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Today, the Riigikogu passed with 57 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the President of the Republic Election Act and the Local Government Organisation Act (776 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction, the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, the Estonian Green Party Faction and the Social Democratic Party Faction. The Act specifies the procedure pursuant to which representatives of the local government councils are elected to the electoral body who elects the President. According to the Act, representatives are elected in the council in one round of voting and each member of the council has one vote. The candidate or candidates who receive the greatest number of votes are elected. In the opinion of the initiator, this facilitates better adherence to the principles of democracy and proportional representation of the opposition upon election of electors in larger local governments. 20 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act and 1 member of the Riigikogu abstained.

The Act on Amendments to the State Budget of 2010 Act (812 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 47 votes in favour. The amendments to the budget are related to the significant changes that have occurred in the (economic) environment during the last year and therefore it is expedient to adjust the budget to the changed circumstances in order to achieve the objectives set by government authorities. The amendments concern the budgets of the State Chancellery, ministries, their divisions, and other constitutional institutions. This does not affect the volume of the state budget. The Act enters into force on the following day after its publication in the Riigi Teataja. 2 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act and 1 member of the Riigikogu abstained.
 
The Act on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act, the Tobacco Act and the Customs Act and Associated Acts (779 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, was passed with 65 votes in favour. According to the amendments, the 20 per cent rise of the excise duty rate of cigarettes which is planned for 2011 will be distributed to two years in order to reduce the risk of growth of the secret market arising from the sudden rise of the excise duty rate. The 20 per cent rise of the excise duty rate of cigarettes in 2011 will be replaced by 10 per cent excise duty rises in 2011 and 2012. The Act also defines a large quantity of tobacco products which is not permitted to be handled which will help restrict the secret cigarettes market through application of punishment measures. According to the proposal of the Finance Committee, in comparison to the earlier plans, the minimum amount of excise duty to be paid on cigarettes will be raised by 2.57 euro (to 73 euro per 1000 cigarettes) in 2011 and by 2.54 euro (to 80 euro per 1000 cigarettes) in 2012. This Act enters into force on 1 January 2011, and clause 1 1) and § 5 enter into force on 5 December 2010. Nobody voted against the Act, one member of the Riigikogu abstained.
 
The Resolution “Use of the Defence Forces in the Performance of the International Duties of the Estonian State in the Composition of the European Union Anti-Piracy Operation Atalanta and NATO Naval Operation Active Endeavour” (815 OE), submitted by the Government, was passed with 65 votes in favour. Nobody voted against the Resolution and nobody abstained.
 
The Act on the Accession to the Convention on the International Protection of Adults (804 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 61 votes in favour. Estonia accedes to the Convention the aim of which is to cooperate with other states in issues of guardianship and to determine the principles to be observed by Contracting States for protection of the person or property of adults in need of guardianship who have connection with several states. Nobody voted against the Act and nobody abstained.
 
