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The Riigikogu passed with 81 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Public Procurement Act (113 SE), initiated by the Government. The amendments transpose the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council the aim of which is to establish separate rules for the awarding of contracts in the fields of defence and security in order to open up the defence procurement market to a wider circle of tenderers. So far, this market has been relatively closed because defence equipment is nearly always subject to procurement on the basis of an exception. Once the directive is transposed, uniform rules are established for contracting authorities for procurements where it is impossible to apply the usual procedure provided for in the Public Procurement Act. Accordingly, the directive lays down measures which the contracting authorities can use additionally in the case of contracts in the fields of defence and security (protection of classified information and security of supply requirements). With application of these requirements, it will be possible to carry out public procurements related to national security more openly and, consequently, a greater number of tenderers will have an opportunity to participate in these procurement procedures. This Act increases the transparency of public procurements in the fields of defence and security. One member of the Riigikogu abstained at the voting.

The Act on Amendments to § 76 of the Strategic Goods Act and § 9 of the Surveillance Act (148 SE), initiated by the National Defence Committee, was passed with 84 votes in favour. The aim of the Act is to ensure the performance of the prescribed duties of the Strategic Goods Commission operating within the area of government of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An investigative body specified in the Surveillance Act is granted the right, if necessary (and with the written consent of the applicant for a special authorisation), to collect information concerning the applicant with activities provided in the Surveillance Act in order to decide the grant of the special permit related to strategic goods. This procedure is applied in the case when the Commission finds that the background or reliability of the applicant or information submitted by the applicant raise reasonable doubt, and if the alternative possibilities for verification thereof are exhausted. The Act enters into force on the day following its publication in the Riigi Teataja.

The Act on Amendments to the Employment Contracts Act and Associated Acts (129 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 51 votes in favour. The amendment of the Employment Contracts Act is due to the need to transpose the Temporary Agency Work Directive and the Parental Leave Directive, and to introduce relevant amendments into Estonian Acts. The amendments simplify the conclusion and extension of fixed-term contracts in the case of temporary agency work, enable employers more easily to extend fixed-term contracts or conclude them again in the case of a temporary agency work relationship, and provide equality of temporary agency workers working in several places and user undertakings’ workers, establishing the right of temporary agency workers to the same occupational health and safety, working time and rest period, and pay conditions. In addition, the same catering, transport and childcare services have to be guaranteed to them as are guaranteed to comparable user undertakings’ workers. 26 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act and one member of the Riigikogu abstained.

On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Mental Health Act (86 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the amendments is to provide the restrictions of the rights of patients who are in in-patient treatment at a psychiatric hospital. The aim of the restrictions is to create preconditions for ensuring that persons who are in in-patient psychiatric treatment do not hold substances or items which may harm their own or other persons’ health, security or inviolability of private life. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Cultural Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Universities Act, the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act and Other Acts (89 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. Significant amendments introduced by the Bill concern the Universities Act and the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act. The Bill also amends the Private Schools Act, the Administrative Cooperation Act, the Vocational Educational Institutions Act, the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act, the University of Tartu Act and the Research and Development Organisation Act. The major amendments concern the rights of students upon acquiring higher education financed from the state budget, and the financing of the instruction at higher education levels from the state budget. The aim of the Bill is to make the functioning of the higher education system fairer for students, to enhance the effectiveness of the instruction at higher education levels, to reduce the fragmentation of higher education, and to increase the responsibility of institutions of higher education in ensuring the quality of instruction. According to the Bill, in the future, activity support which as a general rule is no longer bound to the number of specific study places and graduates will be allocated from the state budget to institutions of higher education for carrying out instruction at higher education levels, and several other fundamental amendments are made. Also, private schools will have the possibility to apply for places of state-commissioned education for carrying out vocational training, and for activity support for carrying out instruction at higher education levels. In addition, the Bill provides cumulative calculation of credit points in every semester. Students who are on academic leave will have the right to attend lectures but not to take examinations and assessments. The prohibition on the completion of the study programme will not apply to persons with a moderate, severe or profound disability, the parents or guardians of a child under 3 years of age or a disabled child, and students who are on academic leave in connection with performance of their duty to serve in the Defence Forces. The Social Democratic Party Faction and the Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill; 38 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour and 49 voted against. Thus, the motion to suspend was not supported and the Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the National Audit Office Act and the Chancellor of Justice Act (151 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments provide elimination of the occupational pension of the Auditor General, the Director of Audit of the National Audit Office, the Chancellor of Justice and the Deputy Chancellor of Justice-Adviser during a transition period. The rights to special pension will be retained for those who, by the time of the entry into force of the Act, will have completed the required pension qualifying period, and for persons working at positions which grant the right to the pension who by that time will have completed at least 50% of the pensionable service required for receiving such pension. The Bill also provides indexing of these special pensions with the pension index, instead of the current procedure of recalculation on the basis of the salary. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Ratification of the Convention between the Republic of Estonia and the United Arab Emirates for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income (154 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. This Convention regulates the division of the taxation right between the contracting parties and provides avoidance of discriminatory taxation and the obligation to prevent fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. The Convention restricts the taxation right of a Contracting State, meaning that one Contracting State gives up a part of tax revenue in favour of the other Contracting State and vice versa. The provisions of the Convention create more favourable conditions for taxpayers as the Convention grants no new taxation rights. The Convention also contributes to the creation of additional possibilities for prevention of tax evasions. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act, the International Sanctions Act and the Estonian Central Register of Securities Act (157 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments specify the definitions used, extend the range of obligated subjects and explain their obligations upon application of diligence measures and performance of the notification obligation. The provisions regulating the independence and competence of the Financial Intelligence Unit are also amended. According to the amendments, in the future, the Act will also apply to undertakings engaging in buying up or wholesale trade in precious metals, articles of precious metal which have become unusable, and precious stones. The initiator stated that the Financial Intelligence Unit had noted, as of the second half of 2010, a trend of handling and also trading of used articles of precious metal (including broken gold items) and gold granules of unknown origin in large quantities in Estonia. According to the suspicions of the supervisory authorities, a part of them have been acquired as a result of crime or bought up through the intermediation of illegal buying up centres. In addition, in gold sale schemes, “cover enterprises” are used through which value added tax which, as a general rule, no one has ever paid is reclaimed from the state. Thus, because of known transactions of gold sale alone, the amount of value added tax not received by the state was no less than 10 million kroons last year. The obligated subjects within the meaning of the Act also include non-profit associations and foundations to which the Act applies in the case of transactions where payments are made in cash in an amount of EUR 15000 or more. In connection with that, non-profit associations and foundations will be obliged to apply diligence measures for identification of the person of the other party of such transactions and for preservation of relevant data. Also, suspicions of money laundering or terrorist financing will have to be reported to the Financial Intelligence Unit. In the text of the International Sanctions Act, the amounts denominated in kroons are corrected and set out in euro, and the issues of jurisdiction in administrative proceedings are specified. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

The Riigikogu Press Service

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