Today, the Riigikogu passed an Act that gives the Defence Forces additional rights in performing background checks and implementing authorisation for the use of human intelligence sources.
The Act on Amendments to the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act, the Security Authorities Act and the Chancellor of Justice Act (152 SE), initiated by the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee, provides for extending the rights of the Defence Forces to conduct background checks to the extent that would ensure meeting the essential purpose of the check, that is, assessment of a person’s suitability to serve or be employed in the Defence Forces or to cooperate with the Defence Forces. Pursuant to the planned amendments, the Defence Forces will be able to perform acts beyond the current “check against registers” in order to obtain the information necessary for background check. The Defence Forces are given the right to use covert measures when collecting information for the circumstances assessed within the framework of background checks, in order to ensure concealment of the collection of information.
A task of the Defence Forces is specified: the collection and processing of information to protect the restricted military area of the Defence Forces and to prevent threats. For that, it is provided that, in the case of persons posing an immediate threat to the restricted military area of the Defence Forces, the Defence Forces can verify the personal data of a person and do it covertly, use shadow information and covert measures, as well as conduct covert intelligence. The Act establishes more specific and effective guarantees that ensure performance of the notification obligation in the event of interference with the fundamental rights of a person. It is provided that a person whose fundamental rights are restricted and who is identified in the course of such activity is notified of the time and type of the act immediately after the declassification of the information collected.
The Chancellor of Justice Act is also amended. At least every two years, the Chancellor of Justice exercises supervision over the justification of the cases where persons are not notified of acts under the Security Authorities Act and the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act.
The Supreme Court has declared the Act on Amendments to the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act, passed by the Riigikogu on 29 May 2019, to be in conflict with the Constitution.
During the debate, Johannes Kert took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction.
83 members of the Riigikogu voted for the passing of the Act.
The Riigikogu passed another Act
The Act on Amendments to the Medical Devices Act, the Emergency Act and Other Acts (165 SE), initiated by the Government, brings the Medical Devices Act into conformity with European Union law.
Under an amendment to the Emergency Act, the authority coordinating the resolution of an emergency may give authorities of executive power, local authorities and other public authorities orders taking into account the powers and authorities of such authorities and persons, in order to resolve a situation. Such orders include issue of administrative acts or performance of acts, termination of performance of acts or prohibition of performance of acts, and partial or full suspension of performance of acts.
The amendments to the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act are due to the urgent need to ensure that, after the emergency situation, the Health Board will have legal clarity and security to tackle situations that may arise. The purpose of the amendments is to ensure efficient and effective prevention of the spread of communicable diseases by giving the Health Board the right to implement various requirements and measures to control viruses, based on its powers and authorities.
The directives on medical devices, active implantable medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices have been regulating the field of medical devices in the European Union so far. Two new EU Regulations will be applied gradually in the future to replace them. The regulations aim to establish a more robust, transparent, predictable and sustainable regulatory framework for medical devices. This will ensure better safety of devices and a high level of health whilst supporting innovation. In connection with the application of the Regulations, the Medical Devices Act and other associated Acts need to be amended.
During the debate, Signe Riisalo (Reform Party) and Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party) took the floor on behalf of the factions. Riisalo said that it was not clear how long the restrictions provided for by the Act could last. She noted that the Reform Party had submitted a motion to amend the Bill at the second reading, according to which the provisions would remain in force until the end of this year. “Towards the end of this year, we would have been able to discuss a well-considered and well-prepared Bill,” Riisalo said. Kütt said that the concern was whether the restrictions imposed by the Act, and their scope and combined effect had been set out clearly enough. “Even if this Act is in conformity with the Constitution, the decisions made on the basis of it may not be. And the reason for this is precisely that the provisions set out are largely unclear which makes it all the more impossible to implement them lawfully,” she said.
47 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act and 42 were against.
Three Bills passed the second reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Atmospheric Air Protection Act and the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (159 SE), initiated by the Government.
During the second reading, the lead committee had submitted a motion to amend the Bill to bring the Bill into conformity with the amendment to the Liquid Fuel Act that had entered into force on 1 April 2020. The committee had specified that, from the entry into force of the Act, suppliers would have to fulfil the monthly obligation to reduce fuel life cycle greenhouse gas emissions pursuant to year-based calculation.
The Bill will amend the definition of supplier in order to also include among reporting entities enterprises who make available electricity, gaseous fuels and hydrogen used in transport. Also, for the purposes of better functioning of the fuel monitoring database, the tasks of the chief processor of the Ministry of the Environment will be given to the Environment Agency who is the entity processing and collecting data, and the list of the data entered into the database will be specified.
The Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act will be amended to ensure legal clarity in the interpretation of the definition of shale-derived fuel oil. In addition, the Act will be amended by adding a new code of the combined nomenclature which will begin to be used in the definition of the main Estonian oil products in the future. The abovementioned amendment is due to the implementation of a new laboratory method for determination of aromatic compounds.
The Bill on Amendments to the Courts Act and the Prosecutor’s Office Act (134 SE), initiated by the Government. The amendment is necessary in order that Estonia could participate in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). The amendments mainly concern the legal status of the Estonian prosecutors working for the EPPO and the extent to which the Prosecutor’s Office Act is applied while they work for the EPPO.
Amendments will be made to the Courts Act so as to allow a judge to stand as a candidate for the position of European Prosecutor or European Delegated Prosecutor. The amendments proceed from the current principle according to which the authority and the service relationship of a judge are suspended when the judge assumes office as a judge at an international court institution or a post equivalent thereto.
