Estonian justmin: Year 2022 in legislation characterized by war in Ukraine

  • 2023-12-04
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Estonian Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet has presented an overview to the government of the state of affairs in legislative drafting in 2022, noting that the arrival of Ukrainian war refugees in Estonia and the changed security situation were also reflected in the government's legal activities in the past year.

Laanet said that 2022 was characterized in legislation by war starting in Ukraine, which directly or indirectly prompted several legislative changes. 

"This showed us once again that, alongside long-term strategies and thoroughly analyzed changes, the government must also be prepared to address unexpected legal issues. Several bills related to war in Ukraine were prepared on an urgent basis, which was justified according to the Ministry of Justice's assessment," he explained.

In addition to problems requiring quick responses, such as providing an additional year of schooling for Ukrainian children, the war also prompted several legal changes related to the changed security situation. For example, the evaluation of foreign investments' reliability was strengthened, and special provisions for court proceedings during a state of emergency and wartime were established.

"As a former minister of the interior, I never tire of repeating that internal security is the cornerstone of national security. Domestic security is strongly connected to our legislation and the rule of law. As minister of justice, I now stand for ensuring that our legislation is transparent for people, and legal texts are clear and comprehensible," Laanet said, emphasizing that no compromises should be made in this regard.

Last year, ministries jointly prepared and submitted 111 bills for approvals. Approximately one-third of the drafts included a document of legislative intent, and about half of them had justifiable exceptions for not including such a document. In the remaining 25 bills, the Ministry of Justice considered the lack of a document of legislative intent to be unjustified and a deviation from good legislative practice.

"Both last year and this year, there have been more bills prepared urgently than usual. However, it is important to ensure that bills are not too easily based on the argument of urgency when drafting them. Urgency is not merely a desire by drafters to achieve the intended goal of the bill faster; the problem itself must inherently be acute, whether it is a security situation or the state of the country's finances," the minister of justice said.

"Compared to last year's legislation, this year's legislation has unquestionably been influenced by the obstruction taking place in the Riigikogu, which hinders both the government's implementation of its policies and the Riigikogu's role as a legislator. Excessive use of obstruction has led to the government having to link the adoption of several bills to a vote of confidence. However, previous governments have also used this opportunity -- from last year to the current government's inauguration, the vote of confidence was linked to bills on eight occasions," Laanet noted.

The overview also highlights that one-third, or 31 percent, of the bills prepared by the government resulted from the adoption or implementation of European Union law. The minister of justice acknowledged that transparency and traceability must be provided to interest groups and the public regarding how such legal amendments have evolved and what Estonia's positions were during the processing of EU legal acts.

"As a rule, explanatory notes for bills related to the adoption of European Union law did not include such an overview, and more attention should be paid to this in the future," he noted.

The overview also emphasizes the importance of analyzing the constitutionality of bills, the need to maintain and develop the competencies of legal experts in the legislative process, as well as develop the state's IT solution for collaborative legislative drafting.