On Wednesday, the Bill on ratification of Estonian-Russian border treaties passed first reading in Riigikogu. The final vote will not be held before Russia in its turn has reached the same stage.
The Bill on the Ratification of the Estonian-Russian State Border Treaty between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation and the Treaty on the Delimitation of Maritime Areas of Narva Bay and the Gulf of Finland between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation (614 SE), initiated by the Government, consists of one sentence by which the treaties are ratified. The purpose of the treaties is to determine the state border between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation, and to delimitate the areas of Narva River and the maritime areas of the Gulf of Finland between the two abovementioned states. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Urmas Paet and the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov signed the treaties in Moscow on 18 February 2014.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet who presented the Bill to the Riigikogu on Wednesday said that the border treaties have a clear security policy dimension today. “Several of our allies have welcomed the conclusion of the border treaties,” Paet said. This treaty also establishes the external border between the European Union and Russia.
The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Marko Mihkelson said before the Riigikogu that, in international relations, the shared principle applies that borders with neighbouring countries are enshrined in treaties. “Thus the existence of border treaties is a rule rather than an exception. Already in the beginning of the 1990s, it was understood in Estonia that concluding border treaties with Russia would have a positive impact on our security. It would help increase stability and predictability in the relations between countries, and avoid possible confusions and misunderstandings in such an important issue as the territories of states. A clearly defined and demarcated border is thus an important factor that reinforces security,” Mihkelson stated.
He explained that the Committee of Foreign Affairs had decided that, after the completion of the first reading, the second reading and the final vote would not be undertaken until the ratification process had started also in the Russian Federation. Also, this conforms in every way with the earlier positions of Russian politicians, expressing a wish to move towards the final decisions as simultaneously as possible.
Marianne Mikko who who took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction in the debate said that the Estonian-Russian border treaty is not a magic wand that would instantly solve all problems relating to the security and safety of Estonia. “No border treaty can do that, no matter for how long or how thoroughly it has been prepared and negotiated. As the history of Estonia and Europe shows, one has to be ready for ordeals in actual politics as well, besides diplomatic treaties. It is naive to neglect other measures today,“ Mikko said. She stated that the border treaty is not the end but the beginning of a process, because Estonia will now have to begin to build, with the European Union and NATO, a strong eastern border, the border with Russia.
Vladimir Velman who took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction drew attention to the condition of roads at the south-eastern border and stated that having a border is better than having no border. Velman added that life in the border area will not end with the treaty but, indeed, the problems in the border area will have to be tackled even more urgently.
Andrus Ansip who took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction specified the essence of the concepts of border concerning the sea. In Ansip’s words, the border of Search And Rescue, that is, the border of sea rescue generally does not overlap with neither the border of the territorial sea nor the border of the exclusive economic zone.
Marko Mihkelson who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction said that the Riigikogu had discussed no international agreement at such length and so thoroughly as the Estonian-Russian border treaties.
All factions of the Riigikogu expressed support to the Bill on ratification of the Estonian-Russian border treaties.
The Riigikogu passed with 88 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Credit Institutions Act and Other Associated Acts (559 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act establishes new requirements for banks, investment firms and alternative investment fund managers. The amendments amend and specify in particular the requirements for the risk management of banks. One of the major amendments is the obligation to establish a risk committee at the level of the supervisory board of the bank. The requirements for the independent risk control function are also specified. In addition to risk management, the Act regulates the role of management bodies, in particular, the supervisory board in the selection of members of the management board and their remuneration. The requirements for managers are also specified. The amendment also provides for an increase of the competence and authorities of the Financial Supervision Authority over banks, including upon the exercise of supervision over branches located in a Contracting State or in a third State. The wider aim of the Act is to increase financial stability and to ensure the credibility and transparency of the financial sector.
The Riigikogu passed with 69 votes in favour the Act on the Ratification of “The Internal Agreement between the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on the financing of European Union aid under the multi-annual financial framework for the period 2014 to 2020, in accordance with the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement, and on the allocation of the financial assistance for the Overseas Countries and Territories to which part Four of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU applies” (585 SE), initiated by the Government. The Internal Agreement determines the conditions for the use of the resources of the 11th European Development Fund (hereinafter EDF) in order to allow for the use of EDF funds to help the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (hereinafter ACP). Through the EDF, Estonia will support reduction of poverty and sustainable economic development in partner states which will have a long-term favourable impact on the security of both the EU and Estonia. With its support, Estonia will help control migration flows and mitigate the effects of natural and human-made crises and famines. In the Internal Agreement, special attention is paid to the improvement of the efficiency of EU aid to ACP countries. The implementation of the EDF will have an indirect positive impact on Estonia’s position in international development cooperation and in relations with the ACP countries. The 11th EDF consists of an amount of EUR 30 506 million. Estonia’s contribution accounts for 0.08635% of the total of the 11th EDF budget, that is, ca 26.3 million euro during the period 2014–2020.
The Bill on Amendments to the Product Conformity Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (403 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading in the Riigikogu. It brings the current regulation into conformity with the Constitution and increases legal clarity as to how a standard may be referenced in legislation. The Bill does not directly affect the provisions concerning the obligation to refer to standards, present in the current law. The prohibition on the establishment of an obligation to refer to standards does not arise from this Bill but directly from the Constitution. In terms of referencing of standards, the Bill is only meant to explain and provide guidance for further legislative drafting. The third reading of the Bill is scheduled for 23 April.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the Riigikogu suspended the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Family Law Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (546 SE), initiated by the Government. The deadline for motions to amend is 2 May.
