A Riigikogu committee should communicate with an invited guest prior to inviting them, and said guest should appear at the first opportunity, but the topic of a sitting must also fall within the committee's remit and, when summoning a government member, fall within the latter's area of authority as well, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise said regarding the nonappearance of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) at Tuesday's joint Riigikogu select committee sitting.
In an opinion issued Wednesday, the chancellor of justice wrote that the Office of the Chancellor of Justice was contacted by someone regarding the prime minister having informed the president of the Riigikogu that she would not be participating in Tuesday's joint public sitting of the State Budget Control Select Committee and the Anti-Corruption Select Committee in the Riigikogu.
At the same time, however, the prime minister expressed willingness to attend later, requesting that the timing of the sitting be coordinated with her in advance.
The justice chancellor said that under the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, Riigikogu committees' powers depend on committee type, noting that there are four types of committees in the Estonian parliament: standing committees, select committees, investigation committees and study committees.
"Investigation committees have the broadest scope of powers — even businessmen, for example, are obliged by this invitation to appear, and failure to appear can be punished with a fine," she wrote.
"Members of the Government of the Republic are also obliged to appear before other committees to discuss matters within their authority, but the law does not provide for the opportunity to penalize for nonappearances before other types of committees," she continued.
The chancellor of justice noted that both a Riigikogu committee communicating with invited guests prior to sending their invitation regarding the suitability of the planned time and an invited guest appearing before a committee at the earliest possible opportunity comprise elements of political culture.
However, it must also be borne in mind, she continued, that the matter to be discussed at a committee sitting must fall within the respective committee's competence, and that when inviting a member of the Government of the Republic to appear, the matter in question must be one within their area of authority.
"If an invited member of the government nevertheless fails to appear, constitutional order provides the Riigikogu with the opportunity to express no confidence in the government member," the justice chancellor explained, adding that, if necessary, the Riigikogu can amend the current Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act.
"Good constitutional practice and constitutional parliamentary culture demand mutual respect," Madise stated in her opinion. "Modern democracy also requires the protection of minorities, adherence to rules, dignity in communication, the cooperation of people with opposing views as well as independent institutions. Only MPs themselves can shape such a work culture, while giving thought to the future as well. What helps to achieve a fair parliamentary culture is if one imagines themselves in both the role of government member as well as that of MP; both as a supporter of the government's plans as well as an opponent of them. This is also prescient, as coalitions change."
An extraordinary joint public sitting of the State Budget Control Select Committee and the Anti-Corruption Select Committee was held in the Riigikogu Tuesday, where among those invited to participate were Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Stark Logistics CEO Kristjan Kraag and Metaprint CEO Martti Lemendik.
None of the aforementioned three individuals attended on Tuesday. The prime minister said that her busy schedule didn't allow for her to attend, but also justified her absence by noting that the issue at the heart of the sitting had nothing to do with the state budget.
Editor: Aili Vahtla