The Act that was passed in the Riigikogu today restricts the availability of substances that could be used for the illicit manufacture of explosives. The aim of the regulation is also to ensure that suspicious transactions are reported to the police.
The Act on Amendments to the Chemicals Act and Other Acts (296 SE), initiated by the Government, implements the requirements of the relevant European Union Regulation that harmonises the rules concerning the making available, introduction, possession and use of substances or mixtures that could be used for the illicit manufacture of explosives. The aim of the regulation is to limit the availability of such substances to members of the general public, and to ensure the appropriate reporting of suspicious transactions throughout the supply chain.
The main purpose of the EU Regulation is to ensure a better and more uniform implementation of the requirements in Member States. This is taken to mean equal treatment of economic operators that operate in the sector and the free movement of explosives precursors in the internal market, including through e-commerce. In addition, it is intended to ensure that explosives precursors are used for the intended purposes.
For more effective implementation of the requirements for explosives precursors, economic operators, professional users and online marketplaces must inform the Police and Border Guard Board of suspicious transactions. This applies in the case when they make explosives precursors available to the general public. Stricter requirements have also been established for the background check of persons who wish to acquire precursors.
The maintenance and development of the register of economic activities and the performance of the tasks of product contact points, which up until now has been the responsibility of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, is transferred to the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority. Already now, the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority is carrying out acts of monitoring compliance with requirements for products, including certain chemicals, in trade.
90 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Riigikogu passed another Act
The Act on Amendments to the Code of Enforcement Procedure and the Enforcement Agents Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (291 SE), initiated by the Government, amends the current model for distributing the claims of public authorities so that, similarly to private claim owners, owners of public law claims are able to choose enforcement agents for themselves. The Act also amends the provisions on enforcement agents’ fees. The enforcement agent’s principal fee is lowered to 50 per cent of the fee rate where the debtor fulfils a claim on the basis of a payment schedule and the payment schedule is entered into within the time limit granted for voluntary compliance with the claim. The lower fee should motivate debtors to look for solutions.
A new official operation of an enforcement agent is established, namely drawing up an enforcement profile of the debtor. The official operation is intended to assist parties seeking enforcement in assessing the viability of collecting a claim. For that, an enforcement agent is able to give the party seeking enforcement a complete overview of the enforcement proceedings initiated against the debtor and the economic situation of the debtor, which would enable the party seeking enforcement to decide whether it is expedient to submit an application to initiate enforcement proceedings. The cost of the official operation is 15 euro and it is paid by the party seeking enforcement.
Under the Act, proceedings in an enforcement case can be transferred to another enforcement agent if the case has been going on for at least three years. Under the current law, this can be done when an enforcement agent has been conducting proceedings concerning a claim for at least four years. A prior consent of the uptaking enforcement agent is needed to transfer an enforcement case and a transfer must be completed within three months from obtaining the consent of the enforcement agent. The enforcement agent who first conducted proceedings in the enforcement case has a right to charge the debtor the fee for commencement of enforcement proceedings and any enforcement expenses that have become due, and the enforcement agent to whom the case is assigned has a right to require the party seeking enforcement to make an advance payment towards the enforcement agent’s fee. The enforcement agent to whom the case is assigned collects from the debtor the fee for commencement of enforcement proceedings and any enforcement expenses that have become due and transfers them to the enforcement agent who conducted proceedings in the enforcement case earlier.
The current enforcement agents system has been experiencing operational difficulties for several years due to decreasing revenues. Therefore, practice is inconsistent and some enforcement agents are unable to ensure the rights of parties to proceedings. Under the Act, the state will begin to pay a fee to enforcement agents for collecting monthly maintenance. Covering the costs involved in proceedings is the debtor’s obligation, and collecting maintenance is an unprofitable activity for enforcement agents, as an enforcement agent can ask a fee of 292 euro just once, on the initiation of an enforcement case, for compulsory enforcement proceedings that can last for 18 years or more. Under the Act adopted, the amount of the fee paid by the state for collecting maintenance is up to 100 euro in a year for an enforcement case. The estimated annual budget cost is 500,000 euro.
