective supervision and control, transparent political culture and help manage risks of conflicts of interest and corruption.
The interior minister added that additional control measures are especially important in the current security situation.
"The risk that hostile states and agents are looking for ways to influence Estonian domestic politics is greater than ever today. One way to affect, influence and destabilize domestic processes is by funding various social and political forces, including political parties," Läänemets remarked.
He added that Estonia must know who and why are funding its parties, and that the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee is the first contact watchdog that can notify relevant authorities should suspicions arise.
Danilson-Järg: bill of little political importance
ERR wrote on September 22 that while the previous government's bill was waiting to be sent to the government and Riigikogu, it has stalled in the Ministry of Justice. Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg has described the bill as not a political priority.
"Every government sets its agenda based on its own plans, which is why earlier bills might be left aside. We have more urgent matters to attend to presently," Danilson-Järg said.
ERJK deputy chair Kaarel Tarand said that it is unfortunate the bill has gotten stuck as it keeps Estonia from hitting political targets and international obligations to tackle corruption.
He also found that the bill lacks major political or ideological conflicts and rather facilitates a more effective process. "But there are a few elements that could inspire more law abiding behavior from parties that could also be in their interests," Tarand said.
"The [justice minister's] explanation that it is not the right time, or that there are other more important things to do, is hardly convincing. Especially concerning a ready bill. It requires no more than five minutes of the justice minister's attention to forward it to the Government Office. Hardly back-breaking work," Tarand noted.
The amendments would give the ERJK a legal basis to request documents, information and explanation from third persons and summon persons to its premises. Persons would be given a sensible deadline in which to appear under pain of a financial penalty and compelled attendance upon failure to comply.
It would also alter the consequences of accepting illicit donations including an objective deadline (30 calendar days) in which the donation needs to be returned. After the deadline passes, the illicit donation would have to be transferred to the state budget.
Editor: Marcus Turovski