Riigikogu committee slams ministries for overeagerness adopting EU norms

Liisa-Ly Pakosta.
Liisa-Ly Pakosta. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Chairman of the Riigikogu European Union Affairs Committee (ELAK) Liisa-Ly Pakosta has sent a letter to ministries and the Government Office, criticizing them for overeagerness in adopting EU regulations and asking for examples of efforts to adopt a more sensible process.

The ELAK chair wrote that Estonian companies and residents must not be saddled with excessive obligations, and that adoption of EU law must proceed based on its spirit and goals, with efforts made to check whether existing provisions already serve the same purpose.

"We want regulations that adopt EU law and relevant bills that land in the Riigikogu to be free of other domestic initiatives. We deem it sensible for new regulations to follow the zero bureaucracy principle, the principle of only submitting personal data to the state once and to utilize central IT-solutions that improves Estonia's competitiveness and benefits our economy."

Pakosta recalled that Estonian officials got carried away adopting EU law after Estonia applied for EU membership, adding extra requirements following their own initiative.

"For example, when the people rather justifiably grumbled over new requirements for school cafeterias until PM Mart Laar determined that the draconian health and safety requirements were complemented by Estonian officials beyond what the EU required, even though this was undoubtedly done in good faith."

The ELAK chair also remarked that we can see how trust in mutual European cooperation can be undermined by the officialdom's enthusiasm to overperform.

"While the Riigikogu European Union Affairs Committee has nothing against that, the proper way to go about it is to present these upgrades as a separate bill or draft regulation, instead of hiding behind EU requirements."

Pakosta also gave a concrete example of how EU law needs to be adopted purposefully and not by laying random burdens on people. A draft regulation has been sent out for approval to adopt from the so-called plastics directive an obligation to curb environmental damage caused by problematic products, such as filter cigarettes. There is no good way to recycle tobacco product filters, and people throwing cigarette butts on the ground is doing considerable damage to bodies of water and sewage systems. The directive obligates Member States to reduce consumption of such products or at least reduce the plastic content of filters by expanding manufacturer responsibility.

"The directive's requirements have likely already been adopted as the regulation in question does not treat with any real solutions, such as information printed on packages at the manufacturer's expense, number of trashcans or environmentally conscious waste collection. However, the draft regulation prescribes activities which are not mentioned in the directive – cigarette manufacturers required to produce video material for schools and run four-week ad campaigns, including aimed at children playing on the beach. We can only imagine the kind of creativity the tobacco companies would bring to bear to describe the role of cigarette filters to children."

The MP said that the directive does not require such campaigns, while the draft regulation justifies demanding tobacco manufacturers produce ads based on the directive – this in a situation where Estonia has banned all manner of tobacco products advertising.

"Minors are also not allowed to consume tobacco products, while this has done nothing to stop the officials from including a recommendation in the explanatory memo where it deals with tobacco filters. 'The instructional video could end with a call to action, encourage students to take responsibility for the waste they create.' The explanatory memo makes no mention of why existing activities are not enough – information on waste handling on cigarette packs and public trashcans."

Because the European Affairs Committee can demand from the government and executive branch agencies data necessary for its work, ELAK has asked ministries to find ways of improving the situation in their administrative areas in a way to base adoption of EU law on proposals by the parliament.

"We ask you to describe by June 16 in a written reply at least three measures or initiatives you have taken for more purposeful, competitive and considerably less bureaucratic adoption of EU law. We also ask you to include a short description of how you perceive it could be useful."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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