At today’s remote-participation sitting of the Riigikogu, the Draft Resolution approving the shortlist for the establishment and renovation of cultural construction works of national importance passed the first reading.
With the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of the Shortlist for the Establishment and Renovation of Cultural Construction Works of National Importance” (387 OE), submitted by the Cultural Affairs Committee, the Cultural Affairs Committee has made a proposal to approve the shortlist for the establishment and renovation of cultural construction works of national importance as follows: Tartu City Cultural Centre, Narva Kreenholm Cultural Quarter “Manufactory“, Arvo Pärt Music House in Rakvere and an extension to the current building of the National Opera.
According to the Cultural Endowment of Estonia Act, the supervisory board of the Cultural Endowment supports the establishment and renovation of cultural construction works of national importance according to a shortlist approved by a Resolution of the Riigikogu. Up to two facilities can be supported at the same time. Every year, 60.6 per cent of the gambling tax received for a specific purpose by the Cultural Endowment is appropriated for the establishment and renovation of cultural construction works.
The construction of three cultural facilities of national importance has been funded from the funds of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia under a Resolution of the Riigikogu of 1996: the Kumu Art Museum, the Estonian National Museum and the hall of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. The construction of the Kumu Art Museum has been paid for by today. According to the projections, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia will have paid its share of the funding of the construction of the Estonian National Museum by July 2022 and the share of the hall of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre by March 2022. Thereafter it will be possible to start funding the construction and renovation of the facilities shortlisted under this draft Resolution.
During the debate, Signe Kivi (Reform Party), Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Eduard Odinets (Social Democratic Party), Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits (Isamaa) and Marko Šorin (Centre Party) took the floor on behalf of their factions.
The deadline for submission of motions to amend the draft Resolution is 2 June.
The Riigikogu passed four Acts
The Act on Amendments to the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure and the Traffic Act (216 SE), initiated by the Legal Affairs Committee, creates legal preconditions for the application of alternative means of deterrence within the framework of alternative proceedings. The amendment enables to impose a 45-minute time-out stop as a deterrent measure on a driver during which the driver is required to stay with their vehicle in a location designated by the out-of-court proceedings authority.
The time-out stop is established as an additional opportunity to affect a person’s traffic behaviour and compliance with speed limits at an early stage when the violation and traffic behaviour errors committed are not yet so serious as to result in a harsh sanction but are still sufficient to warrant attention. Speeders who do not exceed the permitted speed limit by more than 20 km/h can choose the 45-minute time-out-stop instead of paying a fine.
If a person who is released of the payment of a deterrent fine adheres to the conditions of the deterrent measure set out in the decision, they or their representative has the right, within 15 days as of the receipt of the decision on alternative proceedings, to request that the out-of-court proceedings authority render the evidence in the required form and forward it and to contest the decision on alternative proceedings by filing an appeal with a county court.
It is also provided that, if a person has not adhered to the conditions of the deterrent measure set out in the decision on alternative proceedings, a relevant notice is forwarded to the person. The notice states that the person has not adhered to the conditions of the deterrent measure and consequently they are required to fulfil the obligation to pay a fine as set out in the decision on alternative proceedings delivered to them already when they were detained.
During the debate, Urve Tiidus (Reform Party) and Jaanus Karilaid (Centre Party) took the floor as representatives of their factions.
88 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
Under the Act on Amendments to the Family Benefits Act and the Employment Contracts Act (300 SE), initiated by the Government, the period when the person was registered as unemployed during a health crisis is excluded from the period of the calculation of parental benefit.
The changing of the bases for calculating the amount of parental benefit is a measure for a specified period that is applied in the calculation of the amount of the parental benefit granted for children born in the period 1 January 2021 to 21 December 2023. As the amount of parental benefit is calculated on the basis of the calculation period that is 21 months before the birth of the child from which the period of pregnancy, that is, nine months has been deducted, the period from 1 March 2020 to 28 February 2023 remains within the calculation period of parental benefit in the case of children born in this period. According to the explanatory memorandum, the affected target group comprises approximately three per cent of the families who have children.
The amendments established also concern the payment of family benefits and the use of paternity leave in the case of stillborn children. Fathers who have not used their entitlement to the father’s additional parental benefit and paternity leave before the estimated date of birth of the child are also entitled to the father’s additional parental benefit after the child is stillborn. Mothers who are not entitled to maternity benefit are ensured entitlement to parental benefit for 30 days as of the birth of the child in the event of a stillbirth.