The status of the European Prosecutors and the European Delegated Prosecutors, and the extent to which Estonian law will be applied to such persons, will be provided for in the Prosecutor’s Office Act. The European Prosecutors will not be included in the Estonian prosecutor service because they must be independent in the performance of their duties. Differently from the European Prosecutors, the Delegated Prosecutors must be members of the national prosecutor’s office in order that they could perform their duties equivalently to national prosecutors, and they must have all the powers of national prosecutors. The term of office of a European Prosecutor is six years and it can be extended only once for three years at the end of the six-year period. The term of office of the Delegated Prosecutors is five years and it can be extended repeatedly.
The EPPO is established with the aim of ensuring more efficient proceedings on criminal offences affecting the financial interests of the Union, and ensuring that criminal proceedings are not affected by the departmental or political interests or goals of a Member State. 22 Member States have officially joined the EPPO by now. The European Commission has promised that the EPPO will start operating at the end of 2020.
The EPPO consists of a “central level” with a seat in Luxembourg, and a local level located in the participating Member States. The central level is comprised of the European Chief Prosecutor and the European Prosecutors. The local level is comprised of European Delegated Prosecutors (at least two in each participating Member State) who are based in their own Member States and manage criminal proceedings there and represent prosecution in the court of the Member State.
The Bill on Amendments to the General Part of the Civil Code Act and Other Acts (extension of the electronic options in the organisation of meetings and the making of decisions) (180 SE), initiated by the Government, will eliminate unjustified differences between legal persons in the regulation of holding meetings and making decisions. Thus the Bill will extend the opportunities for all bodies of legal persons to make decisions without the need to hold regular meetings that require physical presence.
The explanatory memorandum notes that although the need to draft the Bill became apparent particularly clearly during the emergency situation declared on 12 March, the solutions proposed in the Bill are also meant to be used after the end of the emergency situation.
The Bill will eliminate the requirement that the list of participants in the general meeting which is an appendix to the minutes of the general meeting of members of a non-profit association must be signed in handwriting. With the amendment, the requirements for the preparation of the minutes and the registration of participants in the general meeting of members of a non-profit association will be harmonised with the requirements in place for other associations.
During the second reading, on the motion of the lead committee, an amendment was incorporated into the Bill under which the deadline for submission of the annual report was extended to 31 October 2020 for apartment associations, non-profit associations, foundations, commercial associations and companies.
In addition, the Bill contains an amendment to the Act on Amendments to the Commercial Code (transfer of share) under which the elimination of the formal requirement for a transaction constituting an obligation to transfer or pledge a share is enforced at the earliest opportunity. The elimination of the formal requirement for a transaction constituting an obligation to transfer or pledge needs to be enforced in short order because the notarial authentication of transactions has become complicated in the crisis situation due to the movement restrictions imposed by countries, as well as because the issuing of the documents of foreign countries and sending them to Estonia is requiring more time than usual.
During the debate, Heljo Pikhof (Social Democratic Party) and Toomas Kivimägi (Reform Party) took the floor.
Five Bills passed the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act and the Building Code (179 SE), initiated by the Government, will specify the provisions relating to the recognition of professional qualifications on the basis of a relevant EU directive that has been transposed into Estonian law; the European Commission has initiated infringement proceedings because it has found that the directive has not been transposed as required.
The purpose of the recognition of professional qualifications is to ensure access to the pursuit of regulated posts and professions in member states of the European Union, member states of the European Economic Area and the Swiss Confederation under equal conditions.
The Bill will specify the regulation of the recognition and the acquired rights of architects. The principles of automatic recognition of specialised doctors and specialised dental practitioners have been provided for by a Regulation of the Minister of Social Affairs which will also be brought into conformity with the relevant EU directive.
The Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act and Other Acts (merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate) (184 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate, two governmental authorities in the area of government of the Ministry of Environment. The name of the merged agency will be the Environmental Board. For that, amendments will be made to the Government of the Republic Act and 38 other Acts.
The merger of the Environmental Board, which implements the policy of environment use, nature conservation and radiation safety, and the Environmental Inspectorate, which exercises environmental supervision, is part of the state reform plan. The merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate will also give a certain saving, in particular in terms of more effective use of vehicles and real estate.
According to the explanation, the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate employ a total staff of 512. The new agency will have its official address in Pärnu. Both agencies are already now in dispersed locations across Estonia. According to the current plan, the merged Environmental Board will start work on 1 January 2021.
The Bill on Amendments to the Public Holidays and Days of National Importance Act and the Estonian Flag Act (172 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the inclusion of the Children’s Day, celebrated on 1 June, among days of national importance as a flag day. The Grandparents’ Day, which is celebrated on the second Sunday of September, will also be included among flag days.
Making the Children’s Day a day of national importance and a flag day is intended to pay attention to children’s rights and to value specialists who work with children.
The Grandparents’ Day is already now celebrated as a day of national importance in Estonia, but not as a flag day. Next to children, it is also very important to remember grandparents, and therefore it is appropriate to also make the Grandparents’ Day an official flag day in analogy to the Children’s Day.
The current Public Holidays and Days of National Importance Act establishes fourteen days of national importance, six of which are flag days.
The Bill on Amendments to the Public Holidays and Days of National Importance Act (131 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Jüri Jaanson, Signe Kivi, Signe Riisalo, Toomas Kivimägi, Mart Võrklaev, Annely Akkermann, Kaja Kallas, Liina Kersna, Vilja Toomast, Yoko Alender, Andrus Seeme and Andres Sutt, provides for the inclusion of the Children’s Day, celebrated on 1 June, among days of national importance.
Siim Pohlak (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Public Holidays and Days of National Importance Act and the Estonian Flag Act (132 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction, is intended to amend the Public Holidays and Days of National Importance Act and the Estonian Flag Act by adding a clause providing that 1 June, the Children’s Day, is a day of national importance and a flag day.
Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party) took the floor during the debate.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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