The Riigikogu passed three Acts and two Resolutions:
The Act on Amendments to the Forest Act and the Administrative Co-operation Act (463 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 56 votes in favour (2 against, 2 abstentions). Implementation of the Act will ensure the protection and sustainable management of forests, including preservation of the biological diversity of forests and the good health and the production capacity of forests. It also creates an opportunity for more economic management and protection of the forest, and achievement of the social and regional objectives related to the forestry sector. Amendments to the Forest Act are based on the Forestry Development Plan until 2020, passed by the Riigikogu in 2011.
The Chairman of the Environment Committee Erki Nool stressed that the use of the forest resource as optimally as possible is the main indicator of sustainable forestry in future perspective. “The use and reasonable cutting of forests will ensure a constant income for us and secure rural areas with jobs,” Nool said. He highlighted the importance of active management of forests in order to ensure continuous timber flow, as well as reforestation, silviculture, forest use and forest protection.
The forest resource needs constant care and forest owners have to be motivated to do that. For this purpose, the amendments to the Forest Act reduce the restrictions on the use of small forest ownerships and establish possibilities to process permits with less paper. The possibilities of protection of the biological diversity of forests in protected areas are improved, the supporting of private forest owners is specified and the public is provided with more information on forestry works.
The Act on Amendments to the Investment Funds Act, the Funded Pensions Act and the Social Tax Act (501 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 66 votes in favour. It extends the term of validity of the maximum rates of the management fees of mandatory pension funds and amends the procedure for succession of the units of mandatory pension funds.
The Bill on Amendments to § 3331 of the State Fees Act (494 SE), initiated by the Government, which organises the state fee rates so that they would be justified and cost-based, was passed with 49 votes in favour (7 against, 3 abstentions). The principle of solvency has also been taken into account because in many cases the archival notice is needed for granting a pension.
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of the Consolidated Report of 2012 of the State” (476 OE), submitted by the Government, was passed with 46 votes in favour (20 against). The consolidated report consists of the following parts: the management report, the consolidated and the unconsolidated annual accounts of the state, additional information concerning local governments and additional information concerning public sector and government sector. The consolidated report includes the audit report of the National Audit Office.
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Estonian Delegation to the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Lithuania”” (539 OE), submitted by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, was passed with 72 votes in favour (1 abstention). With it, Aivar Riisalu was appointed the deputy head of the delegation instead of Aadu Must who has left the Riigikogu.
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of four drafts:
The Bill on Amendments to the State Budget of 2013 Act (514 SE), initiated by the Government. According to the State Budget Act, in order to amend the state budget without amending the total volume of expenditure, the Government may initiate a draft State Budget Amendment Act not later than two months before the end of the budgetary year. Considering that the state budget is prepared in the autumn of the preceding year, the budget is readjusted in view of the changed situation in order to achieve the budgetary targets set by state authorities.
The Sworn Translators Bill (460 SE), initiated by the Government, defines the legal status of a sworn translator and gives content to the concept of the professional activity of a sworn translator. According to the Bill, a sworn translator is a person who provides the service of translating documents by way of professional activity and performs other duties related to translation in the cases provided by law. The professional activity of a sworn translator includes translation of documents in the translation direction for which a professional certificate of a sworn translator has been issued to him or her, translation of Acts and international agreements as a public duty as well as certification of copies and print-outs and consultation of persons within the framework of translation of documents. The Bill provides that, within one month as of entry into force of this Act, the Minister of Justice will issue new professional certificates to sworn translators who were appointed to office before entry into force of the Sworn Translators Act. The professional certificates that were issued before entry into force of the Sworn Translators Act will be valid until the issue of new professional certificates.
