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Riigikogu

On Wednesday, the Riigikogu passed seven Acts, including among others the Act on Amendments to § 20 of the Medicinal Products Act (400 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, which ensures availability of medicinal products. 69 members of the Riigikogu supported the passing of the Act at the final vote.

The Act will ensure consistent availability of medicinal products for Estonian patients and will avoid situations where, due to uncoordinated export, medicinal products of major importance are not available in wholesale and in pharmacies in Estonia during an indeterminate period.

At the same time, the restriction on the export of medicinal products includes only exceptional situations where unexpected rapid changes have occurred in illnesses or in the marketing of the medicinal product as a result of which a risk of interruption of treatment of patients arises. Under the Act, the right to prohibit the export of a medicinal product is given to the State Agency of Medicines.

The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Courts Act and Other Associated Acts (570 SE), initiated by the Government, which changes the procedure for the assumption of office of the assistant judge and reforms the administrative organisation of court registers. In the future, assistant judges will perform service duties only in the maintenance of court registers and in the payment order department. They may not be assigned wider tasks related to the performance of the function of the administration of justice, such as the determination of procedural expenses. Advocates-General support the administration of justice in courts. At the final vote, 52 members of the Riigikogu supported the passing of the Act and nine were against.

The Riigikogu passed with 65 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Land Tax Act and the Act on Amendments to the Land Tax Act Exempting Home Owners from Land Tax and Amendments to the Land Tax Act and the Income Tax Act (558 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act provides for the procedure for the calculation of land tax payable on state lands which have not undergone the land reform, and specifies which lands are exempt from tax as publicly owned land. The Act also provides for the requirement of local governments to submit the basic data necessary for calculating land tax to the Tax and Customs Board through the land tax information system starting from 2017. During the debate, Tarmo Mänd took the floor on behalf of the Estonian Reform Party Faction.

The Riigikogu passed with 68 votes in favour (1 abstention) the Act on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (637 SE), initiated by the Government, which provides for the use of an electronic accompanying document upon transport of excise goods in Estonia in the case when excise goods are dispatched from an excise warehouse. The electronic management system for national accompanying documents of excise goods allows for the submission of an electronic application for reimbursement of excise duty, the submission of the accompanying document of excise goods subject to excise duty dispatched to another Member State, and the pre-completion of excise reports according to the data of accompanying documents. The implementation of the electronic system will simplify the preparation and submission of accompanying documents and reports, reduce paper waste, and allow for better monitoring of the movement of excise goods for fiscal control purposes. In addition, the Act specifies the rules for the measurement of excise goods.

The Riigikogu passed with 71 votes in favour the Maritime Labour Act (552 SE), initiated by the Government, which regulates the relations that are created between shipowners and crew members on the basis of seafarers’ employment agreements. The Maritime Labour Act will lead to changes in the rights and responsibilities of crew members and shipowners. The biggest changes are connected with seafarers’ employment agreements, the responsibilities of a shipowner in the case of temporary incapacity for work of a crew member, hours of work and rest, the organisation of repatriation, the living quarters and rest areas aboard ships, employment mediation of crew members, and supervision of the working and living conditions of crew members.

The Riigikogu passed with 72 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Universities Act, the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act and the Research and Development Organisation Act (625 SE), initiated by the Government, which eliminates the specifications in employment relationships in the Employment Contracts Act and in the special Acts specifying the regulation of the employment relationships of academic staff. It will give both parties of an employment relationship an opportunity to develop employment relationships on the basis of the actual character of the work and to take into account the interests and needs of both parties. Application of the regulation of the Employment Contracts Act to full extent to the employment contacts concluded with academic staff will increase the security of employees in regard to the stability of the employment relationship.

The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Family Law Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (546 SE), initiated by the Government, the aim of which is to solve the implementation problems that have appeared during the first three years that the Family Law Act has been in force, and to explain several provisions in the interests of better intelligibility and correct interpretation. The Act extends the protection of shared housing, meaning that, in the future, the protection of the housing of the family will not depend on whether the property forms part of the joint property or separate property of the spouses. The Act also specifies the order of persons entitled to receive maintenance and persons required to provide maintenance, and the regulation concerning the substitution obligation which arises within the framework of the obligation to provide maintenance. An amendment provides more clearly the possibility of a court to specify the procedure for access to the child if this is in the interests of the child, besides the restriction of the right of access and the prohibition of access. Also, the wording is specified, to clearly set out that an adopted child who has become an adult has the right to obtain information from the county government concerning the fact of his or her adoption also without the consent of the adoptive parent. An adopted child who has become an adult also has the right to obtain, without the consent of the adoptive parent, information from the county government concerning his or her biological parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters if the abovementioned persons have granted consent for disclosure of the corresponding information. At the final vote, 57 members of the Riigikogu supported the passing of the Act, two were against and two abstained.