In addition, the Act allows for the payment of family allowances for September for 16–19-year-old children at the beginning of the academic year without checking the data concerning studies. Since not all educational institutions manage to forward the data on their students by the date of payment of family allowances, the Social Insurance Board lacks the complete data for the payment of family allowances, and therefore not all families received their allowances on time in September under the previous procedure.
During the debate, Priit Sibul (Isamaa) and Siret Kotka (Centre Party), Õnne Pillak (Reform Party) and Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party) took the floor on behalf of their factions.
85 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Competition Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (325 SE), initiated by the Government, provides a clear domestic legal basis for recovery of unlawful and misused state aid in a situation where the European Commission or the Court of Justice of the European Union has made no such decision. Since no provision of European Union law has explicitly required Member States to recover aid without a decision of the European Commission, until now it was not unambiguously clear to grantors and beneficiaries of state aid whether the recovery of aid on the initiative of an authority of a Member State was a right or a duty of the authority that granted the aid. The explanatory memorandum notes that the Court of Justice had eliminated this ambiguity with a judgment issued in spring 2019 and had confirmed that, if state aid has been granted unlawfully, the authority of the Member State is required to recover the state aid on its own initiative also without relevant proceedings of the European Commission. In such cases, the cases of unlawful aid are identified by the grantor of the aid who also makes a relevant decision on recovery.
The Act provides that there is no obligation to demand recovery of unlawful state aid in the case when the European Commission has retroactively made a decision to declare the unlawful aid compatible with the internal market. At the same time, since the Member State must demand recovery of the interest on the unlawful aid from the beneficiary of the state aid also in the cases when the unlawful state aid has been retroactively declared compatible with the internal market, the Act provides an obligation to pay interest and specifies the calculation of the interest rate and the methods for applying interest. The calculation of the interest rate and the methods for applying interest are similar to the case when the obligation to pay interest arises from a request to recover unlawful or misused aid. If the principle for calculating interest that is applied in domestic law is similar to the principle used by the European Commission, uniformity in the calculation of interest and the application of the method is ensured.
83 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
Under the Act on Amendments to the Act on the Ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (364 SE), initiated by the Government, the provision delegating the authority to establish “The procedure for handling oil and oil products in the sea, Lake Peipus, Lake Pskov and the river Narva” and arranging for compliance with the convention is eliminated from section 2 of the Act on the Ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area. Section 2¹ is included as the second structural unit, under which the Ministry of the Environment arranges for compliance with the convention in Estonia.
91 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
Two Bills passed the second reading
The aim of the Bill on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act and the Nature Conservation Act (219 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Indrek Saar, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Jürgen Ligi, Signe Riisalo, Yoko Alender, Helmen Kütt, Lauri Läänemets, Siret Kotka, Andrei Korobeinik, Raimond Kaljulaid, Oudekki Loone, Katri Raik, Jüri Jaanson, Toomas Kivimägi, Johannes Kert, Mart Võrklaev, Jevgeni Ossinovski, Kalvi Kõva, Jaak Juske, Riina Sikkut, Heljo Pikhof, Liina Kersna and Madis Milling, is to ban the breeding and rearing of animals for the sole or main purpose of obtaining fur in Estonia.
The introduction of the ban will not jeopardise the breeders who breed for example sheep or rabbits. The proposed ban will include only fur farming where the production of fur is the sole or main purpose.
With the amendments added to the Bill, a transition period will be provided according to which activity licences for keeping minks and raccoon dogs in artificial conditions issued before 1 July 2021 will remain in force until 31 December 2025, because keeping minks and raccoon dogs in artificial conditions will be prohibited from 1 January 2026. The date of entry into force of the Act will also be amended and it will be 1 July 2021.
The prohibition of fur farming has been discussed in Estonia since 2009 when the issue was first raised in the Riigikogu. The Riigikogu plenary voted on prohibiting fur farming in 2017 and 2019. On 10 May 2017, the Bill was rejected at the first reading with 49 votes in favour and 24 against. The second time round, at the beginning of 2019, the Bill was dropped with 28 votes in favour and 25 against.
During the debate, Merry Aart (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Heljo Pikhof (Social Democratic Party), Paul Puustusmaa (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Riina Sikkut (Social Democratic Party), Andres Metsoja (Isamaa), Erki Savisaar (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Andrei Korobeinik (Centre Party), Priit Sibul (Isamaa), Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa) and Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Emergency Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (350 SE), initiated by the Government, will ensure central readiness to establish and store a stock to ensure the supply security of population through the establishment of the Estonian Stocks Centre; the competences, powers and tasks of the Ministry of the Interior in coordinating crisis management will be transferred to the Government of the Republic and the Government Office; and the Government Office will be charged with the task of drafting legislation in the coordination of a field involving several areas of government.
