New Cabinet throws out old bills

  • 2002-02-21
  • TBT staff
TALLINN - Prime Minister Siim Kallas' Cabinet has started its promised recall of Estonian legislation it doesn't like by calling back 20 law drafts initiated by the previous government.

At the regular weekly Cabinet session last week, the government scrapped bills covering laws on administrative violations - such as riding a tram without a ticket - local government management and elections, abortion and sterilization procedures, the lottery and others.

The amendments to the property restitution law are considered the most significant among those recalled. Its withdrawal was specifically addressed in the coalition agreement between the Center and the Reform parties.

The amendments would have created the legal basis for returning property to people who moved to Germany in 1941. Approved in 1991, the law guarantees the return of property to everybody who could prove previous ownership. But former Estonian citizens in Germany were not eligible.

A special agreement signed between the Soviet Union and Germany in 1941 allowed 7,000 residents of Estonia, 4,000 of whom were native Estonians, to move to Germany. Their property in Estonia was seized by the Soviet government.

Former Prime Minister Mart Laar's government designed the amendments in May 1999, presumably after a strong lobby from Estonian expatriates in Germany. The parliamentary opposition at the time, including the Center Party and People's Union, managed to keep the amendments voted down until now.

MP Tonu Kauba of the Center Party told the daily newspaper Postimees that restitution would bring additional liabilities to the Estonian state as much of the property in question now belongs to state institutions.

According to Mart Rask, minister of justice and member of the Reform Party, last week's withdrawal of the bills was a chance for each member of the Cabinet to readjust legislation.

Laar's Cabinet created 94 out of 185 bills currently under government consideration as of Feb. 11. Rask said the new government might repeal up to 30 bills in all.

Rask also explained that not all of the withdrawn bills were in opposition to the policies of the new Cabinet. "For instance, there was no point in considering the criminal code amendments bill because the penitentiary code, a new law, will take effect in September," he said.