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At today's sitting, the Riigikogu gave its mandate for the use of the Defence Forces for the fulfilment of the international commitments of the Estonian state in military and peacekeeping missions.

The Riigikogu passed with 78 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Composition of the NATO Response Force” (131 OE), submitted by the Government, which provides for the use of up to 210 active servicemen of the Defence Forces in the composition of NATO Response Force NRF in 2016 as necessary.

The Riigikogu extended the Kosovo peacekeeping mission by passing with 76 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo” (132 OE), submitted by the Government. This Resolution extends the time limit for the use of up to three active servicemen of the Defence Forces in the membership of the NATO-led Kosovo peacekeeping force KFOR (Kosovo Force) to 31 December 2016. The Estonian Defence Forces have participated in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo since 1999.

The Riigikogu passed with 74 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the European Union Military Mission EUNAVFOR Med” (133 OE), submitted by the Government. The Resolution provides for the use of up to two active servicemen in the composition of the European Union military mission EUNAVFOR Med (EU Naval Forces in the Mediterranean) from 1 January to 31 December 2016. The aim of the operation is to disrupt the activities of human traffickers in the central area of the Mediterranean: between the territorial seas of Italy and Malta, and Libya. Estonia is participating in the EUNAVFOR Med operation with a logistics staff officer starting from August this year. In 2016, participation will be continued with one staff officer at the mission headquarters.

The Riigikogu passed with 68 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the European Union Training Mission and the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali” (134 OE), submitted by the Government. This Resolution extends the time limit for the use of up to ten active servicemen of the Defence Forces in the European Union Training Mission EUTM Mali (European Union Training Mission in Mali) from 1 January to 31 December 2016. The time limit for the use of up to ten active servicemen of the Defence Forces in Mali in the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) is also extended until the end of the next year.

In 2016, Estonia will contribute to the EUTM Mali mission with instructors whose task will be military training of the units in Mali. Contribution will also include staff officers who will participate in the planning and advising process of the training of the units in Mali. Next year, Estonia will contribute to the MINUSMA with two staff officers and an observation and advising team who will serve in the All Sources Information Fusion Unit ASIFU led by Holland in the composition of the MINUSMA.

The Riigikogu suspended the proceedings on the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in Another International Military Operation Led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its Member State, the European Union or the UN upon the First Contribution thereto” (135 OE), submitted by the Government. This draft Resolution provides for the use of up to 50 active servicemen, as necessary, in an operation led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its Member State, the EU or the UN, or in another international military operation in compliance with the generally recognised principles of international law next year. The exact contribution of Estonia and the amount will depend on the needs of a specific operation and the possibilities of the state. Estonia can contribute with staff officers as well as certain units, for example, mine clearance team, infantry platoon or special forces. The draft Resolution will ensure that rapid and flexible contribution to operations is guaranteed with a Resolution of the Riigikogu.

The deadline for submission of motions to amend the draft Resolution is 23 December.

The Riigikogu passed with 68 votes in favour and one abstention the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Training and Advisory Mission in Afghanistan” (136 OE), submitted by the Government. This Resolution extends the time limit for the use of up to six active servicemen in the composition of the NATO-led advisory and training mission Resolute Support (RSM) in Afghanistan until the end of 2016. Estonia will continue contribution with a four-member mine clearance team in the North-Afghanistan region led by the framework country Germany. The Estonian state has participated in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) Afghanistan operation for 11 years (2003-2014), and is participating in the RSM starting from 2015.

The Riigikogu passed with 63 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon” (137 OE), submitted by the Government. This Resolution extends the time limit for the use of up to 50 active servicemen in the composition of the UN-led international peacekeeping mission UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) in Lebanon until the end of next year. The rotation of the Estonian servicemen participating in the operation takes place twice a year. Therefore, both leaving and arriving units can stay in the operation area simultaneously in the rotation period. For that purpose, the Resolution provides that the maximum limit for the Defence Forces for participation in the Lebanon operation can be increased in the rotation period to up to 100 active servicemen within one month as of the arrival of the members of the Defence Forces who participate in the rotation in the operation area. The majority of the Estonian contingent consists of a mechanised infantry platoon together with a logistics element and staff officers. The duties of the group are observation, patrols and the manning of checkpoints, which also involves cooperation with the Lebanese armed forces.

The Riigikogu passed with 59 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Post-Conflict Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria” (138 OE), submitted by the Government. This Resolution extends the time limit for the use of up to six active servicemen in the UN-led peacekeeping mission UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization) in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria until the end of next year. Estonia mans positions of staff officers as well as senior staff officers. The function of the UNTSO is to observe adherence to peace agreements and armament agreements in the Middle East, and to prevent escalation of conflicts. The Estonian military observers have been participating in the membership of the UN military observation mission since 1997.

Today’s sitting of the Riigikogu began with proceedings on the Bills the deliberation of which had been adjourned due to the end of the working hours on Tuesday.

