The Bill under which the fine unit will be linked to the income of the offender in the case of more severe traffic crimes passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. The aim of the Bill is to make the changing of the punishments applied for more severe traffic offences more effective. Today a fine system based on a fixed amount is in place, which means that people who have committed an act under similar circumstances are punished with a fine in the same amount.
The Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu, who presented the Bill, said that the proposal was to provide an income-fine based fine in the case of a narrow group of more serious traffic offences, similarly to sanctions for criminal offences. He mentioned leaving the scene of a traffic accident or failure to provide assistance to people who need assistance due to a traffic accident, and the intentional ignoring of a mandatory stop signal for a vehicle by the driver of a vehicle as examples of such violations. Also, exceeding the speed limit by more than 41 kilometres per hour by the driver of a power-driven vehicle, and the consumption of alcohol or drugs immediately following a traffic accident by a driver involved in the traffic accident.
The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (reform of punishments for misdemeanours, fines arising from EU law) (586 SE), initiated by the Government, will create the possibility to also apply administrative fines provided for in European Union law.
The precondition for the application of expedited procedure is the person’s consent and his or her waiver of the possibility of filing an objection. The Bill will enable traffic offenders to be punished conditionally by deprivation of the right to drive. In the current law, a person who has committed a traffic misdemeanour can be punished by deprivation of the right to drive, but such a punishment cannot be applied conditionally. In the case of a conditional punishment, a one-year probation period is also imposed on the person, during which the person has the possibility to improve his or her behaviour and to set on a law-abiding path.
Economically underprivileged people will have the possibility to pay fines by instalments. Also, the term for payment of fines will be extended from the current 15 days to 45 days.
During the debate, Valdo Randpere from the Reform Party Faction and Mart Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor.
The Riigikogu passed four Acts:
Under the Act on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act and Other Acts (558 SE), initiated by the Government, local governments can offer young people aged 16–26 proactive support in continuing education or returning to the labour market. The aim of the Act is to help young people who do not study or work or look for a job, or are not away from the labour market for another good reason, and need active support from the state to improve the situation.
The Act provides that an IT-solution to help young people will be developed, with the help of which a list of young people who potentially need support, together with their contact details, will be displayed to a case manager of a local government. This way the local government can identify the need for support in a young person aged 16–26 residing in its area and offer him or her support in returning to education or the labour market. The young person will have the right to refuse help, and the processing of his or her personal data will be terminated.
In addition to the Social Welfare Act, amendments are made to the Taxation Act, the Value-Added Tax Act and the Code of Enforcement Procedure. The Value-Added Tax Act is amended in connection with the VAT on personal assistant service. The Code of Enforcement Procedure is amended so that in the future in enforcement proceedings a claim for payment cannot be made on compensation paid under the Artificial Insemination and Embryo Protection Act, and on repressed person’s allowance paid under the Persons Repressed by Occupying Powers Act.
During the debate, Monika Haukanõmm from the Free Party Faction and Kalvi Kõva from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor.
66 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and there were 12 abstentions.
The aim of the Act on Amendments to the Liquid Fuel Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (536 SE), initiated by the Government, is to reduce tax evasions, to increase tax receipts, to improve the competition conditions in the fuel sector, to promote electronic records management, and to reduce the availability of low-quality fuel.
The Act improves the electronic records management between the Tax and Customs Board, fuel sellers and warehouse keepers. The Act creates a legal basis for the establishment of the fuel handling system. Such a system enables the data of the sales transactions concerning liquid fuel released for consumption to be administered in real time, and the supervision of the handling of fuel to be merged into an e-environment. This way, an overview of the movement of fuel through different purchase and sale chains will be ensured, and sellers of fuel will no longer need to submit reports concerning liquid fuel to the Tax and Customs Board.
At the same time, a legal basis for the establishment of the storage accounts and reporting database is created. The aim of the database will be to make the data of warehouse operations involving fuel available in real time to the Tax and Customs Board. This will enable the Board to exercise more operational and efficient supervision over the movement of goods both in single warehouses and across warehouses.
The Act provides for a restriction according to which fuel can be sold in a quantity that is covered by a security. This will preclude a situation where a seller of fuel could cause unlimited VAT damage to the state. A seller of fuel will retain the entitlement to request reduction of the security presented to the extent of up to 90 per cent of the amount of the security if the seller has operated under an authorisation for the sale of fuel for at least half a year, and the seller and the members of the seller’s management or controlling body have no tax arrears.
73 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and six were against.