Ten Bills passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:

The Bill on Amendments to the Veterinary Supervision over Trade in Animals and Animal Products and the Import and Export thereof Act and Other Associated Acts (655 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill brings the Veterinary Supervision over Trade in Animals and Animal Products and the Import and Export thereof Act into conformity with the General Part of the Economic Activities Code Act and the Maintenance of Law and Order Act which will enter into force on 1 July 2014. An amendment provides that the current requirement of approval of free zones, free warehouses and customs warehouses intended for storing non-conforming animal products, and of establishments supplying vessels engaged in international transport operations outside of the EU territorial waters with non-conforming foodstuffs of animal origin will be replaced by an authorisation obligation. According to an amendment, an undertaking must have an activity licence according to either the Infectious Animal Disease Control Act or the Food Act. An amendment sets the the exercise of state supervision apart from the check conducted in the course of administrative proceedings. The Bill brings out more clearly that the Veterinary and Food Board checks the conformity of the food imported. The wording is also brought in line with the terms used in the Food Act as amended by the Act on Amendments to and Implementation of the Maintenance of Law and Order Act, passed on 19 February 2014.

The Bill on Amendments to the State Family Benefits Act and Amendments to Other Associated Act (669 SE), initiated by the Government. According to the Bill, the universal child allowance will increase for all children in a family. As of next year, the state will begin to pay a benefit in an amount of 45 euro, instead of the current 19.18 euro, for all first and second children of families. At the same time, the benefit for the third child will rise to 100 euro per month, and needs-based family benefits will increase to 45 euro per month. Child allowance will be established as a fixed amount and it will no longer be connected with the child allowance rate. Child allowance is a monthly allowance paid from the birth of child until he or she attains 16 years of age. If the child continues studies, the payment of child allowance is continued until the child attains 19 years of age. In order to improve the subsistence of families, upon the grant of subsistence benefits, the equivalence scale for children will be equalised with that for the first member of the household, which means that the subsistence benefit paid to families with children will increase. The needs-based family benefit paid to families with children with low income will also be increased.

During the debate, Laine Randjärv took the floor on behalf of the Estonian Reform Party, and Liisa-Ly Pakosta on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction. Heljo Pikhof took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, and Mailis Reps on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction. Siim Kiisler also took the floor during the debate.

The Bill on Amendments to the Gambling Tax Act and the Taxation Act (653 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill changes the regulation concerning the objects and rates of taxation established by the Gambling Tax Act. In addition, the due date for the submission of gambling tax returns and the payment of gambling tax on gaming tables and gaming machines used for the organisation of games of chance is established on the same bases as in the case of other types of gambling. The aims of the amendments are more equal treatment of gambling operators, the creation of fair competition and the promotion of enterprise in the field of gambling.

The Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (643 SE), initiated by the Government. The aim of the Bill is to organise the rules of tax exemption for the compensation paid for service or employment related use of a personal automobile, and to increase the limit of the compensation exempt from tax. As a result of a discussion of cooperation partners, in the future, the reimbursement for the use of an automobile in personal ownership in the performance of official duties will be raised from the earlier 256 euro to 335 euro per month. It will be possible to pay it exempt from tax in the amount of 0.3 euro/km only on the basis of records. According to an amendment, in the future, it will no longer be possible to pay the current amount of 64 euro per month exempt from tax without keeping records.

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and Other Associated Acts (554 SE), initiated by the Government, which had been suspended on 21 May on the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu because of numerous motions to amend. The aim of the amendment of the Penal Code and other associated Acts is to reduce the number of punishable offences and to eliminate overcriminalization.

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure and Other Associated Acts (578 SE), initiated by the Government, which had been suspended on 4 June on the motion of the Social Democratic Party Faction. The main purpose of the Bill is to amend and organise the regulation concerning international cooperation in criminal procedure in the Code of Criminal Procedure. The need for the amendment is due to the problems that have emerged in the practice of international cooperation, as well as the obligation related to European Union membership to transpose the legislation approved in the European Union into Estonian legislation. The Bill is also aimed at solving several other problems that have arisen in practice in implementing the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Punishment Register Act, the State Fees Act and the State Legal Aid Act.