At the same time, the Act establishes a new central enforcement register maintained by the Ministry of Justice that will perform the functions of the enforcement proceedings register and the electronic attachment system. Until now, there has been no good solution for a party to proceedings to get a comprehensive overview of the enforcement proceedings going on with regard to him or her, the enforcement of the claim and the attachments imposed. The register to be established will enable parties to proceedings to obtain all the information through a self-service portal. The enforcement register will also include the functionality of the entire current electronic attachment system – the attachment of accounts in credit and payment institutions and the forwarding of and responding to information queries between the authorities that have the right and duty to do so arising from law. The register will be implemented on 1 January 2024.
87 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
Three Bills passed the second reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Anti-corruption Act (compliance with GRECO’s recommendations and restriction on the public availability of the declarations of interests of heads of security authorities) (323 SE), initiated by the Government, provides an obligation to submit a declaration of interests for political advisers of ministers, and restricts the disclosure of the declaration of interests of the head of a security authority.
The obligation to extend the circle of the people who must submit a declaration of interests derives from GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption body. Its aim is to include among the people who must submit a declaration of interests the political advisers to ministers, that is, advisers who perform support or advisory functions with the Prime Minister and other ministers under the Civil Service Act and with whom an employment contract is entered into for a specified term.
According to an amendment made to the Bill during the second reading, the obligation to disclose the declaration of interests will extend to deputy secretaries general.
The Bill will preserve the current regulation on the submission of the declarations of interests of the heads of the Internal Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service but provides that, differently to the current law, their declarations of interest are not public.
During the debate, Paul Puustusmaa (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa), Lauri Läänemets (Social Democratic Party), Eduard Odinets (Social Democratic Party), Toomas Kivimägi (Reform Party) and Henn Põlluaas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to suspend the proceedings on the Bill at the second reading. 19 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 72 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
Under the Bill on Amendments to § 15 of the Military Service Act (324 SE), initiated by the Government, in the future, decisions and other documents will be forwarded to persons liable to national defence obligation electronically through the government portal “eesti.ee” instead of paper. A document will be deemed to be delivered after 30 calendar days have passed from sending. On a reasoned request by a person liable to national defence obligation or on other considerations of the authority who has drafted the document, documents concerning the national defence obligation may also be delivered through another channel or in another way, for example, by post.
During the debate, Leo Kunnas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa) took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Financial Supervision Authority Act and Other Acts (326 SE), initiated by the Government, will bring Estonian law into conformity with directives on the business of insurance and reinsurance, as well as markets in financial instruments and the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing.
Six Bills passed the first reading
Under the Bill on the State’s Supplementary Budget for 2021 (357 SE), initiated by the Government, the size of the supplementary budget is 641 million euro that are intended to assist Estonian people, businesses, society and health care system. The package of measures contains funds to pay remuneration support in the economic sectors where the volume of work is decreasing due to restrictions, continuation of the compensation of sickness benefits from the second day of sick leave, additional measures for the maintenance of mental health and for special welfare and rehabilitation, additional funds for medicines, vaccination and crisis management and support measures for the tourism sector, cultural organisers and creative persons. The compensation to the extent of 117 million euro planned for persons who suspend their contributions into the second pillar pension scheme that was not taken into account in the state budget for 2021 has also been included in the supplementary budget.
The impact of the supplementary budget on the budget position is smaller than the total expenditure of the budget as the use of the supports will bring some of the tax money back to the state. The negative impact of the supplementary budget on the Government’s nominal budget position will be 453 million euro, that is, 1.6 per cent of GDP this year. A new economic forecast of the Ministry of Finance will be disclosed on 5 April and this forecast will take into account the impact of the supplementary budget on the public finances and the economy to the full extent.
When presenting the Bill, the Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said that the aim of the supplementary budget for 2021 was to steer Estonia out of the crisis with as few losses as possible, to recover quickly and to reopen Estonia. In her words, steering the country out of the current crisis presumes that the sectors that have been hit the hardest during restrictions will receive support.
“This support is temporally limited and targeted as precisely as possible. We are doing this in order that the preservation of as many incomes, jobs and businesses as possible would be ensured and supported. We will also cover the necessary costs of vaccination, virus testing and treatment. We will help alleviate the gaps that inevitably result from this very long period of distant learning in education. We will support the maintenance and nurturing of mental health,” Pentus-Rosimannus said.
