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Riigikogu

Nineteen Bills and draft Resolutions were on the agenda of the Riigikogu today. The Riigikogu passed four Acts. At the same time, the Riigikogu concluded the second reading of 13 Bills. Among them, the Bill that tightens the punishment for drivers who are repeatedly caught driving in a state of intoxication passed the second reading.

The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (adopting a stricter attitude towards driving a vehicle while intoxicated) (328 SE), initiated by the Government, will provide for a stricter punishment for causing a traffic accident with serious consequences in a state of intoxication. Mandatory shock imprisonment will be prescribed for repeatedly driving a vehicle in a state of intoxication. The duration of the withdrawal of the right to drive prescribed as a punishment for driving in a state of intoxication will be brought into better conformity with the gravity of the offence.

The Bill will stimulate first offenders to refrain from new offences, and will create the possibility to be released on parole from a punishment for a misdemeanour and, under certain conditions, to keep the right to drive. In the event of exceeding the permitted alcohol level, it will be possible to order the offender to treatment, training or a social programme for the period of probation.

In order to change the attitudes of passengers in the vehicle of a driver in a state of intoxication in view of the general wellbeing of the society, but above all in the interests of their own life and health, additional regulation will be provided for in regards to both traffic education and the attitude of passengers. The Bill will provide for additional necessary elements of a criminal offence for the case where the driver who has caused a serious traffic accident leaves the scene.

Three motions to amend were made during the second reading. Raivo Aeg, who made a report on behalf of the Legal Affairs Committee, explained that a punishment imposed conditionally cannot be imposed in full, but actual punishment will have to be imposed partially. An obligation to impose deprivation of the right to drive as a supplementary punishment will be provided for. In his words, the amendment is necessary first of all in order that, in the case of a criminal traffic offence where a driver who is in a state of intoxication causes serious health damage to a person or the death of a person, the punishment would not be lighter than in the case of a criminal traffic offence committed out of negligence.

The second amendment provides for the cases where total suspension of punishment on parole is precluded. With the third amendment, the section that concerned amendments to the Criminal Records Database Act was omitted from the Bill.

The motion to suspend the second reading of the Bill, made by the Reform Party Faction, was not supported. 28 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 48 were against.

The Riigikogu passed four Acts:

The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Estonian Central Register of Securities Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (428 SE), initiated by the Government, which will increase competition between central securities depositories holding securities. 52 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act, seven were against, and there were four abstentions.

The aim of the Act is to widen the possibilities for enterprises to engage capital, to merge information on pension pillar II and III to single pension account and to facilitate the possibility of persons of foreign countries to invest into Estonia.

Central securities depository is a body that maintains the register of securities holders and settles securities transactions. Competition between central securities depositories will increase because the Act widens the possibilities for Estonian public limited companies to register their shares also in other central securities depositories providing services in Estonia, instead of the Estonian central depository (Estonian CSD). The amendments derive from the EU Central Securities Depositories Regulation (CSDR-Regulation).

During the second reading, nine amendments were made to the Act. One of them has been drafted on the basis of proposals of the Estonian CSD which aim to make the units of a voluntary pension fund objects of the pension register starting from the entry into force of the Act pursuant to general procedure.

A motion to amend has been drafted on the basis of the proposal of NGO FinanceEstonia to increase the prospectus-free threshold for public offer of securities from one million to 2.5 million. The aim is to ensure establishment of a prospectus-free threshold comparable with that in neighbouring countries.

During the debate, Maris Lauri took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction. She noted that, to show the faction’s protest against bad proceedings practice, the Reform Party would not participate in the vote.

The Riigikogu passed with 80 votes in favour and seven against the Act on the Ratification of Protocol No. 16 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (408 SE), initiated by the Government.

The purpose of the Convention is to enhance interaction between the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and national courts, and thereby to better protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe.

The Protocol creates a new procedure that enables national highest courts to seek from the ECtHR advisory opinions on questions of principle relating to the interpretation or application of the Convention in the context of a case pending before a court or tribunal. It is declared that the Supreme Court is the highest court in Estonia who may request the ECtHR to give advisory opinions.

