At Wednesday’s sitting, the Riigikogu approved with 79 votes in favour (2 abstentions) the Act on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act, initiated by the Government, which amends the procedure for the appointment of a family physician for new-born children and gives medical students access to the health information system.
With the first amendment to the Act on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act (318 SE), initiated by the Government, the Government wishes to strengthen child protection by preventing and reducing illnesses in children, and the risk of not having access to a doctor, arising from social circumstances. The amendment ensures that family physicians receive information on all new-born children and thereby it is possible to observe all children until they attain 18 years of age, according to the requirements of child health surveillance.
According to the Act, a new-born child is automatically included in the practice list of the family physician of his or her mother. So far, parents have had to submit a relevant application for entry into the practice list of a physician; when the amendment enters into force, the child will be entered into the practice list of a family physician on the basis of an application by the maternity hospital. When updating the data in the list of the Health Insurance Fund, the family physician will become aware of the new patient. If the mother is not on the list of any family physician, the Health Board will appoint a family physician for the new-born child.
Also, the Act gives fourth-year graduate medical students who work as doctor’s assistants access to the e-health information system. The amendment will allow students who are assistant doctors to see information on previous illnesses of patients and thereby to better assist the doctor, to carry out more thorough initial examinations of patients, and to prepare the necessary documents and preliminary prescriptions.
Member of the Centre Party Faction Dmitri Dmitrijev, who took the floor during the debate, pointed out that one of the most important aims of this Act is to ensure equal health protection for children by automatic registration of all children in the practice list of a family physician because it is important that children in need are identified as early as possible. He noted that the Act was a step towards better protection of our human resource.
Helmen Kütt from the Social Democratic Party Faction said that the Act eliminated today’s situation where we have nearly 700 children of under 3 years old who are not on the practice list of any family physician. She also pointed out that the Act gives fourth-year graduate medical students access to the e-health information system. In Kütt’s opinion, such access allows the students to see a patient’s important health information. She said that this provides the possibility for a student assisting a doctor to carry out more thorough initial examinations of patients, and to prepare the necessary documents for the doctor. Kütt noted that, from the patient’s point of view, care will be available more quickly.
The Riigikogu passed three other Acts:
The Riigikogu passed with 86 votes in favour (1 abstention) the Act on Amendments to the Insurance Activities Act and Other Associated Acts (275 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act will strengthen the protection of retail investors and increase their trust in packaged insurance investment opportunities and insurance-based products, for example, investment funds, unit-linked life insurance contracts, structured products, and investment deposits.
The new requirements are regulated in the relevant EU Regulation. The Act ensures national implementation of the Regulation. The EU Regulation is directed at manufacturers of such investment products (except pension products) – fund managers, investment firms, insurance undertakings, special purpose vehicles, credit institutions – and persons selling and advising on such products. The activities of financial supervisory authorities are also regulated.
According to new requirements, a key information document must be drawn up which provides the customer with a concise overview of the nature, features and risk profile of the investment product, and the costs of the product. The document drawn up in a standardised format allows the customer to compare different products. Comparing investment products this way, and obtaining a clearer and more comprehensible overview of the products helps make considered and more rational choices.
On 14 December last year, the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council, amending the Regulation on key information documents for packaged retail and insurance-based investment products as regards the date of its application, was adopted and it will apply from 1 January 2018.
The Riigikogu approved with 86 votes in favour (1 abstention) the Emergency Act (205 SE), initiated by the Government, which specifies the responsibility of the authorities related to crisis management, and the definition of emergency, and attaches importance to the performance of risk communication. The Act also provides for organisation of the regulation of vital services, and specification of the principles of the regulation of the organisation of state operation stockpile.
Under the Act, the tasks of the authorities participating in crisis management are specified based on the principle that every authority would perform its crisis management tasks and would be responsible for the performance thereof, and that every ministry and authority is responsible for crisis management in its sector or sphere of responsibility.
