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Estonia

More open and transparent law-making (EE0043)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Estonia’s Third OGP Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Riigikogu

Support Institution(s): Transparency International Estonia, Open Government Partnership Roundtable, parties related to representing interests

Policy Areas

Anti-Corruption Institutions, Audits and Controls, Capacity Building, Conflicts of Interest, Legislation & Regulation, Legislature

IRM Review

IRM Report: Estonia End-of-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Not Relevant

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Description of the current situation or problem resolved through the commitment Lobbying is a normal part of democratic decision-making processes, but concealed lobbying reduces democracy. Even though lobbying is not regulated by laws in Estonia, the studies carried out clearly refer to a need for rules. The public as well as decision-makers should have a clearer understanding of who submitted the amendment proposals or who is behind an expert opinion. Clear lobbying rules, i.e. representing interest groups must be set out. Amendments to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act (13.04.2016, RT I, 03.05.2016, 2) have been passed, with which the minutes of the sittings of committees are made significantly more substantial and open. In addition, interest groups in the matter concerned that were engaged in the preparation of the draft and that wish to participate in the draft discussion are invited to engage in the draft discussion. It is important to check that these amendments are taken into account. Main aim Supplementing and implementing the citizen-centred and open law-making process Short description of the commitment (max 140 characters) Developing lobbying rules and principles of representation of interests for members of the Riigikogu for increasing the openness of law-making, creation of the respective self-regulation mechanism as a code of good practice. Implementing open law-making and strengthening engagement practice. Monitoring the minutes of the committees’ sittings (§ 39) and the part of the participation of interest groups (§ 36) on compliance with the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 5: More open and transparent law-making

Commitment Text:

Developing lobbying rules and principles of representation of interests for members of the Riigikogu for increasing the openness of law-making, creation of the respective self-regulation mechanism as a code of good practice. Implementing open law-making and strengthening engagement practice.

Monitoring the minutes of the committees’ sittings (§39) and the part of the participation of interest groups (§36) on compliance with the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act.

Milestones:

5.1. Supplementing the handbook of the member of the Riigikogu “Good practice of the member of the Riigikogu”

5.2. Developing the lobbying rules / good practice of representation of interests of a member of the Riigikogu (engaging interest groups) and adding rules to the handbook of the member of the Riigikogu

5.3. Implementation of the engagement practice and open law-making process according to the new wording of the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act.

Responsible Institution: Riigikogu

Supporting Institutions: Transparency International Estonia, Open Government Partnership Roundtable, parties related to representing interests

Start Date: 1 July 2016           

 End Date: 30 June 2018

Commitment Aim

This commitment sought to increase transparency in the lawmaking process of the Parliament of Estonia (the Riigikogu) by updating the handbook of Riigikogu members with a code of good practice for engaging lobby groups. It also called for amending the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act based on these updates.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

To implement the commitment, the Anti-Corruption Select Committee of the Riigikogu handed its proposal for amending the Good Practice of the Members of the Riigikogu to the Parliament’s Council of Elders (chairpersons of the parliament’s factions) in May 2017. However, Parliament rejected the proposal to amend the Good Practice. Instead, on 29 May 2017, the Riigikogu approved another type of document, the “Recommendations of the Anti-Corruption Select Committee to the Members of the Riigikogu for Interaction with Interest Representatives.” This document included eight general recommendations[Note 37: The document included the following recommendations: 1) when meeting with interest representatives, check what interests they represent and who is funding them; 2) Request interest representatives to disclose, in writing and in advance, the purpose of the meeting, names of participants, the issue for discussion, and any relevant background information; 3) Before the discussion of a particular bill or a topic at the committee sitting, inform the members of the committee that you have been contacted by an interest representative and ask it to be entered in the minutes of the committee sitting; 4) Assess any risk of conflicts between your private interests and the public interest and how your interaction might be perceived; 5) Err on the side of caution. If in doubt, consult somebody, and if you decide to go ahead, add an explaining note to the documents; 6) Invite interested representatives to substantiate statements or presentations in writing after meetings or telephone calls; 7) Maintain good record-keeping habits, including recording the date and location of the meeting, names of participants and issues discussed; and 8) Report unacceptable lobbying practices to the Anti-Corruption Select Committee. See the full recommendations at https://www.riigikogu.ee/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Recommendations-of-the-Anti-Corruption-Select-Committee-to-the-members-of-the-Riigikogu-for-interaction-with-interest-representatives.pdf  ] and example cases helping members of the Riigikogu (MPs) assess potential conflict of interest and ethical issues in preparing legislation and coordinating with interest groups.