The first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Private Schools Act (142 SE), initiated by the Government, was resumed. Under the Bill, the covering of the operating expenses, that is, the costs related to the maintenance of the school building, of private schools will become voluntary for local governments. Krista Aru, Jaak Madison and the Minister of Education and Research Jürgen Ligi took the floor during the debate that was resumed today.

The Estonian Centre Party, the Estonian Free Party and the Estonian Conservative People’s Party moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. With 38 votes in favour and 56 against, the motion to reject was not supported and the first reading was concluded.

The deadline for submission of motions to amend the Bill is 23 December.

The Bill on Amendments to the Local Government Council Election Act and Associated Acts (139 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, was also at the first reading. It will lower the voting age in the Local Government Council Election Act from the age of 18 to 16, according to the amendment to subsection 156 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia that entered into force on 13 August 2015. The Bill is essentially the same as the Bill (42 SE) initiated by the Constitutional Committee on 25 May this year that passed the first and second reading in the Riigikogu but did not gain the required majority of votes at the third reading in the plenary on 10 November 2015.

Jüri Adams, Martin Helme and Kalle Laanet took the floor during the debate. The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. With 29 votes in favour, 56 against and two abstentions, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the Bill was concluded.

The deadline for submission of motions to amend the Bill is 11 December.

The Bill on Amendments to § 30 of the Value Added Tax Act (148 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee. According to the amendment, a taxable person will have the right to deduct input value added tax in full from a vehicle used for business and from goods acquired and services received therefor also in the case when an automobile is used mainly for the carriage of passengers for a fee on the condition that the taxable person holds a Community licence provided for in the Public Transport Act and a certified copy of the Community licence.

The deadline for submission of motions to amend the Bill is 11 December.

The Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol Act (111 SE), initiated by the Centre Party Faction. The Bill provides for prohibition of retail sale of alcoholic beverages in buildings located on the territory of a filling station. The Economic Affairs Committee as the lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 55 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 26 were against, and there were eight abstentions. The Bill was dropped from the proceedings.

Today, the Riigikogu passed eight Acts.

With 81 votes in favour and five against, the Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act and Other Associated Acts (70 SE), initiated by the Government. The purpose of the Act is to transpose into Estonian law the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the recognition of professional qualifications. Under the Act, a European Professional Card can be offered to all interested professions which allows easier and faster recognition of qualifications. With the amendments, the system will become clearer also for consumers as Member States are called to review the scope of application of regulated professions. In addition, an alert system will be introduced that will oblige national competent authorities to alert each other in the event of professional misconduct, in particular in the health sector.

With 82 votes in favour, one against and three abstentions, the Act on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act and Other Acts (73 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed. It regulates the participation of resident physicians in the provision of health service and specifies the conditions of the participation of health care students in the provision of health services. In addition, the rights of the general medical care service providers and service providers maintaining a hospital or nursing hospital are extended so that they are able to grant use of immovable property belonging to them outside ordinary economic activities. Also, the range of services is extended with the physiotherapy service.

With 77 votes in favour and one abstention, the General Part of the Social Code Act (93 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed. The Act establishes uniform bases for the social protection system and the organisation of social protection in Estonia. The Social Code establishes the legal bases for protecting the person and the family, by preventing, eliminating or reducing social risks integrally, in particular in the event of unemployment, illness, maternity, incapacity for work, old age, loss of a provider, raising children, falling victim to a crime, special social needs and difficulties in coping. The basic concepts of social law – social protection and benefit, and monetary and non-monetary benefit as types thereof – are also defined. The Act determines a certain principal minimum standard that is the basis for all social protection activities.

With 54 votes in favour and 33 against, the Riigikogu passed the Social Welfare Act (98 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act relies on various constitutional values – the right to assistance in the case of need, the principle of a social state, and the general right to equality that is based on the right to a humane standard of living and the principle of legitimate expectation. The state duties are payment of subsistence benefit, payment of the needs-based family benefit, provision of rehabilitation service, provision of special welfare services, provision of childcare service, provision of substitute home service, provision of appliances, payment of social benefits to persons who have settled in Estonia, and payment of the fee for the care for the child in another family.

Marika Tuus-Laul, Jüri Jaanson, Aivar Kokk and Helmen Kütt took the floor during the debate.

With 74 votes in favour and four abstentions, the Riigikogu passed the Consumer Protection Act (37 SE), initiated by the Government, which establishes a new consolidated text of the Consumer Protection Act and transposes the relevant EU directive on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes in the EU. Major amendments concern the creation of a web-based interactive platform in particular for the resolution of cross-border consumer disputes, and a prohibition on charging a fee for the bills presented to consumers.

