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On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the Bill on Amendments to § 22² of the Social Welfare Act (245 SE), initiated by Deniss Boroditsh, Lembit Kaljuvee, Kalle Laanet, Inara Luigas, Rainer Vakra and the Social Democratic Party Faction, was rejected at the first reading. 52 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion to reject and 40 members voted against. Thus, this Bill was dropped from the legislative proceeding.

The Riigikogu passed with 80 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Ambient Air Protection Act and the Liquid Fuel Act (267 SE), initiated by the Government. The aim of the amendments is to bring the Ambient Air Protection Act into conformity with European Union law. For the main part, the definitions used in the Act are specified and amended, and the obligations relating to the protection of ambient air will not change essentially for the operators of pollution sources. The Act provides the establishment of a fuel monitoring database which enables to bring the already functioning fuel monitoring database into conformity with the Public Information Act. The fuel monitoring database is a database belonging to the state information system in which fuel monitoring data are consolidated and published. With the help of the database, consumers can obtain information on the quality of the fuel sold at petrol stations which enables consumers to make an informed choice when buying fuel. This Act enters into force on 1 January 2013.

On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Law of Obligations Act (266 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments transpose into Estonian law the relevant European Commission directive concerning the specification of the rules for the calculation of the annual percentage rate. In the Estonian market, the amendments proposed by the Bill affect above all charge credit cards and fixed-payment credit cards. The existence of uniform and specified rules enables to calculate the annual percentage rate of charge on uniform bases and in a uniform manner in all twenty seven member states of the European Union. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the State Pension Insurance Act and Other Associated Acts (248 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to resolve the problems which have arisen in granting state pensions, allowances and benefits, as well as technical issues which do not involve contentual amendments. The Bill provides the regulation of the giving of testimony by witnesses for certification of years of pensionable service, regulates the transfer of persons receiving an early-retirement pension to another type of pension, provides a more favourable basis of the calculation of the pension qualifying period for receiving a pension for incapacity for work for persons who are disabled since childhood, amends the provisions concerning the payment of pensions on the basis of international agreements, establishes the use of the population register data upon certification of years of pensionable service, and amends the provisions concerning the chief processor of the state pension insurance register and the state pension insurance register. In the Parental Benefits Act, the payment of the parental benefit in the case of a punishment imposed on a parent by a court is specified. The National Social Insurance Board will fulfil the role of the single administrative body of the social sphere. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act, the Public Health Act and the Medicinal Products Act (257 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to create a legal basis for transferring the role of the chief processor of the prescription centre from the Ministry of Social Affairs to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund. According to the current law, the Ministry of Social Affairs is the chief processor; however, it has no direct connection with the daily work of the prescription centre. In addition, the Bill specifies the obligation of providers of pharmacy services to enter the data concerning a prescription issued on paper to the prescription centre immediately after receipt of a prescription. According to the current law, data have to be entered within three working days as of receipt of a prescription. The initiator stated that such a time criterion has caused submission of false information to the prescription centre. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (242 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to enable employers to incur costs, to a certain extent, on recreational sport practiced by their employees and improvement of their health, without tax liabilities. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, the Bill on Amendments to § 5 of the State Family Benefits Act (261 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction, was rejected at the first reading. 45 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion to reject and 31 members voted against. The Bill was dropped from the legislative proceeding.

On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the Bill on Amendments to the State Family Benefits Act, the Employment Contracts Act and the Parental Benefits Act (270 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, was rejected at the first reading. 44 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion to reject and 25 members voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceeding.

Auditor General Mihkel Oviir made a report to the Riigikogu in connection with the overview of the use and preservation of state assets in 2011 and accuracy of the Consolidated Report of 2011 of the State and legality of the transactions, submitted by the National Audit Office. In his report, Oviir pointed out the fact that if the Estonian economy would grow by circa 3.5% a year, as the forecast says, then the revenue of the state treasury would exceed the expenditure by a total of nearly one billion euro in the period 2012–2015 and this money would have to be found from reserves or be borrowed. The Auditor General explained that the so-called fixed expenditure, mainly social and health care expenditure, the growth of which has been established by Acts, eats up the majority of the growth of the state revenues. While the state budget revenues increased by 29% in the period of 2006–2010, the fixed expenditure increased by as much as 62% in the same period. As soon as in five years, half of the state budget will be spent on social expenditure. “The Estonian state is running out of strength trying to meet the commitments that it has made, and funds for supporting the development of the state are scarce,” Oviir noted. In the speaker’s words, we should understand that our richness lies in our entrepreneurship and in the wealth of our undertakings that bring money to the state treasury. Thus, besides the Government and the Riigikogu, every person should help develop progressively and rationally the economic force and society of Estonia.

