CENTRE OF GOVERNMENT PROFILE
[As at May 1998]
|The Government||The Government
The Government of the Republic is comprised of the Prime Minister and up to 14 ministers. Among them may be two ministers who do not direct ministries and whose functions are determined by an order of the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister appoints, by an order, two ministers who shall, in a designated sequence, substitute for the Prime Minister during his or her absence. If the ministers appointed as substitutes are also absent, the most senior minister present substitutes for the Prime Minister. The minister substituting for the Prime Minister has the same rights and duties as the Prime Minister, but he or she may not submit a resignation of the Government nor present proposals to the President of the Republic regarding the appointment to and release from office of ministers.
A minister substitutes for another minister pursuant to an order of the Prime Minister.
Sessions of the Government are chaired by the Prime Minister or, upon his or her absence, a substituting minister.
The Secretary of State, the Legal Chancellor and the Auditor General, in matters within his or her competence, may participate in sessions of the Government with the right to speak. The Prime Minister may also invite other persons to a session of the Government and give them the opportunity to speak.
County governors, representatives of local government associations, secretaries-general of ministries, officials of the State Chancellery in the performance of their duties, a representative of the President of the Republic and official persons invited at a ministers discretion (only for the discussion of matters presented by him or her) may observe the regular sessions (held on Tuesdays) of the Government pursuant to procedure approved by the Government. Only officials of the State Chancellery in the performance of their duties, a representative of the President of the Republic and officials invited at a ministers discretion only for discussion of matters presented by him or her may observe the "cabinet meetings".
Regular session of the Government is on the Tuesday of every week.
Special sessions are convened only in extraordinary cases. The "cabinet meetings" are usually held after official Tuesday sessions. These are unoficial meetings of the Government where general policy issues are discussed and the most important draft legislative acts reviewed before their official submission to a session of the Government. Members of the Government also meet at the Government coalition meetings or in meetings specially called together by the Prime Minister.
The Secretary of State arranges for the preparation of the agenda for the sessions. The draft agenda is presented with all necessary documents to the Prime Minister for approval. The Prime Minister may amend the agenda.
Pursuant to the Government of the Republic Act, only members of the Government may propose items for the agenda of a Government session. All necessities for the discussion of the item must be given to the State Chancellery not later than seven working days before the approval of the agenda.
An agenda approved by the Prime Minister, along with all documents necessary for discussion of the agenda items is distributed seven days before a Tuesday session of the Government to the members of the Government, the Auditor General, the Legal Chancellor, representatives of county governors, local government associations, the Office of the President of the Republic, advisors to the Prime Minister and the officials heading the State Chancellery. The agenda is generally distributed by the State Chancellery. The Government Press Office distributes the agenda with comments among journalists.
Bills of draft regulations and orders of the Government, and drafts and information of decisions to be noted in the minutes are agenda items for sessions of the Government. Approval of draft laws that the Government plans to introduce in the Riigikogu and opinions of the Government on the bills introduced by the members, factions or committees of the Riigikogu, are noted in the minutes. Political strategy is primarily discussed at the "cabinet meetings" or at meetings specially called together by the Prime Minister.
|The preparation of submissions
Political and legal proposals to the Government may be made by members of the Government, the Legal Chancellor in cases of legal conflict, and the Secretary of State in issues concerning the suspension or repeal of legislation of ministers or county governors.
The proposals for including an item on the agenda of the session of the Government are submitted to the State Chancellery.
A draft presented to a session of the Government must be legally and formally correct, be accompanied by a proposal and letter of explanation signed by the minister and the secretary-general of the ministry, and other documents necessary for the discussion of the matter, and be consulted by all of the appropriate ministries and, in certain cases, also with other state agencies and local government units. Where necessary, results of consultations held with other interested groups are also appended. Also required is a calculation of the expenses resulting from the decision and the opinion of the Ministry of Finance thereof. The draft must be delivered to the State Chancellery not later than seven working days before the approval of the agenda. Matters of urgency are placed on the agenda only upon the decision of the Prime Minister.
Ministers may make proposals for the discussion of matters of urgency immediately at the beginning of a session and, upon the decision of the Prime Minister, this may be placed on the agenda.
|The preparation of decisions
Every ministry is responsible for the preparation of decisions for matters that are within its area of governance.