The aim of the Act on the Acceptance of the Amendments of 2012 to the Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution on Heavy Metals (568 SE), initiated by the Government, is to control emissions of heavy metals caused by anthropogenic activities that are subject to long-range transboundary atmospheric transport and have adverse effects on human health and the environment as a whole.
Reducing transboundary air pollution is an important international goal, and the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution and its protocols help achieve it. The amendments to the protocol have an important role in enhancing international environmental protection, and the acceptance of the amendments to the protocol will increase Estonia’s credibility in the international arena.
66 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and seven were against.
The purpose of the Act on the Accession to the Convention on the European Forest Institute (567 SE), initiated by the Government, is to promote the conservation and sustainable management of forests in Europe. Accession to the convention supports the knowledge-based shaping of forestry policy.
65 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passing of the Act.
One Bill passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the State Assets Act (570 SE), initiated by the Government, is connected with the preparation for the listing of the shares of Port of Tallinn Ltd and Enefit Green Ltd on stock exchanges. In order that the state as a shareholder would not have an advantage over other shareholders, the state will have to withdraw into the same information space with other shareholders. The Bill will ensure that the activities of partially state-owned companies listed on stock exchanges comply with stock exchange rules and that all shareholders are treated equally.
The Bill will provide that the provisions of the State Assets Act that are in conflict with the requirements for the management of companies, the disclosure of information and carrying out a special audit, valid in the securities market, will not be applied in the case of a partially state-owned company if its securities are listed on stock exchanges or an application for listing its securities is submitted. The current Act is not sufficient to ensure that partially state-owned companies listed on stock exchanges are managed according to the securities market rules, and that all shareholders are treated equally.
According to the Bill, the Government will not be able to ask the multiannual strategy and financial plans of a company to make decisions relating to the company. Also, it is not good practice that the annual dividend of a company listed on a stock exchange is decided at the Government level. In the future, the state will not have the right to use its structural unit to conduct a special audit of a company, and the minister will not have the right to obtain the minutes of the meetings of the supervisory board, and materials that are considered internal information. The requirement to the effect that participation of partially state-owned companies in other companies is to be decided by the general meeting will also not be able to be applied. The explanatory memorandum notes that, as at December 2017, the state has a holding in 29 companies that continue operation.
Five more Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act (590 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose with the Aliens Act the European Union directive on migration for the purposes of study and research that facilitates the intra-European Union mobility of researchers and students from third countries. The deadline for the transposition of the directive is 23 May 2018.
Researchers and students from third countries will be able to move in the EU Member States without having to apply for a residence permit of the host Member State. Under the current Act, a person may stay in Estonia for up to 90 days in any 180-day period under a residence permit or visa issued in another Schengen country. In the future, researchers can stay in Estonia until the end of the period of validity of their visa or residence permit issued in another Member State, and students can study in Estonian institutions of higher educations for up to 360 days on the basis of such a permit.
An amendment will also be made that will allow researchers, students and teaching staff to stay in Estonia for 270 days instead of the current 183 days in order to work or set up a business here after the end of the period of validity of their residence permit.
Under the directive, the conditions for the admission to and residence in Estonia of au pairs from third countries will be provided for. According to the amendments, an alien who wishes to come to Estonia to improve his or her language proficiency and get to know Estonian culture will be able to register short-time employment in Estonia for up to nine months or to apply for a temporary residence permit for employment for up to one year as an au pair. The maximum number of hours of au pair duties per week must not exceed 25 hours, and at least one day per week must be free from au pair duties.
During the debate, Jaak Madison from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction and Tarmo Kruusimäe from the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction took the floor.
The motion by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction to reject the Bill at the first reading was not supported. Seven members of the Riigikogu were in favour of the rejection of the Bill, 44 were against, and there were six abstentions. The Bill passed the first reading.
The Bill on Amendments to the Consular Act and the Identity Documents Act (584 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the European Union directive that facilitates consular protection for unrepresented citizens of the Union in third countries. The aim of the directive is to specify when and how EU citizens in an emergency situation in a country outside the EU are entitled to receive assistance from the embassies and consulates of other EU Member States. The deadline for the transposition of the directive is 1 May 2018.
The Bill will specify that, in the future, unrepresented citizens of EU Member States will receive consular assistance from foreign missions of Estonia on the same conditions as Estonian nationals. The Bill will define who is an unrepresented citizen. It will also provide that an unrepresented citizen in an emergency can submit a request for consular assistance to a foreign mission of Estonia directly without a request of the Member State of his or her nationality.