According to the Bill, the general organisation of crisis management in the country will also be specified since the establishment of stock is directly related to the regulations of preparing for different crises and the comprehensive national defence. With an amendment, the competences, powers and tasks of the Ministry of the Interior in coordinating crisis management will be transferred to the Government of the Republic and the Government Office. Insofar as the implementation of the comprehensive national defence is essentially integrated planning for different threats to the country and society, it will be relevant to concentrate all coordination of the crisis management policy to the Government of the Republic, more specifically under the Government Office at the Government of the Republic. The amendment will not result in the elimination of the principle according to which every ministry and authority is responsible for crisis management in its area of responsibility. The tasks of the Government Office will remain similar to today’s tasks of the Ministry of the Interior. This means that the Government Office will direct the activities of authorities in general, at the national level, while ministries will do so more specifically in their areas of government and will be responsible for the necessary crisis management tasks to be performed.
During the debate, Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa), Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa), Paul Puustusmaa (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Leo Kunnas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Mati Raidma (Reform Party), Kalle Grünthal (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Toomas Kivimägi (Reform Party) and Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction and the Faction Isamaa moved to suspend the proceedings on the Bill at the second reading. 34 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 56 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
Six other Bills passed the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (370 SE), initiated by the Faction Isamaa, is intended to extend the reduction in excise duty that entered into force in 2020 to 1 May 2023. If the reduction of excise duty is not extended, it will remain in force until April 2022 and a rise in electricity and fuel duties will be due in May 2022. According to the explanatory memorandum, the Bill also aims to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on businesses and private consumers.
During the debate, Martin Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the European Parliament Election Act and the Local Government Organisation Act (participation of Members of the European Parliament in the work of municipal councils) (389 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee.
The Bill will eliminate the restrictions according to which members of the European Parliament may not participate in the work of rural municipality or city councils. The Bill will give them the possibility to have a say in organising the life of the local government of their residence.
With the amendments, the requirements for being a member of council applicable to members of the European Parliament will be harmonised with the current rules applicable to members of the Riigikogu.
Giving members of the European Parliament the right to be members of municipal council will not make being a member of council obligatory for the members of parliament. Members of the European Parliament will be able to decide whether they wish to combine their mandates as members of parliament and members of council or not.
Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Collective Agreements Act and Other Acts (383 SE), initiated by the Government.
The Bill will bring the regulation of extending a term or condition of a collective agreement into compliance with the freedom of enterprise which is protected by the Constitution, at the same time ensuring a capacity for social partnership and collective involvement. The regulation of extension will concern collective agreements that are entered into between employers and federations or confederations of trade unions.
The aim of the amendments is that the conditions concerning salary and the working and rest time could be extended to the whole sector only in the case when it is agreed on between the employers who provide employment to at least 40 per cent of the employees in the relevant area of activity and a federation of trade unions or a trade union in the same area of activity whose members constitute 15 per cent of the employees in the area of activity or which has at least 500 members. Before concluding an agreement, it is obligatory to inform publicly and to involve all employees and employers in respect of whom the terms and conditions are intended to be extended.
The main problem of the current procedure is a lack of preconditions for the extension and application criteria as a result of which it is possible for a small group to agree on an extension of obligations to the whole sector. This is accompanied by a disproportionate restriction on the freedom of enterprise.
The Bill will also amend the Trade Unions Act and the Employees’ Trustee Act and will specify the obligation of the employer to allow time for the performance of duties related to the activity of trustee during the working time also when there is more than one trustee.
In addition, the Employment Contracts Act will be amended. The Bill will increase the compensation paid in the event of voidness of the cancellation of an employment contract in a situation where the employment contract is cancelled with an employee who is pregnant, an employee who has the right to pregnancy and maternity leave or the employees’ representative without a legal basis.
The Civil Service Act will also be amended. The Bill will increase the compensation paid in the event of voidness of the release from service in a situation where an official who is pregnant, an official who has the right to pregnancy and maternity leave, an official who is raising a child under seven years of age, or the representative of officials is released from service without a legal basis.
Among other things, technical amendments will be made to both the Collective Agreements Act and the Working Conditions of Employees Posted to Estonia Act, which will not involve any changes to the current practice. The Social Affairs Committee was appointed as the lead committee.
