At its plenary sitting that started yesterday and ended this morning, the Riigikogu approved the Act that gives members of the European Parliament the possibility to have a say in organising the life of the local government of their residence.
The Act eliminates the restrictions according to which members of the European Parliament may not participate in the work of rural municipality and city councils. With the amendments, the requirements for being a member of council applicable to members of the European Parliament are harmonised with the rules in place for members of the Riigikogu.
Giving members of the European Parliament the right to be members of municipal council does not make being a member of council obligatory for the members of parliament. Members of the European Parliament can decide if they wish to combine their mandates as members of parliament and members of councils.
During the debate, Paul Puustusmaa (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
56 members of the Riigikogu voted for passing the Act 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. Four voted against.
The Riigikogu passed another Act
The Act on Amendments to the Financial Supervision Authority of Act (380 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, extends the bases for publishing information relating to state financial supervision and creates a legal basis for publishing warning notices for financial services consumers. The Act enables the Financial Supervision Authority to publish warning notices and to warn the public against activities that are not in conformity with requirements and against relevant suspicions in the field of financial supervision.
The notices will enable to provide the Estonian public early information on risks relating to the financial sector and to inform consumers of reasoned threats in the field of financial supervision. Considering the ever-growing financial services market and the entry into market of new kinds of services, there is an ever-growing likelihood that financial services and products are offered to the public the provision or offering of which may require authorisation from the Financial Supervision Authority while the person offering the relevant service or product does not have it. In such cases, it is very important that the Financial Supervision Authority have the possibility to inform or warn the public of this immediately. As a general rule, the Financial Supervision Authority publishes the warning notices on its webpage.
The Act specifies the provisions concerning the disclosure of the warning notices of the Financial Supervision Authority. According to the Act, before disclosing a warning notice, among other things, the Authority may make enquiries to persons who are or, on the basis of the known information, may be considered as offenders. The amendment specifies that the Authority may also make relevant enquiries to other persons about the circumstances relevant to the issue of a warning notice.
84 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
Four Bills passed the second reading
The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Water Act (381 SE), initiated by the Government, that had started at the additional sitting on Sunday, continued at the sitting.
The aim of the Bill is to reduce bureaucracy and the workload of state agencies, as well as to specify the definition of water body and to clarify the restrictions provided for nitrate vulnerable zones.
According to the Bill, the obligation to submit a spreading plan for liquid manure and a notice of grazing in a water protection zone will be omitted from the Act. These data are also submitted in field records and the Bill will eliminate the obligation to submit duplicate data.
The restrictions on activities in nitrate vulnerable areas will be specified so that it would be more understandable to agricultural undertakings where it is allowed to graze animals and where it is not allowed, in order to prevent risks to the quality of water bodies.
According to the Bill, an amendment will also be made to the Bill according to which leak-tight collection tanks may be used in agglomerations of more than 2000 population equivalents, provided that the environment is protected to the same extent as when using a public sewerage system. In the event of the use of leak-tight collection tanks, the local government will have to develop a verifiable and systemic solution for servicing the wastewater collection tanks that would ensure that the local government has an overview of the volumes and locations of the provision of the service and the treatment of the wastewater collected.
The Bill will make another amendment according to which 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 registering such an activity with the Environmental Board will be sufficient. It will also be specified that removal of sediments will not be 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 Social Democratic Party Faction and the Estonian Conservative People Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. 32 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 52 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Electronic Communications Act, the Building Code and the State Fees Act (301 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the European Union directive establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (the Communications Directive).
The explanatory memorandum notes that, in connection with the rapid development of the electronic communications market, consumers’ behavioural habits have changed. New data-transmission-based “OTT services” (Over The Top service), such as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook Messenger are increasingly more used instead of traditional communications services and telephone and mobile telephone services. In order to ensure equitable protection of the rights of consumers, as is the case with traditional communications services, OTT services will also be brought under the concept of communications service. When all communications companies operating in the communications market are brought under the communications regulation, all electronic communications services companies operating in the communications market will be treated equally. At the same time, the essence of the regulation applied to OTT services depends on the content of the service provided.
