Three questions to the members of the Riigikogu *
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?
MP Chairman of the Riigikogu Rural Affairs Committee, Rural Union
Issues of national importance discussed in the Riigikogu in 1992-1999 can be divided into three groups. First, various development plans and strategies concerning which the political forces had no particular differences of opinion. Examples of such issues are the main defence policy directions, environmental strategy, forestry policy, fundamental principles of information policy, fundamental principles of cultural policy, and long-term national development plan for fuel and energy management. Second, foreign policy issues: the Riigikogu influences foreign policy only to the extent as it can be influenced by the presence in international organisations and forums. The Government carries out its own foreign policy. Third, discussions of rural life and rural economy issues, that have taken place on four occasions.
Discussions of the draft laws concerning the first group, and foreign policy discussions, entailed no sensation or scandal. Therefore, the coverage of these topics by the media is rather modest. The discussion in August 1999 of “The Measures to Overcome Crisis in Agriculture” took place on the background of general silence. The coverage of the issue of national importance in such a way had a stimulating effect on the drafting of rural development plan by the ruling coalition for the application of the SAPARD* programme. The Government also intends to implement one or two points (customs duties for goods from third countries, and the like) of the draft resolution.
MP Member of the Riigikogu Cultural Affairs Committee,
Pro Patria Union
Discussions of issues on national importance in the Riigikogu have been ineffective in the opinion of the author. The coverage of these events by the media is also insufficient. General discussions in the Riigikogu are needed first and foremost for the issues that should stand above the partisan interests – culture, foreign policy, defence policy. In order to guarantee effectiveness of the discussions, the author thinks that such general discussions should take place outside the Riigikogu rules of procedure so that the opposition would not be able to block these discussions. Within such discussions representatives of social organisations could also be given floor, as it would help to broaden the perspective of the discussions.
MP Member of the Riigikogu Finance Committee,
Estonian Rural People’s Party
The discussion of issues of national importance is an essential form of the Riigikogu’s work. The discussion should be aimed at giving a possibly good overview of the topic as a result of the discussion. It would be more efficient to adopt a resolution of the Riigikogu as a sum-up of the discussion using the possibility offered by the present Riigikogu Procedure Act. The author is of the opinion that the role of the media in covering the discussions in the Riigikogu and informing the people is essential and indispensable. At the same time, similar to the lack of quality of the discussions in the Riigikogu, the quality of the information published by the media leaves much to be desired. More than on the Riigikogu Procedure Act, the results depend on the level of democracy and the professionalism of the Riigikogu, and the level of cooperation between the coalition and opposition.
*Members of all Riigikogu factions were approached.
*SAPARD – financial support by the European Union for the structural preparation of the agriculture and rural life in applicant countries (incl. Estonia). The programme provides investment subsidies for the agricultural sector, manufacturing industry, rural undertakings, and for the financing of infrastructure and environmental protection sites in rural areas.