The Riigikogu passed with 82 votes in favour and seven against the Act on Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure and Other Acts (implementation of Regulation (EU) No 655/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Account Preservation Order procedure to facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters, and creation of a procedure arising from Protocol No. 16 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) (404 SE), initiated by the Government.

The Act creates a regulation for national implementation of the European Account Preservation Order which will facilitate cross-border debt recovery in civil and commercial matters and the preservation of debtor’s bank accounts located in the EU. Only funds held in bank accounts can be preserved, but a preservation order does not enable to pay out money to the creditor. Bailiffs will have to begin to enforce European Account Preservation Orders immediately.

It is impossible to rely on practice when estimating the number of European Account Preservation Orders. According to preliminary forecast, county courts will receive around ten applications for a Preservation Order in a year, and bailiffs will receive approximately the same amount of applications for a Preservation Order from other Member States.

The Act creates the possibility for the Supreme Court to obtain an opinion from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) before making a decision. It is possible to request the ECtHR to give opinions on questions of principle relating to the interpretation or application of the rights and freedoms defined in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This possibility will make the proceedings in the Supreme Court smoother and improve legal certainty and clarity, and the human rights of parties to the proceedings will be better protected then. At the same time, an advisory opinion of the European Court of Human Rights does not hinder any party to the proceedings from later using their right to file an individual appeal.

During the second reading, two motions to amend the Act had been submitted, one of which ensures priority of the claims for maintenance for children.

The Riigikogu passed with 82 votes in favour and seven against the Explosives Act (418 SE), which establishes a new consolidated text of the Explosives Act. The Act regulates the handling of explosives and pyrotechnic articles. The aim of the Act is to ensure that the handling of explosives and pyrotechnic articles is safe and would not present a risk to human life and health or to property or the environment. It also aims to ensure security: to prevent unlawful use of explosives or pyrotechnic articles. The aim of the Act does not change.

This year the new requirements set for pyrotechnic articles by the EU enter fully into force. Under the Act, in the future, persons who are at least 18 years old can buy the most powerful (category F3) firework; at present the age limit is 21. The seller will no longer have to register sales transaction in the case of category F3.

A limit is set on the maximum quantity of pyrotechnic articles stored at home for private persons which is 20 kg of pyrotechnic articles in total. In the current law no quantities of pyrotechnic articles had been defined that a private person could store without meeting specific conditions. It is also provided that a weapons store may store up to 50 kg of gun powder without meeting specific requirements.

Besides the Bill that adopts a stricter attitude towards driving a vehicle while intoxicated, the Riigikogu concluded the second reading of 12 other Bills:

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Public Transport Act, the Traffic Act and the State Fees Act (188 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Einar Vallbaum, Ivari Padar, Vilja Toomast, Andre Sepp, Kalle Palling, Johannes Kert, Remo Holsmer, Jüri Jaanson, Ken-Marti Vaher, Meelis Mälberg, Laine Randjärv, Anne Sulling, Marko Mihkelson, Urve Tiidus, Toomas Kivimägi, Jaanus Marrandi, Deniss Boroditš, Heidy Purga, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Tanel Talve, Eerik-Niiles Kross, Kalle Laanet, Igor Gräzin, Juhan Parts, Kristjan Kõljalg and Martin Kukk, was concluded.

According to the Bill, the licence requirements provided for taxi service and on-demand ride sourcing will be equal. This means that a taxi licence, a service provider card and a vehicle card will be necessary also for providing on-demand ride sourcing service. The requirement of a taxi driver training course will be eliminated in the Bill, and every carrier will have to take care of the organisation of the trainings. As a result of the amendments, a flexible and balanced taxi regulation which takes into account different interests and which at the same time does not make any compromises regarding the rights of passengers will be created in Estonia. The provision of taxi service will be made flexible and it will be possible to provide the service also “through a platform” via an information society service. If a taxi is ordered and the price is calculated through an information society service, taximeter will not be mandatory upon the provision of such service. In other cases, a taximeter will have to be used, for example if passengers are picked up from the street and taxi stop, or if a taxi is ordered through a call centre.