The Bill will increase consumer rights, in particular with the requirement to provide the pre-contractual information and the contract summary of the communications service contract. With pre-contractual information, the consumer is provided with as detailed an overview as possible of the communications service offered, which should prevent misunderstandings on the communications service laid out in the contract and the actual service. With the contract summary, the consumer is provided with an overview of the most important clauses in the communications contract – a description of the communications service, the charge, the duration, renewal and termination of the contract, etc.
For the purpose of ensuring a single European Union communications market, the rules for the deployment of radio frequency bands are harmonised in the EU. Common deadlines for deployment of new radio frequencies are also set.
The purpose of the Bill is also to facilitate the construction of 5G networks and to support the development of mobile communications networks. For the purpose of the construction of very high capacity communications networks, the Bill will facilitate the deployment of small-area wireless access points (small cells) for construction works owned or used by the state or local authorities, for example public construction works, street lamps and traffic lights. In terms of technology, very high capacity communications networks need deployment of a large number of small-area wireless access points (small cells) that ensure the availability of the communications network and uninterrupted coverage. Thus, it will be necessary to make public buildings and other public infrastructure available on reasonable conditions for the deployment of small-cells.
During the second reading, it was decided to omit from the Bill the obligation of communications undertakings to ensure calls to the number 1247 free of charge. Amendments were also made to the Bill to regulate situations where particular hardware or software is endangering national defence, how such endangering is ascertained and for how long high-risk hardware or software is allowed to be used in Estonian communication networks.
During the debate, Andrei Korobeinik (Centre Party), Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa) and Ruuben Kaalep, Riho Breivel, Jaak Valge, Kalle Grünthal, Anti Poolamets, Paul Puustusmaa, Mart Helme, Henn Põlluaas, Alar Laneman, Peeter Ernits, Leo Kunnas and Urmas Reitelmann (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction and the Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. Three members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 57 were against, and there was one abstention. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Collective Agreements Act and Other Acts (383 SE), initiated by the Government, 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 proposed amendments provide that, in Estonia, 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 as one party and the employers who provide employment to at least 40 per cent of the employees in the relevant area of activity as the other party may agree on the extension of a term or condition of a collective agreement.
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 increase the compensations to officials who are unlawfully released from service. More specifically this concerns an official who is pregnant, who has the right to pregnancy and maternity leave, is raising a child under seven years of age or who has been elected a representative of officials and who is released from service unlawfully. Until now, the amount of the compensation has been six months’ average remuneration, but according to an amendment, the employer will pay compensation to the extent of the 12 months’ average remuneration of the employee to the employee.
The third major amendment concerns trustees and once the Act enters into force, if there are two or more trustees, the employer will have to enable all trustees to perform the duties of trustee during the working time to the extent of the time prescribed for at least two trustees.
With the amendments made to the Bill at the second reading, among other things, the duration of the payment of the unemployment insurance benefit and the unemployment allowance will be temporarily extended by 60 calendar days in the case when the registered unemployment rate rises above 8.5 per cent in Estonia.
During the debate, Martin Helme, Ruuben Kaalep, Kert Kingo, Peeter Ernits, Jaak Valge, Anti Poolamets, Paul Puustusmaa, Kalle Grünthal, Siim Pohlak and Leo Kunnas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Oudekki Loone (Centre Party) and Lauri Läänemets (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. One member of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 53 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (392 SE), initiated by the Legal Affairs Committee, aims to increase independence and transparency in making enquiries for the communications data collected within the framework of criminal proceedings. Under the Bill, in the future, courts, at the request of prosecutors, will grant permissions for enquiries for the communications data collected within the framework of criminal proceedings.
The Committee had been motivated to initiate the Bill in view of the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 2 March which had found that the prosecutor’s office could not be considered an independent body to grant permissions for communications data enquiries insofar as the prosecutor’s office directed the criminal pre-trial procedure and brought the public prosecution in subsequent proceedings.