End of term: Substantial

Since 29 May 2017, the Riigikogu has not carried out any specific activities related to this commitment. Although the first two milestones were implemented in a different format than originally planned, both had been completed by the midterm to the extent possible under the circumstances. However, the completion of milestone 5.3 (implementation of the adopted guidelines and recommendation) is difficult to assess due to the lack of verifiable information as to whether or how MPs actually implement the recommendations in their daily practices. The government’s end of term self-assessment report evaluates the commitment as “substantially” but not fully completed.

According to Tiina Runthal from the Chancellery of the Riigikogu,[Note 38: Tiina Runthal (Chancellery of Riigikogu), interview by IRM researcher, 26 November 2018] Parliament took the following measures to support the recommendations’ implementation:

·       The recommendations[Note 39: See https://www.riigikogu.ee/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Recommendations-of-the-Anti-Corruption-Select-Committee-to-the-members-of-the-Riigikogu-for-interaction-with-interest-representatives.pdf ] and examples[Note 40: See https://www.riigikogu.ee/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Case-examples-of-possible-situations-where-there-is-a-conflict-of-interests.pdf ] have been published on the Riigikogu website;[Note 41: See https://www.riigikogu.ee/en/parliament-of-estonia/committees/anti-corruption-select-committee/ ]

·       The recommendations are included in the package of rules and codes of conduct that are always introduced to new members of the Parliament as they start their work;

·       In case the Board of the Riigikogu receives information about cases of non-compliance with the recommendations, e.g., through MPs’ declarations of economic interest, information from other MPs, or via the media, the board will take the case to the Council of the Elders to discuss the need to change or to update the recommendations.

According to Tiina Runthal, no cases of noncompliance have been given to the Board of the Riigikogu so far.[Note 42: Tiina Runthal (Chancellery of Riigikogu), interview by IRM researcher, 26 November 2018] It is not clear whether the lack of reported cases is a result of MP’s full compliance with the recommendations or whether it is due to limited awareness of the recommendations. No verifiable information about the MPs’ actual awareness of the recommendations is available, as Parliament has not conducted surveys to learn about the awareness level.

Did It Open Government?

Access to information: Did not change

Civic participation: Did not change

Public accountability: Did not change

The commitment aimed to address the problem of lack of transparency and public oversight of lobbying activities in the law-making process that organizations such as Transparency International Estonia had previously raised in reports. According to the original wording of the commitment, the Riigikogu committed to creating a self-regulation mechanism that would provide decision-makers and the general public better information on who and how has shaped the legislative bills in the Parliament. Though this commitment is a positive first step toward regulating the influence of special interest groups in the decision-making process, the IRM Progress Report assessed it as not directly relevant to the core OGP values. The report noted that a significant change in lawmaking practices and MPs’ interaction with lobby groups would require including actual enforcement mechanisms of the lobbying regulations.

According to the government’s self-assessment report and evidence from Riigikogu, no such enforcement or redress mechanisms were created during the project’s implementation. Transparency International Estonia suggests that this commitment is a step in the right direction, but a more thorough and legally binding set of lobbying rules is needed to increase the actual transparency of MPs’ interactions with lobbyists.[Note 43: IRM researcher’s email communication with Transparency International Estonia, 30 November 2018] It recommend that Riigikogu follow “International Standards for Lobbying Regulation”[Note 44: “International Standards for Lobbying Regulation” (2015), Transparency International, Access Info Europe, Sunlight Foundation and Open Knowledge. Accessible at http://lobbyingtransparency.net/lobbyingtransparency.pdf. ] when designing further lobbying regulation mechanisms. Therefore, despite the initial ambitions, the commitment has had no effect on opening government. The potential effects are further reduced by the lightweight non-binding format of the recommendations and the lack of proactive promotion efforts of the guidelines among the Riigikogu members.

Carried Forward?