Toomas Kivimägi, who made a report on behalf of the Committee, listed that, first, the obligation of a taxi driver training course would be eliminated. Second, if the Bill is approved, today’s taxi drivers will also have the right to provide services via information society platform. Third, he pointed out that today the service area of a taxi service provider is limited to its local government who has granted it the taxi licence, and the administrative territory of the local government. According to the Bill, there will be the possibility and right to provide taxi services on the whole territory of Estonia, on the condition that the requirements established on the territory of the other local government are adhered to.

Kivimägi introduced three motions to amend, the first of which was terminological and the second one was not supported. The third amendment that was supported concerned the professional certificate of a taxi driver.

The date of entry into force of the Bill is 1 November 2017.

Aivar Kokk took the floor during the debate.

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Forest Act and the Nature Conservation Act (396 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. It will make the making of forest management decisions clearer for forest owners. Major amendments to the Forest Act provide for lowering of the rotation age of spruce stands in fertile site types, and the promotion of the use of types of cutting alternative to clear cutting – shelterwood cutting and selective cutting. The Bill will mitigate the restrictions imposed thereon. The rules concerning these types of cutting in force at present do not facilitate effective forestation.

According to the Bill, the average age for spruce stands growing on fertile sites of habitat permitted to be cut will be lowered to 60–70 years. The explanatory memorandum notes that, at the moment, the average age of spruce stands to be cut must be 80 years as a minimum. However, the quality of the 80-year-old forest in fertile areas is lower because around a third of such forest is mostly damaged due to root or trunk rot. The amendment concerns about 4200 hectares of forest land, which is 0.2 per cent of Estonian forests, and 3000 hectares of it is state forest. The minimum rotation age does not oblige forest owners to cut. In counterbalance, in order to protect the biodiversity of Estonian forests, strict protection of fresh boreo-nemoral forests and fresh boreal forests to the extent of an additional 27,000 hectares will be ensured. The respective areas have been found on state lands, and the State Forest Management Centre has suspended the management of forests there.

The Bill will preclude situations where the use of the ownership of a forest depends on the decisions and activities of a bordering neighbour. At the same time, restrictions on the size of key habitat which is up to 7 hectares at present will be eliminated. On state land, protection will be ensured to all areas that conform to the definition of key habitat. On private lands, protection will continue on a voluntary basis.

From among the 18 motions to amend that had been submitted, Chairman of the Environment Committee Rainer Vakra pointed out that, to ensure the natural balance of the forest, the Government of the Republic will have the right to set restrictions on the size of a regeneration cutting area if there are justified grounds to presume that the volume of cuttings may exceed the increment of the forest managed. With an amendment, private forest owners with smaller forest ownerships will be preferred as recipients of support in the future. Amendments also concern cutting areas, the validity of the requirement of the qualification of harvester driver, and the entry into force of the Act which is scheduled for 1 September this year.

Artur Talvik took the floor during the debate, and on behalf of the Free Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. Kalle Palling spoke on behalf of the Reform Party and said that the Reform Party did not support the Bill either. Külliki Kübarsepp and Andres Metsoja also took the floor during the debate.

The motion to suspend the second reading of the Bill was not supported in the Riigikogu. 26 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour, 48 were against, and there was one abstention.

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act and the Work Ability Allowance Act (417 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. It provides that the state will write off study loans of parents of children with a severe disability. In addition, the processing of the write-off of study loans by the state will be made more efficient and faster.

Under the current procedure, a person who has taken a study loan has the right to apply for a write-off of the study loan by the state when he or she loses capacity for work or when his or her child has a profound disability. Starting from 1 January 2018, parents whose child is identified as having a severe disability will also have the right to write-off of a study loan by the state.

At present, in the processing of the write-off of study loans, the person contacts the credit institution who granted the study loan, and the credit institution submits an application for writing off the study loan to either the Ministry of Finance (if the recipient of the loan is identified as having no ability to work) or the Ministry of Education and Research (if a child of the recipient of the loan is identified as having a profound disability). The ministries check the circumstances that give the right to write-off of the study loan and pay to the credit institution the amount owed by the recipient of the loan. Such proceedings have proved to be too slow.

According to the Bill, for a study loan to be written off by the state, an application will have to be submitted to the Social Insurance Board who has got the data necessary for the write-off of the study loan or for whom such data are available under law.

