No. 41




Opportunities of State Reform and Estonia’s Options

  • Leif Kalev

    Leif Kalev

    Professor of Political Studies, Tallinn University

The article reviews the state reform initiatives and activities in Estonia over the recent years, interpreting these from the point of view of research literature on the topic. We can identify three major initiatives: by the Foundation for State Reform, the Government, and the Riigikogu.

The Foundation for State Reform, which had been established by entrepreneurs and was active in 2018–19, centred their proposals on technocratic optimisation of state organisation. The final report (2019) of the Riigikogu Study Committee to Draw Up the Development Objectives for the State Reform seems to reflect on this, referring to the bargaining and debating nature of politics as well as the needs of the future progress; however, it only clearly delineates it in a narrow segment of the state system, with the emphasis on its own role and organisation of work.

The 20 February 2019 Resolution of the Riigikogu The Fundamentals of the State Reform and Good Administration sets out very general principles. The Government largely follows a path of its own, setting the emphasis on the organisational issues of the state apparatus in its action plans from 2017 and 2019.

The Foundation for State Reform is the most concerned with the general organisation of the state, but also considers legislation. The Government’s action plans focus on aspects of the quality of governance. The Riigikogu considers its own role to a certain extent, next to universal principles. Policy shaping capability, representative democracy, and questions of political citizen subjectivity have been largely overlooked. A broader perspective reveals that technocratic preferences are not sufficiently balanced with democratic preferences, or with a comprehensive view of the state system.

Today, the crucial shortfall is the low capability of the Riigikogu and politicians, incl. the capability of the supporting expertise, to translate its positions into comprehensive analyses and practical proposals. The parliament holds the key to a successful state reform. The Riigikogu would do well to develop the capabilities that are currently lacking or missing; this would allow it to assume a role worthy of a parliament in the state reform.