Material issues are often discussed in the "cabinet meetings". For the discussion of material issues, the Prime Minister may invite the appropriate ministers to a meeting, the result of which may be a decision to discuss the matter at a session of the Government. Before the matter is presented to be placed on the agenda, the matter may also be discussed with the participation of ministers at meetings of the Government coalition or of parties belonging to the Government. These meetings are chaired by the Prime Minister or the leader of the party. A meeting wherein other ministers and officials heading ministries participate may also be convened by the minister preparing the matter, his or her secretary-general or assistant secretary-general, who, in this case, chairs the meeting.
The purpose of such meetings is to discuss the suitability of the proposed decision to political strategy and the potential political consequences. The economic, financial, social and other aspects of the decision may also be discussed if the ministers have different opinions thereof. The decision of the meeting may materially influence the substance of a draft presented to a session of the Government and the decision made at a session. The formal aspect of the proposal is seldom discussed at such meetings.
The legal procedure for resolving differences of opinion of ministers prescribes their final resolution at a session of the Government. Problems may also be discussed beforehand with the Prime Minister, in a manner specified by the Prime Minister, or at a meeting of the Government coalition.
The formal and legal aspects of the items placed on the agenda of a session of the Government as well as the coherence of a proposed policy with the policies worked out by the other ministries are discussed in the regular meetings of secretaries general of ministries. These meetings, chaired by the Secretary of State, are usually held on Friday mornings.
making and recording
The Government passes decisions at a session by a majority vote of the participating Government members. It is quite usual that decisions are made on the basis of consensus.
The decision on a matter may be postponed on the application of the Prime Minister or the appropriate minister.. In the case of an equally split opinion, the position of the Prime Minister governs the outcome.
All decisions of the Government are noted in the minutes of the session by the appropriate service of the State Chancellery. Presenters of a draft, speakers, voting results, dissenting opinions and decisions are recorded in the minutes. State Chancellery records the discussion of a session to audio tapes.
As a rule, a draft is prepared for every Government decision. The draft must include the basic contents of the proposed decision, the ministers or government agencies on whom duties will be placed and who will be responsible for implementing the decision, and deadlines for implementation. If necessary, the use of budget funds and of personnel necessary for the implementation of the decision and the preparation of legal and regulatory measures are also specified. The decision may contain the procedure for providing information regarding implementation to the Government or government agency. The record of implementation of the decision is maintained by the State Chancellery.
|Implementation of decisions
After minutes are signed, an excerpt of the minutes of the Government is sent by the State Chancellery to all those persons and government agencies which it affects. Also after signature, Government legislation (regulations and orders) is sent by the State Chancellery to those persons and agencies noted therein. Regulations and orders of the Government are published in the Riigi Teataja and a regulation enters into force only after publication.
Ministries are required to provide information regarding the performance of duties within their area of government to the State Chancellery who maintains a general record of the implementation of Riigikogu and Government decisions. The State Chancellery regularly presents overviews of the course of implementation of decisions.
The State Chancellery does not have the authority to intervene in the activities of ministries implementing decisions of the Government, but the State Chancellery has the authority to send appropriate reminders and to demand information.
|Legislative and regulatory procedures
The preparation of legal and administrative texts is the responsibility of the appropriate minister and ministry. Materials presented by the Prime Minister are the responsibility of the Secretary of State and the State Chancellery.
The preparation of draft legislation within the area of government of a minister is organised by the minister, according to law.
The preparation of draft legislation not within the area of operations of government agencies and other state agencies is to be organised by the State Chancellery.
The Ministry of Justice co-ordinates legislative drafting and, therefore, ministries are required to present the planning of proposed bills to the Ministry of Justice.
If a ministry prepares a bill, this must be checked by the Ministry of Justice and with all other appropriate ministries. The requirement for draft regulations and orders is that they be checked by the appropriate ministry and with national unions of local governments if the draft legislation affects the general interests of local governments.
Before the presentation of draft legislation to a session of the Government of the Republic, the State Chancellery checks the adherence of the draft to formal requirements and the conformity of the draft to the Constitution and the law.
The finances projected for the preparation of legislation are prescribed by the annual state budget as a line item of the appropriate ministry, or the finances will be allocated according to the application of a ministry from the reserve fund of the Government.
The Ministry of Justice deals with the harmonisation of Estonian legislation to European Union law, for which a structural unit has been formed. Similarly, ministries are required to consider European Union legislation when drafting legislation.
|Subordinate Bodies of the Council of Ministers
The Government may, by an order, form three types of committees for working out individual issues within its competence:
Members of the Government and the Secretary of State may be members of a ministers committee. Officials of government agencies (ministries, the State Chancellery, executive agencies, inspectorates, county governments) are members of inter-ministerial committees.
