The agenda of the sitting of the plenary assembly included six interpellations today, four of which were replied Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and two by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts.
1. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip replied to the interpellation No 45 concerning budget balance, submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Vilja Savisaar and Toomas Varek on 25 February 2008. The interpellators claimed that the state budget of 2008 had been prepared with a deficit of 1.5 billion kroons because it failed to reflect the contractual obligations assumed by the Public Limited Company Government Real Estate. Also, the interpellators claimed that the statistics centre of European countries, Eurostat had raised the issue on the grounds that the Eurostat practices had been violated. The interpellators asked if the political figures who were responsible for that mistake were also going to assume political responsibility in that issue.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip: The State Budget of the Year 2008 Bill which the Government of the Republic submitted to the Riigikogu was in full compliance with the framework State Budget Act and other relevant legislation. Pursuant to the regular practice in Estonia, the draft state budget submitted in September last year was based on the summer economic forecast of the Ministry of Finance and predicted 3.6 billion kroons, that is, 1.3 per cent of the gross domestic product for the government sector surplus. Thus, it may be said that a buffer zone was reserved for managing the potential risks already at the time when the budget was prepared. It is the largest surplus ever planned in the budget.
2. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip replied to the interpellation No 47 concerning funding for the Tallinn-Tartu motorway, submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Olga Sõtnik, Kalev Kallo, Toivo Tootsen, Arvo Sarapuu, Rein Ratas, Evelyn Sepp, Ain Seppik, Vilja Savisaar, Marika Tuus, Heimar Lenk, Aivar Riisalu, Lembit Kaljuvee, Tiit Kuusmik, Valeri Korb, Helle Kalda, Inara Luigas, Jaan Kundla, Enn Eesmaa, Nelli Privalova, Eldar Efendijev and Jüri Ratas on 27 February 2008. The interpellators referred to different press materials which gave contradictory information about the financing of the Tartu motorway and they asked to what extent the Tallinn-Tartu motorway was going to be reconstructed as a four-lane motorway; which funds were going to be used for the construction; if funds received from fuel excise duty were going to be used and in which amount; to what extent loan obligations were going to be assumed, etc.
Mr. Ansip: The coalition programme for 2007-2011 includes plans for partial reconstruction of the Tallinn-Tartu-Võru-Luhamaa motorway into a four-lane motorway, namely, on the Tallinn-Kose section. Another goal is to start the construction of a four-lane motorway from Kose to Mäo. The construction plan and the initial cost of different structures to be built, that is, carriageway sections, collector ways, footpaths, cycle tracks, intersections and viaducts are determined in the road management plan for the years 2007-2011. The cost of the objects is going to be specified in the plans for following years. On the basis of the 21 February 2008 resolution of the Government, the road management plan for 2007-2011 will be discussed after the proceedings of budget strategy will have been concluded in May this year. Construction of Tallinn-Tartu-Võru-Luhamaa motorway will be financed from the funds of the state budget. Under the State Budget Act, the state budget revenues also include foreign support which means that there is basically no difference if direct proceedings from fuel excise duties or foreign funds are used therefor. According to current plans, no loans are going to be taken.
3. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip replied to the interpellation No 49 concerning the resolution of the applications of persons reclaiming property owned by persons resettled to Germany, submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Helle Kalda, Toivo Tootsen, Heimar Lenk, Marika Tuus, Evelyn Sepp and Olga Sõtnik on 11 March 2008. The interpellators pointed to the 10 March 2008 decision of the Supreme Court en banc No 3-3-2-1-07 in which the Supreme Court en banc had found that the applications concerning unlawfully expropriated property of resettlers to Germany were to be reviewed. The interpellator points to the decision of the Supreme Court en banc highlighting the current situation in which subsection 7 (3) of the Principles of Ownership Reform Act has become invalid, yet the legislator has not established a legal regulation on how to proceed the applications concerning unlawfully expropriated property of resettlers to Germany. Also, there is no regulation allowing or excluding submission of new applications. The interpellators enquired what regulation had been prepared by the Government for solving the problem.
Mr. Ansip: On the basis of the 10 March decision of the Supreme Court en banc, no additional regulation is needed for resuming of return proceedings because the guidelines necessary for local committees are set out in the positions of the Supreme Court en banc. However, the Government of the Republic has decided already last autumn that, after adoption of the said decision of the Supreme Court en banc, the Minister of Finance would make a proposal to the Government to implement the legal conclusions concerning the repeal of subsection 7 (3) of the Republic of Estonia Principles of Ownership Reform Act as outlined in the 12 April 2006 decision of the Supreme Court en banc and the 31 January 2007 decision of the Constitutional Review Chamber of the Supreme Court. As is known, the Supreme Court en banc made its decision on 10 March 2008 and the Government of the Republic is going to discuss the proposals of the Ministry of Finance at the cabinet meeting scheduled for mid-April and is going to decide next steps. The Government of the Republic cannot create new rules; it can only specify the existing rules by its Regulation.
4. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip replied to the interpellation No 50 concerning funding for infrastructures in the City of Tallinn, submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Helle Kalda, Kalev Kallo, Evelyn Sepp, Nelli Privalova, Aivar Riisalu, Kadri Must, Rein Ratas, Enn Eesmaa and Jaan Kundla on 12 March 2008. The interpellators pointed to the words of the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts at the 6 March 2008 Government press conference where the Minister had allegedly claimed to see no need for a new modern tramway track which would connect the centre of Tallinn and Lasnamäe. The Minister was claimed to have said that the Tallinn City Government’s plan for development of tramway tracks was ill-designed and did not take account of real possibilities and needs and there was no proof that the construction of a tramway track in the Lasnamäe “channel” would solve traffic problems in Tallinn. The interpellators asked which actual possibilities and needs the Government had considered in the plan for development of tramway tracks in Tallinn and why the Government did not deem it necessary to support modernisation of public transport in Tallinn.
Mr. Ansip: the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is represented in the surveillance committee in charge of the feasibility study for reconstruction and construction of tramway tracks in Tallinn. Therefore, the Ministry is aware of the major disagreements between the contractor and consultants in the preparation of the preliminary project which have led to problems in understanding the substance of the project and a delay in completion of the project. The preparation of the project at Tallinn Transport Board had not reached the stage which would have allowed a positive decision to be made to finance the project at the time when the investments plan of the Cohesion Fund was approved. The Government of the Republic considers it necessary to support modernisation of public transport in Tallinn, a good example of this being procurement of a new rolling stock for Elektriraudtee Ltd, approved by the Cohesion Fund investments plan.
5. The Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts replied to the interpellation No 41 concerning rail transport in Estonia, submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Heimar Lenk, Toomas Varek, Lembit Kaljuvee, Valeri Korb, Tiit Kuusmik, Marika Tuus and Inara Luigas on 26 February 2008. The interpellators referred to the alleged decrease in the share of rail transport in Estonia and asked what the Government was going to do for organising and improving rail transport and the related infrastructure.
The Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts: the volumes of carriage of goods have stabilised but the level has remained significantly lower than before. If Estonian Railways Ltd received an average of 36.3 trains a day on the border in February 2007, then the number amounted to about 20 trains a day in February 2008. We have to admit that, despite the firm interest of the Ministry in growth of carriage of goods on the railway, at the moment it is difficult to estimate changes in the volumes of carriage of goods in such distant future as after 2017, and it is probably just too early to make any serious forecasts for that market ten years in advance. “The Transport Development Plan for the Years 2006-2013” proposes increasing the technical level of the infrastructure of the Tallinn-Tapa-Tartu-Koidula, Tapa-Narva and Tartu-Valga railway sections so as to enable train connection at the speed of 120 km per hour. Our opinion is that increasing the speed of passenger trains in the specified railway sections to 120 km per hour is realistic and also achievable with necessary investments. According to the present plans, the improvement of the technical level of the infrastructure of the Tallinn-Valga railway section in order to increase the speed of passenger trains to 120 km per hour should be completed by 2011. The works on the Tartu-Valga railway section are going to be finished by the middle of 2009, followed by works on the Tallinn-Tapa railway section.
6. The Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts replied to the interpellation No 42 concerning nuclear energy, submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Marek Strandberg, Aleksei Lotman, Mart Jüssi, Toomas Trapido, Maret Merisaar, Vilja Savisaar, Villu Reiljan, Karel Rüütli, Mai Treial, Ester Tuiksoo, Tarmo Mänd, Aivar Riisalu, Lembit Kaljuvee and Valeri Korb on 26 February 2008. The interpellators referred to the plans of Eesti Energia Ltd to build a nuclear station in Estonia and asked sixteen questions regarding the plan.
Parts: these questions have no relevant, substantial or serious answers today. Therefore, I would rather not to go into these speculations at the moment because otherwise it would be just interesting ramifications on interesting topics. At the moment, the Ministry retains the understanding that we are preparing a long-term development plan for energy sector and electricity sector and we are deliberating different development scenarios within the frameworks of this development plan. One thing is sure – international co-operation projects with our neighbours, and then certainly one option may be that Estonia will think about producing its own nuclear energy. When this development plan reaches to the point of deliberation in the Riigikogu and it finds the approval of the Riigikogu and it includes the corresponding guidelines, only then can we start preparations for entering this first stage.
During the open microphone, Silver Meikar took the floor.
The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) is available at http://www.riigikogu.ee/?op=steno&stcommand=stenogramm&date=1208174700
The Riigikogu Press Service
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