The second reading of the Labour Dispute Resolution Bill (407 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. It will regulate the establishment and the rules of procedure of labour dispute committees, and the procedure for the resolution of a labour dispute. The Bill will ensure simple, speedy, cheap and efficient out-of-court resolution of labour disputes. Up to now, out-of-court labour disputes have been resolved pursuant to the Individual Labour Dispute Resolution Act which has been in force since September 1996, and several deficiencies have become apparent in practice in the implementation thereof.

The Bill will provide for alternative possibilities to resolve labour disputes in the form of written proceedings, conciliation procedure and compromise. The current procedure allows for hearing an application at a meeting of a labour dispute committee. By way of an exception, an application can be resolved in the absence of the parties only in the case when the parties admit each other’s claims to the full extent. There are no possibilities for conciliation procedure or compromise upon the resolution of a labour dispute. In practice, compromises are entered into, but this happens outside labour disputes, as a result of which the existence of an enforcement instrument is not ensured.

According to the Bill, in the future, the chairman of a labour dispute committee can resolve alone financial claims amounting up to 6400 euro. In other cases and at the request of the parties, the matter will be resolved at a meeting by a three-member committee. The current upper limit of 10,000 euro for financial claims solved by labour dispute committees will be eliminated in the Act. At present, it is possible to have recourse only to a court if a claim exceeds 10 000 euro.

The term for the hearing of a matter of labour dispute will be extended from the current 30 calendar days to 45 calendar days. The amendment arises from practice as in the last two years the average duration of reviewing labour disputes has been 36 days. For example, the organisation of out-of-office meetings influences the duration of the review of labour disputes.

The explanatory memorandum notes that the Labour Inspectorate, the Estonian Employers’ Confederation, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Estonian Trade Union Confederation, the Estonian Bar Association, the Estonian Lawyers’ Union and the Estonian Association of Judges have been involved in the drafting of the Bill and have approved it.

Maris Lauri introduced the motions to amend that had been submitted. She pointed out that the first motion to amend concerned the right of workers posted to Estonia to have recourse to a labour dispute committee. The second motion to amend introduces the concept of “matter of labour dispute”. The third motion to amend will allow for greater variation in the salaries of the chairmen of labour dispute committees. Initially it had been 90–100% of the basic salary of the Public Conciliator; the range is 80–100% now. The justification was that the workload varied by committees.

A motion to amend concerned the entry into force of the Bill. The Act enters into force on 1 January 2018 in general, but sections 67 and 68 enter into force pursuant to general procedure. They contain transitional provisions concerning the transition from the current system to the new system.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the President of the Republic Official Perquisites Act and the President of the Republic Work Procedure Act (436 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee. It provides for abandonment of the regulation concerning the vacation of the President of the Republic which is not necessary in actual life and which is incompatible with the status of the head of state. The explanatory memorandum notes that the regulation has been in force for more than 20 years, but not one head of state has taken a vacation during that time. This indicates that the provisions concerning the vacation of the President of the Republic are unnecessary.

The Bill will bring the legal acts regulating the activities of the head of state into conformity both with the actual situation and the opportunities of today’s digital world in which the President of the Republic can perform his or her functions at every time and everywhere. Based on the right to self-organisation, it is possible for the President of the Republic to take periods of rest within the limits of the obligations arising from the professional activity of the President of the Republic and the possibilities arising therefrom.

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act and Other Acts, arising from the termination of the activities of county government (432 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded.

The Government has decided to terminate the activities of county governments as of 1 January 2018. The Bill will give the functions of county governments to ministries or the authorities within their area of government, local authorities and local governments to be performed jointly. The transfer of the functions of the development of public transport and county development activities from county governments has been discussed in the Bill on Amendments to the Local Government Organisation Act and Other Acts relating to the Implementation of Administrative Reform. The functions of the county government and the county governor in the Social Welfare Act and other Acts of the relevant sphere will be amended with a separate Bill submitted by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The reorganisation of county governments will not eliminate counties as administrative units. The general time entry into force of the Act is 1 January 2018.