Members of an expert committee are officials of government agencies and, where necessary, persons outside the state public service. A chairman of a ministers committee or inter-ministerial committee is a minister or the Secretary of State; the chairman of an expert committee is a minister or another state official. If the chairman of a committee is not a minister or the Secretary of State, a minister or the Secretary of State responsible for the work of the committee is appointed.
A committee is formed for working out individual issues, and a committee's specific functions are specified at the time of formation of the committee. At the same time, the procedure for the presentation of the committees findings and proposals, and the financing and servicing of the committee is prescribed.
The Government may also form other committees and councils in the cases prescribed by law. In such a case, the authority of the committee or council is prescribed by law.
According to the Constitution, ministries administer the areas of government and, therefore, committees do not have functions of executive power.
|Institutions at the Centre of Government
The State Chancellery is within the Government of the Republic. The State Chancellery organises the operations of and clerical services to the Government and the Prime Minister. The functions of the State Chancellery are provided by law or are assigned by the Government pursuant to law.
The key structural units of the State Chancellery are departments, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Government Press Office, and the Office of European Integration.
The functions of departments and bureaux are prescribed in the corresponding by-laws.
The State Chancellery has a primarily administrative and apolitical supporting role of political functions, except the Office of Prime Minister consisting of the advisers to the Prime Minister whose function is the provision of political advice.
The State Chancellery also provides services to the ministers who do not head ministries.
The State Chancellery does not have separate units for all areas of government, but the duties of officials may be divided by ministry or by area of government, and in this way, those officials also ensure appropriate procedures in the corresponding agencies or areas.
Units in the State Chancellery are responsible for legal matters, the formalities of legislation, personnel issues of officials, economic and administrative matters, archiving, state information systems and state insignia and act as a liaison for corresponding problems presented to the Government.
The Office of the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State co-ordinates the advising of the Prime Minister, harnessing the structural units of the State Chancellery where necessary. A separate unit, Government Press Office organises the dealings of the Prime Minister and the Government with the public.
The units and agencies of the State Chancellery are co-ordinated by the top officials of the State Chancellery according to the by-laws of the State Chancellery and the units and the directives of the Secretary of State.
Senior Staff and Advisors to the Head of Government
The senior officials of the State Chancellery, which acts as the Centre of the Government, are the Secretary of State and the Director-General of the State Chancellery.
The Secretary of State heads the State Chancellery. As the Head of the State Chancellery, he or she has the same rights as a minister in heading a ministry. The Secretary of State participates in sessions of the Government with the right to speak, ensures the provision of services to the Government of the Republic, countersigns legislation and minutes of the Government, ensures the communication and publication of Government decisions, holds the state seal, provides an opinion regarding the appointment to and release from office of a secretary-general of a ministry or a county secretary, ensures the work of the archiving and information systems of the state, the legal regulation of the operations of state agencies, the co-ordination of training of state officials and the maintenance of the reserve of officials.
The Director-General of the State Chancellery heads the work of the departments of the State Chancellery, co-ordinates the work of agencies administered by the State Chancellery, arranges the State Chancellery operations, budget implementation, use of State Chancellery personnel, and resolves issues concerning the arranging of the training of state officials and of maintaining the reserve of officials.
Differentiation between non-political and political (employed for a specific period) officials is provided by the Public Service Act. On this basis, political officials may be considered advisers and assistants to the Prime Minister and ministers who are employed for the duration of the authority of the Prime Minister.
Permanent officials deal primarily with the legal, technical and procedural aspects of matters presented to the Government when working through the opinions presented by political officials. The objective of the co-ordination of their work is to provide politically purposeful and legally accurate advice to the Prime Minister and Government. Both categories of officials advise the Prime Minister at different stages of a matter. Political officials meet with the Prime Minister more frequently, but regular access to the Prime Minister in matters which require a decision is available to permanent top officials as well. Political advisers to the Prime Minister are relatively independent and may critically appraise the opinions of ministries. They review proposals presented by ministries to the Government systematically and provide their opinion where necessary.
|FOR FURTHER INFORMATION||State Chancellery
Lossi plats 1a
Tallinn EE 0100
Tel. (372) 631 6860
(372) 631 6706
(372) 631 6731
Fax: (372) 631 6914
E-mail: riik@ rk.ee