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Riigikogu

The National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu conducts as leading committee the proceeding of draft Acts regulating national security and defence, exercises civilian supervision over the national structures of power and participates in the shaping of national security and defence policy. 

The National Defence Committee

 
The National Defence Committee was first formed at the 1st Session of the Constituent Assembly on 21 May 1919.

The Committee included eight members:

  • Karl Ast (Rumor), Jaan Vain, Mait Püüman (Püümets) from the Estonian Social Democratic Workers Party
  • Aleksander Veiler, Julius Seljamaa (later Minister of Foreign Affairs) from the Estonian Labour Party
  • Karl (Kaarel) Einbund (Eenpalu) (later Speaker of the III–V Riigikogu, State Elder and Prime Minister), Jaan Tõnisson (later Speaker of the II and V Riigikogu, several times State Elder and Prime Minister) from the People’s Party
  • Jaan Raamot (later Minister of Agriculture and Alimentation) from the Estonian Country People’s Union
The National Defence Committee is one of the standing committees of the Riigikogu that was re-established on the basis of the Resolution of the Supreme Council on 4 April 1990, and the Resolution of the Riigikogu on 7 October 1992.

Chairmen of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu:

  • lieutenant general Johan Laidoner (I,II,III and VI Riigikogu- National Council)
  • Ado Anderkopp (II and VI Riigikogu- Chamber of Deputies)
  • major general Jaan Soots (IV and V Riigikogu)
  • August Jürima (VI Riigikogu- Chamber of Deputies)
  • Rein Tamme and Enn Tupp (Supreme Council)
  • Rein Helme (VII Riigikogu)
  • Peeter Lorents (VII, VIII Riigikogu)
  • Tiit Tammsaar (IX Riigikogu)
  • Sven Mikser (X Riigikogu)
  • Toivo Tootsen (X Riigikogu)
  • Mati Raidma (XI, XII Riigikogu)
  • Jürgen Ligi (XII Riigikogu)
  • Marko Mihkelson (XIII Riigikogu)
  • Hannes Hanso  (XIII Riigikogu)

Former members of the National Defence Committee

Former members of the National Defence Committee include, for example, freedom fighter Enn Tarto (VII, VIII, IX Riigikogu), US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Jüri Toomepuu (VII Riigikogu), Professor of Law Igor Gräzin (VIII Riigikogu), former Prime Minister, European Commissioner Siim Kallas (VIII Riigikogu), Olympic champion Jaan Talts (VIII Riigikogu), economist Valve Kirsipuu (IX Riigikogu), former Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar (IX Riigikogu), historian and linguist, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Trivimi Velliste (IX, X, XI Riigikogu), conductor and musician Tarmo Leinatamm (X, XII Riigikogu), singer and composer Siiri Sisask (X Riigikogu), former Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces Vice Admiral (Res) Tarmo Kõuts (XI Riigikogu), basketball player and coach Jaak Salumets (XI Riigikogu), former Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Mart Laar (XII koosseis), former Speaker of the X-XII Riigikogu Ene Ergma (XII Riigikogu).

Advisers, Heads of Secretariat

Advisers, Heads of Secretariat of the National Defence Committee: Andres Mihkels (VIII, IX Riigikogu) and Aivar Engel (IX, X, XI, XII, XIII Riigikogu; official of the Committee since 1992).

The National Defence Committee

The National Defence Committee acts as the leading committee in the legislative proceeding of draft legislation regulating national security and defence issues, including international treaties, exercises supervision over the executive power within its area of competence and performs other duties assigned to it by law or a Resolution of the Riigikogu, if necessary, initiates new draft Acts or Resolutions of the Riigikogu, participates in the shaping of the security and defence policy of the state, exercises civilian supervision over the Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League.

In proceeding draft Acts or draft Resolutions of the Riigikogu, the Committee examines the area which a particular draft regulates, attempts to establish whether the issue has been dealt with exhaustively and finds solutions to problems. It is important to achieve political consensus in national defence issues, therefore it has become an established practice for the Committee to pass its decisions by consensus as a general rule. The Committee has an important role in the legislative proceeding of the State Budget Bill for the next year, when the part of the draft budget concerning the area of government of the Ministry of Defence is discussed at the Committee together with the Minister of Defence.