Ivari Padar, who introduced the motions to amend the Bill, pointed out that the State Shared Service Centre would be reorganised into a governmental authority, and it would be possible to bestow orders of merit of counties also in the future.

A motion to amend also concerned specification of the competence of vital statistics officials of county centres. Another motion to amend provides that applications for assignment of a new given name and surname or personal name cannot be submitted digitally. If a person wishes to be assigned a new given name, surname or personal name, he or she will have to personally turn to the relevant institution.

Külliki Kübarsepp and Jüri Adams took the floor during the debate.

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Local Government Organisation Act and Other Acts relating to the Implementation of Administrative Reform (433 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. It will make amendments to the functions and the organisation of cooperation of local authorities. The Bill will provide for the bases for the cooperation of local authorities in order to enable joint authorities to be formed. Local authorities of several counties will also have the right to form regional unions instead of county unions.

According to the Bill, the function of local authorities is to jointly plan the development of counties. The Bill will transfer the current functions of county governments in the organisation of public transport to the Road Administration with the possibility to give the regional organisation of public transport to the regional public transport centres formed by local authorities and the state. The Bill does not discuss the changes to the system for funding local authorities or the transfer of additional functions, or the activities related to the elimination of county governments on a wider scale.

To enhance the cooperation of local governments, the Bill provides that, for the performance of their functions, rural municipalities and cities can form joint agencies (joint administrative agency) and joint authorities (jointly administered authority). Officials of joint agencies and employees of joint authorities will perform functions on behalf of the local authority who has authorised the authority to perform the function under a contract under public law. The municipal councils who participate in the activities of the joint agency and the joint authority will approve the statutes of the authority. A standing council will be formed of representatives of the councils and experts for the management of the joint agency and the joint authority. It will be possible to establish for example a procedural service (law enforcement unit) as a joint agency, and an art school (hobby school) as a joint authority.

According to the Bill, as of 1 January 2018, it will be the function of the local authorities to jointly plan the development of counties. The county development strategy that so far has been in the area of responsibility of the county governor is the basis for jointly directing the development, for example, the planning of investments, by the local authorities of the county or region. The cooperation body designated by the local authority (for example, the local authorities association of the county or region, or the county development centre) will draw up the county development strategy for at least four years and it will have to take into account national sectoral development plans and the county plan.

Other amendments relating to the implementation of administrative reform are made and definitions are specified.

The Act is planned to enter into force on 1 January 2018 in the main part. The amendments relating to the implementation of administrative reform will partially enter into force on the day following the date of publication in the Riigi Teataja and partially on the day of the announcement of the results of the election of municipal councils.

Helmut Hallemaa, who made a report on behalf of the Committee, introduced the motions to amend which numbered 18 in total. Hallemaa pointed out that the Committee had asked that public health and public health development be set as a core task of local governments which arose from the Public Health Act. Also, “county transport centre” had to be renamed as “regional transport centre”.

Kalle Laanet and Jüri Adams took the floor during the debate.

 

The amendments provided for in the Bill on Amendments to the Republic of Estonia Principles of Ownership Reform Act (434 SE), initiated by the Government, will eliminate the legal vacuum in the processing of restitution claims and terminate the acts of restitution and compensation of property for the most part before the structural changes related to administrative reform.

The terms for completion of the acts for restitution of unlawfully expropriated property and awarding compensation, provided for in the Republic of Estonia Principles of Ownership Reform Act, expired last year. However, restitution claims of approximately 400 persons remained outstanding by the end of the year, and in half of the cases local governments cannot set new deadlines for further processing of the claims.

The Bill proposes measures for the continuation and quick termination of the process of restitution of and compensation for unlawfully expropriated property. According to the Bill, local governments will have additional powers to continue the processing of the claims in the case of which it was impossible to complete the processing by the existing due dates for reasons independent of the entitled subjects.

During the second reading, an amendment was incorporated, arising from the note by the Ministry of Justice to the effect that, according to the Bill, minister who can authorise an official to set deadlines is the competent authority; however, the competent administrative body should be provided for directly in an Act and not by an authorisation of a minister.

