1. Public Engagement
1.1. Government authorities engage interest groups and the public in the decision-making process to ensure the best possible quality and legitimacy of the decisions.
1.2. For the purposes of the Good Public Engagement Code of Practice, “public engagement” means informing and consulting with interest groups and the public in the decision-making process. “Informing” means providing interest groups and the public with balanced and objective information that enables the aim of and alternative options for the decision to be understood. “Public consultation” means asking for feedback from interest groups and the public in all stages of policy-making, including in raising problems, designating goals, analysing alternative solutions and preparing a draft.
1.3. Public Engagement is applied in developing policy initiatives of a considerable impact on interest groups or society as a whole. The main principle is that the bigger the expected impact, the bigger the opportunity to participate should be. The need for and the extent of public engagement is decided during impact assessment and public engagement is carried out when preparing a draft decision of an estimated significant impact or interest.
1.4. Public engagement is applied when preparing a legal act to be adopted or a decision to be made at the level of the Riigikogu, the Government of the Republic and the ministers. The Good Public Engagement Code of Practice also applies to forming Government positions on European Union issues.
2. Interest groups and the public engaged
2.1. A government authority assesses the impact of a draft decision on interest groups and society as a whole according to the Impact Assessment Guidelines and decides on the need for and extent and timing of the public engagement. Impacts are identified according to the Impact Assessment Guidelines approved by the Government of the Republic.
2.2. A government authority identifies the interest groups whom the intended decision will affect. The interest group may be a set of natural persons, a legal person or a non-formal association whom the drafted decision could affect, who participate in the implementation of the decision or who have clearly expressed interest in the field. During public engagement it is important to ensure a balanced representation of interests.
2.3. The circle of interest groups is extended during public engagement, as appropriate. Participation does not presume a legally defined status or a legal relation with the authority preparing the decision. Engagement of the public may involve differences in the manner and timing of engaging interest groups, based on the expediency.
3. Designing public engagement and notifying of participation possibilities
3.1. Ministries must determine interest groups to be engaged, stages of proceeding and initial deadlines of a draft Act and the name and contact information of the official responsible for drawing up the draft not later than by the time the Intention to develop the draft or the Proposal to prepare a strategy document is sent for official consultation among ministries. The aforesaid information is presented next to the Intention to develop a draft Act or a Proposal to prepare a strategy document. Ministries make available on its website contact information of the unit or official providing information about engagement issues.
4. Cooperation with interest groups and the public in different stages of preparing decision and explaining purpose of engagement
4.1. When developing drafts, a government authority consults with interest groups and the public in the earliest possible stage of proceeding and during the whole process. A public consultation must in any event be carried out in two stages of proceedings: when applying for a Mandate for developing a draft and when the draft has already been developed.
4.2. A government authority submits an Intention to develop a draft Act, a Proposal to prepare a strategy document or another issue of an estimated significant impact as well as the draft itself, before making a decision, through the Information System of Draft Acts or, where appropriate, also by addressing interest groups directly to collect proposals and express an opinion.
4.3. In European Union issues a government authority submits an initiative of the European Commission to interest groups along with a draft position of the Government of Estonia along with explanatory note. The authority keeps interest groups informed about the progress of debates in European Union institutions and, should the positions of Estonia change, also notifies interest groups of the changes.
4.4. If a draft is accompanied by an impact analysis report, this is also submitted along with the draft for public consultation.
4.5. A government authority provides interest groups with information about opening a public consultation. Interest groups and the public is explained why the draft decision is needed, what is the purpose of public engagement, what is the scope for their feedback and further course of proceeding of the draft, including:
- the interest groups addressed;
- issues about which positions of interest groups are seeked;
- manners and deadline of providing feedback for interest groups are specified;
- further course of engagement and further proceeding of the draft is described.
4.6. Parties engaged are granted an adequate period for providing their feedback. A public consultation lasts for four weeks. In justified cases the period of consultation may be shortened. The period of consultation is extended in the case of voluminous drafts or in other justified cases.
5. Information channels for public consultation
Consultation channels must be selected taking into account the possibilities of the public and interest groups to access the documents sent for consultation. If consultation presumes participation of the wider public, information is published in the Information System of Draft Acts and, through that, in the Participation Web and, as appropriate, through other channels.
6. Feedback and notifying of consultation results
6.1. Interest groups must be provided with adequate feedback within a reasonable period of time, generally within 30 days of the end of consultation. If consultation lasts for more than three months or takes place in several stages, a government authority compiles, as appropriate, an interim summary about the feedback obtained during consultation and consideration thereof, changes, as appropriate, the consultation schedule and notifies all the engaged interest groups thereof.
6.2. Decision-makers must be notified of the results of consultation with interest groups. A government authority prepares a summary about the consultation results. The summary sets out interest groups who were invited to participate in the consultation, presents the proposals and comments made, explains consideration of the proposals or comments and provides a justification if they were not adopted by the government authority preparing the decision.
6.3. The summary is annexed to the decision being deliberated and is forwarded to all interest groups along with the feedback specified in clause 6.1. If the analysis of feedback requires, as an exception, more time than 30 days, interest groups are forwarded information about a new deadline. The summary is published in the Information System of Draft Acts next to the draft being processed and also made available after the end of the proceeding.
7.1. At the end of public consultation of important drafts a government authority analyses the conduct of engagement, including attainment of the goal, relevance of the used methods, participation of interest groups in consultation, efficiency of providing feedback and satisfaction of interest groups with the engagement. For the purpose the government authority also asks for an assessment about the conduct from interest groups engaged.
7.2. Results of the assessment are considered in planning and organising the next public engagements.