In the course of the second reading, the Bill was amended by adding a provision according to which investigative bodies may, at the request of the prosecutor’s office and with the permission of a court, make enquiries concerning communications data as a general rule in the case of a criminal offence specified in subsection 1262 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure and if this is unavoidably necessary for achievement of the purpose of the criminal proceedings. The abovementioned subsection lists the necessary elements of criminal offences covered by the Penal Code that the legislature has considered so grave as to allow surveillance activities that infringe the fundamental rights most to be carried out upon the conduct of proceedings thereon. Thus, it is justifiable to allow communications data enquiries as well in the case of the same criminal offences.
At the same time, the provision retains flexibility because it will also be possible to make communications data enquiries when the criminal offence is not on the list but the gravity thereof or the circumstances relating to the commission thereof justify the use of communications data. In such a case, communications data enquiries will be permitted if, in addition to the fact that the enquiry is unavoidably necessary for achievement of the purpose of the criminal proceedings, the making of the enquiry is justified by the gravity and nature of the criminal offence and the enquiry does not unjustifiably infringe personality rights.
A specification was also introduced into the Bill under which a justification for collecting the data will have to be presented to the court for an order granting permission to be issued.
According to the Bill, the body conducting the proceedings may make communications data enquiries under the permission of the prosecutor’s office in the case when it is impossible to formalise the permission of a court on time. In such a case, the prosecutor’s office will have submit to the court, during the first following working day, a reasoned application to declare the enquiry permissible.
During the debate, Henn Põlluaas, Peeter Ernits, Paul Puustusmaa, Ruuben Kaalep, Anti Poolamets, Kert Kingo, Kalle Grünthal and Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. 11 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 41 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Riigikogu did not support a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Kaja Kallas
At its sitting, the Riigikogu discussed a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, submitted by 30 Members of the Riigikogu. The motion of no confidence did not find support. 36 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour and 55 voted against. The support of at least 51 members of the Riigikogu was needed to express no confidence.
Member of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party faction Mart Helme, who had submitted the motion, said that, over the past five months, politics in Estonia had been moving down a path that called for an uncompromising parliamentary response in the opinion of the initiators of the motion.
“The current Government is knowingly causing damage to the Republic of Estonia, which is why Kaja Kallas has lost our confidence as the leader of the Government,” the motion states. “Under the leadership of Kaja Kallas, in just a few months, the Government formed by the Reform Party and the Centre Party has gambled away the conditions that the previous Government had created for the benefit of economic development and enhancement of Estonia’s defence capability.”
The initiators of the motion estimate that the Government has made a number of incompetent economic policy decisions that are damaging Estonian businesses, rural development, and national security – the wellbeing of all Estonian people in both the short and long term. The motion says that Kallas’s Government is halting the development of Estonia’s defence capability, and the Prime Minister has proved herself an incompetent leader in the resolution of the coronavirus crisis as well.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas fended off the accusations put to her and said that the state budget had been in a very bad state when she had assumed office. “It was surprising how irresponsibly and offhandedly empty pledges regarding the future had been made,” Kallas said. “The consolidated debt of the government sector amounted to nearly five billion euro by the end of last year. Compared to 2019, the debt doubled. At the same time, this was the highest indicator over the past 20 years,” Prime Minister said.
“My Government is honest. My Government will not draft a national budget strategy with empty cuts, and we are not going to pretend,” Kallas said. “Under the conditions of a recovering economy and partially supported by this, we will reduce the budget deficit by more than 500 million because sound public finances lay better foundations for preparing for possible future setbacks and crises, and ensure a stronger economy and a wealthier life.”
Kallas emphasised that the Government would respect its promise of tax peace. “The tax burden will remain at around 33 percent over the next four years. In 2021, the tax burden is 35 percent,” she said.
The Prime Minister confirmed that the defence spending would increase by 59.4 million euro in 2022 compared to this year, and it would remain higher than this year throughout the entire state budget strategy period. Kallas added that the Government prioritised allied relations with NATO and the US.