The following Bills passed the first reading:
The Tallinn University of Technology Bill (619 SE), initiated by the Government, which establishes the Act for Tallinn University of Technology. The Bill defines the areas of responsibility and the main objectives of the study and research activities of Tallinn University of Technology. Tallinn University of Technology is the leading promoter of technological sciences in Estonia, and in order to better carry this responsibility, relevant professorships will be established which will be financed from the state budget. At the same time, the management structure of Tallinn University of Technology is updated which will enable the university to involve also people from outside the academic community of the university in management processes to a significantly greater extent. The highest management body of the university will be the board of governors, more than half of the members of which will be appointed from outside the academic community by parties from outside the university. The Council will be the academic decision-making body who decides on the issues of the education and research and development activities of the university. The Rector will manage the daily activities of the University and represent the University. The new management model is scheduled to be implemented as of 1 January 2015. The deadline for motions to amend is 2 May.
The Bill on Amendments to the Universities Act, the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act and the Research and Development Organisation Act (625 SE), initiated by the Government, which changes the regulation concerning the conclusion of contracts of employment with academic staff. The Bill provides for elimination of the specifications in employment relationships in the Employment Contracts Act and in the special Acts specifying the regulation of the employment relationships of academic staff. It will give both parties of an employment relationship an opportunity to develop employment relationships on the basis of the actual character of the work and to take into account the interests and needs of both parties. Application of the regulation of the Employment Contracts Act to full extent to the employment contacts concluded with academic staff will increase the security of employees in regard to the stability of the employment relationship. The deadline for motions to amend is 2 May.
The Bill on Amendments to the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act (628 SE), initiated by the Government, which brings national law into conformity with EU law. It is intended to give persons engaged in agriculture an opportunity to apply for direct payments according to the actual size of agricultural land without the requirement of the reference year of 2003 which has been in force up to now. Up to now, the application for direct payments has been connected with the requirement that agricultural land for which support is applied for must have been entered in the agricultural support and agricultural parcels register and the area of the land is calculated as it was in 2003. Under the relevant EU Regulation, this requirement is no longer applied as of 2014, and therefore it is necessary to transpose the relevant amendments into Estonian law. The deadline for motions to amend is 23 April.
The Bill on Amendments to the Fishing Act (620 SE), initiated by the Government, which regulates the verification of the engine power of fishing vessels. The Bill concerns the allocation of fishing opportunities, the transfer of the historical fishing rights of permanently inhabited small islands, and the technical possibilities for submitting data. The Act is amended by adding implementing provisions concerning the verification of the engine power of fishing vessels, arising from the relevant EU Regulation. According to an EU Regulation, Member States are required to enhance the surveillance of their fishing vessels and to certify the propulsion engine power of certain fishing vessels. The requirement concerns fishing vessels whose propulsion engine power exceeds 120 kW and which are entered in the register, and those on which a new propulsion engine is installed or the existing one is modified. In Estonia, there are in total less than 50 such vessels in which such operations on the propulsion engine are possible. Also, fishing opportunities based on the fishing authorisations of fishermen, by sea areas, are established. According to the Bill, it will be possible to fish according to the actual state of the stocks, and to determine more precisely the locations where fishing gear is set. The deadline for motions to amend is 23 April.
The 2014–2020 Structural Assistance Bill (622 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill provides for the framework of the implementation plan of the Investment for growth and jobs goal, the European Territorial Cooperation Programme and the EU Cross-border Cooperation Programme, and the implementation plan of the European Food Aid Programme for the Most Deprived. The Bill has been drafted on the basis of the EU legislation regulating the use of structural funds, which entered into force at the end of December 2013, and the relevant European Union Regulations which entered into force in March this year. The Bill determines the national division of the tasks arising from EU Regulations and the areas of responsibility of authorities. The Bill provides for the general obligations of the applicant for assistance and the recipient of assistance, the organisation of the inspection of the use of assistance and the performance of administrative duties and the monitoring of the effective use of assistance, the bases for revocation of assistance, and the specifications of challenge proceedings as compared to the Administrative Procedure Act. The deadline for motions to amend is 2 May.
The Bill on Amendments to the Value Added Tax Act (626 SE), initiated by the Government, which changes the list of goods subject to the reverse charge mechanism by including precious metals and metal materials containing precious metal, and precious stones. The aim of the amendments is to apply a reverse charge mechanism for the turnover of all precious metals and precious stones in order to avoid tax evasions, because tax evasions are committed also with respect to other precious metals and precious stones, besides gold material. Establishment of a reverse charge mechanism for the turnover of all gold material would lead to a sharp rise in tax evasion with respect to other precious metals and precious stones. The explanatory memorandum points out that, as of 1 April 2012, a reverse charge mechanism had been established for gold material, including semi-manufactured gold products of a purity equal to or greater than 325 thousandths, and on investment gold where the taxable person has opted for taxation thereof. This amendment reduced VAT frauds on the gold market for a short time. To avoid the reverse charge, melted gold with a purity below the established limit began to be sold. The deadline for motions to amend is 2 May.
The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian).
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