The Bill on Amendments to the Water Act (381 SE), initiated by the Government, will reduce bureaucracy and the workload of state agencies. The definition of water body will also be specified and the restrictions provided for nitrate vulnerable zones will be clarified.
The obligation to submit a spreading plan for liquid manure that concerns around 40 Estonian largest dairy and pig farmers will be omitted from the Water Act. The obligation to submit a notice of grazing in a water protection zone that persons planning the grazing must submit in order to graze in a water protection zone if the cattle consist of ten or more units of livestock (for example 17 beef cattle, or 48 sheep or goats are ten units of livestock) will also be omitted. The explanation for the amendment is that around 300 notices on grazing in water protection zones are submitted to the Environmental Board in a year. The amendment will have no negative impact on the environment as the requirements for the use of liquid manure as fertilizer and grazing in water protection zones have been established by other provisions of the Water Act. Besides, the data are also entered in field records and the state has the data.
The opportunities to use wastewater collection tanks in agglomerations with a heavy pollution load (normally with more than 2000 consumers) will also be specified. According to an amendment, leak-tight collection tanks may also be used in such agglomerations if this enables to protect the environment to the same extent as when using a public sewerage system. Thus, according to an amendment, it will be allowed not to establish a public sewerage system in an agglomeration of more than 2000 population equivalents if it would produce no environmental benefit or because establishment thereof would involve excessive cost. The amendment will bring the requirements that up to now have been stricter than the minimum in the Estonian legislation into conformity with the directive.
The explanatory memorandum notes that the definition of the term “water body” set out in the current Act has caused different understandings of the Act and thereby inconsistent implementation of the Act. Both the authorisation obligation and various restrictions on activities are associated with the definition of water body. The Bill will specify the term “water body”. The aim of the amendment is to make the definition more uniformly understandable and thereby to ensure uniform implementation of the Act.
When the Act enters into force, removal of sediment from a water body for the purpose of the maintenance of the water body will no longer be subject to application for a water permit but asking for a registration from the Environmental Board will be sufficient. The processing of a registration is simpler compared to applying for a water permit. It will also be specified that removal of sediments will not deemed to be dredging if it is done on civil engineering works of land improvement systems in the course of maintenance works or renovation up to the depth of the water body determined by the initial building design documentation.
The Bill on Amendments to the Product Conformity Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (372 SE), initiated by the Government.
The amendment will extend the surveillance competences of market surveillance authorities in connection with products offered for sale in e-commerce. Authorities will get access to communication data in order that they would have the opportunity to identify owners of webpages and, where necessary, to restrict access to online interfaces and to require the removal of information content or the display of a warning. The aim of the amendment is to ensure that dangerous products are removed from sale as quickly as possible.
The supervision of products from third countries will also be enhanced. For this, a new requirement for making construction products, personal protective equipment, appliances burning gaseous fuels, and toys available on the European Union market will be introduced. In the case of such products, there will have to be an interlocutor established in the European Union mandated by the manufacturer who can be addressed in the event of additional questions or problems and who is responsible for the availability and verification of declarations and, where necessary, for taking corrective action.
In cross-border cooperation, digital operation and information exchange will be introduced between European Union surveillance authorities. The competence of market surveillance authorities in respect of personal transporters used in traffic and unmanned aircraft system (UAS) intended to be operated in the ‘open’ category will be specified. According to amendments, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority, and not the Transport Administration, will carry out market surveillance of such appliances. For the purpose of more effective sanctioning, the amount of the fine for legal persons will be increased from 3200 euro to 32,000 euro.
The Bill on Amendments to the Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Act, the Identity Documents Act and the State Fees Act (376 SE), initiated by the Government.
The Bill will provide for a clear division of competence and responsibility between agencies in the Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions Act and the Identity Documents Act.
The Bill will update the regulation concerning the assessment of the assurance level of private-law electronic identification schemes. At the same time, the State Fees Act will be amended by providing for a state fee applied for reviewing an application to assess the assurance level of a private-law electronic identification scheme in the chapter concerning the acts of the Information System Authority.
In the course of the resolution of the security flaw of ID-cards that appeared in autumn 2017, the need to organise the legal space concerning identity documents, electronic identification and trust services as well as the division of work and responsibility between the state agencies responsible for these areas rose.
Two development plans were discussed
Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology Andres Sutt presented the Research and Development, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Plan 2021–2035.