The minister specified that the supplementary budget would allocate 150 million euro to health care, including for covering the extraordinary crisis expenses as well as for vaccines, the organisation of vaccination, tests, the procurement of a coronavirus remedy and the restoration of the reserve capital of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.
The payment of sickness benefits from the second day of sick leave will continue until the end of this year and the cost of this measure in the supplementary budget is 12 million euro. In order to continue the wage support in March and April, the supplementary budget contains 102.2 million euro to which 38 million euro of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund’s money will be added. The supplementary budget contains an extraordinary business support package of 44 million euro for the accommodation and catering sector, spas, tour operators and retail business, which is intended to cover expenses that are not salary costs as there are employers to whom wage support is not of sufficient help. Pentus-Rosimannus added that, once the supplementary budget would be passed, it would be possible to apply for support to the extent of 50–70 per cent of salary costs through Enterprise Estonia to cover the remaining unavoidable costs.
The supplementary budget provides for 12 million euro for the education sector to support the bridging of learning gaps. The mental health support package contains the therapy fund for family physicians, greater support to clinical psychologists as well as for example the e-psychologist booking system. “In addition to the above-mentioned, a great number of other measures in this supplementary budget support more indirectly such maintenance and nurturing of mental health,” the minister said. The cultural sector together with the sports sector will receive support in an amount of approximately 39 million euro from the supplementary budget.
During the debate, Kersti Sarapuu (Centre Party), Riina Sikkut (Social Democratic Party), Aivar Kokk (Isamaa), Aivar Sõerd (Reform Party), Martin Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Electronic Communications Act, the Building Code and the State Fees Act (301 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the European Union directive establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (the communications directive).
The explanatory memorandum notes that, in connection with the rapid development of the electronic communications market, consumers’ behavioural habits have changed. New data-transmission-based “OTT services” (Over The Top service), such as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook Messenger are increasingly more used instead of traditional communications services and telephone and mobile telephone services. In order to ensure equitable protection of the rights of consumers, as is the case with traditional communications services, OTT services will also be brought under the concept of communications service. When all communications companies operating in the communications market are brought under the communications regulation, all electronic communications services companies operating in the communications market will be treated equally.
The Bill will increase consumer rights, in particular with the requirement to provide the pre-contractual information and the contract summary of the communications service contract. With pre-contractual information, the consumer is provided with as detailed an overview as possible of the communications service offered, which should prevent misunderstandings on the communications service laid out in the contract and the actual service. With the contract summary, the consumer is provided with an overview of the most important clauses in the communications contract – a description of the communications service, charge, the duration, renewal and termination of the contract, etc.
For the purpose of ensuring a single European Union communications market, the rules for the deployment of radio frequency bands are harmonised in the EU. Common deadlines for deployment of new radio frequencies are also set.
The purpose of the Bill is also to facilitate the construction of 5G networks and to support the development of mobile communications networks. For the purpose of the construction of very high capacity communications networks, the Bill will facilitate the deployment of small-area wireless access points (small cells) for construction works owned or used by the state or local authorities, for example public construction works, street lamps and traffic lights. In terms of technology, very high capacity communications networks need deployment of a large number of small-area wireless access points (small cells) that ensure the availability of the communications network and uninterrupted coverage. Thus, it will be necessary to make public buildings and other public infrastructure available on reasonable conditions for the deployment of small-cells.
Andres Metsoja (Isamaa) took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act (344 SE), initiated by the Government, will create a regulation that will enable today’s and future large consumers of electrical energy to pay the renewable energy charge at a lower rate from 2023 than they are doing now.
The Bill will increase the competitive position of the Estonian large consumers of electrical energy on the international market and will create opportunities for additional investments into energy-intensive sectors. The Bill will create preconditions for reducing the final price of electricity for all final consumers as potentially increasing consumption means an increase in the contribution into the renewable energy and sets the bases for reducing the network service price.
During the debate, Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) and Imre Sooäär (Centre Party) took the floor.
The Social Democratic Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. Seven members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 80 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (347 SE), initiated by the Government.
The main amendments that will help support the Health Board in resolving a health care emergency, including in the exercise of supervision, are connected with the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act.
