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The Riigikogu passed with 70 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Riigikogu Election Act and Other Acts (186 SE), initiated by the Government. The amendments specify the organisation of electronic voting in elections. As major amendments, the Act provides the formation of a separate electronic voting committee, the period for electronic voting and the advance polls in polling divisions will be equal, the auditing of the e-voting system is provided at the level of an Act and a voter will be given the opportunity to check if the electronic vote given by him or her is correctly forwarded to the system (to be implemented as of 2015). The Act also provides the competence of the National Electoral Committee in the event of suspension or termination of or failure to commence electronic voting. 19 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act.

The Act on Amendments to the Emergency Act (204 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 83 votes in favour. The aim of the Act is to ensure the consistent functioning of vital services in a situation where the information systems ensuring the service which are located in foreign countries do not function and/or the electronic communications service with foreign countries has been interrupted. Services which are necessary for the organisation of vital social acts, health care, security, safety and the economic and social welfare of people are considered to be vital services. “Foreign countries” is taken to mean all other countries, including European Union countries. This Act enters into force on 1 January 2013. The provision requiring that those providers of a vital service whose information systems ensuring the functioning of the service are located in a foreign state ensure the consistent functioning of the vital service in a manner and by means which are not dependent on information systems located in foreign countries enters into force on 1 January 2014.

The Riigikogu ratified with 70 votes in favour the Agreement Establishing the International Fund for Agricultural Development (262 SE). The objective of the Fund is to finance agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries, that is, to mobilize additional resources to be made available on concessional terms for agricultural development in developing Member States. In fulfilling this objective the Fund shall provide financing primarily for projects and programmes specifically designed to introduce, expand or improve food production systems and to strengthen related policies and institutions within the framework of national priorities and strategies. In fulfilling its objectives the Fund takes into consideration: the need to increase food production in the poorest food deficit countries; the potential for increasing food production in other developing countries; and the importance of improving the nutritional level of the poorest populations in developing countries and the conditions of their lives.

The Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (249 SE) was ratified with 63 votes in favour. Under the Treaty, the Contracting Parties undertake to foster the budgetary discipline of their states, to strengthen the coordination of the economic policies of Member States and to improve the governance of the euro area. Also, Member States must prevent a general government deficit becoming excessive. The European Commission is assigned with the task of monitoring the balance of the general government and the general government debt of Member States. The calculation will be based on the ratio of the general government deficit to gross domestic product with the reference value of 3% and the ratio of the general government debt to gross domestic product with the reference value of 60% of GDP. The Treaty also provides that, where a Contracting Party considers that another Contracting Party is in breach of the fiscal compact, it may bring the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union. If the Court of Justice finds that the Contracting Party concerned has not complied with its judgment, it may impose on it a lump sum or a penalty payment appropriate in the circumstances and that shall not exceed 0.1 % of its gross domestic product. The amounts imposed on a Contracting Party whose currency is the euro shall be payable to the European Stability Mechanism. The amounts imposed on the other Contracting Parties will be paid to the general budget of the European Union.

On the motion of the Environment Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Fishing Act (255 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to bring the Fishing Act into conformity with European Union law. It also increases the flexibility of the possibilities to establish the allowable annual catch allocated to the Republic of Estonia on Lake Peipus, Lake Lämmijärv, Lake Pskov, and the Government is granted the right to establish the allowable annual catch of a fish species by half-years, if necessary. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Commercial Code and Other Associated Acts (258 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments create preconditions for implementation of the new processing software of the commercial register. Amendments are made in the provisions regulating the register maintained on paper which will be adjusted to align with the electronic register. The Bill creates a possibility for registration departments to also process petitions for an entry from other registration departments and to thereby level out the workload of registration departments. Also, the fine rate will be reduced from 320 euro to 200 euro because, in the opinion of the initiator, the current fine rate is unreasonably high for smaller companies and non-profit organisations. The amendments concerning the land register will eliminate the restriction according to which a land registry department may maintain a land register only concerning the registered immovables located in its territorial jurisdiction. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Marital Property Register Act, the Notary Fees Act and the Civil Status Acts Act (219 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to create preconditions for transition to an electronic marital property register, implementation of electronic registry cards and files, and simplifying viewing the data entered in the marital property register. To fulfil this aim, the processing software for marital property register was created on the initiative of the Centre of Registers and Information Systems in November 2011 which, as a tool of land registry departments, is the first step towards the electronic marital property register. The Bill was sent to the third reading.

On the motion of the Rural Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act and Other Associated Acts (288 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. According to the Bill, the Animal Protection Act will be brought into conformity with European Union law with the aim of reinforcing the protection of experimental animals used for scientific or educational purposes and reducing the suffering of animals before slaughter in the meat industry by improving the state of the art of the meat industry, and harmonising the conditions of competition for them at European level. The Bill specifies the requirements for the religious slaughter of animals which affects religious associations who carry out the slaughtering of animals for their members according to the religious tradition. According to the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there are two religious communities in Estonia whose religious beliefs prohibit eating the meat of the animals slaughtered in the ordinary manner. They are the Islamic Congregation of Estonia with an estimated membership of around 4000, and the Estonian Jewish Center with an estimated membership of 2000. In addition, the Bill amends the Farm Animals Breeding Act, the Veterinary Supervision over Trade in Animals and Animal Products and the Import and Export Thereof Act and the Infectious Animal Disease Control Act. 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 Courts Act (281 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendment provides the establishment of the institution of the advocate-general with the aim to raise the qualification of the court officials assisting judges in the preparation of cases and thereby to raise the quality of work of courts, and to improve court procedures. The advocate-general is a court official with higher qualifications who participates in the preparation of cases for proceedings and, in the cases provided for in the Codes concerning procedures, may perform procedural acts independently or under the supervision of the judge supervising him or her. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Bar Association Act and Other Associated Acts (273 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. In view of the continuing growth of the number of membership of the Bar Association and the situation where the members of the Estonian Bar Association now outnumber the total number of Estonian judges, prosecutors, notaries, bailiffs and trustees in bankruptcy, the Bill aims to amend the Bar Association Act in regard to the organisational structure of the Bar Association so that it would better meet the changed needs, take into account the further development of the organisation and allow for relevant and timely action. At the same time, an enhanced cooperation of advocates and managers of law offices in the realisation of common interests and goals is needed. According to the Bill, the current three-grade structure of the Bar Association will be replaced by a two-grade structure and the status of the clerk of an advocate will be eliminated. The initiator is of the opinion that as there is no great difference any more between the competence of the senior clerk of sworn advocate and the clerk of sworn advocate, the three-grade membership pattern has no practical importance in the professional activities of advocates, and when the Bill enters into force, clerks of sworn advocates and sworn advocates will be members of the Bar Association. The members of the Bar Association acting as senior clerks of sworn advocates at present will have to pass the examination of a sworn advocate within five years as of the entry into force of this Act. If they fail to pass the examination of sworn advocate, they will become clerks of sworn advocates. The Bill was sent to the second reading.

The Riigikogu Press Service

 

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