Then Kallas responded to questions from members of the Riigikogu about her activities as Prime Minister.
During the debate, Henn Põlluaas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa), Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party), Indrek Saar (Social Democratic Party), and Imre Sooäär (Centre Party) took the floor on behalf of their factions.
The second reading of a Bill was adjourned due to the end of the sitting
The Bill on Amendments to the General Part of the Environmental Code Act and Other Acts (repeal of the Environmental Register Act) (292 SE), initiated by the Government, will update the procedure for handling environmental information in state databases. To replace the environmental register, an environmental portal to consolidate environmental data will be established which will display the environmental information stored in various databases. The Estonian Nature Information System (EELIS) and the register of mineral resources that have so far been functioning as subordinate information systems of the environmental register will be established as independent databases.
A new webpage consolidating environmental data, an environmental portal, will be established which will enable central access in the online environment to the environmental information stored in state databases and will provide a causally and spatially interconnected overview of the state of the environment. Ensuring access to various databases through a single webpage will not mean the establishment of an independent database, but an information technology solution that will facilitate the use of data. The environmental portal will be the one and only gateway to all the public data in this area of government.
The purpose of EELIS, which will be established as an independent database will be to collect in a systematised manner and ensure public availability of data on spatial objects related to the environment. The data in EELIS will be disclosed in the environmental portal. Since the existing solution for EELIS has become technologically outdated, the development of a new EELIS has also been started alongside with the Act.
The explanatory memorandum notes that the process of organising the databases containing environmental information has been going on for a long time. Among other things, an environmental monitoring database KESE, an environmental permits information system KOTKAS, and a research and recreational fishing database TEHA containing fisheries’ permits and data have been established. Since the current environmental register will be replaced by a webpage, but the great majority of the current lists/data of the environmental register are and will continue to be collected in EELIS, a legal basis will be given to EELIS as well as the register of mineral resources that have so far been operating as subordinate information systems of the register. The subordinate information systems of the environmental register are the original sources of the data collected in the environmental register, that is, databases under the Public Information Act.
The Bill will primarily have an impact on the organisation of work in state agencies and on public availability of environmental information. The Bill does not propose fundamental changes compared to the current law. The Bill will update the procedure for handling environmental information in state databases and will repeal the Environmental Register Act in the interests of legal clarity and better administration.
During the second reading, amendments were also made to the Bill. Among other things, the Forest Act will be amended by including a section on the national inventory of forests with the statistical selection method (statistical forest inventory, SFI). This amendment provides for the definition and main objective of SFI, the publishing of SFI data and the related specifications, the authority organising SFI, and the use of SFI data under a data usage agreement.
During the debate, Ruuben Kaalep, Merry Aart, Peeter Ernits, Anti Poolamets, Kalle Grünthal, Rene Kokk, Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Tarmo Kruusimäe and Heiki Hepner (Isamaa) and Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
The second reading of the Bill will continue with the review of motions to amend at the sitting starting at 2 p.m.
Due to the end of the working hours of the sitting, the second reading of the following Bills and Resolution was postponed to the sitting starting today at 10 a.m.:
the Bill on the Prevention of Unfair Trading Practices in the Agricultural and Food Supply Chain (377 SE), initiated by the Government, 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, and the Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act (156 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic.
The deliberation of the Education Sector Development Plan 2021–2035 was also postponed to the following sitting.
In addition, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (402 SE), initiated by the Government, the Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (373 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, the Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Election Act (374 SE), initiated by Member of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Riigikogu Committee of Investigation to Ascertain the Legality and Proportionality of the Police Operation in the City Centre of Tallinn in April 2021” (379 OE), submitted by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, and the Bill on Amendments to the Status of Members of the Riigikogu Act (396 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and Members of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, was postponed to the following sitting.
The agenda for the sitting also includes the third reading of four Bills.
The sitting, which started yesterday at 2 p.m., ended today at 9.32 a.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
The video recording of the sitting will be available on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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