Already now the Act provides that, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, employers compensate for sickness leave from the second to the fifth day of sick leave and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund compensates from the sixth day of sick leave. While under the current Act such a procedure for the payment of sickness benefit was due to be in force from 1 January to 30 April, under the Bill it will continue until the end of 2021. In order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, close contacts of infected people also receive benefit under the same conditions when they are on sick leave.
Earlier compensation for days of sick leave reduces the risk of people going to work when ill and thereby helps restrict the spread of COVID-19 because it enables people to remain at home already when the first symptoms of illness appear, which helps preserve their income. The amendment will require 12 million euro of additional funds this year half of which will be covered from the state budget and half from the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.
As another amendment, the Bill will specify the competences of the Government and the Health Board and will amend the Act by adding a clear legal basis that will enable to oblige people to follow the precautionary measures for infection control in the event of the spread of an infectious disease. In addition, the Bill specifies that the Health Board and the Government may close schools, child care institutions and institutions providing social services as well as restrict their activities temporarily. Already now the Act provides for the possibility to request disinfection, disinsection, pest control or cleaning to be organised and medical examination of people to be arranged for and diagnosis of infectious disease or arrangement therefor to prevent the epidemic spread of infectious diseases. The Health Board and the Government may also oblige hospitals and institutions providing social services to impose visiting restrictions.
According to the Bill, in the event of an especially dangerous infectious disease, the Health Board and the Government will also be able to close institutions or restrict their activities temporarily in the case of unavoidable necessity. Besides setting the conditions for prohibiting meetings and events, the Bill will also allow requirements to be established for holding them. Already now it is also possible to impose other restrictions on the freedom of movement under law.
The Bill will include in the Act the possibility to involve the police and other law enforcement agencies in the performance of the functions of the Health Board. Up until now, there has been no regulation of involvement and therefore the Health Board has been able to cooperate with law enforcement agencies only through applications for professional assistance or exchange of officials. The establishment of the regulation will simplify and speed up involvement. According to the Bill, the more specific conditions and procedure for involvement will be established by a Regulation of the Government.
Under the current Act, breach of quarantine rules is punishable under misdemeanour procedure. However, according to the Bill, an opportunity will also be created to hold people liable when they breach the requirements established by the Government or the Health Board, for example the obligation to wear a face mask or the restrictions on movement or the organisation of events. According to the Bill, violation of the requirements for the prevention of the epidemic spread of an infectious disease will be punishable by a fine of up to 200 fine units, that is, 800 euro. A fine of up to 32 000 euro will be provided for legal persons.
During the debate, Priit Sibul (Isamaa), Tiiu Aro (Reform Party), Kert Kingo (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Riina Sikkut (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 18 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 62 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act (349 SE), initiated by the Government, will create an opportunity to postpone holding examinations and to schedule additional times for examinations as necessary in this academic year. The state examination in the Estonian language is due as the first on 19 April.
According to the Bill, by way of exception, graduation examinations will not have to be a condition for graduating from upper secondary school where organisation of graduation examinations is not possible within a reasonable period of time due to restrictions put in place by the Government.
The Bill will also allow for the use of descriptive verbal assessment that has no numerical equivalent and that does not need to be translated into the five-point system grade scale when assessing students at basic school and upper secondary school this academic year.
Marko Šorin (Centre Party) took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Fisheries Market Organisation Act and the Criminal Records Database Act (310 SE), initiated by the Government, was drafted mainly due to the need to ensure that persons engaged in commercial fishing on sea and in inland water bodies are treated equally upon the grant of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) supports.
Under the current Act, applications for EMFF support by persons who commit serious infringements of certain fishing requirements are inadmissible only in the case of persons engaged in commercial fishing on sea. The Bill will create a situation where the applications for EMFF support by persons having committed similar serious infringements of fishing requirements either on sea or in inland water bodies will be inadmissible for a certain period of time.
The Bill will also amend certain provisions of the Fisheries Market Organisation Act. The need to amend them has emerged from the current experience of implementation of EMFF and this will enable to reduce administrative burden upon implementation of EMFF.
At the same time, the Act will be amended by adding provisions that will enable, upon grant of state aid to fisheries, de minimis aid to fisheries and other aid to fisheries, to approve conforming applications within the limits of the budget funds earmarked for granting this category of aid in a situation where the amounts applied for in the applications exceed the funds earmarked for that.
The sitting ended at 2.02 a.m. on 25 March.
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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