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Today, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip gave an overview of the situation of research and development activities and the Government’s policy in this sphere to the Riigikogu. In Ansip’s words, in the years of economic crisis, the Government has set as its goal the increase of the reliability of the economic environment and it has paid special attention to the spheres which enhance productivity and competitiveness. “Estonia’s state budget contribution to education and economy clearly exceeds the average of OECD states. The ratio between public sector investments and GDP is one of the highest in Europe. The fact that, with the limited budget opportunities, the state budget investments for the first time exceed the limit of 1 billion euro in 2010, is eloquent,” said Ansip. The Prime Minister continued by saying that, in 2008, education expenses had constituted 6.7% of our gross domestic product and this indicator had been higher only in three countries among the 27 European Union countries, namely, Cyprus, Denmark and Sweden. The financing of research and development in proportion to GDP grew by 13 per cent points in the year of the deepest crisis, rising to 1.42 per cent of GDP.

Ansip stated that the competitiveness of our researchers is growing constantly. The number of high quality publications has doubled in five years and Estonian researchers have been successful in participating in the European Union 7th Framework Programme. Estonia has achieved the 13th place in the European innovation ranking and for the first time it belongs to the group immediately following the group of innovation leaders, thus being better than EU average.
Ansip stressed: “In Estonian education as well as in science we have to pay significantly more attention to the efficiency of the use of funds. The same applies to the supporting of enterprises.” “In certain fields, research institutions and universities are in trouble making maximum use of new facilities and laboratories. In order to develop research and development centres who would have success in Europe, we have to focus more on strategic objectives when preparing new long-term financing plans and avoid excessive investment,” noted Ansip.
Ansip informed that the Government had taken a big step towards identification of the main targets in the preparation of the road map of Estonian research infrastructure. The twenty objects included in the road map provide a good basis for further discussions and elaboration of ideas in the cooperation of research institutions and enterprises. The Government will finance the development of the research infrastructure of national importance with 460 million kroons during the next three years. Enhanced attention should be paid to the effectiveness of the activities facilitating the increase of the number of researchers and highly educated specialists and offering International experiences.
The Prime Minister admitted that, despite considerable benefit amounts, the number of graduates of Doctoral studies has not been significantly increased in four years. In Ansip’s opinion, a discussion of the role and responsibility of universities is also needed.
Ansip also spoke about supporting the competitiveness of enterprises and promoting the business environment and the need to develop the cross-border infrastructure and to increase the number of airline connections.
The Prime Minister concluded with an assessment given in the report of the Research and Development Council according to which doubling Estonia’s current forecasted economic growth in coming seven years is viable.
 
Comments were presented by Members of the Riigikogu Helmer Jõgi, Mart Laar, Marek Strandberg and Rein Ratas.
 
On the motion of the Environmental Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act and the Euro Adoption Act (809 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments specify the provisions concerning the calculation and payment of the pollution charge for ambient air emissions and waste and the fee for mineral rights. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the Environment Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Fishing Act and the Euro Adoption Act (828 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to solve the problems arising in the fisheries sector due to overfishing of fishery resources. The Act provides norms on the basis of which the fishing opportunities of the following year for an undertaking who has been overfishing are reduced; a possibility is granted to compensate for “forced fishing” to an undertaking whose fishing opportunities were not used to the full extent due to overfishing by other undertakings. The state is granted the possibility to react to overfishing in an adequate and timely manner. The use of fishery resources will be made more transparent for the public. According to the Bill, the data concerning the permitted fishing opportunities designated to undertakings for the calendar year and the actual use thereof, and the quantity of fish actually caught by them are public. In the future, the Ministry of Agriculture will have to prepare and publish on its website an overview covering the above-mentioned data concerning all professional fishers of Estonia for every quarter. The data will be published broken down by water areas, counties and permanently inhabited small islands. 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 Foundations Act and the Authorised Public Accountants Act (839 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The amendments create similar regulations for foundations and non-profit associations as regards compulsory auditing. According to the Bill, in the case of foundations with a small income, the funds (including donations for purposeful activities of the foundation) which so far had to be spent on compulsory auditing can be used to achieve the objectives specified in its articles of association. This enhances the purposeful use of third sector funds. The Foundations Act and the Auditors’ Activities Act which are currently in force provide an absolute obligation to carry out an audit even in the case when a foundation has had no or very little economic activities in the previous economic year. At the same time, an audit is compulsory for non-profit associations only in the cases provided in sections 91 and 92 of the Auditors’ Activities Act. Different treatment of non-profit associations and foundations as regards compulsory auditing is not justified. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to § 111 of the Gambling Act (857 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to postpone the implementation of the electronic recording and control system which is due to enter into force as of 1 January 2011 because organisers of gambling are not ready therefor, as the adoption of the euro requires additional reorganisations. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
 
On the motion of the National Defence Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Peace-Time National Defence Act and the Defence Forces Organisation Act (880 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to update the terminology related to national defence and to rename the current strategic plan for military defence the national defence strategy. The Bill (805 SE) is being initiated again in connection with the final voting of a Bill with the same name on 24 November when the Act was not supported with the required majority vote (51 votes in favour). This 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 Penal Code (794 SE), initiated by the Estonian Green Party Faction, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to raise the age of consent in regard to criminal offences provided in sections 145 and 146 of the Penal Code to 16 years of age. These sections concern engaging in sexual intercourse with a child and satisfaction of sexual desire. According to the current Penal Code, the age of consent is 14 years of age. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
Due to the end of the working hours of the sitting of the plenary assembly, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act and Associated Acts (874 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee, was adjourned. The deliberation will be resumed tomorrow, at the sitting beginning at 2 p.m.
 
 
The Riigikogu Press Service
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