The Centre Party Faction submitted an amendment proposal to establish a register of tenants who have lived in the restituted houses and have lost their homes in the course of the ownership reform, but this proposal was not supported

The Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act, the Road Transport Act and the Taxation Act (419 SE), initiated by the Government, will establish a road user charge for lorries with a gross laden weight exceeding 3500 kilogrammes and their trailers. The rate of the road user charge will depend on the gross laden weight, the EURO-emission class and the number of axles of the lorry and its trailer. The daily road user charge rate will remain between 9 and 12 euro, and the annual road user charge rate will remain between 500 and 1300 euro. In addition, it will be possible to pay the road user charge for a week, a month or a quarter.

Vehicles of the Defence Forces, the Defence League, the armed forces of foreign states, the Police and Border Guard Board and rescue agencies and vintage vehicles within the meaning of § 83 of the Traffic Act will be exempt from the road user charge.

Time-based and distance-based road user charges are used in the European Union. Time-based road user charge for lorries will be established in Estonia as it has the advantages of a lower investment and maintenance cost and a system similar to those implemented in Latvia and Lithuania.

The Road Administration and the Tax and Customs Board will administer the charge. It will be the task of the Road Administration to ensure the possibility to pay the road user charge on a 24-hour basis, and the Act will give the Road Administration the right to enter into a contract under public law with a legal person in private law to create the possibilities to pay and to organise the possibilities to pay the road user charge. Possibilities to pay the road user charge on the Internet will also be implemented.

The Police and Border Guard Board and the Tax and Customs Board will exercise state supervision over the payment of the road user charge for lorries within the framework of the performance of their other functions. The Road Administration will also be given the right to exercise state supervision.

Erki Savisaar made a report on behalf of the Committee. He said that the Committee supported the motions to amend submitted by the initiator of the Bill and did not support the motions submitted by the Reform Party Faction.

During the debate, Külliki Kübarsepp took the floor and said that the Free Party Faction could not agree with the explanations on the Bill and did not support the Bill. She also moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The Reform Party Faction made the same motion. With 21 votes in favour and 45 against, the motion was not supported.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act (399 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Erki Savisaar, Viktor Vassiljev, Raivo Põldaru, Arno Sild, Jaanus Marrandi, Aivar Kokk, Einar Vallbaum, Kalle Palling, Kristen Michal, Artur Talvik, Kalvi Kõva, Krista Aru, Liisa Oviir and Märt Sults. It will establish the definition of at least partially automatically moving vehicles moving at low speed mainly on pavement, and the requirements for such vehicles in traffic.

The new term in the legal language, “self-driving robot”, that is used in the Bill, means a partially of fully automatic or remotely controlled vehicle that moves on wheels or other chassis in contact with the ground and uses sensors, cameras or other devices to obtain information about the surrounding environment and, using the information obtained, is capable of moving partially or fully without the immediate control of the driver, with a maximum design speed not exceeding 6 km/h. The Economic Affairs Committee had been appointed as the lead committee.

The explanatory memorandum notes that the aim of the Bill is to contribute to the activities of innovative enterprises in Estonia. The “last-kilometre delivery of parcels”, be it home delivery of parcels arriving from a long distance, or shopping that has become an everyday habit for all of us, accounts for ca 20–40 per cent of the total cost of parcel delivery. The trend is towards the use of robots in this sector to reduce this cost. According to estimates, in ten years today, up to 80 per cent of that last stage of parcel delivery could be performed by robots.

Seventeen motions to amend the Bill had been submitted; 16 of them had been by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, and the Committee had supported them. The essence of liability insurance had caused most disputes and had been omitted from the Bill.

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Auditors Activities Act and Other Associated Acts (409 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. It will bring Estonian law into conformity with relevant amended EU documents. In the first place, the organisation and funding of public oversight of auditors’ activities, the distribution of the competence and tasks of the Ministry of Finance and the bodies of the Board of Auditors, and the definition of “public-interest entity” will be reviewed.

