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The Riigikogu passed with 77 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act and the Administrative Co-operation Act (72 SE), initiated by the Government. The aim of the amendments is in the first place to bring the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act which is currently in force into conformity with European Union law and to specify the text of the Act which entered into force on 1 January 2010 by making the text more understandable and clearer. The Act is amended by adding provisions which aim to ensure implementation of the LEADER measure according to the objectives of the measure and to create opportunities for better and more purposeful use of the funding allocated for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The references to European Union legislation in the provisions of the Act are also amended because the Regulations referred to have been amended or replaced by new ones. One of the aims of the Act is also to regulate the issues connected with the financing of the activities before expenses are incurred from the state budget.

The Act on Amendments to the Plant Propagation and Plant Variety Rights Act (93 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 80 votes in favour. The aim of the Act is to transpose into Estonian law the new requirements arising from the relevant European Commission directive which entered into force at the end of 2010. This directive provides for certain derogations for marketing of fodder plant seed mixtures intended for use in the preservation of the natural environment. The amendments allow the marketing of fodder plant seed mixtures which are intended for use in the preservation of the natural environment in the context of the conservation of genetic resources, even where the components of those mixtures do not comply with some of the general requirements for marketing. The Act enters into force pursuant to general procedure, except for clause 1 19) which enters into force on 1 January 2012. One member of the Riigikogu abstained in voting.
 
The Act on Amendments to the Act on the Accession to the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (79 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 71 votes in favour. With the amendments, provisions are added to this Act such that Estonia could make a declaration to the Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children which was adopted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law in 1996. The amendment ensures that, in determining the law applicable in the relations of children and parents with a cross-border element, it is possible to proceed from a uniform regulation in Estonia and in the future there will be no need to take into account the specifications arising from legal aid contracts.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the State Budget of 2012 Bill (99 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The planned revenue of the budget of 2012 is 6.1 billion euro, with a growth of 8.9%, and the expenditure will be 6.57 billion euro, with a growth of 11%, that is, 652.7 billion euro as compared to 2011. In the words of the Minister of Finance Jürgen Ligi, Estonia’s economic growth expectations and budget forecast have been corrected downwards because of the deterioration of the environment. “Our current knowledge is that Estonia’s economic growth will slow down to 3% next year, however, it will continue to be the fastest in the eurozone. Our economic growth is directly affected by the reduction of the growth rate of the export demand,” said Ligi. The Minister stated that the economic forecast of the Ministry of Finance which is the basis for the state budget differentiates from other forecasts by being more conservative. The IMF, the European Commission and commercial banks forecast a higher economic growth for Estonia. “The next year’s state budget will remain true to the current principles of public finance. A balanced budget, or rather a budget in surplus is one of the most important of them. Next year, the government sector budget will presumably still be in deficit nominally, with 2.1% of GDP for one-time reasons, of which investments of the income from the sale of CO2 quota will constitute 1.5 per cent. Resumption of state contributions to the second pillar pension in full amount will cost about 1% of GDP,” explained Ligi. The Minister confirmed that the budget of 2012 has been drafted responsibly and reflects our actual wealth level. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund Act, the Financial Management of Local Government Act, the Artificial Insemination and Embryo Protection Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act and the Prosecutor’s Office Act relating to the State Budget of 2012 Act (100 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill raises the excise duty rate on alcohol by 5% and amends the Estonian Health Insurance Fund Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act as regards the management and administration of the funds of the legal persons established on the basis of these Acts. The funds of both the Health Insurance Fund and the Unemployment Insurance Fund will be pooled in the State Treasury, that is, the bank accounts belonging to them will be merged with the state bank accounts group. The Estonian Health Insurance Fund and the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will remain owners of their funds and they will be able to use their funds at any time for performance of the functions provided for in Acts. The Ministry of Finance will pay interests to them on the residue of the funds. The amendments to the Financial Management of Local Government Act concern loan restrictions of local governments and postponing of the implementation of the ceiling to loans in the extent of the amount of the income from principal activity. In addition to the above, a number of amendments are also made in the Acts mentioned in the title of the Bill. The Social Democratic Party Faction moved to reject this Bill at the first reading. 50 members of the Riigikogu voted against the motion and 25 members voted in favour. Thus, the motion to reject was not supported and the Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Taxation Act and Other Acts (106 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The main aim of the Bill is to transpose into Estonian law the legal provisions necessary for the implementation of the relevant directives of the Council of the European Union. The abovementioned directives specify the procedure for the granting of international professional assistance and the communication of data necessary for taxation to foreign states. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Cultural Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Private Schools Act and Other Acts (92 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill is intended to change the regulation concerning joint study programmes in the Universities Act, in order to support the cooperation of educational institutions in opening joint study programmes without prejudice to quality. The regulation of the Universities Act being applied also to private schools and institutions of professional higher education, the references to the Universities Act in the Private Schools Act and the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act are corrected by the Bill. In addition, the Bill corrects the mistake in the Private Schools Act which up to now put private universities in an inequitable situation as compared to universities in public law by requiring that specialised private universities carry out instruction at all levels in several fields of study. The problems upon opening of joint study programmes pointed out by Tallinn University of Technology, the Estonian Academy of Arts, the University of Tartu and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre were an important input in drafting the Bill. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Aviation Act, the Maritime Safety Act and the Railways Act (103 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to increase transport security by organising the safety investigation of aircraft incidents, railway accidents and marine casualties. The amendments are intended to concentrate the competence of the safety investigation of transport accidents to the independent and permanent Safety Investigation Centre which will be established. Its functions will be to determine the causes of accidents, to formulate recommendations and proposals concerning transport security and to monitor the relevant proceedings. The Bill provides the basis for establishing such multimodal (investigating accidents of several types of transport) investigation centre. The transport accidents investigation in Estonia is adjusted to the internationally used practice where safety investigation is conducted by an independent investigation body. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
On the motion of the Rural Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Plant Protection Act and Other Associated Acts (105 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to resolve the technical problems which have emerged in the implementation of the Plant Protection Act, to unify the text of the Act and to harmonise it with the relevant European Union Regulation. The amendments concern the phytosanitary requirements and the regulation concerning the use of plant protection products and plant protection equipment. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
 
The sitting ended at 7.25 p.m.
 
 
The Riigikogu Press Service
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