The Act also specified the assessment of the risks of emergencies, and the provisions concerning the management of resolving emergencies. The aim of the specification of the assessment of risks is that risk analyses would become more detailed, in order that they could be used better when planning prevention and readiness activities. The provisions concerning the management of resolving emergencies are amended in order that it would be possible to resolve an emergency quickly and effectively regardless of which authority manages the resolving of the emergency.
The Act adopted attaches importance to the organisation of risk communication as an important part of preventing and preparing for emergencies. For the purposes of the Act, risk communication means informing of inhabitants of the threats and hazards causing the emergency and of the potential consequences of the emergency. Its aim is to raise the awareness of the inhabitants and to increase their preparedness for potential emergencies.
The regulation of state operation stockpile is specified in order to create an operation stockpile regulation in Estonia that is based on factual circumstances and thereby is sufficient for resolving emergencies.
As regards vital services, under the Act, the general aim is to ensure a situation in which the state resources are used to ensure continuous operation of the services that are indeed vital, that is, necessary to satisfy the primary needs of the population at a time of crisis. The aim is also to ensure readiness for interruption of a vital service, not only for a natural disaster, a catastrophe or some other such event.
The Riigikogu approved with 88 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act (292 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, which provides for the rights of employees and officials to apply for insurance benefit in the case of a lay-off if the employer has not submitted an application to the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund within the period provided for in the Unemployment Insurance Act.
If the employer has not submitted an application for insurance benefit within five days after the end of the employment or service relationship, employees and officials have the right to submit such application themselves, in order to receive unemployment insurance benefit.
Under the current Act, only the employer can submit an application for insurance benefit.
The Act provides for the conditions and procedure for application for the insurance benefit of employees and officials upon lay-offs, and the list of the necessary data specified in an application. The term for the review of an application of an employee or official is also amended.
The Minister of the Environment Marko Pomerants presented the Development Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change until 2030:
The Minister pointed out that adaptation to climate change is taken to mean the management of the risks caused by the variability of the climate, and a framework for action to increase both society’s and ecosystems’ preparedness and resilience to climate change.
“Although the impacts of climate change are not so extreme in Estonia as they are in many other countries in the world and in Europe, according to climate scenarios, floods and summer draughts are likely to significantly increase in frequency, coastal erosion will increase and coastal installations will be endangered, and storm damages will increase also in Estonia by 2100. The duration of periods of ice and snow cover, and the sea and inland water levels are also affected,” the Minister said. He added that we can encounter climate changes already now.
“So far we have mainly been dealing with the liquidation of consequences of extreme weather conditions in Estonia, but in the future it will be possible to better foresee the dangers caused by climate change and to take them into account, thanks to the development plan in question,” Pomerants pointed out.
“Considering that climate change affects the economy, the environment and the whole society, it is certain that taking action now is cheaper – implementing preventive measures to reduce the negative impacts of climate variability – and significantly more reasonable than liquidating the damages caused by floods or storms later,” the Minister said. “We can also regard the positive tendencies accompanying climate change, such as the growth of agricultural yield and summer tourism and the potential of renewable energy, as a competitive advantage for the Estonian state,” he added.
The Minister said that the national development plan for adaptation to climate change is also a necessary prerequisite for meeting the requirements for receiving European Union structural assistance.
“The strategic objective of the Development Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change is to increase the readiness and capability of the Estonian state at the regional and local level to cope with the impacts of climate change,” Pomerants noted.
Valeri Korb, who made a report on behalf of the Committee, gave an overview of the discussion that had been held in the committee. He pointed out that the issue of the use of oil shale in electricity production had arisen in the Committee.
The reporter noted that although climate changes are not so extreme in Estonia as they are in many other countries in the world and in Europe, it is still a necessary development plan because it will contribute towards the improvement of the readiness and capability of the Estonian state to cope with climate change, as well as the competitiveness of the Estonian state.
