In Defence of Parliament
The leading article treats the topic, raised by the media, of employment benefits for Riigikogu members.
The writer compares salaries and other benefits to those of other European parliaments. A comparison with 21 European countries shows that the Riigikogu’s benefits are more conservative than lavish. Our system, in which salary is proportional to the average wage, is also in use in Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia and Bulgaria. Austria uses average per capita income of the past year as a basis; Hungary, the basic civil servant salary. Naturally, Estonian MPs are not in the same league as their German colleagues, who make over 100,000 kroons a month ($6,000) or Swedish and Finnish MPs ($4,500). Even in Slovenia, similar in other economic respects, MPs make $5,000 a month.
None of the parliaments under study have dispensed entirely with salary and benefits. The systems employed are relatively varied and depend on each country’s standard of living, its traditions and the amount of precedence that its culture ascribes to parliamentary work. That is the case today and has been so in the past, even in Republican Estonia. A very generous benefits system was in effect for the sixth Riigikogu (1938-1940).
The legal status of members has developed over the more than 1000-year-long history of the parliament as an institution. Estonia, with its brief experience with parliamentary democracy, has not had, and likely will not have, occasion to revolutionize the field. A parliament has and must continue to have special benefits. The question is only one of scale and type. If we stripped our MPs of benefits, we would certainly be the first democracy to do so.