With 66 votes in favour, five against and four abstentions, the Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Electronic Communications Act and the Act on Amendments to the Electronic Communications Act and the State Fees Act (51 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act enhances the measures that ensure more efficient use of landline, mobile phone and short code numbering. The Act provides for resolution of a situation where the numbering has not been introduced or is used inefficiently, including for example to organise fraud schemes for special tariff calls. The Act also extends the period for preserving log files collected on activities carried out through the central surveillance equipment of surveillance or security authorities from the current 5 years to 10 years. If a log file that is evidence collected in the course of surveillance with the permission of a court cannot be destroyed before the expiry of the limitation period for possible court actions, the period of preservation of log files will be extended because they may be of importance as evidence in court proceedings.

With 76 votes in favour and three abstentions, the Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Packaging Act (125 SE), initiated by the Government. It mitigates undertakings’ obligations regarding the audit of the data to be submitted to the packaging register. Packaging undertakings who place on the market less than five tonnes of packaging per year are exempt from it. According to statistics, there are circa 2000 such small undertakings in Estonia. The share of the quantity of packaging placed on the market by these undertakings in Estonia is below two per cent.

The Riigikogu passed the State Budget for 2016 Act (103 SE), initiated by the Government. 58 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passing of the Act and 40 were against.

The volume of the next year’s state budget is 8.9 billion euro, which is 4.2 percent or 358 million euro more than was planned in the state budget for 2015. The budget is in structural surplus of 0.6 per cent. Next year, the tax burden will remain at approximately this year’s level, that is, 33 per cent. The impact of labour taxes on the tax burden is expected to decrease by 0.66 per cent of GDP next year. The budget provides for a 4 percent rise in the salary fund of teachers, culture workers and social workers, police officers and other internal security officers. In comparison to this year, the pensions will grow and more money will be allocated to health care.

The representatives of factions Kadri Simson, Andres Ammas, Priit Sibul, Martin Helme and Andres Anvelt took the floor during the debate. They presented their positions and opinions on the next year’s budget. Representative of the lead committee Remo Holsmer also took the floor during the debate.

The Minister of Public Administration Arto Aas gave a survey of the civil service report of 2014 to the Riigikogu. Aas pointed out that 119 153 people worked in the government sector as at 2014, and 20 510 of them are officials. The number of officials has decreased by about a thousand persons when compared to 2013.

Aas also touched upon the need to reduce the number of government sector employees in proportion to the decline of the working age population in the Estonian state as a whole. This means a need to reduce the number of employees by an average of 700 a year in 2015–2019.

Aas said that the people working in civil service have higher than average education. The proportion of people with higher education amounted to 41 per cent of all the employed in Estonia; at the same time, their proportion is significantly larger, 58 per cent, in the civil service. “Highly qualified employees expect a higher salary for their contribution,” Aas said. In 2014, the average salary of state public servants was 1338 euro and the average salary of local government officials was 1179 euro.

Maris Lauri, Külliki Kübarsepp and Aadu Must took the floor during the debate.

The Riigikogu passed with 53 votes in favour and five abstentions the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of the Consolidated Report of 2014 of the State” (85 OE), submitted by the Government. Its aim is to give an overview of the achievement of the goals set in the state budget, and of the financial situation, economic result and cash flows of the state, and to enable the Riigikogu to exercise its auditing function with regard to the Government of the Republic, provide the Government with the opportunity to explain its activities during the accounting year, and submit the information necessary for the Riigikogu to make new resolutions regarding the budget.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Water Act (82 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill will update the requirements for the restriction of water pollution originating from agriculture. The Bill was drawn up because of the infringement procedure initiated by the European Commission due to the insufficient transposition of the nitrates Directive into Estonian law. The Bill is intended to enhance certain water protection measures in agriculture, and to specify the provisions relating to the use of fertilizers and the requirements for manure storage facilities.

With 28 votes in favour, 45 against and one abstention, the motion to suspend the second reading of the Bill was not supported.

Siret Kotka, Artur Talvik, Mart Helme and Rainer Vakra took the floor during the debate.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Act on the Return of Cultural Objects Unlawfully Removed from the Territory of a Member State of the European Union (117 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill transposes into Estonian law the directive on better protection of the cultural objects of the European Union. The amendments will strengthen the mutual administrative cooperation between central authorities of the Member States and introduce the Internal Market Information System. Also, the time-limit for bringing return proceedings against the possessor or holder of the cultural object will be extended. The payment of compensation to the possessor or holder of the cultural object will be coupled with an obligation to prove the exercise of due care and attention.

The Bill on Amendments to the Guarantee Fund Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (119 SE), initiated by the Government, also passed the second reading in the Riigikogu. The aim of the Bill on amendments to the Guarantee Fund Act and other associated Acts is to increase the feeling of security of depositors. That is, in other words, the aim is to increase the extent of the protection of deposits from the consequences of possible insolvency of banks.

The sitting ended at 8.18 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian).

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

T: 631 6356, 515 3903

epp-mare.kukemelk@riigikogu.ee

Queries: press@riigikogu.ee

 

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