Two Bills passed the second reading:
The Bill on Amendments to the Military Service Act, the Imprisonment Act and the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure (346 SE), initiated by the Government, will provide for the possibility that if a disciplinary arrest is imposed on a serviceman, he or she can serve it also in a detention house of the police, besides the detention houses of the Defence Forces.
The nearest detention house of the police will be chosen for execution of an arrest, where possible. Lodging in a detention house will be organised by the Defence Forces, and the cost of detaining a serviceman under arrest will also be compensated from the budget of the Defence Forces. An estimated up to 100 servicemen per year are sent to the detention houses of the police to serve a sentence, and the average duration of detention is seven days. The main reasons for punishment by detention are use of alcohol or drugs; unauthorised absence from service; use of violence in military service; embezzlement of cartridges and imitation devices obtained in the course of military training; and repeated disobedience.
The amendment will, above all, enable more purposeful use of state resources. By using the detention houses of the police, the Defence Forces will not have to additionally invest in the construction or maintenance of its own detention premises, and personnel costs will also be saved.
The National Defence Committee had submitted five motions to amend the Bill by consensus, and had made some linguistic corrections. The motions to amend are mostly intended to specify the Act. As a result of a motion to amend, it will be possible to suspend an arrest for participation in training also for example in a warship where there is a room for serving arrests. It was also specified that the Bill under discussion needs a majority vote of the members of the Riigikogu, that is, a minimum of 51 votes in favour, to be passed at the third reading.
The Bill on Amendments to the Seafarers Employment Act and the Community-scale Involvement of Employees Act (329 SE), initiated by the Government, which transposes two European Union directives. One of them concerns the organisation of working time in inland waterway transport, and the other concerns the employment rights of seafarers to obtain information from the employer and to be involved in the resolution of issues that concern their interests.
An amendment to the latter directive creates the possibility to form a European Works Council for crew members of ships carrying goods by sea who work for community-scale undertakings.
‘Community-scale undertaking’ means any undertaking with at least 1 000 employees within the Member States and at least 150 employees in each of at least two Member States. In Estonia, AS Tallink Group satisfies these criteria.
‘European Works Council’ means an employee representative body composed of employees from each Member State where the undertaking operates. The aim of Works Council is to ensure that employees are informed of what is going on in the undertaking, and to give them the possibility to express their opinion in issues affecting the employees’ interests. At present, this possibility is ensured in all other sectors in which a Community-scale undertaking operates.
The Ministry of Social Affairs had submitted two motions to amend the Bill. First, with the amendments to the Seafarers Employment Act, the obligation to enter into a contract under public law for the provision of medical long distance consultation services free of charge that has so far been the obligation of the Ministry of Social Affairs will be transferred to the Health Board as of 1 January 2018. The obligation added will involve no additional cost for the Health Board. The other motion to amend is connected with the first one and provides that, in connection with amendment of the Bill, implementing provisions must also be amended.
Eight Bills passed the first reading:
The Bill on Amendments to the Packaging Act (358 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the directive “limiting the use of plastic bags”. The intention is to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags to 90 plastic bags per person per year by the end of 2019. This number is intended to be brought down to 40 by the end of 2025. The deadline for the transposition of the directive was 27 November 2016.
When the Act enters into force, other packaging options apart from plastic bags will have to be offered to customers in stores, which is already being done, too. For example, paper, cloth and mesh bags but also reusable plastic bags are offered.
Starting from 2019, handing out free larger plastic bags will be prohibited in stores. This concerns for example the plastic bags handed out for purchases in large numbers during sales campaigns. The exemption will remain in force according to which smaller lightweight plastic bags can be used as primary packaging for loose food, for example when buying meat or vegetables, or for hygiene purposes when buying milk in plastic packaging.
