Sixteen Bills and draft Resolutions in total were on the agenda of the Riigikogu. Three Acts were passed and the Resolution on the National Security Concept of Estonia was approved.
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “The National Security Concept of Estonia” (395 OE), submitted by the Government, was passed with 75 votes in favour.
The aim and principles of the national security concept create a framework for the assessment of the security environment and the determining of the objectives necessary to ensure security. The aim of security policy derives from the Constitution. The aim is to ensure the independence and sovereignty of Estonia, the preservation of the nation and the state, territorial integrity, constitutional order and the security of the population. The principles are understood as positions that must serve as the basis in the achievement of the aim and that make up a whole leading to the best result. The scope of issues covered by security policy is changeable in time. Based on the broad security concept, the document focuses on the activities of the state in the spheres that can contribute towards creating and securing security. Similarly to the earlier document, here too the starting point is the implementation of security policy in observance of the fundamental rights and freedoms and protecting constitutional values. In comparison to the earlier document, the wording of the principles has been specified.
The Riigikogu passed three Acts:
The Customs Act (374 SE), initiated by the Government, brings the Customs Act into conformity with the new European Union customs legislation. The provisions duplicating European Union legislation is omitted from the Act, and terminology is changed.
As of 1 May 2016, the new Customs Code is in force in the European Union which harmonises customs rules within the Union. For undertakings, customs formalities become simpler and administration becomes paper-free
The main aim of the new Code is to establish uniform requirements and to transfer customs clearance into a new uniform electronic environment in all European Union Member States. The electronic environment will be created gradually by 2020, and transitional provisions will be implemented in 2016–2020.
Customs formalities are provided for more extensively in directly applicable Regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council and of the Commission, and the provisions with the same content in the Customs Act need to be repealed: e.g. the procedure for the provision of security for customs duty, the provisions concerning the procedures with economic impact and temporary storage, and the procedure for lodging a customs declaration.
In the future, free zones will no longer be differentiated by type, and free warehouses will be eliminated. As with the consolidation of different ways of processing that belong among special procedures, so in eliminating the free zone types and free warehouses the aim is to make the common customs law more transparent and simple. The terminology of Estonian legislation needs to be consistently brought into conformity with the Customs Code. If all the numerous amendments were incorporated, the Act would become difficult to read. Therefore a new consolidated text of the Act was drafted which at the same time updates provisions that do not need direct amendment on the basis of the Customs Code: the provisions duplicating the Administrative Procedure Act are omitted, the regulation concerning representation is amended, the procedure for calculating the costs of customs service is amended, the Act is amended by adding provisions concerning databases, the provisions concerning goods transferred to state ownership are specified, and the number of elements of a misdemeanour is reduced.
Besides the updating of terminology, the legal bases for the administration of securities related to payment of customs duty and excise duty and the establishment of a tax warehouse are amended in the Taxation Act, the Value-Added Tax Act and the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act. There is a new basis for calculating the rate of interest on customs duty.
74 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
According to the Act on Amendments to § 7 of the National Defence Act (438 SE), initiated by the National Defence Committee, the National Defence Act is a special Act and it provides for the specifications for conducting proceedings on the development plan of national defence.
75 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act and the Tobacco Act (380 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the charging of excise duty on alternative tobacco products with a view to eliminating unequal competition between alternative and classical tobacco products. Alternative tobacco products are for example refill liquid for electronic cigarettes, the liquid used to flavour the steam stones replacing waterpipe tobacco, steam stones used as solid substitute for tobacco, etc.
The excise rate for alternative tobacco products is 0.2 euro per millilitre of tobacco liquid or 0.2 euro per millilitre if the product is gelled. The excise for one cigarette is approximately 0.1 euro this year and in 2018. About 5.6 cigarettes correspond to one milligram of tobacco liquid. The excise rate for solid substitute for tobacco will be similar to the excise rate for smoking tobacco which will be 76.84 euro per kilogram as of 2018. To mitigate the impacts of possible business at the border, a lower excise is established for alternative tobacco products than for cigarettes.
Also, similarly to the excise duty rate for cigarettes, the excise duty rate for cigars and cigarillos becomes two-component (the current excise duty rate is 211 euro per 1000 cigars or cigarillos). It consists of a fixed amount per quantity of product and a proportional share depending on product price. Starting from 2018, the excise rate for cigars and cigarillos will be 151 euro per 1000 cigars or cigarillos and 10 per cent of their maximum retail price. In 2018, the excise duty rate for cigarettes will be 69.5 euro per 1000 cigarettes and 30 per cent of their maximum retail price. As a result of the amendment, an additional 0.1 million euro will be accrued to the budget in 2018.
