At its today’s sitting, the Riigikogu heard the report of Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna “The Estonian Language Development Plan 2021–2035” and the report of Minister of Culture Anneli Ott on the implementation of the fundamentals of the cultural policy in 2014–2020.
Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna presented to the Riigikogu “The Estonian Language Development Plan 2021–2035”. The Minister said that whereas earlier the linguistic activities had been mainly related to education, philology, literature and communication, performing first of all the functions of a means of communication, today the linguistic sector also has other connections, for example, with business, information technology, law, medicine and data science. Technological development has also considerably widened the boundaries of the linguistic sector.
According to Ethnologue data base, Estonian is one of the 50 languages that is used in higher education and research. Estonian is one of the 100 languages that have language technology support, and one of the around 30 languages that have a functional speech synthesis. Largely thanks to the fact that Estonian is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union, the modern Estonian language has been developed with new terms.
The general purpose of the development plan is to ensure the vitality and functioning of the Estonian language as a primary language in all fields of life. To ensure everyone the right and possibility to use the Estonian language in the Republic of Estonia. To preserve and strengthen the status and reputation of the Estonian language as well as Estonian-language culture and information space, and to encourage the acquisition of proficiency in other languages.
In Kersna’s opinion, the language attitudes of young people, especially in social media and digital environments, that are biased towards other languages and English in particular, are a matter of concern. Besides, the intergenerational connection in the acquisition of the Estonian dialects is disappearing, although we can see dialects in public space perhaps even more than before.
The Minister also pointed out that there were spheres where the use of Estonian had decreased, and that jobs in which the requirements for Estonian language skills were unregulated were appearing on the labour market. A general decrease in linguistic diversity and changes on the labour market could weaken the use of Estonian, Kersna said.
Kersna spoke of the targets set in the development plan that all people living in Estonia and the Estonians living abroad would speak Estonian and value the knowledge of other languages. In order to achieve that, it is planned to improve Estonian language instruction and to support the drafting and implementation of a plan to develop Estonian-language education. It is also necessary to ensure language technology support for preparing educational materials. The principles for the language and internationalisation of higher education will be drafted. The organisation of teaching Estonian to adults as a second language will be improved and the teaching of Estonian to Estonians living abroad will be ensured.
In conclusion, the Minister said that, by 2035, it was aimed to achieve that the reputation of Estonian would increase among both the population whose native language was Estonian and the population with other native and home languages, and the share of the people using the Estonian language among the population would grow.
The second aim is that the main components of language technology will be developed to an internationally competitive level. Third, that terminology work will be effective and centrally coordinated. Fourth, the teaching of Estonian as a second language to adults will be organised comprehensively throughout the country and will proceed from the needs of learners. Fifth, the self-evaluated level of foreign language skills of the population of Estonia will have improved and there will be several different forms for learning foreign languages, the Minister specified.
In order to ensure the vitality and functioning of the Estonian language, the linguistic infrastructure will be developed to keep the language technology internationally competitive. The reputation of Estonian will be enhanced, and the challenges relating to multilingualism and the language of education will be resolved.
During the debate, Eduard Odinets (Social Democratic Party), Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits (Isamaa), Jaak Valge (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Mihhail Stalnuhhin (Centre Party), Margit Sutrop (Reform Party), Oudekki Loone (Centre Party) and Heiki Hepner (Isamaa) took the floor on behalf of their factions.
In her report on the implementation of the fundamentals of cultural policy, Anneli Ott said that strong traditions, of which we were very proud, held an important place in the Estonian culture. “Culture is important and people really care about everything related to it,” Ott said. “Even if we do not show it every day, our love for cultural traditions is strongly expressed in our song and dance festivals, or when symbolic values and their preservation are under discussion.”
The Minister pointed out that the sphere of culture was wide and intertwined with many other spheres of life. “Culture is like an iceberg. The tip may be visible and perceivable to the eye, but what remains under water surface has much wider dimensions, is invisible and perceived by all of us personally. Culture has many meanings and layers which all of us carry,” Ott emphasised.
