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The Riigikogu passed three Acts

The Act on Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure and Other Associated Acts (578 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 64 votes in favour. It amends and organises 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 Act also solves 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 Act 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, was passed with 80 votes in favour. It 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. 

As compared to the current procedure, the Act will reduce the administrative burden of the undertakings who wish to store non-conforming animal products in a free zone, free warehouse or customs warehouse, or supply vessels engaged in international transport operations outside of EU territorial waters with non-conforming foodstuffs of animal origin. According to the current procedure, in order to store non-conforming animal products in a free zone, free warehouse or customs warehouse, or supply vessels engaged in international transport operations outside of EU territorial waters with non-conforming foodstuffs of animal origin, an undertaking needed a double approval, first pursuant to the Food Act or the Infectious Animal Disease Control Act, and then pursuant to the Veterinary Supervision over Trade in Animals and Animal Products and the Import and Export thereof Act. As a result of the amendments made by the Act, the double requirement of an activity licence will be neither necessary nor justified. All necessary data will be submitted to the Veterinary and Food Board, which will increase the administrative burden for one time when the Act enters into force, because guidelines, minutes and application forms will need to be reformulated. 

The Act on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the United States of America to Improve International Tax Compliance and to Implement FATCA (673 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 82 votes in favour. The Agreement is based on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of the United States which aims to collect information on U.S. taxpayers and to prevent tax evasion. According to the Agreement, the Tax and Customs Board will annually report information to the U.S. For the implementation of the Agreement, the Ministry of Finance will develop an Act regulating international administrative cooperation in tax matters. Financial institutions of the countries who conclude the Agreement will be treated as complying with the requirements of the Act. The U.S. may apply the withholding 30 percent of any U.S. source payment in the case of financial institutions of the countries who have not concluded the Agreement. All European Union Member States are planning to conclude such an Agreement. A similar exchange of data is also planned within the framework of the OECD and the EU in a longer-term perspective. 

At the deliberation of the matter of significant national importance “Estonian candidate for the European Commission”, reports were by the Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Arto Aas, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and candidate for the European Commission Andrus Ansip

Aas gave an overview of the discussions that have been conducted in the Riigikogu so far on the issue of European Commissioner candidates. He explained that it was a widespread practice in the European Union that the national governments and not the parliaments chose the candidate for the Commission. “This should avoid a possible institutional conflict between the European Parliament and national parliaments. The decision making process of the government is also generally quicker and more flexible,” Aas explained. In his words, the European Union Affairs Committee had decided to bring the topic to the plenary sitting this time. “Following the relevant decision by the cabinet, a meeting with Andrus Ansip was held in the European Union Affairs Committee on 6 June. The meeting was productive and fruitful in every aspect,” Aas said. 

Rõivas emphasised that a European Commissioner is one of the most powerful official positions for which Estonia can propose its candidate. “Under the law, the duty and the competence of designating a candidate lies with the government, but I am very happy that the parliament has taken the initiative and is using this opportunity to generate a debate on European issues,” Rõivas said. He added that although the government would designate a candidate, it would not give them any authorisations or any other guidelines. The rules also deny this possibility to the Riigikogu, before as well as after the appointment to office. “A Commissioner must be independent from external pressure and serve the interests of Europe as a whole, which also includes Estonia,” Rõivas said. He shared his thoughts on what he would expect from the new leaders of the European institutions in his capacity as Prime Minister. “My first wish is that the Member States as well as the European Union stay on the course of structural reforms. The political orientation towards the stability of the Eurozone must continue, and the Commission must not show an ounce of tolerance for breach of budget rules,” Rõivas said. He said that the Commission should continue linking European energy, communication and transport systems and relevant markets. In order to restore the economic growth, both the services market and the digital market must be opened up and developed. A common trans-Atlantic economic space must also be created between Europe and America. And, finally, it is not possible to by-pass the issue of security. “New European leaders must draw adequate conclusions from the crises on the other side of the Southern and Eastern borders of Europe,” Rõivas stressed. 

Ansip explained that if he should be entrusted with the position of a member of the Commission, he hopes to contribute towards making sure that the decisions of the Commission strengthen the internal and the external security of the European Union. He sees three main directions of work. “The first is guaranteeing the energy independence of the European Union. Secondly, democratic development trends and increased wellbeing should be supported in our neighbourhood. Thirdly, economy and common market must be strengthened. Economic standstill, unemployment and hopelessness prepare the ground for the spreading of extremist views. We have by far not yet taken full advantage of all the opportunities offered by the common market in a way which would give a stronger push towards economic development and creation of jobs,” Ansip said. He added that developing the common digital market was the first priority here. It is also important to create a cross-border infrastructure which would allow the potential of the common market to be used and free trade agreements to be concluded with the major trading partners of the European Union, Ansip explained. 

Ansip answered numerous questions which were raised in the course of the discussion by representatives of all the factions. 

Arto Aas, Karel Rüütli, Ester Tuiksoo and Tiit Tammsaar took the floor during the debate. 

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of two Bills: 

The Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (654 SE), initiated by the Government, increases the flexibility of the formation of the Government cabinet and the distribution of areas of responsibility between ministers. The competence of a minister as the head of a ministry, and the areas of responsibility of ministers are determined by the Prime Minister by an order. The order is communicated at a sitting of the Government. The order of the Prime Minister remains in force until it is amended or until the expiry of the term of office of the Government of the Republic. The President of the Republic may, on the proposal of the Prime Minister, appoint to office ministers who do not direct ministries and whose functions are determined by the Prime Minister by an order which is communicated at a sitting of the Government of the Republic. Expenses of these ministers are covered from separate funds allocated for such purpose in the budget of the Government Office. The Government will not comprise more than 15 members.

On the proposal of the Constitutional Committee, two Bills had been consolidated: the Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (654 SE), initiated by the Government on 21 April, and the Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act, the Public Service Act, the State Public Servants Official Titles and Salary Scale Act and the Authorised Public Accountants Act (109 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor, Kalev Kotkas, Kalvi Kõva and Sven Mikser on 12 October 2011. The main aim of the Bill 109 SE is to eliminate the position of assistant minister. The Bill (654 SE) incidentally carries the same aim. The Bill provides that the Act will enter into force on 1 July 2014. 

Jaak Aaviksoo took the floor during the debate. 

The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The result of voting: 6 votes in favour, 34 against. The motion was not supported. 

The Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Election Act and Other Acts (617 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, specifies the procedure for conducting the voting in the elections of the Riigikogu, local government councils and the European Parliament, and in referendums. According to an amendment made on the proposal of the Constitutional Committee, a person who wishes to stand as a candidate in the elections to the Riigikogu or the European Parliament, or local government councils, would have to submit information also on his or her education to the electoral committee in an application to stand as a candidate. The Committee had found that the education of the candidate may influence the choice of the voter, and therefore the candidate should set out this information in the application to stand as a candidate. Three amendments concerning technical norms were also introduced into the Bill. 

The Riigikogu Press Service 

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