The Bill on Amendments to the Youth Work Act, the Republic of Estonia Education Act and the Hobby Schools Act (341 SE), initiated by the Government, will create the basis for the implementation of an additional state’s supporting system for hobby education of and hobby activities of young people. The aim of the additional state support is to improve the availability of hobby education and hobby activities for 7-19-year-old young people and to offer more varied participation opportunities. Hobby education and hobby activities must be available for young people in at least three spheres: culture, sports, and natural and exact sciences and technology. According to the Bill, when calculating the amount of the additional funds allocated to rural municipalities and cities, various components will be taken into account, such as the number of young people, the number of young people with disabilities, the number of young people aged 7-19 who live in families who have difficulties in subsistence, the financial capability of the local government, and the regional availability of hobby education and hobby activities. The support allocated to local governments will constitute 95 per cent of the total additional state funds for hobby education and hobby activities, according to the Bill. The rest is intended for the promotion of cooperation between local governments, advising and monitoring, as well as for management organisations of hobby-areas to improve the quality of hobbies.
The state will begin to additionally support hobby education and hobby activities from September next year. In the state budget strategy for 2017–2020, 6 million euro have been planned for that in 2017, and 15 million per year starting from 2018. The Cultural Affairs Committee was appointed as the lead committee.
Heljo Pikhof from the Social Democratic Party Faction, Heidy Purga from the Reform Party Faction, Märt Sults from the Centre Party Faction, Krista Aru from the Free Party Faction and Raivo Põldaru from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The aim of the Bill on Amendments to the Foreign Service Act and the Civil Service Act (324 SE), initiated by the Government, is to increase the flexibility of the regulation of the establishment of the rate for the representation allowance paid for a family member accompanying an official.
The Bill will eliminate from the Act the percentage rates for increasing the representation allowance of an official for an accompanying child and a non-working accompanying spouse, and will provide for the establishment thereof at the level of a Regulation of the Government of the Republic. At present, these percentages are also established by a Regulation of the Government. The amendment is in accordance with the general salary policy where salaries are no longer regulated by Acts, but at the level of Regulations.
The Bill on Amendments to the Securities Market Act and the Financial Supervision Authority Act (359 SE), initiated by the Government, will implement in Estonia the EU market abuse regulation establishing rules to avoid abuse of the securities market, including the stock exchange, in order to prevent illegal activities in trading in securities. Market abuses mainly appear as violation of the rules for the use of inside information, or market manipulation. This harms the transparency and reliability of the market, and the interests of investors.
The Bill will extend the competence of the Financial Supervision Authority. For example, under the current Act, the Financial Supervision Authority can issue a precept to request performance of the obligation of disclosure. According to the Bill, the Financial Supervision Authority will be able to disclose information if this has not been done in compliance with the requirements, or to correct false information that could influence the price movement of securities in the market. Also, it may warn the public of an infringement committed, to preclude investors from proceeding from false presumptions when carrying out transactions. This way the Financial Supervision Authority can respond to infringements more rapidly and flexibly.
At the same time, the Financial Supervision Authority will have the obligation to draw up and make public the procedure for processing the notifications of infringements received. There is no such obligation in the current Act, a notifier does not know for example if and how the Financial Supervision Authority plans to contact him or her to obtain additional information.
The Bill will raise the penalty payment rate for market abuses. In the event of an infringement by a natural person, the maximum rate will rise from 2 million euro to 5 million euro, and in the case of a legal person, from 10 million euro to 12 million euro, respectively. For the first infringement, a penalty payment of up to 5000 euro can be imposed on a natural person, and for following occasions, up to 50 000 euro. In the current Act, the rates are 1200 and 3200 euro, respectively. For legal persons, the penalty payment will be increased from 3200 euro to up to 32 000 euro for the first occasion, and from 32 000 to up to 100 000 euro for following occasions.
The Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (360 SE), initiated by the Government, will repeal the Juvenile Sanctions Act. The social rehabilitation service will be made available for children with a substantial and diverse need for help. Under the Bill, local governments will have the right to apply for a court to refer a child to a closed child care institution if it is impossible to help him or her in any other way and his or her behaviour is dangerous. If a violation of law is due to the child’s need for help, in the future, he or she will get help from the child protection system. The Bill will eliminate juvenile committees.
