Coalition talks between the Reform Party and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union came to a conclusion yesterday, when the two parties confirmed a 55-page coalition agreement detailing the goverment’s action plan for the next four years. The agreement incorporated many of the proposals outlined in the Civil Society Manifesto released shortly before the elections. However, other proposals have been watered down and some crucial points have been completely left out from the coalition agreement.
Since the very beginning of negotiations, the scope of the coalition proposal has been limited by both parties’ promises to lower taxes and reach a budget surplus before the next election. Critics have already noted that the agreement lacks a definite stance on public administration reform, which most analysts agree is long overdue.
Specifically, the coalition agreement includes NENO’s proposals for a comprehensive database for NGOs, income tax deductions and the improving public sector participation. Though proposals pertaining to NGO financing and citizen education have been left out of the agreement, they may nevertheless become a part of the incoming government’s agenda since they are included in the government’s Civil Society Development Plan.
Below, NENO has published the paragraphs from the coalition agreement pertaining to the development of civil society.
2. Preserving a simple and proportional tax system:
c. /…/ starting January 1st 2012, we will lower the upper limit of the income tax deduction to 1920 euros; (includes tax deductions for charitable donations, – ed.)
5. Creating a social environment conducive to foreign investment and international business:
c. We will improve the overall tolerance and openness of Estonian society
3. Incentivizing best university graduates to become teachers:
c. We will promote the teaching profession actively starting at the secondary school level, following the best practices of projects such as “Teach for Estonia”.
ACTIVE EMPLOYMENT POLICIES AND SOCIAL SECURITY
3. Improving the quality of life for persons with disabilities:
a. We recognize the value of civil society and we recognize the need to further involve organizations representing the interests of persons with disabilities in public decisionmaking.
d. We will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
FROM E-ESTONIA TO I-ESTONIA
2. Creating a friendly, unified, simple and citizen-oriented face for the public sector on the Internet and other e-services.
a. We will turn e-services into simple and user-friendly i-services, by redesigning the eesti.ee web portal into a handy and attractive public service gateway, in order to promote smart and efficient dialogue between the public sector and the general population.
4. A more secure, efficent, faster, more transparent and regionally available public service:
a. Through new technologies of information dispersal we will reform public administration and make the state even more efficient for entrepreneurs and citizens alike.
7. Developing eDemocracy for greater citizen participaton and transparency:
a. The e-Citizen will be an efficient and active partner of the e-Official and the e-Politician.
8. Turning the state’s e-assets over to entrepreneurs and citizens:
a. We will make the state’s geographic survey data available online – creating the possibility for entrepreneurs and citizens to create new services based on the state’s data.
b. We will unify the state’s main registries (land registry and real estate registry) and make the principal data available online to the public.
c. We will make more public data machine-readable to increase transparency and participation and to incentivize new private sector developments.
d. We will prioritize making public databases through public-private partnerships.
3. Deepening civil society and public sector cooperation to ensure security:
a. We will develop voluntary cooperation between the state and communities.
b. We will develop a neighborhood watch. e. We will support the operations of voluntary rescue teams.
7. Fighting violence at school and in personal relationships:
a. We will continue the fight against personal violence, including violence at schools.
b. As far as the state budget allows, we will increase funding for civil organizations working to protect the vulnerable, including womens’ shelters.
2. Improving intercommunity dialogue:
a. We will value and support initiatives leading to greater cooperation between members of different ethnic communities. As far as the state budget allows, we will increase funding for the Our People Foundation and Civil Society Development Fund to support such projects.
b. We will continue offering multilingual information, including in Public Broadcasting and social media.
BEAUTIFUL AND CLEAN ESTONIA
3. Responsible development of Estonian natural resources as a source of national wealth:
d. We will only open new mines in cooperation with local communities.
IMPROVING COUNTRY LIFE
The purpose of the coalition’s agricultural and regional policy is to achieve a high quality of life in the countryside and to increase the number of well-paying jobs outside the metropole. To that end, the coalition will develop local infrastructure, improve the business environment and provide additional training opportunities. The coalition values cooperation with local governments, local civil organizations, community movements and organizations and entrepreneurs.
3. Improving cooperation and local activism:
a. We will support leaders who wish to improve their local communities and we will explain the virtues of joint activism.
b. We will increasingly support economic cooperation in both manufacturing, processing and marketing.
c. We will continue our support for village movements and the development of the farm as a traditional productive unit. We will strengthen the institution of the village elder as partners of parish councils and parish governments. We will support the cooperation of Leader-program participants, NGOs and entrepreneurs.
7. Improving human rights and good governance at an international level:
a. Estonia sees development cooperation and humanitarian aid as important tool of foreign policy and we will contribute to the best of our ability to reduce poverty in the world and improve democracy, the rule of law and good governance in countries receiving development aid.
A STATE OF CITIZENS
The goal of the coalition is a form of governance supporting the natural wish of Estonian citizens to live a free and fulfilling life. We want the state to spend every taxpayer cent efficiently, with the goal of providing the best public infrastructure and service for the largest number of people. We want Estonia to have a strong network of local communities and identities, as well as an administration that is logical, simple, and reasonable.
To that end, Estonian public and local governments must take into consideration the effects of urbanization and the general aging of the population. Modernizing local administration must be incremental, flexible and not disruptive to local networks and identities. The coalition believes that a strong local identity is the best guarantor of democracy.
3. Wider and simpler participation of civil organizations:
a. In order to increase the participation of citizens and civil society organizations, we will create an online, easily accessible repository of government information, including national strategies, development plans, legislative and regulatory proposals, and other initiatives. This site will prominently note opportunities and deadlines for public comment on government proposals.
b. We will put into action the Estonian Civil Society Development Plan and the principles outlined in the “Good Practice of Participation”. We will publicize the information regarding NGOs submitted to the Business Registry, so that organizations in need of more volunteers, more donations or more participation would be easier to find.
4. Better funding for civil organizations:
a. We will provide free, public access to all state-collected data regarding NGOs, including constitutions and annual reports; create a legal distinction between civil society organizations and state-founded or state-controlled non-profits (so-called GONGOs).
b. We will review the conditions for entry into the government’s list of tax-deductible NGO-s. c. We will continue our support for civil organizations and initiatives through the Civil Society Development Fund, through the gambling tax council and other similar funding organizations. We will continue supporting the Civil Society Development Fund from the state budget.
5. More rights for the young: We will start a national debate on how to involve children and teenagers in the electoral process. We will start a discussion on the possibility of lowering the voting age to 16 years.
6. Continued cooperation with churches and parishes: We will work in every capacity with local churches and parishes, with an emphasis on traditional confessions. We view the church and parishes as active partners in providing services for the citizens of Estonia.
7. Easier and faster communication with the state: We will make communication with the state easier, principally by improving the e-state and e-services. Irrespective of location, everyone must have easy access to state and local government services.
10. Increased participation of local governments, civil organizations and the private sector in public administration: We will give civil organizations and the private sector the opportunity to play a greater role in providing social, cultural, athletic, environmental, educational, health, and security services. Where possible we will turn over public administration to local governments, civil organizaitions and the private sector through public administration contracts.
13. We will help develop and fund a local government think tank, bringing together scientists, public officials, politicians from the state and local level and civil society.