Discussions of Issues of National Importance in the Riigikogu in 1992-1999
A short survey by Kait Oole and Aare Kasemets on the discussions of issues of national importance (INIs) in the Estonian Parliament in 1992 – 1999 deals with the discussions of that period by organised by initiators and topics.
These discussions can be distinguished from the ordinary procedural framework concerning bills of legislation and international conventions by their aim and manner of treatment. Discussions of INIs have been based either on § 135 of the Riigikogu Procedure Act, the Foreign Relations Act, or, arising from the provisions of the procedure of the Riigikogu, on the same legal grounds as discussion of any other draft of a resolution. So far the dominating INIs have been political choices concerning matters of foreign, agricultural, educational and cultural policy. Using an example of a discussion on rural life and agricultural problems, the article contains a summary case study on the different stages of discussion, its efficiency viewed against the background of public opinion polls and coverage in the Estonian media. When dwelling on the problems of efficiency and public acceptance of the discussions of INIs, it may be said, based on the public opinion polls ordered by the Riigikogu Chancellery, that the majority of the Estonian population is dissatisfied with the result of the discussions of INIs until now. The aims of bringing up INIs may be and are different – there are efforts to find political solutions to a social problem, an INI is put on the agenda of the Riigikogu as a public opinion, interest groups are consolidated. On the other hand, the aim of the discussions of INIs is to draw the public’s attention to a topic of strategic importance for the state and through this process inform the public (the European Union, civil society, administrative reform, etc.). Elaboration of the procedure for the discussion of INIs in 1999 by the amendment of the Riigikogu Procedure Act enables to adopt a special resolution of the Riigikogu as a result of the discussion, and this way relate the debate both to the legislative agenda of the Government and to the programmes financed from the state budget. In addition to the above, the authors wish to inform the reader about the availability of the transcriptions of the sessions of the Riigikogu on the Riigikogu homepage, which enable the reader himself or herself to get an in-depth overview of an issue.
Three questions to the members of the Riigikogu*:
- How would you estimate the role of debates on issues of national importance in the Riigikogu’s work in 1992-1999? Do you think they have helped to solve the problems at the national level?
- The media provides coverage of the Riigikogu debates for the Estonian public. How do you estimate the role of the media in covering the Riigikogu debates and informing the society in order to bring the problems under public debate?
- In spring 1999, an amendment was introduced allowing to adopt a resolution of the Riigikogu as a result of a discussion of an issue of national importance. What else could be done to make such discussions in the Riigikogu more substantial and efficient?
*Members of all Riigikogu factions were approached.