The Minister said that, seven years ago, the aim of the cultural policy had been formulated as building a society that values creativity, maintaining and promoting the Estonian national identity, studying, storing and carrying on cultural memory, and creating favourable conditions for the development of a viable, open and diverse cultural space and participation in culture.
On the basis of those aims, several important steps in the implementation of the fundamentals of cultural policy of Estonia have been taken in the Minister’s opinion, starting from the consistent increasing of the minimum monthly salary of cultural workers, cultural memory, and creating favourable conditions for the development of a viable, open and diverse cultural space and for participation in culture.
Speaking of the year 2020, Ott said that it had posed many challenges to the sphere of culture, and was clearly different from the rest of the period. “The global pandemic had a significant impact on people’s participation in cultural life, on the opportunities for cultural creation and on the Estonian cultural sphere as a whole,” Ott said. “In this crisis, the Ministry of Culture has tried to preserve jobs and structures as much as possible. In spite of that, we were forced to put the cultural life to a total standstill temporarily.”
The Minister pointed out that the average salary in Estonia in 2020 had been 1448 euro, and the minimum salary for cultural professionals with higher education had been at least 1300 euro in 2020. She specified that the national salary agreement concluded by the Estonian Employees’ Unions’ Confederation covered only the cultural professionals who received their salary from the budget of the Ministry of Culture, but the significant progress had also contributed to making the situation more equal in other institutions of culture. The Minister said that free-lance artists who did not have specific employers and whose income was irregular formed an important and broad-based target group in the sphere of culture. The Ministry has made efforts to ensure social guarantees, especially health insurance, to free-lance artists.
In her report, the Minister also spoke about the development of a regional cinema network, attractive and educational exhibitions, museum visiting rates, art exhibitions and theatre performances, the situation of libraries and film art. Regarding cinemas, Ott noted that the number of visits to cinema had increased from 2.6 million to 3.69 million in 2014–2019.
Ott underlined that people were enjoying ever-increasing opportunities to benefit from the cultural life thanks to various support programmes, cultural events and initiatives. She pointed out that six feature films had been provided Estonian subtitles for people with hearing deficiencies, and audio-descriptions were being provided in performing arts. As a positive example, she mentioned the educational programmes of the Estonian Maritime Museum and the Art Museum of Estonia that were accessible to children, young people and adults with reduced mobility, visual and hearing impairments, intellectual disabilities and multiple disabilities.
The Minister also spoke of the song and dance celebration in her report, and underlined that the national culture needed constant attention and contribution. 79,753 persons were actively participating in the work of regularly operating national culture groups in Estonia in 2020. “It is a strong indicator, but the downward trend, to which the crisis brought new momentum, causes concern,” Ott said.
Ott also spoke of the Estonian Foundation of Musical Instruments (SA Eesti Pillifond), which aimed to increase the international competitiveness of the Estonian stringed instrument playing culture and to support the careers of musicians. She recalled the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia that had brought additional financing to the field and had encouraged music organisations and musicians to carry out artistically more ambitious projects than usual.
The Minister said that the largest cultural facilities that had been completed were Arvo Pärt Centre, which was opened in 2018, and the building of the Estonian National Museum, which was opened at Raadi in Tartu in 2016. During the last six years, the heritage conservation activity was reformed, a new Heritage Conservation Act was passed and the role of the National Heritage Board was reformed.
Minister Ott also attaches importance to cooperation with the private sector. On behalf of the Ministry, she thanked the private persons and organisations who had supported culture financially or by their activities over the years.
In conclusion, the Minister said that the period 2014–2020 had been a success for the Estonian culture and the state. She expressed hope that, in the future, culture would not only consume resources, but could also be the creator of added value and an important actor in economy. “The Estonian culture is viable – we have both those who consume culture and those who create culture everywhere in Estonia, in all age groups and in all spheres of life. Our sphere of culture is facing challenges, but we will overcome them with joint work and commitment,” Ott said. “We must acknowledge more deeply that, at the time when our country is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the restoration of its independence, culture is the responsibility of us all, and the reason and the meaning of the existence of our state, as well as the common work and care of us all.”