Psychologist, physiotherapist, speech therapist, doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, creative therapist and special education teacher can offer the social rehabilitation service to a child. Usually at least three such specialists deal with a child.
So far, juvenile committees have referred children to a school for students who need special treatment due to behavioural problems, but such decisions have been based on the child’s violation of law, and not the essential need to help the child. The Bill provides that a child’s freedoms can be restricted only to the minimum extent necessary and all activities must be oriented towards the child being able in the future to avoid behaviour that harms the child or others.
Juvenile committees have conducted proceedings on violations of law, and have also offered help to children. However, due to the format of committees this is not the best solution, as help and support to the child is not long-term or constant. It is possible to deal with the child in a significantly more child-friendly manner in the child protection system.
The Bill on Amendments to the Tobacco Act (357 SE), initiated by the Government.
With the amendment of the Act, its scope of regulation will be extended, in order to prevent and reduce the spread of addiction and health damage arising from tobacco products and related products in the society.
The prohibition of the display of tobacco products and related products, and the prohibition of the presentation of trademarks thereof on retail sales premises will be added. Exemptions will remain in place for specialised retail outlets, ships servicing international lines, and shops located in closed territories of airports and ports. Besides, the Bill will extend the provisions concerning sales promotion in the current Tobacco Act to products related to tobacco products (e.g. they must not be offered as a prize in a draw, an award or some other good), and the prohibition to sell products related to tobacco products in the same sales packaging with some other product (e.g. mobile phone bag or ashtray).
The Bill will restrict the availability and consumption of e-cigarettes. In addition to child care institutions, in the future, the use of e-cigarettes will be prohibited in all other places where smoking is prohibited (e.g. catering establishment and shops). In addition to the current prohibition on cross-border distance sales, there will be a prohibition on national distance sales of tobacco and related products, incl. electronic cigarettes. This means that in the future these products cannot be purchased via means of communication (e.g. e-commerce or catalogue).
The Bill will also establish requirements for the contents and purity of non-nicotine liquid for electronic cigarettes (e.g. liquid must not contain vitamins, caffeine or other substances that are associated with energy and vitality), and flavours other than those of tobacco will be prohibited in electronic cigarettes.
The Bill provides for an obligation to demand that the client who purchases tobacco or related products present an identity document, except in the case of a person who is obviously an adult or who is known to the seller. The Tax and Customs Board will be given the right to purchases for monitoring compliance to establish sale of illicit tobacco, and police officers will be given the right to purchases for monitoring compliance to establish sale of tobacco products or related products to minors, together with the right to involve persons of at least 16 years of age in making purchases for monitoring compliance as necessary.
The Act enters into force pursuant to general procedure. Regarding the prohibition of promotion, the prohibition of display and presentation of trademarks, the prohibition of national distance sales, the prohibition on flavourings in electronic cigarettes (only the smell and taste of tobacco are permitted), the prohibition of the sale of products related to tobacco products in the same packaging with other products, and the extension of the labelling requirements for existing packagings also to publications included in packages, the transitional period lasts until 1 January 2019.
The Bill on Amendments to the Liquid Fuel Act (361 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the EU’s obligation according to which by 2020, fuel produced from renewable sources, that is, biofuel, must account for 10 % of the total fuel energy in transport fuels consumed in Member States. As at 2015, the share of fuel from renewable sources, mainly green electricity, accounted for 0.2 per cent in transport in Estonia.
The Bill provides that the proportion of biofuel in fuel delivered from excise warehouse must be the following: as of 1 May 2017, at least 3.3 per cent per litre allowed for use; as of 1 April 2018, at least 6.4 per cent per litre allowed for use; as of 2019, at least 8 per cent, but at least 6.4 per cent per litre allowed for use; and as of 2020, at least 10 per cent, but at least 6.4 per cent per litre allowed for use.