Under an EU directive, in order to enhance the transparency of auditor oversight and to allow for greater accountability, each Member State should designate a single authority to be in charge of public oversight of statutory auditors and audit firms. Therefore the functions relating to the approval of sworn auditors and the issuing of activity licences that so far were performed by the Ministry of Finance will be transferred to the competence of the Auditing Activities Oversight Board of the Board of Auditors. Also, the current control function of the Auditing Activities Oversight Board in audit quality assurance reviews and in disciplinary proceedings will be replaced with the function of directly conducting them, which means that the current three-tier-oversight system will become two-tier. In connection with these amendments, the principles of funding the oversight will be adjusted. Besides harmonisation with EU law, the proposed amendments will eventually shorten the processing processes, both reducing the administrative burden and saving costs.

On the motion of the lead committee, 18 motions to amend had been introduced into the Bill. Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee Aivar Kokk pointed out that the auditing burden would be reduced for small undertakings.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Natural Gas Act and the Electricity Market Act (350 SE), initiated by the Government. The purpose of the Bill is to increase the energy security of Estonia, make Estonian gas market more open, and promote competition between sellers.

All ten motions to amend are motions by the lead committee which the lead committee had decided to incorporate into the text. Nine motions to amend concerned the issue of measuring gas, and one motion concerned the electricity market.

Member of the Economic Affairs Committee Jaanus Marrandi said that, by 1 January 2020, network operators would have to install gas meters at household customers whose annual gas consumption exceeded 750 cubic metres.

In order to increase the energy security of Estonia, a gas supply regulation will be established regarding household customers and undertakings who produce heat for heating dwellings according to which the system operator must maintain gas supply in a quantity that meets the requirements set out in the relevant EU Regulation.

In the interests of energy security, the Bill will provide for an obligation that gas supply may be stored only in a European Union country. Gas supply will be used when there is a severe disruption of supply in the gas system. According to the Bill, a more detailed requirement will be provided for the gas system operator, who is Elering Ltd, to maintain a gas supply for household customers and undertakings who produce heat for heating dwellings, to ensure at least 30-day security of gas supply in the event of a supply disruption.

With a view to make Estonian gas market more open and to promote competition between sellers, the system operator will be obliged to develop a gas market data exchange platform that allows customers to receive periodic overviews of gas consumption and that enables to switch gas sellers. The Bill will regulate amendments to the obligation to maintain balance according to which the gas system balance will be maintained in units of energy at the agreed pressure of 1 atm and temperature of 0°C.

The administrative burden of gas sellers will be reduced with the provision of the Bill according to which only registration obligation will be required of them, instead of a licence. Gas seller who sells gas to household customers will no longer have to coordinate the standard terms and conditions of a contract of sale with the Competition Authority. It will be sufficient for the seller to publish the standard terms and conditions on its website.

The explanatory memorandum notes that gas constitutes a relative low percentage – below 5 per cent – in Estonia’s energy balance. The district heating sector is the major user of gas in Estonia with 40 per cent, followed by industry with 23 per cent. Household customers use natural gas to the extent of 12 per cent of the annual gas consumption. The proportion of gas is increasingly decreasing in district heating in Estonia, gas boilers are being replaced with woodchip boilers. For example, in Tallinn, district heating is produced from gas to the extent of 60 per cent until today. This proportion will decrease already to less than a half next year, and in a few years’ time gas will be used only to cover peak loads – gas will then account for 20 per cent of the fuel necessary to produce district heating in Tallinn.

Estonia is essentially an energy island in terms of gas – we are physically separated from the gas system of the rest of Europe. The same holds true also for Finland and Latvia. The majority of the gas used in Estonia is supplied by Gazprom.

Aivar Kokk took the floor during the debate.

Two drafts were at the first reading:

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to § 40 of the Forest Act (420 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction. The aim of the Bill is that, to protect fauna in the reproduction period, no cuttings are carried out and no timber is transported out of the forest in the period from 15 April to 15 June. This obligation would also extend to private forest owners.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a Proposal to the Government of the Republic to Amend “The Estonian Forestry Development Plan until 2020”” (425 OE), submitted by the Estonian Free Party Faction, was not supported by the Riigikogu. Nine members of the Riigikogu were in favour of the draft Resolution, and nine were against. There was one abstention. During the debate, Artur Talvik took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction.

The sitting ended at 10.12 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201706071400

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.)

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
6316356; 515 3903
epp-mare.kukemelk@riigikogu.ee
Questions: press@riigikogu.ee

 

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