The European Union as Influence on Legislation
European Union (EU) decisions are made not only in Brussels. The homework performed in each member state is what matters. If we want this to go smoothly and want one common vote representing the state of Estonia in Brussels in the future, then now is the time to start thinking what the procedure of EU-related decision-making could look like in Estonia. It is true that first a number of foundational issues should be settled: conducting a referendum, possible amendment of the Constitution – which should not be confined to politics, but should also be carefully contemplated and justified also judicially.
Our present work arrangements related to European integration resembles to a great extent the French model. In Estonia, the central and co-ordinating role in these matters is played by the Office of European Integration (OEI), which is subordinate to the State Chancellery and is thus directly working also with the Prime Minister. One question that arises is whether the OEI should continue its work also in the future in the same way as the French General Secretariat of the Interministerial Committee that deals with issues of European economic cooperation in Europe (Le secrétariat général du comité interministériel pour les questions de coopération économique européenne, SGCI) – when there is a need to clarify and form the Estonian positions on this or that matter concerning EU laws that are being prepared at a particular moment. There is probably no doubt that at least at the beginning we will not manage without a central co-ordinating institution. Despite the fact that essential work in each specific field will be performed also in the future by the ministries responsible for the particular sphere, it is worth considering whether the OEI correspondents of the ministries should not have comprehensive knowledge of the field they co-ordinate, as it is in France in case of the SGCI.
What we must definitely learn from France is how to achieve consensus between the ministries and to send just one unified message to Europe. This does not concern only potential mutual differences between ministries, but also relations between other state institutions. It will be indeed regrettable if the small Estonia, with its hands somewhat tied on issues, would present contradicting and uncoordinated viewpoints in the EU. Taking account of the Estonian inclination towards the so-called cake-cutting and isolated independent action, such a situation cannot be excluded, however. What really matters is not the issue of who does what and then gets the laurels for his or her accomplishments, but efficient cooperation between institutions and its result – one unified Estonian vote in the EU.