At today’s plenary sitting of the Riigikogu, Kadri Simson, a European Commissioner-designate, made a report.
“My professional experience as a member of the Riigikogu and the Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure makes me well prepared to represent Estonia in Europe,” Kadri Simson noted. She pointed out that her experience had prepared her for dealing with, for example, energy, economy or transport, but the final decision on the areas of responsibility and portfolios remained for the future President of the Commission who would have to assess each Commissioner-designate. In her opinion, all areas of responsibility in the European Commission are important and honourable.
Simson pointed out that it was the right of every country to appoint a commissioner. This ensures the possibility to have a say in the decisions made in the Commission and to obtain necessary information on the developments in the decision-making of the European Union.
“I am convinced that a strong and solidary European Union is in the interests of all of us. It is trust and solidarity that are the cornerstones of the European Union common values and cooperation, and Estonia is ready to contribute to the promotion of them. It is in our interests to have a united and open European Union,” the candidate noted.
In Simson’s words, the new European Commission which will soon begin its term will have to pay attention to European security, and must not forget close relations with the United Kingdom, also in the field of security. She said that it was necessary to contribute to the relations between the Union and our allies, and they had to be developed. The candidate pointed out that, at that moment, it was not yet clear what would become of the United Kingdom, but it was understandable that Estonia would need good and strong ties in the future as well.
Simson holds the position that a stronger European internal market is in the interests of all, and it creates new opportunities for European, including Estonian, companies to compete on an equal footing in the world. “In the same manner that we have started to reduce all kinds of bureaucratic measures that restrict the activities of entrepreneurs, such unnecessary obstacles must also be eliminated from the European internal market. We need less barriers and more cooperation,” Simson noted.
She added that Estonia needed to develop the digital internal market because it helped increase social welfare. “We must be at the vanguard of technological innovation because this is our competitive advantage. Estonia as a strong digital state can make its contribution to pan-European development,” Simson said.
She noted that she believed in the European Union and our common market, and the unrestricted movement of people, and that she valued every person. Simson said that she stood for new transport solutions and projects, and attached importance to innovation from transport to energy. The candidate said that the European Commission was facing many challenges, and that the coming financing period could be considered one of the most important among them. Simson also pointed out that security, border issues, European Union economy, competition with the great powers of the world, and cooperation were still on the table as acute issues.
During the debate, Anneli Ott from the centre Party Faction, Kalvi Kõva from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Kaja Kallas from the Reform Party Faction took the floor.
Debate on the flags in the White Hall of the Riigikogu:
At the sitting, a voting on a matter outside agenda was held. The Reform Party had proposed to restore the situation where the flag of the European Union and the flag of the Republic of Estonia were placed side by side in the White Hall of the Riigikogu.
32 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of the proposal and 34 were against.
The proposal was not supported.
After the voting, a debate on the voting was held in the session hall. The chair of the sitting declared a recess, and the Board of the Riigikogu convened to discuss the issues relating to the voting. The Board decided to grant the Reform Party an opportunity to specify the text of the issue to be voted on.
Thereafter, the following proposal of the Reform Party was put to a vote: to organise a display of the flags of the European Union side by side with the flags of the Republic of Estonia in the White Hall of the Riigikogu.
38 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of that proposal and 39 were against.
The proposal was not supported.
The Riigikogu passed two Acts:
The Act on Amendments to the Waste Act, the Act on Amendments to the Waste Act, and the Act on Amendments to the Waste Act and Other Associated Acts (15 SE), initiated by the Government, brings the Waste Act into conformity with European Union law.
The Act is amended on the basis of the relevant European Union directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Based on the directive, the Waste Act is amended by introducing the term “waste electrical and electronic equipment”, and the terms “medical device” and “in vitro diagnostic medical device” are specified.
The Act amends the provisions of the Waste Act on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. It also amends the provisions concerning the placing on the market thereof which are connected with the hazardous substances used in equipment.
In the European Economic Area, it is prohibited to place on the market electrical and electronic equipment and its components containing lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, cadmium and, starting from 22 July 2019, also certain phthalates.
The Act specifies the definition of components of electrical and electronic equipment which also covers cables and spare parts for its repair, its reuse, updating of its functionalities or upgrading of its capacity.
82 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
The aim of the Act on the Acceptance of the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of the Republic of North Macedonia (26 SE), initiated by the Government, is to approve the protocol to the treaty on the accession of the Republic of North Macedonia to NATO.
North Macedonia’s accession to NATO will strengthen the organisation, and the security of its member states, as well as the foreign policy situation because it will increase security and stability in Europe. In addition, it will confirm that the open doors policy as one of the greatest success stories of NATO continues to be viable and fulfils its main task, expansion of the zone of security and stability in Europe, based on the principle of democracy and the rule of law.
The explanatory memorandum points out that, according to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, an armed attack against a Party to the Treaty is considered an armed attack against all Parties, including Estonia, which must be countered with collective defence. When the protocol enters into force, therefore, Estonia undertakes to defend North Macedonia, and North Macedonia undertakes to defend Estonia.
North Macedonia will become the 30th member of NATO after all current member states will have accepted the protocol according to their national law. Considering the earlier practice, the acceptance process may take up to one and a half years.