The Act on Ratification of the Convention between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income (801 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 54 votes in favour. The Convention regulates the division of the taxation right between the states and provides avoidance of discriminatory taxation and the obligation to prevent fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. One member of the Riigikogu voted against the Act, nobody abstained.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the State Budget Act, the Government of the Republic Act and Other Acts (790 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The main purpose of the Bill is to introduce the terminological and contentual amendments arising from the Authorised Public Accountants Act which entered into force in 2010 and to specify and amend the wording of the Authorised Public Accountants Act in view of the needs that have appeared upon implementation of the Act. The amendments concern, among other things, preparation of the annual reports of the state and auditing, the regulation concerning internal auditor’s professional activities, the National Audit Office as the auditor of the consolidation group of the state, the obligations relating to auditing, and audit committees. 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 Medical Devices Act and the Euro Adoption Act (791 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to approximate the legislation relating to medical devices in the Estonian legal space with the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning active implantable medical devices as well as the placing of biocidal products on the market. According to the Bill, the range of the Acts applied to medical devices is extended because, under certain conditions, medical devices also have to meet the essential health protection and safety requirements set for personal protective equipment or machinery. It provides the obligation of the person who places a medical device on the market, distributes it or puts it into service to notify the Health Board of making available or putting into service of potentially dangerous medical devices and regulates in a greater detail the activities related to clinical investigations of medical devices. The Bill also specifies the provisions concerning liability in the Act in order to ensure effective supervision. 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 Railways Act (800 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to bring Estonian law into conformity with the Council Directive concerning the development of safe cross-border traffic which helps protect the health and safety of the mobile workers engaged in interoperable cross-border services. The Bill regulates the working and rest time conditions of mobile workers engaged in interoperable cross-border services. The employer will be required to keep and preserve working time records. The Bill provides the obligation of the Labour Inspectorate to exercise state supervision over compliance with the working and rest time conditions of mobile railway workers engaged in cross-border services within the European Union pursuant to the procedure and under the conditions provided in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In addition, the Bill provides the liability for violation of the working and rest time conditions. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Ratification of the Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Transitory Provisions of the Treaty on European Union, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (807 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of this Protocol is to raise the number of the Members of the European Parliament elected for the 2009–2014 legilsature to 754, instead of the current 736, in accordance with the political agreement concerning the establishing of the transitory provisions which was reached at the European Council meeting on 18 and 19 June 2009. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Ratification of the Agreements necessary for Accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (830 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. With the Act, three agreements relating to accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are ratified: the Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of 14th December 1960 (the OECD Convention), the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on the Privileges, Immunities and Facilities granted to the Organisation and the Agreement on the Terms of Accession of the Republic of Estonia to the Convention on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Accession Agreement). 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 Fishing Act (828 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to make the use of fishery resources more transparent for the public and to ensure adequate information for the public as to whether the undertakings to whom the right to use these national riches has been entrusted adhere to the requirement of sustainable exploitation arising from the Constitution and the Fishing Act. The data which indicate the permitted fishing opportunities designated to undertakings for the calendar year, the volume of the actual use of the permitted fishing opportunities and the quantity of fish actually caught will be made available to the public. In the future, the Ministry of Agriculture will have to prepare and publish on its website an overview covering the above-mentioned data concerning all professional fishers of Estonia for every quarter. Data will be published broken down by water areas, counties and permanently inhabited small islands. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Cultural Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Media Services Bill (827 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill has two basic purposes: to bring the Estonian regulation concerning audiovisual media services into conformity with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council and also to update the national regulation concerning audiovisual media and radio broadcasting which is primarily necessitated by the development of technologies and transition to digital television in terrestrial transmission. This has brought along the need to update the system of the activity licences of media service providers and to create a procedure for notification for on-demand audiovisual media services providers. The Media Services Act provides the following: 1) the procedure for the provision of audiovisual media services, the principles of the activities of the service provider and the requirements for service providers;      2) the procedure for the provision of radio broadcasting services, the principles of the activities of the service provider and the requirements for service providers;    3) the procedure for granting activity licences for provision of the television broadcasting service and the radio broadcasting service to persons in private law and notification of provision of on-demand audiovisual media services;4) requirements for Estonian National Broadcasting in so far as they are not provided in the Estonian National Broadcasting Act;          5) the principles of protection of sources on the processing of information for journalistic purposes. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
The Auditor General Mihkel Oviir gave an overview of the use and preservation of state assets in 2009. In his report, Oviir discussed issues related to the state budget, assets and economy and drew attention to problems in the promotion of several fields. In Oviir’s words, it is the task of the National Audit Office to help the decision-makers perceive the actual situation, to observe what is going on in the state and the developments from a distance and to offer an additional, that is, another angle. Among other things, the Auditor General spoke about the problems related to the use of European funds, the impacts of the reduction of the population of working age and the forecasting capacity of the state. Oviir called to discuss more seriously about education, medicine, taxes, immigration, social welfare, organisation of the state and many other issues and advised to be more realistic about the capability of the Estonian state. Oviir: “Although our expectations regarding the development of the Estonian state and society have been much higher than what has been achieved in the real life, we do have reason to be satisfied.”
Comments were presented by Members of the Riigikogu Aivar Riisalu, Valdur Lahtvee, Tõnis Kõiv and Eiki Nestor.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Draft Resolution “Approval of the Consolidated Report of the Economic Year of 2009 of the State” (820 OE), submitted by the Government, was concluded. According to the Accounting Act, the aim of submitting the annual report of the state is to enable the Riigikogu to exercise its auditing function with regard to the government, provide the government with the opportunity to explain its activities during the accounting year, and submit the information necessary for the Riigikogu to make new resolutions regarding the budget. The consolidated annual report consists of the management report and the annual accounts which in its turn contains the management’s declaration, the consolidated and the unconsolidated annual accounts of the state and additional information concerning local governments, public sector and government sector. The consolidated report includes the audit report of the National Audit Office. The Draft was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Structural Assistance for the Period of 2007‒2013 Act and the Administrative Co-operation Act (836 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to add more detailed rules to the Structural Assistance Act as regards the granting and refunding of assistance in order to ensure more effective use of the assistance. As a preventive measure, the authority to set target levels of the use of the assistance for the ministries planning the measures is provided in order to reduce the possibility of reducing the amount of assistance permitted for the state arising from the N+2/3 rule. In order to ensure the fulfilment of the cross-measure coordinating activity of the managing authority, an obligation to approve programmes with the managing authority is added. Cross-measure criteria for assessment of the financial capability of local governments are established. With a view to reducing the administrative burden, there will be an opportunity to establish in the Regulation on reclaims and refundings a minimum amount of reclaim starting from which assistance will not be reclaimed. The Bill will help prevent the arising of hopeless reclaims and it will be allowed to refuse to pay assistance if the final recipient fails to complete the project. In order to mitigate the liquidity problem of the European territorial cooperation and European and neighbourhood policy programmes, it will be possible to apply for self financing assistance. The Social Democratic Party Faction moved to reject this Bill at the first reading. 33 members of the Riigikogu voted against the motion and 15 members voted in favour. Thus, the Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
At Question Time, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip answered the question about the energy security and future of the state, submitted by Mark Soosaar, and the question about the salaries in public sector, submitted by Lauri Luik. The Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts answered the question about the investments of Eesti Energia, submitted by Aivar Riisalu. The Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo answered the question about cooperation with the National Audit Office, submitted by Kadri Simson, and the question about the Victory Monument, submitted by Nikolai Põdramägi.
 
The verbatim record (in Estonian) of Question Time and the sitting can be found at:
 
 
The Riigikogu Press Service
 
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