During the debate, Aadu Must (Centre Party), Margit Sutrop (Reform Party), Indrek Saar (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
The Riigikogu passed two Acts:
The Act on Amendments to the Emergency Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (350 SE), initiated by the Government, ensures central readiness to establish and store a stock to ensure the supply security of population through the establishment of the Estonian Stocks Centre; the competences, powers and tasks of the Ministry of the Interior in coordinating crisis management are transferred to the Government of the Republic and the Government Office; and the Government Office is charged with the task of drafting legislation in the coordination of a field involving several areas of government.
The general organisation of crisis management in the country is also specified since the establishment of stock is directly related to the regulations of preparing for different crises and the comprehensive national defence. With an amendment, the competences, powers and tasks of the Ministry of the Interior in coordinating crisis management are transferred to the Government of the Republic and the Government Office. Insofar as the implementation of the comprehensive national defence is essentially integrated planning for different threats to the country and society, it is relevant to concentrate all coordination of the crisis management policy to the Government of the Republic, more specifically under the Government Office at the Government of the Republic. The amendment will not result in the elimination of the principle according to which every ministry and authority is responsible for crisis management in its area of responsibility. The tasks of the Government Office will remain similar to today’s tasks of the Ministry of the Interior. This means that the Government Office will direct the activities of authorities in general, at the national level, while ministries will do so more specifically in their areas of government and will be responsible for the necessary crisis management tasks to be performed.
54 members of the Riigikogu voted for the Act and 41 were against.
During the debate, Leo Kunnas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) took the floor on behalf of their factions.
The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act and the Nature Conservation Act (219 SE), which provides that the breeding and rearing of animals for the sole or main purpose of obtaining fur is banned in Estonia. 55 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act and 19 were against.
The introduction of the ban does not jeopardise the breeders who breed for example sheep or rabbits. The proposed ban includes only fur farming where the production of fur is the sole or main purpose.
The Act on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act and the Nature Conservation Act, initiated by members of the Riigikogu Indrek Saar, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Jürgen Ligi, Signe Riisalo, Yoko Alender, Helmen Kütt, Lauri Läänemets, Siret Kotka, Andrei Korobeinik, Raimond Kaljulaid, Oudekki Loone, Katri Raik, Jüri Jaanson, Toomas Kivimägi, Johannes Kert, Mart Võrklaev, Jevgeni Ossinovski, Kalvi Kõva, Jaak Juske, Riina Sikkut, Heljo Pikhof, Liina Kersna and Madis Milling, provides for a transition period according to which activity licences for keeping minks and raccoon dogs in artificial conditions issued before 1 July 2021 will remain in force until 31 December 2025, because keeping minks and raccoon dogs in artificial conditions will be prohibited from 1 January 2026.
The prohibition of fur farming has been discussed in Estonia since 2009 when the issue was first raised in the Riigikogu. The Riigikogu plenary voted on prohibiting fur farming in 2017 and 2019. On 10 May 2017, the Bill was rejected at the first reading with 49 votes in favour and 24 against. The second time round, at the beginning of 2019, the Bill was dropped with 28 votes in favour and 25 against.
During the debate, Yoko Alender (Reform Party), Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party), Andres Metsoja (Isamaa) and Andrei Korobeinik (Centre Party) took the floor on behalf of their factions.
The Riigikogu passed two Resolutions:
55 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Study Committee on the Development of Estonian Language Instruction”” (335 OE) and 20 were against.
Under the Resolution, in the future, the Study Committee on the Development of Estonian Language Instruction will be formed under the principle of equal representation of the coalition and the opposition, similarly to select committees.
Priit Sibul (Isamaa) took the floor during the debate.
48 members of the Riigikogu voted for the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Riigikogu Study Committee to Solve the Demographic Crisis”” (338 OE), submitted by the Estonian Reform Party Faction and the Estonian Centre Party Faction. 37 voted against.