The Auditor General stated that, for elimination of the obstacles in the way of Estonia’s development, nearly a hundred development plans have been prepared where Governments have written down what should be changed in the society. There are many intentions and they may conflict one other at times but for the most part they are directed to improving the people’s standard of living. “After all, development plans are but papers. Awareness of problems is worth nothing if no action follows. Actual cooperation of areas of government, prioritising, bold consideration of costs, and rearrangement where necessary, is needed because development plans must be living, not dead, documents,” Oviir said. He was critical of what had been revealed by an audit assessing the activities of the Government of the Republic according to which in many cases different action plans and reports are prepared because it is a requirement. Oviir stated that the state budget is compiled with the help of a mathematical formula and not by considering priorities and objectives and based on an analysis.

The Auditor General also touched upon the problems of the health care system and the education reform, as well as the deficit of labour force. He referred to a study which shows that 98% of undertakings complain that it is not easy to find employees with suitable skills and knowledge in Estonia. At the same time we have a situation where as many as one third of the labour force of Estonia has practically no specialty or profession and many people have not been able to find a job for years – the number of long-term unemployed remains over 10 000.

The Auditor General exhorted to hurry up with the construction of the state, the reconstruction and the implementation of the necessary reforms. In Oviir’s words, the National Audit Office has been pointing out problems for years and will continue to do so. “Whether the advices and approaches of the National Audit Office are agreed with or not, energy should go to solving problems and not to attempts to use one or another evaluation for attacking somebody,” he believed. “What I am going to take with me from my ten years as the Auditor General is the understanding that, over the years, we have registered the buildings, land and money of the Estonian state more or less accurately, and evaluated it with fair value. However, the most valuable treasure is still waiting to be evaluated with fair value in our imaginary balance, to be registered and to be used reasonably – this is our human resources,” Oviir concluded.

Comments were presented by Members of the Riigikogu Mihhail Stalnuhhin and Urve Tiidus.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Draft Resolution “Approval of the Consolidated Report of 2011 of the State” (265 OE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The consolidated report consists of the management report, the consolidated and the unconsolidated annual accounts of the state, additional information concerning local governments and additional information concerning public sector and government sector. The consolidated report includes the audit report of the National Audit Office. The draft Resolution was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the State Budget of 2012 Act (298 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill concerns changes in the budget of the areas of government of ministries and the Chancellery of the Riigikogu, without changing the budget volume. Also, a section is added which grants the Government of the Republic the authority to make arrangements for purposeful use of the funds received from the sale of permitted greenhouse gas emission units by auction. The section is added into the text because early auctions of the European Union Emissions Trading System for the period 2013–2020 will be launched as soon as at the end of 2012, and not in 2013 as originally planned. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Temporary Administration of Payment of Salaries related to Average Wages in Estonia Act and the Salaries of Higher State Servants Act (279 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill extends the validity of the Temporary Administration of Payment of Salaries related to Average Wages in Estonia Act which is currently in force and postpones the time of the entry into force of the Salaries of Higher State Servants Act. The salaries of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Auditor General, the Chancellor of Justice, judges of all instances, the State Secretary, ministers, the Commander of the Defence Forces, the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner, the Public Conciliator, the President of Eesti Pank and Members of the Supervisory Board of Eesti Pank, and indirectly also other offices which are related to the salary of a minister, are related to the average wages in Estonia at present. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Environmental Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Waste Act (293 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments specify the regulation concerning the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment in the Waste Act on the basis of a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Implementation of Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council “On the Citizens’ Initiative” (276 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to determine at the national level the government authorities who will perform the obligations arising from the Regulation on the citizens’ initiative, and at the same time to determine the procedural bases for that purpose. The institution of the citizens’ initiative has been introduced into European Union law under Article 11(4) of the Treaty on the European Union. Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the citizens’ initiative was adopted on 16 February 2011. That procedure affords citizens the possibility of directly approaching the Commission with a request inviting it to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties similar to the right conferred on the European Parliament under Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and on the Council under Article 241 TFEU. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Maritime Safety Act (283 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. With the amendments, a single waterway due is established to replace the lighthouse dues and the navigation dues. Also, the current bases for the calculation of the dues are amended entirely because the amount of dues based on the gross tonnage unit (1 GT), multiplied by the gross tonnage of the ship, will be implemented. In addition, the maximum limits of waterway dues payable for a ship are established. Benefits will be granted to ships which enter a port several times during a calendar year. The Social Democratic Party Faction and the Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to reject this Bill at the first reading. 21 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 40 voted against. The motion was not supported and thus the Bill was sent to the second reading.

The sitting ended at 8.28 p.m.

For more details, read the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):

The Riigikogu Press Service

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