Networks between parliamentary research and information service
The research and info services of many European parliaments cooperate with libraries, the largest networks being the European Center for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (www.ecprd.org) and the International Federation of Library Association’s (www.ifla.org) Section on Library and Research Services for Parliaments.
In the first part of the article, the writer gives a short history of the IFLA section (110 countries) and ECPRD (40 countries) and their structure. It then focuses on the ECPRD’s increasingly more important work beginning at the behest of parliament speakers in 2000 following the Rome conference, together with the activity of Estonian representatives and future prospects. In the context of the Riigikogu’s plan (2002-2006) to develop support networks key activities related to participating are providing public resources on rights and responsibilities as well as opportunities to use other countries’ comparative surveys and databases in parliamentary work. The writer finds that knowledge of analytical background information and legislative practice in other countries can save working hours and make it possible to ride rather than reinvent the wheel, and thus bypass the learning curves of other countries that got a headstart. The EPCRD network and web act as an information bank, reinforced by seminars (6-9 a year), 3 work groups and comparative surveys. The goal of the web is to provide its and other parliaments’ members with information, surveys and other documents in an ever-more global working environment. If necessary material on other states is not available on the Internet or in the libraries, an ECPRD correspondent can perform queries by e-mail. The number of such queries has grown rapidly in recent years. According to Riigikogu statistics from 1999-2002, there have been 131 written works with queries made to other parliaments, 23 in 2000, 33 in 2001 and already 53 in 2002 on topics wall-to-wall. All of the queries and the information they returned are in the intranet of the ECPRD. It is a parliamentary infobase that becomes fuller each year and is often relied on for answers to questions such as “whether, why and how is a certain field regulated in other European states and what are the effects/results?”
Both ECPRD and the more global IFLA section are part of an international parliamentary infrastructure, helping to strengthen information-based political and legal cooperation. The writer believes that although the cultural, economic and institutional history of nations and peoples is different, parliament members and officials understand each other fairly well, since the nature of the work, constitutional duties and global challenges are the same We have many common issues – such as on what basis and how to make prognosis about short-term and long-term events and the effect of new laws on society in a situation where there are hundreds of interest groups within and without parliament and the borders between national and international are not always clear?If the majority of Estonian citizens say ‘Yes’ to the EU on September 14, a large body of questions will arise that will be easier to resolve in tandem with the information services of other parliaments.