The Resolution provides that the activity of the study committee to solve the demographic crisis is to be terminated and the relevant issues are to be addressed further in the Riigikogu, in particular in the Social Affairs Committee, and in the Ministry of Social Affairs, as well as in the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Over two years, the committee held 44 meetings; the last meeting was held yesterday. An amendment included in the Resolution provides that the term of office of the committee will last until 8 June this year.
During the debate, Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa), Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party), Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Õnne Pillak (Reform Party) and Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) took the floor.
A Bill passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
Among the major amendments proposed in the Bill on Amendments to the Information Society Services Act (359 SE), initiated by the Government, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority will be designated to exercise supervision over providers of online intermediation services and search engines. The Bill will specify the penalty payment and fine rates for failure to comply with precepts and obligations. An information society service provider will be obliged to render accessible its VAT identification number where the service provider undertakes an activity that is subject to VAT.
Online intermediation services include information society services that allow business users to offer goods or services to consumers, with a view to facilitating the initiating of direct transactions.
The European Union is aiming to ensure a fair and trusted online business environment that would function on uniform bases throughout the EU internal market. Information society services, including online intermediation services and search engines are important in business and commerce. Information society services enable new business models and innovation and they offer access to new markets and commercial opportunities. However, platform economy also raises challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure legal certainty. The amendments proposed in the Bill will ensure that the EU’s Platforms Regulation and the e-Commerce Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council are enforced adequately and effectively in Estonia.
A Bill passed the first reading:
The Bill on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and the Republic of Mauritius for the Elimination of Double Taxation with respect to Taxes on Income and the Prevention of Tax Evasion and Avoidance and the Protocol thereto (385 SE), initiated by the Government.
In general lines, the agreement between Estonia and Mauritius is based on the model agreement drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Differently from the model agreement, the agreement between Estonia and Mauritius also regulates the taxation of the income of professors and researchers. The source state may withhold income tax on the dividends and interests paid to a resident of the other state, but the tax so charged may not exceed 7 per cent of the gross amount. In the case of royalties, the highest permitted rate of the income tax withheld is five per cent of the gross amount of the royalties. According to the agreement, in certain cases, dividends, interests and royalties are exempt from tax in the source state.
The purpose of the agreements for the avoidance of double taxation is to facilitate investments between Contracting States. The agreement will enter into force when each of the states has ratified it and has notified to the other the completion of the procedures. The agreement will begin to be applied from the first day of January next following the year in which the Agreement enters into force. As at April 2021, Estonia has agreements for avoidance of double taxation in force with 61 countries.
Two Bills were dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act, the Higher Education Act and the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act (354 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction. 48 members of the Riigikogu supported the rejection motion and 28 were against.
The purpose of the Bill was to nudge employers to use local Estonian labour force and to recruit foreign labour primarily to jobs requiring highly qualified labour. It is also intended to specify the application for a residence permit for study purposes, aliens’ settlement in Estonia after their studies and the settlement in Estonia for family members of foreign students, as well as the payment of scholarships and needs-based study allowance to foreign students.
During the debate, Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) and Henn Põlluaas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to § 13 of the Citizenship Act (329 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and Member of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid. 58 members of the Riigikogu supported the rejection, 11 were against and there was one abstention.
The Bill provides for the repeal of the unjustified bureaucratic obstacles that have been established for a segment of people who apply for Estonian citizenship as minors and that are turning the acquisition of citizenship into a process with an up to 18-year waiting period.
According to the Bill, in the acquisition of Estonian citizenship, minors specified in subsection 13 (41) of the Citizenship Act will begin to be treated similarly to other people who acquire Estonian citizenship as minors and they will be allowed to have multiple citizenships until they attain the age of majority.
Subsection 3 (1) of the Citizenship Act provides that a person who as a minor acquires Estonian citizenship as well as the citizenship of another state must renounce either his or her Estonian citizenship or his or her citizenship of the other state within three years after attaining the age of 18 years.
During the debate, Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
The sitting ended at 10.55 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
The video recording of the sitting will be available on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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