Several functions of the Committee arise from the laws. Pursuant to the Military Service Act, the Government of the Republic appoints to office and releases from office the Commander of the Defence Forces on the proposal of the Minister of Defence, taking into account the position of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu. Pursuant to the Foreign Relations Act, the National Defence Committee discusses the National Security Concept presented by the Government of the Republic.

According to the Constitution, the National Defence Council is formed to act as an advisory body to the President of the Republic in national defence issues, and according to the National Defence Act, the Chairman of the Riigikogu National Defence Committee is a member of this Council.

It has become a regular practice to elect a member of the Committee to the Estonian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

As the foreign policy of Estonia is connected with security policy and defence policy, the National Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee hold joint meetings.

In order to be well informed on the developments in the national defence, the Committee holds regular meetings with the Minister of Defence, officials of the Ministry of Defence and representatives of the Defence Forces. Since the Riigikogu makes decisions regarding the participation of the Estonian Defence Forces in international missions, it has become an established practice for the Committee to meet with the Commander of the Defence Forces in order to receive an exhaustive overview on the situation in the regions where missions are carried out. The National Defence Committee also visits the units of the Defence Forces (including the units in the regions where international missions are carried out) and the Defence League to get an overview of the implementation of Acts and solve the emerging problems within its competence, when necessary. Rotation of officials was introduced in 2006, according to which an official of the Ministry of Defence performs the duties of a Committee adviser in the course of a pre-determined period of time. This improves the closeness and efficiency of the co-operation between the Ministry of Defence and the National Defence Committee.

In cooperation with the Inspector General of the Defence Forces and the Defence Forces service commission, the Committee helps review the applications and petitions of citizens, which pertain to service in the Defence Forces.

The National Defence Committee also cooperates with the local governments on whose territories the units of the Defence Forces and the Estonian Defence League and national defence objects are located.In proceeding draft legislation, the Committee closely cooperates with the Ministry of Defence and the Chancellor of Justice (in connection with fundamental rights and freedoms). One of the priorities of the National Defence Committee is involvement; therefore, the opinions of specialists as well as representatives of the Defence Forces and other interest groups are heard. For instance, in 1994, representatives of student organisations were invited to attend the Committee meetings at which the Defence Forces Service Bill was discussed. The opinions of the Estonian Reserve Officers Association and the Estonian Retired Officers Association have been asked. There have been several meetings with wounded members of the Defence Forces and representatives of the Estonian Society of Wounded Fighters and NGO Reserve Corps. As a result of these meetings, Acts have been amended, increasing the social guarantees of wounded members of the Defence Forces.

International cooperation

The Committee has relations with respective committees of the parliaments of other countries; mutual visits and joint sittings are organised with the aim of getting acquainted with each other’s work, exchanging experience and discussing common issues. Close relations have been established with George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany and the National Defence College in Finland since many of the committee members have received training there which is necessary for their work. In cooperation with the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), a seminar was organised for the members and officials of the National Defence Committee of the Parliament of Moldova. Since 17 May 1993, close cooperation relations have existed with the Defence Committee of the Eduskunta, the Parliament of Finland, with whom regular annual working meetings are held. On 17 May 1993, the Chairman of the Defence Committee of the Eduskunta Kalevi Lamminen and the Secretary Alpo Rivinoja visited the National Defence Committee. Since 16 February 1998, cooperation is maintained with defence committees of other Baltic parliaments. Annual working meetings are held. Starting from 2011, delegations of the defence committees of the Nordic and Polish parliaments also participate in these meetings. The Committee cooperates and holds working meetings also with the defence committees of the British House of Commons (since 16 May 2002), Danish Folketinget, Swedish Riksdag (since 21 June 1994), German Bundestag (since 30 April 2003), the National Assembly of France (19.05.2005), Afganistan Wolesi and Meshrano Jirga (since 3 February 2010).

