Committee wants plain-language EU legislation briefs from government

A meeting of the European Union Affairs Committee (ELAK) of the Riigikogu.
A meeting of the European Union Affairs Committee (ELAK) of the Riigikogu. Source: Erik Peinar/Riigikogu

Beginning September 1, whenever the Estonian government presents materials involving EU legislation to the government, they should be accompanied by one-page briefs in plain language that would allow even those not familiar with the issue to understand the matter and its impacts, according to a request issued by the European Union Affairs Committee (ELAK) of the Riigikogu.

In a letter to the prime minister, the Government Office and ministries, ELAK chair MP Liisa-Ly Pakosta (Eesti 200) wrote that the current makeup of the committee has been operating for three months, and it was confirmed at their very first meeting already that a crucial issue for the committee is information accessibility.

"I'm writing to you with a request that, going forward, it would become best practice for materials involving EU legislation (directives and regulations) being presented to the Riigikogu to also be accompanied by an explanatory brief in plain language that would allow even those who had never heard of the issue involved before to understand, in good Estonian, the matter and its impacts in Estonia," Pakosta wrote.

She added that the committee awaits these accompanying one-page briefs beginning September 1.

The committee chair explained that the world is becoming increasingly complex, and even public sector documents often involve such complex wording that some people have a hard time understanding them and therefore in reality lack access to the information.

"I believe such a brief would contribute to the improved inclusion in and understanding of society in EU affairs," she wrote. "Democracy can work only when all parties understand things."

According to Pakosta, the brief should provide info regarding the pertinent document's purpose, a list of concerns to be addressed as well as their primary solutions.

"Please outline the impacts on Estonia upon the adoption of the EU legislation — who has to do what or make changes in their activity as well as what that will cost and who will pay," the letter states.

Under the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, the Estonian government is to introduce to the Riigikogu for the formation of a position in the matter draft legislation which, where passed, would entail a significant economic or social impact, or the scope of application of which would require the passage, amendment or repeal of an Estonian law or Riigikogu resolution.

The law requires the government to include an explanatory memorandum annexed to the proposed EU legislation that explains the purpose of the draft legislation, the procedure and schedule for proceedings regarding the draft legislation in EU institutions, an overview of the effects related to the passage of the draft as a legislative instrument, an analysis regarding the conformity of the draft legislation to the principle of subsidiarity as well as the Estonian government's position regarding the draft legislation in question.

It is also common practice for an impact analysis to be included with the explanatory memorandum as well.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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