The overview of courts administration and administration of justice given to the Riigikogu at today's sitting by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Priit Pikamäe focused on the possibilities of improving the system of the protection of fundamental rights.
In Pikamäe’s opinion, it is first of all the task of the Riigikogu to shape the legal order that respects fundamental rights. “Although the system of the protection of fundamental rights in Estonia can be considered well-functioning, this does not mean that it cannot be improved. Here I keep in mind first of all the cooperation between the judicial system and the Parliament in preventing possible violations of fundamental rights,” Pikamäe said.
In his report, Pikamäe discussed the needs to change the legal order of Estonia, which are based on meeting the international obligations assumed by Estonia. He pointed out the need to update the Imprisonment Acton the basis of the 19 January 2016 decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which concerned the right of access of detained persons to the web pages of the Riigikogu and the Chancellor of Justice. The detained persons’ right to vote is also waiting for the decision of the Parliament. According to the convention of the European Court of Human Rights, automatic denial of the right to vote, which applies to all detained persons, cannot be considered proportional.
Pikamäe said that the violation of reasonable time for proceedings within the meaning of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms had been the content of several decisions of the European Court of Human Rights that condemned Estonia. “While the Act on Compensation for Damage Caused in Offence Procedure brings the legislation on criminal procedure and misdemeanour procedure into accordance with the requirements of the Constitution and the Convention, then unfortunately both civil court procedures and administrative court procedures still do not have the bases that would enable the person involved in them to request compensation for damage caused by unreasonably long time for proceedings,” Pikamäe said.
Pikamäe supported the idea to analyse the existing constitutional review court procedure system that was provided for in the plan for state reform approved by the Government of the Republic.
In Pikamäe’s opinion, the Parliament could consider extending the circle of people with the competence to initiate abstract verification of the conformity of legal provisions. “Our legal order still does not have the so-called institution of faction complaint, or the right of the minority of the Parliament to turn to the Supreme Court by way of constitutional review. It is an instrument that has been recognised in several European countries, and in a way serves as a safety valve in the situation where there are insurmountable differences of opinion between the majority and the minority of the parliament,” Pikamäe said.
In Pikamäe’s opinion, the Riigikogu could consider establishing of the practice of higher court as a positive right next to the already existing individual complaints. “The the possibility for submitting individual complaints, which has been created by the practice of the Supreme Court, is an extraordinary, in a sense a “last straw” procedure, which is applied only in the case a person really has no other way to protect their rights,” Pikamäe said.
He added that legalising individual complaint in the form recognised by the practice of the Supreme Court would also be an additional buffer to prevent complaints from Estonia to the Court of Human Rights in the situations where preventing of violations was within the power f our court system.
Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee Jaanus Karilaid said that the Ministry of Justice was working on finding solutions in the issue of the Internet use of prisoners. Karilaid added that the bill on the prisoners’ right to vote would be completed in the Ministry of Justice in the nearest future.
“As regards the issue of compensation for damage caused by unreasonably long time for proceedings, which is legalised in only some court procedures, the finding of a common suitable solution is probably very problematic, considering the fact that procedures in different spheres of justice are already by their essence very different, and with different complexity and volume when approached individually,” Karilaid said.
Kalle Laanet, who took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction during the debate, focused on the budgets of the courts of first instance and the courts of appeal, the issues of the salaries of judges and reducing of the right of discretion, which in his opinion all indicated that the independence of the judicial power was being restricted.
Jüri Adams from the Free Party Faction thought that the Ministry of Justice should deal with the process of implementation of the rulings of the Supreme Court made by way of constitutional review. In the opinion of Adams, the Riigikogu is not capable of initiating bills in complicated issues by itself, because there is no relevant staff, and the government coalition probably does not consider it necessary to deal with these topics.
Raivo Aeg, who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, spoke of the importance of ensuring the rights and the proportionality of procedures, and the problem of exceeding the term for proceedings.
Liisa Oviir from the Social Democratic Party Faction did not support the proposal of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to enable people to turn to directly the Supreme Court with individual complaints, because in her opinion the Estonian system of constitutional review was successful and did not need changing. “Both the Chancellor of Justice and the courts of lower instance act as filters, and in this way the overburdening of the Supreme Court is avoided,” Oviir said.
The Riigikogu passed an Act:
The Riigikogu approved with 56 votes in favour the Act on the Ratification of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court and the Agreement on the Establishment of a Nordic-Baltic Regional Division of the Unified Patent Court (441 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic. With the Act, both the Agreement on a United Patent Court and the agreement on a regional division were ratified, because the agreements are interrelated. Estonia signed the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court on 19 February 2013 and the agreement on a regional division on 4 March 2014. The aim of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court is to establish a Unified Patent Court for the settlement of disputes relating to European patents and European patents with unitary effect.
