Latvian Saeima conceptually supports creation of vice-minister seats and a new ministry despite objections from deputies

On 24 November the Saeima set urgency and conceptually passed amendments to the State Administration Structure Law necessary to implement the ruling coalition’s plan for new vice-minister posts. The parliament set urgency and conceptually passed amendments to the Cabinet Structure Law necessary to compose a new ministry in the country.
In order to pass amendments, the parliament will need to vote in the second and final reading, which is planned to be done on 1 December.
During debates Progressive Party (P) member Edmunds Cepurītis said the climate policy in Latvia currently lacks a single supervisory body. He believes creation of a new Ministry of Energy and Climate would not be an effective solution, as this initiative provides for separating the environment and climate policies from one another.
Ainārs Šlesers, leader of Latvia in First Place (LPV), said it is difficult to trust an invitation to create a new ministry, as it is unknown if a competent minister with appropriate knowledge is put in charge of it. The politician stressed there can be no position or opposition in matters of energy affairs, because this topic affects everyone. He said residents are waiting for quick action and solutions.

However, following PM Krišjānis Kariņš’s welcoming position in debates, Šlesers agreed to vote for the legislative draft.

Politician Jana Simanovska (P) said the climate crisis is not the only environmental problem – waste mountains continue growing and biological variety continues going down. The costs of these problems are high, said the politician. According to her, creation of a Ministry of Energy and Climate without first developing a reliable environmental policy would fracture government institutions. She instead invited members of the coalition to rework the legislative draft.
The leader of the Progressive Party Kaspars Briškens stressed that his party stands in favour of a climate policy but does not support the legislative draft, as, according to him, there are no notable disagreements between environmental and energy solutions that would warrant creating a separate ministry.
During debates about both legislative drafts Saeima speaker Edvards Smiltēns invited participating deputies to behave more quietly so that speakers on the tribune are able to speak without interruptions.
As previously reported, during the formation of the new government potential coalition partners agreed on the creation of a new ministry in Latvia – Ministry of Climate and Energy.

New Unity is fully in favour of this new ministry’s creation, whereas the National Alliance and Combined List are more reserved in their opinions.

According to New Unity members, one of the most important issues still left to be resolved is Latvia’s energy independence. This is why there is a need for a new ministry.
«As an idea it is very simple – we will cease purchasing energy resources from Russia,» New Unity leader Krišjānis Kariņš said about the need to create a new ministry. He explained the problem comes from the difficulty of accomplishing this task and creating a system to help ensure competitive energy prices while also reaching EU climate goals.
In the new ministry it is planned to combine existing departments from the Ministry of Economics and Ministry of Environment Protection and Regional Development. This means the costs will come only from the wages paid to the new minister and a managing officials.

Unofficial information suggests New Unity member Raimonds Čudars is a potential candidate to become Minister of Climate and Energy.

During debates about the creation of a new ministry, only members of the Combined List supported the idea at first.
During debates Latvian PM Krišjānis Kariņš said that the coalition has proposed a way to better organise government work. If vice-ministers do not work appropriately, the PM promised he will be the first to support liquidation of these posts. The PM criticised members of the opposition for demanding solutions and then complaining about work getting paralysed.
Representative of Latvia in First Place Linda Liepiņa, opposing the decision to give this legislative draft urgency, said she does not understand why the government is in a hurry with this legislative draft, considering it needs to be discussed in more detail and the government still needs to hear residents’ opinions.
For Stability! political party’s Saeima faction leader

Aleksejs Rosļikovs said in a situation when residents experience difficulties paying for food, increasing the number of ministers would be irresponsible.

Former Minister of Welfare Ramona Petraviča doubted the government’s work would improve if vice-minister seats are created. «It will not make life better for residents, nor will it generate money,» she said.
Union of Greens and Farmers Saeima faction leader Viktors Valainis stressed vice-ministers will not have parliamentary mandate, adding that creation of these new posts means only «creation of new posts». An alternative solution would be having professional ministers capable of performing their respective duties, said ZZS politician.
Three ministries will have «two heads» each, which may confuse officials as to who they should listen to if these heads have opposing opinions, said Valainis. The politician said constitutional rights expects may disagree that this is the best approach, as vice-ministers will not have trust from the Saeima. «They will be people without any responsibility before the Saeima,» stressed the deputy.

Constitutional rights expert Edgars Pastars wrote on Twitter that of vice-ministers are responsible for specific sectors, this will be a breach of the Constitution or its circumvention using the law.

According to Pastars, vice-ministers have to have a mandate from the Saeima in this case.
Saeima deputy Skaidrīte Ābama stressed that the Progressive Party is against creation of vice-minister posts, adding that in the pre-election debates there were discussions only about narrowing the size of state administration. The politician said it is important to keep in mind creation of vice-minister posts would increase the bureaucratic burden for ministry workers, and it would be confusing for them who they should listen to – the minister or vice-minister. Ābrama also mentioned there is no clarity as to the duties of vice-ministers.
Combined List member Māris Kučinskis mentioned, among other things, that ministers will be responsible for their respective vice-ministers. Vice-ministers should not have additional workers, because this way it will be possible to use existing capacity of ministries. Politicians who are in the coalition have the ambition to work in order to ensure cooperation in the government, said Kučinskis. Combined List Saeima faction chairman Edgars Tavars stressed that the amendments in question are necessary in order to have the government work more efficiently.
Previously the majority of members of Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee rejected amendments. However, now the Saeima decided against the committee’s opinion. This is possible because the ruling coalition has a majority in the parliament but no majority in the committee.
More on this topic: Saeima Legal Affairs Committee objects to creation of vice-minister posts and new ministry