The minister pointed out four main challenges to which a solution was being sought with the development plan and in view of which the development plan for the next 15 years had been drawn up. He noted that currently research results were not finding sufficient application in Estonian society and little ground-breaking innovation was being born in Estonian businesses. In his words, there is also a lack of people who could or wished to engage in research and development. Finally, Sutt pointed out that the cooperation between the participants in the research and development, innovation and entrepreneurship sector was weak. “Research institutions, businesses, representation organisations, ministries, implementing agencies and other parties often operate on their own and such activities are fragmented. They do not have sufficiently clearly defined common goals which is definitely the reason why there is little motivation and capability to seek cooperation and to cooperate,” the minister noted.
In Sutt’s words, the development plan is aiming to increase Estonia’s social welfare and economic productivity in the conjunction of Estonian research, development activities, innovation and entrepreneurship by offering competitive and sustainable solutions for Estonia’s needs as well as the development needs of the wider world.
“The centre of gravity of the activities of the development plan lies in establishing a solid bridge between science and entrepreneurship as well as society more broadly in order that the knowledge created would be used to develop and implement innovative solutions,” the minister said. He stressed that the impact of science and scientists and using research results to fulfil Estonia’s development needs, at the same time maintaining the excellence of our research, were more important than before. In his words, in the supporting of enterprise, attention will shift from export-intensity to knowledge-intensity and innovation, that is, to increasing added value.
Member of the Cultural Affairs Committee Marko Šorin presented the discussion of the development plan in the Cultural Affairs Committee.
During the debate, Eduard Odinets (Social Democratic Party), Jaak Valge (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Aadu Must (Centre Party), Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa), Margit Sutrop (Reform Party) and Lauri Läänemets (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna presented the Youth Sector Development Plan 2021–2035.
In Kersna’s words, the vision of the development plan is very ambitious, as it has been made for young people. It provides that, in 2035, in all regions of Estonia, young people will live a healthy and full life and they will be empowered to change the community and the country so that Estonia will be the best environment in the world for growing up, living and self-realisation. “The aim is to ensure that young people have wide development opportunities, sense of security and steady support, thereby creating an Estonia that young people wish to take forward,” the minister said.
In the words of the Minister of Education and Research, four strategic objectives have been formulated in the development plan to achieve the vision. She noted that, by 2035, young people would be a creative and driving force in society, the protection of the rights of young people would be consistent and the active civic participation of young people would be supported. Kersna also pointed out the aim that high-quality youth work would provide young people opportunities for diverse development, sense of achievement, enrichment of their overall experience, and for becoming independent. Finally, the plan sets a strategic goal that the loneliness and distancing of young people is noticed and prevented with the help of a security network increasing their sense of security.
The Youth Sector Development Plan is a response to young people’s initiative that is in line with their readiness and their dreams of a better Estonia. It has been drawn up in cooperation with young people and other parties and partners of the youth sector. The development plan has been drafted with the aim of understanding, involving and empowering young people as much as possible and taking them seriously as equal partners. It focuses on young people, and their particular needs, interests and wishes.
Member of the Cultural Affairs Committee Kristina Šmigun-Vähi gave an overview of the proceedings on the development plan in the Cultural Affairs Committee.
During the debate, Helle-Moonika Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Heidy Purga (Reform Party), Marko Šorin (Centre Party), Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski (Centre Party), Indrek Saar (Social Democratic Party), Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa) and Lauri Läänemets (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
A Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu
Under the Bill on Amendments to § 55 of the Health Insurance Act (363 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and Member of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, upon the payment of care benefit to the person who returns from parental leave, his or her parental benefit should have been taken into account.
According to the Bill, if a parent who returns from parental leave has not received income subject to social tax, or the amount such income has been smaller than his or her parental benefit, in the previous calendar year, he or she would be paid a care benefit in the amount of 80 per cent of the parental benefit paid to him or her in the previous calendar year. According to the Bill, if a person who has been on parental leave has received parental benefit and other income subject to social tax in an amount larger than his or her parental benefit during the previous calendar year, the payment of care benefit to him or her should be based on the income subject to social tax.
Under the current Act, a parent who takes up employment after their parental benefit expires receives benefit during care leave in the extent of the minimum wage when his or her child falls ill. In the opinion of the authors of the Bill, this is unfair in respect of families with small children.
The Social Affairs Committee as the lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 54 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 35 voted against. Thus, the Bill was rejected and it was dropped from the proceedings.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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