It will also provide for a financial mechanism for reimbursement of financial obligations to other EU Member States in the event of consular assistance cases involving Estonian nationals. In the case when an EU Member State provides unsecured financial assistance to an Estonian national in an emergency staying in a third country, the person in emergency will have to repay the unsecured financial assistance to the Estonian state within 90 days as of the date of receipt of a claim for repayment.
In addition to the requirements arising from the directive, the Consular Act will be amended by introducing two new consular services which consular officers will provide in foreign missions in the cases when the validity of the certificates of an identity document, a residence permit card or a digital identity card of a person needs to be restored, or new PIN-codes need to be issued to a person. Since, according to the Bill, acts relating to certificates enabling digital identification and digital signature that are performed under the Identity Documents Act will be established, the Identity Documents Act will also be amended.
The Metrology Bill (566 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the requirements for measuring instruments, and the use and conformity assessment thereof, in order to ensure reliability and traceability of measurement results. The Bill will comprehensively update the current Metrology Act to eliminate the shortcomings and interpretation problems occurring in practice, and unreasonable restrictions.
The Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act and the Energy Sector Organisation Act (576 SE), initiated by the Government, will loosen the criteria for establishment of a direct line between the power station and the consumer. The amendments will create a more flexible possibility to establish an up to six-kilometre direct line which will facilitate investments into energy intensive productions. Currently a direct line can be established only on the immovable on which the producer’s power station is located or on an adjacent immovable. Consumption of electricity through a direct line may be economically more favourable than the current price of network services.
If all large users who have the technical prerequisites used the possibility that will be created, the amendment would not bring about significant impact on the final price of electricity for existing consumers, and the change would remain below one per cent.
The Bill will provide for more specific bases for drawing up the methodology of network charges. This will ensure legal certainty and legal clarity in terms of the amount of the network charges paid by investors of network operators and consumers. Up to now, the Act does not provide for detailed criteria for example for calculating the depreciation charge for fixed assets, or a prohibition on including expenses not related to the provision of network services (e.g. fines and late payment interests, sponsorship, gifts and donations) into the price of network services. The amendment is modelled on an earlier amendment in the natural gas sector.
In the performance of the national overall energy efficiency obligation, in the future, it will be possible to take into account also activities related to energy efficiency carried out by legal persons in which the state has a majority interest. To observe the requirements of the Energy Efficiency Directive, Estonia will have to set an energy efficiency objective for 2014-2020, which means energy saved by consumers.
The explanatory memorandum notes that it is possible to perform 97 per cent of the overall energy efficiency obligation of Estonia with the existing policy measures. As a result of an amendment, for example, it will be possible for network operators to incur expenses related to achieving energy saving in final customers, and to make investments to the extent of up to one per cent of the average sales revenue of the last three years. The amendment is likely to have an impact on the price of network services, but this impact will be marginal, that is, less than one per cent.
Several requirements for authorisation (e.g. authorisation to sell electricity, generation of electricity with installations with a rated output of up to 200 kW) will be abandoned, which will reduce the administrative burden of operators and in that connection also the revenue from state fees to the state budget by about 50 000 euro per year. In order to facilitate small-scale production of electricity with generating installations with a rated output of 100 kW to 200 kW, the requirements for small-scale producers will be loosened. For example, in the future, they will not be required to have s share capital of at least 31,950 euro, and that will allow also for example apartment associations to produce electricity with limited-capacity installations.
The Bill on Amendments to the Bar Association Act, the Courts Act, the Bailiffs Act and Other Acts (583 SE), initiated by the Government, will provide for a reduction in the scope of the functions of the Ministry of Justice in connection with liberal legal professions such as notaries, lawyers, bailiffs, trustees in bankruptcy, patent attorneys and sworn translators. The functions related to the organisation of professional activities, such as the organisation of examinations, suspension and resumption of professional activities, substitution, evaluation, recognition of foreign professional qualifications, and functions related to data will be transferred to professional associations governed by public law. The Bill will provide for the establishment of the Chamber of Patent Attorneys and the Chamber of Sworn Translators as legal persons governed by public law.
In the Courts Act, the reconciliation of the office of judge and studies will become more flexible, as it will be possible for judges to work as teaching staff at universities in public law. It will also be possible to transfer judges to state service, and judges will have the possibility to work in international judicial institutions.
Valdo Randpere from the Reform Party Faction and Tarmo Kruusimäe from the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction took the floor during the debate.
The sitting ended at 5.57 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian).
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