The Bill on Amendments to the Water Act (467 SE), initiated by the Government, updates and specifies the requirements for the damming of a water body, the environmental monitoring related to damming, the protection of aquatic biota and the barrage. It provides that the Minister of the Environment will be granted the right to establish the methodology for determining the amount of minimum flow. According to the Bill, the Environmental Board will be granted the right to request that passage of fish be ensured on water bodies which have not been entered in the list of water bodies for salmonids. The Environmental Board considered it necessary to amend the transitional provision in the Water Act so that, in the case of structures not permanently attached to the shore in public bodies of water, a construction permit can be applied for until 31 December 2016 at the latest, instead of the current term of 31 December 2013. The Bill will ensure a more effective protection of water bodies. The Bill reduces the administrative burden imposed by the application for and processing of the permit for the special use of water for damming. The amendments promote large-scale investments which take as a precondition the long-term right to the special use of water. In connection with that, the permits for the special use of water will be issued for an unspecified term. The Bill brings the provisions concerning groundwater into conformity with the EU Water Policy Framework Directive and the Groundwater Directive.
The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (209 & 469 SE), initiated by the Government, brings Estonian Acts into conformity with the relevant EU directive on the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children. It establishes specific measures for sexually abused children and regulates combating of child pornography. In addition, the Directive discusses the treatment of child victims of sexual offences, the reporting of abuse, the ensuring of access to legal remedies, and the giving of short and long term assistance to child victims. At the same time, the Directive establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the area of sexual abuse of children.
At the sitting on 11 November, the Legal Affairs Committee decided to consolidate Bills (209 SE) and (469 SE). The initiators of the Bills agreed to the consolidation. The reason for consolidation of the Bills is the fact that both Bills are intended to expressly criminalise purchase of sex from minors.
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of five Bills:
The Bill on Amendments to the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act (478 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction, is intended to amend the Act by adding a provision on the basis of which the family members who are not minors and who are studying at the upper secondary school would be taken into account upon application for the needs-based study allowance.
The aim of the Bill on Amendments to the Law of Obligations Act and the Consumer Protection Act (505 SE), initiated by the Government, is to transpose into Estonian law the relevant European Union directive on consumer rights. Essentially, this Directive establishes a new regulation concerning contracts negotiated away from business premises and distance contracts which is based on the principle of maximum harmonisation. This means that Member States may not maintain or introduce, in their national law, provisions diverging from those laid down in the Directive. The transposition of the Directive will lead to several amendments; most importantly, the obligation of the trader to provide the consumer with information about the good or service before the conclusion of the contract will increase significantly. Another significant amendment concerns the consumer’s right of withdrawal. The Directives concerning this field that are based on the minimum harmonisation principle are repealed.
The Bill on Amendments to the European Parliament Election Act (520 SE), initiated by the Government, changes the arrangements for the exercise of the right of a national of a Member State to stand as a candidate. The content of the right to stand as a candidate will remain unchanged. The Bill specifies the communication between administrative authorities in regard of Estonian authorities and the competent authorities of the EU which will not involve significant increase of the average level of activities of an administrative authority. The amendment is based on the relevant EU directive according to which the Member State of residence should be required to notify the home Member State of declarations submitted together with an application to stand as a candidate, in order to verify whether the citizen of the Union has in fact been deprived of the right to stand in elections to the European Parliament in the home Member State.
The Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act and the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure (508 SE), initiated by the Government, establishes a system between the EU Member States for exchange of data concerning the vehicle and the owner or authorised user thereof in order to facilitate pursuing of cases of traffic offences (in particular, cases detected by the automatic traffic supervision system) committed with a vehicle registered in an EU Member State, except for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Denmark. The body which conducts proceedings concerning a misdemeanour will have the opportunity to submit a request to obtain data concerning the owners, authorised users and users of the vehicles registered in other European Union Member States.
The Bill on Amendments to the Public Transport Act (499 SE), initiated by the Government, introduces amendments arising from the relevant EU Regulation concerning the rights of passengers in bus and coach transport. The Regulation applies in the case of regular services where the scheduled distance of the service is 250 km or more. The Regulation also contains provisions which apply where the distance of the service is shorter than 250 km. The Bill grants the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications the right to designate bus and coach terminals where assistance for disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility shall be provided. The Bill also provides for transmission of adequately appropriate and comprehensible information to disabled persons, and provides for the requirement to establish a mechanism for the resolution of the complaints by disabled persons.
At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu did not deliberate at the first reading the Bill on Amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act (477 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, because of the official travel abroad of a person to make a report.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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