Hänni: Doors of Parliament Should Be Open to Citizen Initiatives

laine uudised-laine
19. Mar 2013

Liia Hänni, a civil society expert, has called for Parliament to become more like the Citizen's Parliament – open to proposals from the public.

Hänni, also known as an architect of 1990s privatization, told ETV that experts meeting at the Citizen's Parliament Monday to assess the ideas sent in January were unanimous and that most of the ideas would be sent to the April 6 discussion day. 

Hänni said it would not be difficult to get the official Parliament to take the people, and their initiatives for laws, more into consideration. 

"The Estonian Constitution provides for the possibility of admitting memoranda for discussion. This means that if people gather a certain number of signatures, they could make a motion to Parliament to treat a policy proposal as a draft law. The Constitution says the people can turn to any government authority with memoranda and the law must specify how they are to be processed," she said.

Hänni called for the "hole in the constitutional order" to be filled.  

She said proposals that require an amendment to the Constitution were more complicated. 

"It's another matter whether we restrict the decision-making competence of Parliament if citizens have introduced a proposal. If Parliament does not support the proposals, should they still go to referendum?" She did not provide an answer, but said the process should move forward more carefully in such a case. 

"But certainly the doors of the Parliament could be opened more to citizens' proposals than they have been. I believe the Citizen's Parliament has been important in that it has shown a certain number of new opportunities and needs that must be effected in the Estonian government system. I don't think this could be an obstacle for Parliament. It's more of a gift to Parliament, showing them where legislation is needed," she said.

She suggested that an institution such as the Citizen's Parliament should be made permanent. 

The Citizen's Parliament, based largely on the website, rahvakogu.ee, is a volunteer initiative that grew out of 2012's protests against the coalition's perceived governing style and alleged campaign funding violations. It was set up by NGOs to bring the lawmaking process closer to citizens.