The Act reduces the administrative burden for traders involved in payment of excise. Paper-based maintenance of records of tax stamps on tobacco products will be replaced by maintenance of records with the help of an electronic database which will also simplify the work of the tax authority. In the future, traders will no longer need to print the delivery note required for transport from an electronic database. The tax authority will check the existence of a delivery note in the electronic system. The requirement to submit a notarially authenticated document certifying the right to use the territory and buildings of the excise warehouse is eliminated because the tax authority will obtain the necessary information from the relevant electronic database.
The procedure for payment of excise duty in distance sales is amended by giving the recipient of excise goods the possibility to pay excise. Under the current procedure, distant sellers located in other Member States must choose a tax representative for the payment of excise duty, but in many cases they fail to do so. According to an amendment, the recipient of excise goods is liable for excise duty in distance sales, in order to ensure performance of the obligation to pay excise duty. The recipient of excise goods is not liable to pay excise duty if the distance seller has chosen a tax representative for the payment of excise duty.
64 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act, 4 were against, and there were 5 abstentions.
Four Bills passed the second reading:
The Bill 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 Bill will create 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.
The explanatory memorandum notes that 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 Bill will create the possibility for the Supreme Court to obtain an opinion from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) before making a decision. It will be 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.
Two motions to amend the Bill were submitted during the second reading. One of the motions to amend will ensure priority of the claims for maintenance for children.
Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. 7 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 58 were against. The motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act, the Motor Insurance Act and the State Fees Act (406 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the EU directives concerning the roadworthiness test for vehicles and the inspection of the roadworthiness of vehicles in the course of exercising traffic supervision. The deadline for the transposition of the directive is 20 May 2017.
Under the Bill, in the future, it will be allowed to use in traffic during 30-60 days vehicles in which deficiencies that are not dangerous have been discovered in a roadworthiness test or in the course of exercising traffic supervision (it is not allowed to participate in traffic with a dangerous fault). Under the current Act, such a vehicle may be driven only to a repair centre or roadworthiness test centre, or back to the car park.
The Bill will abandon the obligation of roadworthiness test for vehicles used on small islands of Estonia. Roadworthiness test will continue to be mandatory in Hiiumaa, Muhu and Saaremaa. Under the current Act, all vehicles used in traffic must pass a roadworthiness test regardless of where the vehicle is used. At the same time it is not expedient to carry out the tests on vehicles used only on small islands where the intensity of using the vehicle and the traffic density is low. A roadside inspection will have to be performed if a vehicle which is otherwise used on a small island is to be used in traffic outside the small island.
The Bill provides that the establishment of the limit for the fee charged for the roadworthiness testing will be transferred from the Act (at present the Act does not regulate it, it is not regulated at all, the market regulates it) to the Regulation of a minister. In the establishment of the limit, it will have to be taken into account that companies engaged in roadworthiness testing would be able to bear the direct expenses relating to the service, the capital expenditure and a proportional part of the overheads and make a reasonable operating profit.
Eight motions to amend the Bill were submitted during the second reading. A motion to amend will change the situation where a permanent resident of Estonia obtains a driving licence in a country where the requirements for obtaining the right to drive are more lenient. The Bill will be amended by adding the wording under which such driving licence can be exchanged for an Estonian driving licence after successful passing of the driving theory test and driving test required to obtain the right to drive.
A motion to amend provides for increasing the amounts of the pecuniary punishment for manipulating the odometer for a natural person from 50 fine units to 100 fine units, and the punishment for a legal person from 1200 euro to 3200 euro.
The Explosives Bill (418 SE), initiated by the Government, will establish a new consolidated text of the Explosives Act which regulates the handling of explosives and pyrotechnic articles. The aim of the Bill 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 Bill will not change.
The explanatory memorandum notes that this year the new requirements set for pyrotechnic articles by the EU will enter fully into force. Under the Bill, 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 will also be provided that a weapons store may store up to 50 kg of gun powder without meeting specific requirements. No maximum quantity is set out in the current law.
The Bill on Amendments to the Estonian Central Register of Securities Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (428 SE), initiated by the Government, will increase competition between central securities depositories holding securities. Another aim of the Bill 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 Bill will widen 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).
Nine motions to amend the Bill were submitted during the second reading. A motion to amend 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 Bill 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 of the amendment is to ensure establishment of a prospectus-free threshold comparable with that in neighbouring countries.
Six Bills passed the first reading:
According to the Bill on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act (445 SE), initiated by the Government, upon public exhibition of animals, it will be permitted to use animals whose species-specific behavioural habits or life enable that without damaging the health of the animals. The list of animal species and subspecies who will be allowed to be used at animal exhibitions, competitions, fairs and auctions and other public events involving the gathering of animals will be established by a regulation of the minister responsible for the field. This regulation will not extend to zoos that hold an activity licence. In addition to the protection of the welfare and health of animals, the aim of the Bill is to prevent the risk of accidents relating to animals at public events, and to prevent people, especially children, from developing misconceptions about animals’ behaviour in free nature on the basis of non-species-specific behaviour of animals that they see during circus performances.
