Estonian Cooperation Assembly: remove the ticks

Karin Kangro
, reporter
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Photo: Peeter Langovits

Yesterday, the foundation Estonian Cooperation Assembly (ECA, Eesti Koostöö Kogu) presented its plan for the keeping of the state, proposing a string of reforms regarding local government, public administration, government and Riigikogu, as well as debating democracy and participation.

In order to strengthen the Riigikogu, the plan proposes to do away with most of job restrictions regarding the deputies so they could continue with their former professions. According to the document, the current order discourages people experienced and acclaimed in their professions from running for the parliament.

The proposal also implies changes to working time at Riigikogu, to have just five regular sessions a month. Meanwhile, Riigikogu would engage all kinds of e-solutions and boost support personnel starting with the committees. The current workload would only remain for the President of the Riigikogu and the Vice-Presidents, as well as heads of the factions and committees.

With the workload, backbenchers would also be paid less. «To avoid corruption and conflict of interests, it is sufficient to have transparency of interests and income, and rules of ethics – complete with mechanisms for making these work,» says the ECA document.  

The burdensome «ticks»

ECA thinks it impossible to cut the ranks of deputies. «It is reasonable for the representative body to be cube root of Estonian population. A smaller representative body would not hold parties with fewer supporters and favour the current major parties,» goes the proposal.

On government level, ECA deems it problematic that, as a rule, problems beyond one minister or ministry’s domain prove impossible to solve. If ministers have not reached an agreement regarding a solution, the dates for its development/application and personal responsibility, the prime minister should decide.

Also, the plan proposes to create an IT minister at the government as the vital area is not covered by a minister explicitly and clearly responsible.

In public administration, ECA says cut public sector employees while increasing their personal rights to decide and their responsibility. At that, things should be done differently, with greater wisdom and in smaller quantity i.e. focussing on the state’s main tasks, putting an end to compiling inessential documents and doing away with unnecessary procedures. 

«All processes need to be logically reviewed and made as simple yet useful for a «consumer», among other things cutting the costly «ticks» in between. Such as: outsourcing trainings, outsourcing of analyses and draft legislation, tests and public competitions for posts,» noted ECA.

With local governments, ECA thinks it necessary to execute a reform built on functions-based cooperation and reality, concentrating not on size and form of local governments but rather on content, availability and quality of public services. On top of that, we should support free movement of local governments; in case of obvious necessity, however, the government ought to be able also to forcefully merge local governments.

Also, ECA sees a need to revise the operation of county governments – by now irrelevant – providing communities with real opportunities to order their own life.

Three criteria

In the area of debating democracy and involvement, ECA deems it important to replace formal involvement with essential participation by interest groups. While preparing laws impacting the entire society, The People’s Assembly Rahvakogu experience should be utilised; components of participatory democracy should be woven into the representative democracy model; and bolder-than-before use made of opinion polls and referendums to solve weighty issues of the state and local life.

According to ECA head Olari Koppel, the way of getting things done built up after Estonia’s regained independence has served the nation well, but three months to the next Riigikogu elections it is a good time to ask: how do we now advance? He said the plan presented, born out of research studies and joint effort of numerous experts, rests on three criteria: a solution must be real, applicable in near-term, and beneficial to people.