Essential Acts and Resolutions adopted by the Riigikogu, in the legislative proceeding of which the National Defence Committee acted as the leading committee

  • Maritime Zones Act (10 March 1993)
  • Defence Forces Service Act (9 March 1994, 14 March 2000 and 13 June 2012)
  • Border Guard Act (30 June 1994)
  • War-Time National Defence Act (28 September 1994)
  • Peace-Time National Defence Act (6 February 1995 and 12 June 2002)
  • National Defence Expropriations Act (22 February 1995)
  • Act on the Accession to the Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection (22 November 1995)
  • Act of Ratification of the Agreement among the States Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty and the Other States Participating in the Partnership for Peace regarding the Status of Their Forces and Additional Protocol (17 April 1996)
  • Resolution of the Riigikogu on the Approval of the Main Objectives of the Defence Policy of Estonia (7 May 1996)
  • Disciplinary Measures in Defence Forces Act (3 December 1997)
  • Estonian Defence League Act (8 February 1999 and 27 February 2013)
  • Act of Ratification of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (28 April 1999)
  • Act of Ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (21 June 1999)
  • Act on the Accession to the Convention on Prohibition or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, and Protocols (21 March 2000)
  • Emergency Preparedness Act (22 November 2000)
  • Resolution of the Riigikogu on the Use of the Estonian Defence Forces Unit in Performance of International Obligations of the Estonian State under the International Peacekeeping Mission in Afghanistan (22 January 2003). Resolution of the Riigikogu on the extension of the time limit of the mission (17 December 2003, 12 January 2005, 7 December 2005, 4 December 2007, 22 October 2008, 9 December 2009, 15 December 2010, 7 December 2011, 19 December 2012, 11 December 2013, 11 December 2014, 9 December 2015, 7 December 2016 and 13 December 2017)
  • International Military Cooperation Act (12 February 2003)
  • Resolution of the Riigikogu on the Use of Estonian Defence Forces in Performance of International Obligations of the Estonian State in Post-conflict Security Restoration Mission in Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq (7 May 2003). Resolution of the Riigikogu on the extension of the time limit of the mission (14 April 2004, 20 April 2005, 7 December 2005, 19 December 2006), extension of the time limit in Iraq (17 December 2007, 9 December 2009 and 15 December 2010)
  • Strategic Goods Act (17 December 2003 and 7 December 2011)
  • Act on the Accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and ontheir Destruction (Ottawa Convention) (24 March 2004)
  • Act on the Accession to the Agreement between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty Regarding the Status of Their Forces and to the Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters Set up pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty (20 October 2004)
  • Act on the Accession to the Agreement on the Status of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, National Representatives and International Staff (20 October 2004)
  • Act on the Accession to the Open Skies Treaty (9 February 2005)
  • Resolution of the Riigikogu on the Use of the Estonian Defence Forces in the Membership of the NATO Response Forces (11 May 2005; next rotations 7 June 2006, 18 October 2006, 10 June 2008, 11 February 2009, 10 June 2009, 9 June 2010, 7 December 2011, 19 December 2012, 11 December 2013, 11 December 2014, 9 December 2015, 7 December 2016 and 13 December 2017)
  • Act on the Use of the Red Cross Designation and Emblem (5 April 2006)
  • Act on Ratification of the Protocol Additional to Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem (Protocol III) (11 December 2007)
  • Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Estonian Defence Forces in Performance of International Duties of the Estonian State in the Composition of the Nordic Battle Group of the European Union” (19 December 2007, 8 December 2010 and 11 December 2014)
  • Defence Forces Organisation Act (19 June 2008)
  • Resolution of the Riigikogu on the Use of the Defence Forces in the Performance of the International Duties of the Estonian State in the Composition of the European Union Anti-Piracy Operation Atalanta and NATO Naval Operation Active Endeavour (27 October 2010, 7 December 2011 and 19 December 2012)
  • Resolution of the Riigikogu on the General Principles of the Security Policy of the Republic of Estonia (6 March 2001, 16 June 2004, 12 May 2010 and 7 June 2017)
  • National Defence Act (11 February 2015)
  • Cybersecurity Act (9 May 2018)

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Last updated: 13.06.2018

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