Biofuel is produced from renewable sources such as waste, animal and vegetable fats, non-food cereal, rape seeds, algae, etc. In our neighbouring countries, it is produced for example in Finland and Lithuania.
As in Latvia there is no obligation to add biofuel to diesel fuel in winter in 2017 and 2018, according to the Bill, it will not be obligatory to add biofuel to diesel fuel during the period 1 November 2017 – 31 March 2018.
Majority of the vehicles in use in Estonia have no problems using fuels with added biofuel. Vehicles that have not been designed to use petrol with added biofuel can use 98 octane petrol. The ministry will provide on the website of the Road Administration a survey of vehicles in which fuels with added biofuel is not recommended.
When the amendments enter into force, a price rise of nearly 0.5 euro cent per litre can be presumed for petrol, and ca 1–1.5 euro cent per litre in the case of diesel fuel. The price rise may be 1–2.9 euro cent per litre in 2018; 1.2–3.6 euro cent per litre in 2019, and 1.5–4.5 euro cent per litre in 2020, compared to the prices in November 2016. The price forecast is based on the prices of ethanol and high-quality biodiesel fuel in November 2016. Considering that as recently as a few years ago the potential price rise was nearly twice as high, the obligation to add bioadditives may not change the liquid fuel prices at all in the near future, the explanatory memorandum notes. The Economic Affairs Committee was appointed as the lead committee.
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Natural Gas Act (350 SE), initiated by the Government, is to increase the energy security of Estonia, make Estonian gas market more open, and promote competition between sellers.
In order to increase the energy security of Estonia, a gas supply regulation will be established regarding household customers and undertakings who produce heat for heating dwellings according to which the system operator must maintain gas supply in a quantity that meets the requirements set out in the relevant EU Regulation.
In the interests of energy security, the Bill will provide for an obligation that gas supply may be stored only in a European Union country. Gas supply will be used when there is a severe disruption of supply in the gas system. According to the Bill, a more detailed requirement will be provided for the gas system operator, who is Elering Ltd, to maintain a gas supply for household customers and undertakings who produce heat for heating dwellings, to ensure at least 30-day security of gas supply in the event of a supply disruption.
With a view to make Estonian gas market more open and to promote competition between sellers, the system operator will be obliged to develop a gas market data exchange platform that allows customers to receive periodic overviews of gas consumption and that enables to switch gas sellers. The Bill will regulate amendments to the obligation to maintain balance according to which the gas system balance will be maintained in units of energy at the agreed pressure of 1 atm and temperature of 0°C.
The administrative burden of gas sellers will be reduced with the provision of the Bill according to which only registration obligation will be required of them, instead of a licence. Gas seller who sells gas to household customers will no longer have to coordinate the standard terms and conditions of a contract of sale with the Competition Authority. It will be sufficient for the seller to publish the standard terms and conditions on its website.
The explanatory memorandum notes that gas constitutes a relative low percentage – below 5 per cent – in Estonia’s energy balance. The district heating sector is the major user of gas in Estonia with 40 per cent, followed by industry with 23 per cent. Household customers use natural gas to the extent of 12 per cent of the annual gas consumption. The proportion of gas is increasingly decreasing in district heating in Estonia, gas boilers are being replaced with woodchip boilers. For example, in Tallinn, district heating is produced from gas to the extent of 60 per cent until today. This proportion will decrease already to less than a half next year, and in a few years’ time gas will be used only to cover peak loads – gas will then account for 20 per cent of the fuel necessary to produce district heating in Tallinn.
Estonia is essentially an energy island in terms of gas – we are physically separated from the gas system of the rest of Europe. The same holds true also for Finland and Latvia. The majority of the gas used in Estonia is supplied by Gazprom.
The sitting ended at 7.48 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/en/201702081400
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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