A controversial bill – that would allow each party in Parliament to establish one NGO to advance civic education, democracy and policy research – passed its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday.
The bill would allocate 900,000 euros per year to set up and operate the NGOs, which were previously called “democracy development foundations” and are now known as “worldview development foundations.”
Although the NGOs are forbidden from advancing partisan initiatives, and although they are supported by both the coalition and opposition, the bill has been criticized by much of the non-partisan NGO sector.
Transparency International Estonia has condemned the bill, calling for wider reforms for party funding and charging that parties are unwilling to bring transparency to the system.
“Considering the plenteous public finances allocated for political parties, as well as the generally poor funding for civic initiatives in Estonia, Transparency International Estonia finds that, in the given situation, it is not acceptable to direct additional public funds to organizations connected to political parties, regardless of the aims,” a statement sent out on Tuesday said.
“Concerns have been raised in the public that parties have installed their associates into non-partisan positions in the executive government, and that political advisers for ministries are serving partisan, not public interests. This raises doubts that the staff of party-affiliated foundations would also not limit themselves to simply spreading a worldview,” the statement said.