The non-parliamentary Estonian Greens consider the bill merging the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate to be incomplete and on Tuesday sought for it to be rejected by the Riigikogu.
The party does not agree with the bill, drawn up by the Ministry of the Environment, that was submitted to the Riigikogu in a hurry and has been extremely insufficiently worked through, spokespeople for the Estonian Greens told BNS ahead of its second reading on Tuesday.
"The task of the Environmental Inspectorate thus far has been to ensure supervision of the use of the natural environment and resources by handling both environmental misdemeanours as well as crimes, the latter since 2011," said Kai Künnis-Beres, community leader and deputy chairwoman of the Greens council. "We are convinced that the new merged institution will worsen rather than improve the fulfilment of these significant mentioned tasks."
According to the Greens, reducing the independence of this supervisory institution in any way is wrong. The Environmental Inspectorate has been operating with a shortage of resources for years, which has been outwardly visible, if the inability to curb illegal logging is taken into consideration, and the Inspectorate's employees themselves have complained of this. Above all, it is wildlife and the natural environment that have been the victims as a result.
"The fact that the fulfilment of a supervisory function in several fields as thus far not been clearly stipulated, and fragmented between the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate, and that thus far both the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate have been simultaneously involved in the fulfilment of one function on various legal bases, has strangely been an accepted disorder, not the reason or justification for the merging of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate," spokespeople for the party said.
"Especially surprising is the abolition of the Environmental Inspectorate as such with the aim of reducing the so-called replication of state institutions at a time when the pressure of human activity on the environment, natural resources and natural values has increased sharply, and for greater economic, often cliquish or personal, gain, people are increasingly often prepared to sneak past laws and regulations or exploit the shortcomings of legislation for personal gain," said Olev-Andres Tinn, a member of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) working group. "I am reminded here of the natural protection reform from 2008."
The bill includes the fact that the recommendation for decreasing the number of institutions and improving the quality and availability of public services for the establishment of the merged environmental institution originates from a state task analysis carried out in 2016. The aforementioned analysis considered purposeful the conducting of a thorough environmental functionality analysis and, based on this alone, weighing the merging of the Environmental Board, Environmental Inspectorate and the Environment Agency.
"Based on functions, it is more reasonable to merge the Environmental Board and the Environment Agency, which may indeed improve the execution of the state's strategic tasks in the environmental field and, unlike the merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate, would meet societal expectations as well," said Joonas Laks, a member of the Estonian Greens board. "I would personally sign off on the merger of the Environmental Inspectorate with the police in order to improve control from the perspective of preserving our shared living environment."
The Estonian Greens are of the belief that the only real goal that would be achieved as a result of this kind of merger is the marginal decrease in the Ministry of the Environment's administrative burden and the significant simplification of ministry procedure, not more efficient environmental protection as is stated in the letter of explanation accompanying the bill.
Reform, Free fall short in attempt to dump bill
Despite opposition from the Reform Party and the Free Party, the bill merging the two state agencies was left in parliamentary procedure by a narrow margin of support on Tuesday.
The Reform Party's proposal to cut short the second reading of the bill was backed by the fellow opposition Free Party, but the motion was rejected by a 30-38 vote.
Editor: Aili Vahtla