Barbi Pilvre from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Bill 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, will ratify both the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court and the agreement on a regional division as 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.
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.
The Bill on Amendments to the Atmospheric Air Protection Act (462 SE), initiated by the Government.
As the EU has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 within the framework of a global agreement, and by 20 per cent unilaterally, all sectors must contribute to the achievement of these targets. The Bill will transpose two relevant EU directives.
A considerable share of the total amount of greenhouse gases in the Union originates from fuel used in transport. The aim of the amendment is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector in order to improve the general ambient air quality. The Bill provides for an obligation, arising from the Fuel Quality Directive, for the suppliers of fuel, who will have to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of fuels used in road transport by at least 6 percent by 2020. Also, the reduction required will have to continue every month after 2020.
Besides that, information on the fuels and energy used in road transport, including information on the volume, origin and place of purchase, the volume of greenhouse gas emissions, etc., will be collected and transmitted to the European Commission.
The Act is planned to enter into force in general part pursuant to general procedure. The amendments relating to the Liquid Fuel Act are planned to enter into force on 1 May 2018.
The Bill on Amendments to the Atmospheric Air Protection Act and the General Part of the Environmental Code Act (464 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose several European Union legal acts into Estonian law. The Act will be amended by adding penal provisions regarding the failure to comply with the requirements for monitoring and reporting of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport. Namely, as of 1 January 2018, all owners of large ships will have to monitor carbon dioxide emissions on their voyages and to report on it annually.
The regulation relating to the handling of fluorinated greenhouse gases, or F-gases, will also be specified. F-gases are industrial gases that are used for example in refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment and heat pumps and fire protection equipment. An amendment will create the possibility for owners of equipment containing F-gases to store in their premises a container containing F-gas collected from equipment if this activity has been registered in FOKA Registry.
A provision will also be added to the effect that, as of 1 January 2017, the public list of the holders of a permit to handle equipment containing F-gases will be transferred to the register of economic activities. Earlier, this list was available on the website of the Environmental Board. In addition, liability provisions, that is, elements of misdemeanour that so far were lacking in Estonian law or needed improvement, will be established for the implementation of the EU F-gases Regulation.
The Atmospheric Air Protection Act will be amended by adding a provision that will allow reclamation of supports granted from GHG emissions trading revenues. The amendment was due to the fact that, up to now, it was impossible for the body granting support to seek compulsory enforcement of decisions to reclaim support.
At the same time, the Bill will partially transpose the directive on the regulation of emissions into the air from medium combustion plants. In connection with that, the requirements for the storage and submission of data related to air pollution permits will be specified. Namely, in the future, data will have to be stored for six years instead of the current five years.
The Bill on Amendments to the Radiation Act (463 SE), initiated by the Government.
The European Union directive according to which the Ministry of the Environment will have to carry out radiation and nuclear safety peer reviews at least every six years will be transposed into Estonian law. In the case of Estonia, the directive applies to the former nuclear object in Paldiski, and therefore the topic of peer review will have to be chosen taking into account this object. The first peer review will be performed in 2017. In practice, this means that a working group consisting of Estonian experts will perform a self-assessment which will then be sent for review to other European Union Member States.
Under the current Act, in addition, also an international audit has to be conducted every ten years. An amendment provides that an audit will have to be conducted immediately also in case of a situation of accidental exposure at the Paldiski nuclear object. No accidental exposure situations have emerged in Estonia, and nuclear fuel has been removed from the nuclear object in Paldiski already years ago.
Two Bills were dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act (414 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Igor Gräzin, Arno Sild, Artur Talvik and Oudekki Loone, is intended to comprehensively replace in the Act the words “the European Union Affairs Committee” with the words “the European Union and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Affairs Committee” in appropriate case forms.
During the debate, Mihhail Stalnuhhin from the Centre Party Faction and Jaak Madison from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor.
The Constitutional Committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 45 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 19 were against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.
The Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act which strengthens parliamentary scrutiny (402 SE), initiated by the Free Party Faction, is intended to strengthen the rights of the committees of investigation of the Riigikogu, to enhance their activities, and to ensure that persons appear before the committees, and that documents and information are forwarded and questions are replied to at the request of the committees. The initiators of the Bill say in justification that the rights listed are very important in terms of the quality of the work of a committee of investigation. Therefore the activities of committees of investigation must be ensured with an effective sanction. The Bill provides that a committee of investigation may impose a penalty payment of up to 8000 euro for failure to appear before a committee of investigation without a valid reason following a summons from the committee, failure to present information or documents, or refusal to provide explanations or to reply to questions.
Jüri Adams from the Free Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Constitutional Committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 48 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 13 were against, and there were 3 abstentions. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/en/201705311400
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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