The Bill on Amendments to the Fishing Act (620 SE), initiated by the Government, which regulates the verification of the engine power of fishing vessels. The Bill concerns the allocation of fishing opportunities, the transfer of the historical fishing rights of permanently inhabited small islands, and the technical possibilities for submitting data. The Act is amended by adding implementing provisions concerning the verification of the engine power of fishing vessels, arising from the relevant EU Regulation. According to an EU Regulation, Member States are required to enhance the surveillance of their fishing vessels and to certify the propulsion engine power of certain fishing vessels. The requirement concerns fishing vessels whose propulsion engine power exceeds 120 kW and which are entered in the register, and those on which a new propulsion engine is installed or the existing one is modified. In Estonia, there are in total less than 50 such vessels in which such operations on the propulsion engine are possible. Also, fishing opportunities based on the fishing authorisations of fishermen, by sea areas, are established. According to the Bill, it will be possible to fish according to the actual state of the stocks, and to determine more precisely the locations where fishing gear is set.

The Bill on Amendments to the Waste Act (661 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill introduces into the Waste Act the regulation relating to waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) falling within the scope of producer responsibility. The Bill changes the definitions relating to WEEE and specifies the conditions for the export of used electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and the sending of WEEE to re-use.

The Bill on Amendments to the Spatial Information Act (652 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill amends the Act in order to ensure compliance of Estonian law with European Union law which in turn will contribute to the establishment of a European Infrastructure for Spatial Information. It will facilitate the sharing of spatial data sets and services between holders of information both nationally and more widely in Europe. The relevant EU directive establishes an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE). Spatial data are, for example, buildings displayed on maps, roads, and water bodies, as well as address details, geodetic points, cadastral parcels, etc.

The Bill on Amendments to the Waste Act (455 SE), initiated by Inara Luigas, Kalle Laanet, Lembit Kaljuvee and Rainer Vakra. The Bill provides an amendment of three sections of the current Act to the effect that waste would be transported to the intended destination as directly as possible. This is intended to ensure the optimality of the organisation of waste management.

 

Rainer Vakra, Viktor Vassiljev, Aivar Riisalu and Mihhail Stalnuhhin took the floor during the debate. Valeri Korb took the floor on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction. The Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The motion was not supported at the voting (46 against, 18 in favour).

Seven Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:

The Bill on Amendments to the Roads Act (681 SE), initiated by the Government, which proposes that the financing of road management will be separated from the proceeds from fuel excise duty, and clarifies the wording concerning the distribution of the funds for road management. The aim is to allow for more flexible and purposeful planning of the state budget. During the debate, Tarmo Tamm took the floor on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction, and Toomas Tõniste on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction. The parties moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The motion was not supported at the voting (49 against, 29 in favour). The deadline for motions to amend the Bill is 12 June.

The Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act (687 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu. The Bill clarifies the financing of the digital data exchange platform and the database of certificates of origin for electricity, to be implemented in the electricity market. Through the data exchange platform, data exchange will take place in the electricity market, allowing for the changing of an open supplier, forwarding of metering data, and fulfilment of the obligations imposed on market participants by law, and ensuring the rights granted to them. The guarantee of origin of electricity and the database for the administration of the guarantees were established with the transposition of the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC). It established the obligation of transmission system operators to issue a guarantee of origin for electricity produced from renewable energy sources. In order to join the trading system which allows for international transactions, the requirements for the acts performed with the guarantees of origin need to be specified in the Electricity Market Act. The amendments regarding the guarantees of origin will also enable transmission system operators to join the international trading system. The deadline for motions to amend the Bill is 17 June.

The Bill on Amendments to the Maritime Safety Act (646 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Deniss Boroditsh, Kalle Laanet, Arto Aas, Lauri Luik, Rainer Vakra, Lembit Kaljuvee, Rannar Vassiljev, Aivar Riisalu, Lauri Laasi, Vladimir Velman, Olga Sõtnik, Peeter Laurson, Kalev Lillo, Remo Holsmer, Inara Luigas and Valeri Korb. The aim of the Bill is to ensure legal clarity in the calculation of the waterway due for vessels engaged in regular service in a situation where a vessel engaged in regular service is replaced with a replacement vessel. The Bill will preclude the possibility that the obligated person will have to pay a double waterway due upon the replacement of a vessel engaged in regular service. The deadline for motions to amend the Bill is 12 June.

The Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act and the Fiscal Marking of Liquid Fuel Act (682 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill raises the excise duty rates for alcohol and tobacco products; establishes the excise duty exemption for biogas; increases the excise duty rate for natural gas by 20% in 2015, 2016 and 2017; specifies the creation of the tax liability of electricity producers with a capacity below 100 kW who are connected to the system (residential customers and apartment associations); allows for fuel to be used as heating fuel in the fuel production process without paying excise duty; repeals the excise duty exemption for fuel used in fisheries; and, as light heating oil will no longer be subject to fiscal marking, the excise duty rate for light heating oil will be raised to the same level as the excise duty rate for diesel fuel. The major amendments to the Fiscal Marking of Liquid Fuel Act are the following: the right to use the liquid fuel marked with a fiscal marker in the carriage of passengers and goods by rail, in shipping traffic (except in commercial fishing), and for the production of heat and electric power is repealed; light heating oil will no longer be subject to fiscal marking. This means that, when the Act enters into force, only one fuel will be marked with a fiscal marking – diesel fuel for specific purposes.

During the debate, Sven Sester took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, and Kadri Simson on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction. The parties moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The motion was not supported at the voting (52 against, 29 in favour). The deadline for motions to amend the Bill is 17 June.

The Bill on Amendments to the Taxation Act and the Value Added Tax Act (680 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill reduces the administrative burden of the Tax and Customs Board, and the financial risk of the state relating to the verification of claims for refund. In the Taxation Act, the initial deadline for the verification of claims for refund is extended from the current 30 calendar days to 60 calendar days. A possible longer period for verification will apply to all claims for refund, including the refunding of overpaid amounts of value added tax. The maximum period for the verification of the claims for refund of overpaid VAT amounts will be shortened so that the total length of the period (120 calendar days in total together with the initial deadline) will remain the same. The bases for the risk analysis of the Tax and Customs Board upon the verification of claims for refund will not be changed. After the implementation of the amendments, a tax authority will continue the practice of fulfilling 95% of claims for refund of overpaid VAT amounts within up to four working days. The amendment concerns in particular the undertakings who submit claims for refund that need further inspection. If a claim for refund is fulfilled within 60 calendar days, interest will not be calculated for the benefit of the taxable person. According to the Bill, the Tax and Customs Board will publish on its website the amounts of state taxes, funded pension contributions and unemployment insurance premiums paid by taxable persons (except natural persons), and separately also the amount of taxes on labour force. The Bill provides that, in general, the tax auditor need not prepare an audit report if no facts altering the tax liability are discovered as a result of the tax audit. A tax authority will prepare an audit report at the request of a taxable person. According to the Bill, as of the opening of a succession, interest will not be calculated on tax arrears relating to the estate. The calculation of interest is terminated on the day of the death of the bequeather. The deadline for motions to amend the Bill is 16 June.

The Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act, the Social Tax Act and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia Act (683 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill organises the principles and procedure for drawing up the list of non-profit associations, foundations and religious associations benefiting from income tax incentives. It also resolves some issues and problems that have arisen in the implementation of the Income Tax Act. Certain amendments are necessary in connection with new formats of the tax return that are planned to be established as of 2015. The Bill increases the rate of basic exemption, defines the concept of grant, and specifies when, to whom and in which amount a grant may be awarded. The Cultural Endowment of Estonia Act is also amended with a view to ensuring that grants awarded by the Cultural Endowment are exempt from income tax. In addition, the Bill provides for the power of the supervisory board of the Cultural Endowment to approve the bases for the payment of the awards and grants awarded by the Cultural Endowment.

 

During the debate, Helir-Valdor Seeder took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, and Tarmo Tamm on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction, Inara Luigas on behalf of the Social Democratic Party, and Aivar Sõerd on behalf of the Estonian Reform Party. The deadline for motions to amend is 16 June.

The Local Government Organisation Reform Bill (647 SE), initiated by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction. The Bill provides for the bases and procedure and the deadlines for carrying out the local government organisation reform, and the list of attraction centres. The Bill provides the legal basis necessary for carrying out the local government organisation reform which includes an obligation of the relevant ministries to analyse the need to make further amendments to the relevant Acts. Amendments to the Acts concerning this field will have to be submitted to the Government by 31 January 2016 at the latest.

During the debate, Neeme Suur took the floor as the representative of the Social Democratic Party Faction, Heimar Lenk as the representative of the Estonian Centre Party Faction, Jaak Aaviksoo on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, and Kalev Lillo on behalf of the Estonian Reform Party. The deadline for motions to amend is 27 June. 

The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian).

The sitting ended at 2.59 a.m.

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