This commitment has been carried forward to Estonia’s fourth action plan. Commitment 3 of the 2018–2020 action plan (“Increasing the openness and transparency of the Riigikogu”) continues to advance the goal of an open and transparent law-making process by focusing on two main strands of activities: 1) releasing data about the Parliament’s plenary meetings as machine-readable open data and 2) harmonizing the publication practice and speeding up the process of publishing parliamentary committees’ meeting proceedings on Riigikogu’s website.


Estonia's Commitments

  1. transparent and inclusive policy making

    EE0048, 2018, E-Government

  2. inclusive policy-making

    EE0049, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. Riigikogu Transparency

    EE0050, 2018, E-Government

  4. national and local government action plans

    EE0051, 2018, Public Service Delivery

  5. presentation of local public services

    EE0052, 2018, E-Government

  6. participatiory democracy capacity-building

    EE0053, 2018, Capacity Building

  7. e-Tax and Customs Board 2020

    EE0039, 2016, E-Government

  8. Reducing bureaucracy and a simpler state – the zero bureaucracy project

    EE0040, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Implementation of the principles of open governance at local level as a result of the administrative reform

    EE0041, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. More inclusive policy-making on a central government level

    EE0042, 2016, E-Government

  11. More open and transparent law-making

    EE0043, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  12. Increase of the engagement capacity of state authorities and participation capacity of nongovernmental organisations in policy-making

    EE0044, 2016, Capacity Building

  13. Intensify participatory budgeting on a local level

    EE0045, 2016, E-Government

  14. Increasing the transparency of the funding of non-governmental organisations

    EE0046, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  15. Defining participatory democracy and development of digital competence in school education

    EE0047, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Visualisation of the policy making process

    EE0016, 2014, Public Participation

  17. Upgrading participation channels

    EE0017, 2014, E-Government

  18. Improving government website

    EE0018, 2014, E-Government

  19. Standard for information requests

    EE0019, 2014, E-Government

  20. Early notice on policy-making processes

    EE0020, 2014, Public Participation

  21. Participation in early stage policy-making

    EE0021, 2014, Public Participation

  22. Early access to tax policy decisions

    EE0022, 2014, Public Participation

  23. Better feedback mechanism

    EE0023, 2014, Public Participation

  24. Selecting and funding participation projects

    EE0024, 2014, Civic Space

  25. Web tool

    EE0025, 2014, E-Government

  26. Civil servant guidelines for participation

    EE0026, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Training civil society organizations (CSOs)

    EE0027, 2014, Capacity Building

  28. Central government transactions

    EE0028, 2014, E-Government

  29. Local authorities' transactions with private entities

    EE0029, 2014, Civic Space

  30. Public spending for non-profits

    EE0030, 2014, Civic Space

  31. Guidelines for citizen budgeting

    EE0031, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Guidelines for redesigning public services

    EE0032, 2014, E-Government

  33. Registry of public services

    EE0033, 2014, Open Data

  34. User-centric public services

    EE0034, 2014, E-Government

  35. Access to e-services for non-residents

    EE0035, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration

  36. Open data portal

    EE0036, 2014, E-Government

  37. Opening data

    EE0037, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Supporting nongovernmental open data use

    EE0038, 2014, Capacity Building

  39. Drawing up a green paper on organisation of public services

    EE0001, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  40. Implementation of the eesti.ee action plan

    EE0002, 2012, E-Government

  41. Drawing up a green paper on making public data available in a machine-readable form

    EE0003, 2012, E-Government

  42. Creating a repository of public data

    EE0004, 2012, E-Government

  43. Launching pilot projects of public data services based on the cloud technology

    EE0005, 2012, E-Government

  44. Interactive guidelines and training in implementation of the Good Practice of Public Engagement

    EE0006, 2012, Open Contracting and Procurement

  45. Launch of the impact assessment system

    EE0007, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  46. Overview of ministries’ work processes

    EE0008, 2012, Capacity Building

  47. Integration of impact assessment into the process of public engagement

    EE0009, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  48. Creation of a database of declarations of economic interests

    EE0010, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  49. Adjustment of the system of funding non-profit associations and establishment of a disclosure system

    EE0011, 2012, Private Sector

  50. Starred commitment Drawing up a proposal for drawing up an anti-corruption strategy

    EE0012, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  51. Draft Anti-Corruption Act

    EE0013, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  52. Establishment of the Public Ethics Council

    EE0014, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  53. Organisation of ethics training for employees of various public sector organisations (incl. public servants)

    EE0015, 2012, Capacity Building