76 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
The Riigikogu passed a Resolution:
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” (34 OE), submitted by the Foreign Affairs Committee, provides for the formation the Estonian delegation, which includes the following members of the Riigikogu: head of the delegation Aadu Must, deputy head of the delegation Johannes Kert, and members Urmas Espenberg, Helle-Moonika Helme, Marek Jürgenson, Signe Kivi, Kalvi Kõva, Helmen Kütt, Üllar Saaremäe, Erki Savisaar, Sven Sester and Urve Tiidus.
The Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Lithuania Interparliamentary Assembly or the Baltic Assembly (BA) was established in Tallinn on 8 November 1991.
The BA was established as a consulting and coordinating institution for discussing issues and projects of common interest.
The positions of the BA are presented to the parliaments and the governments of the Baltic states, as well as to international and regional organisations in the form of appeals, proposals and recommendations.
The working bodies of the BA are the session, presidium, committees and secretariat.
The BA has formed five committees: the Economics, Energy and Innovation Committee; the Education, Science and Culture Committee; the Natural Resources and Environment Committee; the Legal Affairs and Security Committee; and the Welfare Committee.
75 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Resolution.
Three Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Securities Market Act and Other Acts (28 SE) initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the relevant European Union directive on shareholders’ rights which aims to promote communication between listed companies and shareholders. The directive concerns only companies whose shares are traded on a stock exchange.
The Bill will increase shareholders’ opportunities to shape the policy of remuneration of board members of listed companies. Material changes to the remuneration policy will have to be submitted to a vote by the general meeting at least every four years. In addition, the company will have to publish an annual report on the remuneration of directors including the data on the remuneration of individual directors on its website.
The amendments will improve the possibilities of listed companies to identify their shareholders, in particular larger shareholders who hold more than 0.5 per cent of the company’s shares and who hold their shares in nominee accounts. A nominee account is an account operated by an intermediary created for the purpose of holding shares on behalf of another person. For example, a bank may hold the shares of its client on a bank’s account.
When the amendments enter into force, management companies will also have to begin to disclose on their websites an engagement policy and, on an annual basis, how it has been implemented. An engagement policy describes how their investment strategy is consistent with the implementation of shareholders’ rights upon investment into companies. It will have to be pointed out how investee companies’ strategy, financial performance, risks, governance and other relevant matters are monitored. The Bill also concerns the European Union’s prospectus regulation which regulates the requirements for the prospectus for an offer of securities to the public. On the basis of a prospectus, investors can decide whether to invest in the securities offered.
According to the Bill, in the future, a prospectus could be drawn up according to the requirements set out in a regulation of the Minister of Finance if the offer of securities to the public remains below 8 million euro. At present, the threshold is five million euro. The prospectus of an offer exceeding the threshold will have to be drawn up according to the stricter requirements of the European Union’s prospectus regulation. In the case of an offer of securities to the public which remains below 2.5 million, the company will not have to draw up a prospectus.
The Bill on Amendments to the Taxation Act, the Courts Act and the Liquid Fuel Act (29 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the directive of the Council of the European Union on the resolution of disputes between Member States when those disputes arise in the application of international agreements eliminating double taxation of income or capital. The directive applies to taxes on income and capital covered by a tax treaty.
The amendments proposed will provide more detailed and effective procedural rules for the resolution of cross-border tax disputes compared to the existing possibilities in avoiding double taxation with respect to taxes on income and capital. The amendments will also provide a more certain time frame for resolving disputes, and strengthen the rights of the taxpayers in the process. The final decision of the resolution of a tax dispute will be binding on tax authorities and it will be enforced if the taxpayer accepts it.
The explanatory memorandum notes that, in a year, around a dozen of applications for elimination of double taxation are submitted to the Tax and Customs Board on the basis of tax agreements. According to the statistics of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Estonia has resolved the applications for elimination of double taxation submitted on the basis of a tax agreement within six months.
On the proposal of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, it is planned to give the Tax and Customs Board the right to disclose data subject to tax secrecy to the implementers of national support programmes for the checking of compliance and targeted use of the support. In the Liquid Fuel Act, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Environmental Board, the Environment Agency and the Ministry of the Environment are planned to be included among the persons who have access to the database of fuel handling operations.
The Act is planned to enter into force on 30 June 2019. The amendments will be applied retroactively in the resolution of questions in dispute concerning a tax period that began on or after 1 January 2018.
The Bill on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the United Arab Emirates for Air Services between and beyond their respective Territories (27 SE), initiated by the Government.
The Agreement will create the possibility to operate an international scheduled service between the two countries. For example, the Agreement allows to recognise certificates of airworthiness, certificates of competency and licenses, and regulates the procedures for the approval of timetables. According to current plans, Dubai Aviation Corporation is going to operate the Tallinn-Dubai service under the name Flydubai in winter 2019/2020, and that would be the first air service from Estonia to outside Europe. The establishment of the air service will create better opportunities to fly to the Middle East, South-East Asia, Oceania and Africa.
The Government approved the draft Agreement on 15 October 2015, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs signed it in New York on 28 September 2018.
Estonia has concluded similar agreements with around a dozen of countries outside the European Union, including Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and China.
The Agreement also regulates tax issues (tax reliefs on stores and commissary supplies for airlines) which need to be provided for by an Act, under the Constitution. Therefore the agreement needs to be ratified by the Riigikogu.
The Agreement enters into force after the exchange of diplomatic notes confirming that the internal procedures have been fulfilled.
At today’s sitting, member of the Riigikogu Kalle Grünthal took his oath of office.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/en/201906121400.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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