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The Riigikogu passed with 48 votes in favour the Act on Accession to the Protocol of 1996 to Amend the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976 (853 SE), initiated by the Government. The Protocol updates insurance limits. The limits provided in the Convention, which were established in 1976, no longer ensure sufficient protection to the injured party in the case of claims provided in the document which enable limitation of damage. A ship may carry several insurance certificates but the European Union directive requires obligatory insurance of liability on the basis of the limits set out in the 1996 Protocol.
 
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of four Bills:
 
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Churches and Congregations Act (884 SE), initiated by the Government, is to resolve the problems which have emerged upon implementation of the Churches and Congregations Act, mostly in changing the information entered in the register of religious associations, and to ensure fulfilment of the Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and the Holy See which entered into force in 1999. The Agreement regulates the judicial status of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Estonia.
 
The Bill on Amendments to the Law of Obligations Act, the Social Tax Act and the Non-profit Associations Act (881 SE), initiated by the Government, transposes into national law the new timeshare directive of the European Union. The amendments involved in the transposition are first of all directed to improving consumer protection as regards timeshare. The Bill also specifies some provisions of the Social Tax Act and the Non-profit Associations Act.
 
The Bill on Amendments to the Funded Pensions Act and Other Associated Acts (870 SE), initiated by the Government, establishes more specific and stricter limitations on investments in conservative pension funds as regards both instruments and ratings. It also amends the requirements for management companies and the procedure for reporting related to pension funds and for disclosure. The aim is to increase the transparency of the activities of the funds and to make them more understandable to unit-holders. The flexibility of the rules of exchanging the units and redirecting the contributions of mandatory pension funds is increased. Also, it will be possible to exchange units three times a year instead of the current possibility to exchange units once a year.
 
The Bill on Amendments to § 39 of the Medicinal Products Act (872 SE), initiated by the Government, specifies the purpose and content of the register of activity licences for handling of medicinal products and the obligation to communicate data to the register. The amendments will enable to take into use a new information technology system in order to maintain records concerning holders of an activity licence for handling of medicinal products and their professional activities and concerning exercise of supervision related to the handling of medicinal products in order to obtain data for the performance of the functions of managing and organising the medicinal product policy and for keeping statistics on the handling of medicinal products.
 
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of nine Bills:
 
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act (879 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, is to facilitate the accepting of short-term jobs by enabling people to apply for repeated unemployment insurance benefit more flexibly. The Bill changes the procedure for the implementation of the waiting period upon payment of the unemployment allowance and the unemployment insurance benefit. Upon repeated loss of a job, payment of the allowance will no longer be preceded by a waiting period of seven or sixty days, which means that calculation of both the unemployment allowance and the unemployment insurance benefit will start as of the day of submission of the application if a person loses a job again after a short-term employment. The Bill extends the opportunities to communicate by means of telecommunications instead of appearing to a visit at the unemployment insurance office.
 
The Bill on Ratification of the Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government on the Right to Participate in the Affairs of a Local Authority (908 SE), initiated by the Government. The Additional Protocol provides the obligations of signatories to secure to everyone the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority which includes at least the right of nationals to participate, as voters or candidates, in the election of members of the council or assembly of the local authority in which they reside.
 
The Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act (900 SE), initiated by the Government, transposes into national law the directive of the Council of the European Union on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment. The directive establishes the European Union Blue Card system which allows to engage in highly qualified employment and to move to a second Member State for the same purposes. In addition, the directive creates more favourable conditions for family reunification for family members of highly qualified third-country workers.
 
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act (901 SE), initiated by the Government, is to establish a uniform procedure upon appeal against the decision to refuse, annul or revoke a visa, to refuse to extend the period of stay or to terminate the stay prematurely. Pursuant to the Visa Code, Member States have to ensure aliens the possibility to appeal against the decision to refuse, annul or revoke a visa. The Bill brings national law into conformity with the long-stay visa Regulation as regards the period of validity of long-stay visas and the freedom of movement with a long-stay visa.
 
The Bill on Amendments to the Public Health Act and Associated Acts (906 SE), initiated by the Government, establishes in the Public Health Act a separate chapter concerning databases related to population health which provides the legal bases for the information system of a cancer register, a medical birth register, a myocardial infarction register, a tuberculosis register and water safety.
 
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act (904 SE), initiated by the Government, is to eliminate deficiencies and the inaccuracies which have become apparent in practice. The Bill provides the possibility to continue studies in the Master’s study also to young people who are using the substitute home service who have completed the Bachelor’s study, similarly to other young people who are being raised by and maintained by their parents. Completion of the Master’s study will grant a young person who has been raised at a substitute home increased competitiveness in the labour market which is a precondition for better subsistence in the later independent life.
 
The Spatial Information Bill (890 SE), initiated by the Government, provides the requirements concerning spatial data sets and services for making them available and sharing them, the conditions of management of the geodetic system and the address data system and of collection and granting use of topographic data, organisation of the coordination of the development of the infrastructure for spatial information and of reporting, state supervision of establishment of geographical addresses and the liability for violation of the requirements for protection of a geodetic mark.
 
The Bill on Amendments to the Water Act and Other Associated Acts (905 SE), initiated by the Government, transposes the relevant European Union Directives concerning maintaining of good environmental status of marine areas, ship-source pollution and the introduction of penalties for ship-source pollution offences.
The Bill also changes the person processing the application for a permit for the special use of water submitted for construction of structures permanently attached to the shore in public bodies of water, as provided by the Building Act.
 
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of “The Estonian Forestry Development Plan until 2020”” (909 OE), submitted by the Government. The development plan is prepared on the basis of the Forest Act and the Sustainable Development Act. According to section 7 of the Forest Act, a forest management plan is prepared for every ten years for directing forestry. The development plan sets out the objectives of the development of forestry and describes the measures and means necessary for achieving them.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the Bill on Amendments to § 15 of the Value Added Tax Act (846 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction, was rejected at the first reading. The result of voting: 45 votes in favour, 20 votes against, 3 abstentions.
 
At Question Time, the Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas in the capacity of Prime Minister answered the question about Estonian science on the global science scene, submitted by Peeter Tulviste.
 
The Minister of the Environment Jaanus Tamkivi answered the question about the environmental planning, submitted by Rein Ratas, and the question about the action plan for the protection of the Baltic Sea, submitted by Maret Merisaar.
 
The Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder answered the question about Estonia’s relation to the European Union fisheries reform, submitted by Mark Soosaar, the question about the situation of rural life, submitted by Arvo Sarapuu, and the question about the sustainability of Estonian agriculture, submitted by Georg Pelisaar.
 
The Riigikogu Press Service
 
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