New defense act likely to be new Riigikogu's most comprehensive bill

New signs indicating a public shelter were installed in Tallinn on June 13, 2022.
New signs indicating a public shelter were installed in Tallinn on June 13, 2022. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonian Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop has sent the draft bill of the Civil Crisis and National Defense Act to the Riigikogu for approval. The act will create an in-depth legal framework for both national defense and civil crisis management and is likely to be the most comprehensive bill debated in the next Riigikogu.

Peterkop told ERR, that currently under Estonian, preparations for civil and military crises are undertaken separately. However, this does not reflect the reality of the modern world, where distinctions between security and civil crises are  often difficult to make.

If we look at what Belarus did some time ago. According to our legal system, it would have been considered a civil crisis, but in reality, one country was trying to influence EU decision making through the use of refugees. These kinds of examples can also be seen in the war in Ukraine. In addition to military action, Russia and Belarus are also using other means to exert influence, including cyber and economic warfare," Peterkop said.

Under the proposal, the National Defense Act, the Emergency Act and the State of Emergency Act will all be merged into a single law. EKRE MP Leo Kunnas, who is the deputy chair of the Riigikogu's National Defense Committee said, that the draft Civil Crisis and National Defense Act was likely to be the most comprehensive bill to be debated by the next Riigikogu.

"It may take several dozen National Defense Committee sessions to go through it all," Kunnas said.

With larger bills, there is a risk that their adoption by the Riigikogu will be delayed. However, Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop said, that when drafting the bill, the views of all the political parties were taken into account. Peterkop therefore, does not expect the content of the bill to cause any controversy.

"Jüri Ratas' second government already had the same goal and so this preparatory work has been going on for quite a long time. The lessons from this crisis have been similar for all the parties, which were in government during the previous Riigikogu," Peterkop said.

Raimond Kaljulaid (SDE), chair of the National Defense Committee, said that MPs have been expecting a new Civil Crisis and National Defense Act for some time, and so there is a general understanding that it is a necessary step.

According to Kaljulaid, one possible point of contention is how the responsibilities of different government agencies during a potential crisis are designated and identified as clearly as possible.

Other issues that Kaljulaid believes may be contentious concern any restrictions on people's rights, which result from crises.

"Generally, in these kinds of debates, it comes down to questions of what is proportionate, what is fair, and what can and cannot be done," he said.

"These are very serious questions and I would say that, if there are no disagreements about them, it would be a complete failure of the parliament. The Riigikogu has to debate these issues very seriously," Kaljulaid said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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