Two Bills passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Implementation of Convention on Grant of European Patents Act and Other Acts (440 SE), initiated by the Government, will made amendments that are necessary to implement the European unitary patent protection. The unitary patent protection system gives an additional possibility for an applicant to protect his or her invention, besides classical European patent. Such a system is cheaper, as at present an applicant must pay amounts according to the number of countries in which he or she applies for protection for his or her invention. The system to be created will allow to obtain patent protection for an invention so that it has unitary protection and effect in all member states participating in the system. As at present, all EU Member States with the exception of Spain and Croatia are connected with the scheme for the creation of a European patent with unitary effect. In order to ensure smooth functioning of the new patent regulation, a Unified Patent Court is also being established.
During the second reading, the title of the Bill was amended as follows: the Bill on the Implementation of Convention on Grant of European Patents Act and Regulation (EU) No. 1257/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council. Also, an amendment was introduced in the Bill according to which the Act would enter into force at the same time with the entry into force of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court and the Agreement on the Establishment of a Nordic-Baltic Regional Division of the Unified Patent Court in respect of Estonia.
The Bill on Amendments to the Work Ability Allowance Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (468 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, will amend the Work Ability Allowance Act, the Social Benefits for Disabled Persons Act, the Health Insurance Act and the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act.
The amendments to the Work Ability Allowance Act will eliminate the problems that have appeared in the payment of work ability allowance. The Bill will amend the conditions for advance payment of work ability allowance in order to avoid situations where, for reasons beyond the control of the person, he or she has no income during the transfer from the pension for incapacity for work to payment of work ability allowance.
The conditions for payment of work ability allowance will also be reorganised in order to facilitate the acquisition of education for people with partial capacity for work, to avoid unfair reduction of work ability allowance, and to ensure the receiving of work ability allowance also when the person cannot meet the requirements necessary to receive work ability allowance due to undergoing hospital treatment.
The conditions for establishing disability will be amended in the Social Benefits for Disabled Persons Act, and payment of dental care benefit to persons who have an increased need for dental care service will be amended in the Health Insurance Act.
During the second reading, the title of the Bill was amended as follows: Bill on Amendments to the Work Ability Allowance Act and Other Acts. The wording and terminology were also specified. One of the most important amendments concerns making the obligation of preparing rehabilitation plans for children applying for identification of a degree of severity of disability needs-based.
As it is necessary to amend the list of health services on the basis of the dental care benefit amendment included in the Bill, the date of entering into force of that provision is 1 January 2018. Other amendments in the Bill are planned to enter into force on 1 July this year.
One Bill passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
Bill on Amendments to the Sport Act (426 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Jüri Jaanson, Hanno Pevkur, Kalle Palling, Meelis Mälberg, Lauri Luik, Andres Ammas, Monika Haukanõmm, Deniss Boroditš, Yoko Alender, Laine Randjärv, Heidy Purga, Arto Aas, Kalle Laanet, Remo Holsmer, Aivar Sõerd and Valdo Randpere on 13 April.
The Bill provides for the establishment of a formula for calculation the state benefits to the Olympic Winners in the Sports Act, where the changing of the cost of living would be taken into account. The purpose of the Bill is linking the coefficient of the state benefits to the Olympic Winners with the average salary of the previous year, calculated on the basis of the data of Statistics Estonia. Considering the above, the average gross monthly salary (which according to the data of Statistics Estonia was paid the year preceding the year of paying the state benefit) multiplied by 1.3 shall be established as the rate of the state benefits to the Olympic Winners. The principle that the new rate of benefit shall not be less than the rate in force will be followed.. In addition to that, the average gross monthly salary of the third quarter of the previous year multiplied by 0.65 shall be established as the rate of state benefits to the Paralympic Winners.
According to the initiator of the Bill Jüri Jaanson, the rate of the state benefits to the Olympic Winners has remained on the same level since the passing of the Sports Act. When the state benefit was established, the state benefits to the Olympic Winners were around 1.5 times the average monthly salary in Estonia. By today, the rate of state benefits has fallen significantly lower than the average monthly salary in Estonia. The purpose of the state benefits to the Olympic Winners is creating an additional social guarantee to the people who have brought renown to Estonia and lots of positive emotions to the society with their great achievements in sports.
Toomas Jürgenstein, who took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, was of the opinion that the benefits of Paralympic Winners and Olympic Winners should be harmonised.
Helmut Hallemaa, who took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction said the benefits for Olympic Winners needed updating.
Andres Ammas from the Free Party Faction and Lauri Luik from the Reform Party Faction supported the Bill.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
(NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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