At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu heard Prime Minister Jüri Ratas’s report on the situation in research and development activities and the Government’s policy in this sphere. In his speech, the Prime Minister focused on the funding of research and development, the international success of Estonian research, and the plans for the future.
In Prime Minister’s words, the past year had been successful for the Estonian research and development and innovation sector. “Estonian science has achieved high level, and its impact on the economy and Estonia’s development is increasing,” Ratas said. According to him, the progress of Estonian research is also reflected in international comparison – influential researchers, internationally cited high-level research articles, as well as the fact that the University of Tartu achieved its highest-ever, 301th place in the international ranking of universities last year.
Ratas noted that the funding of research and development had improved. If the total expenditure had accounted for 1.28 per cent of GDP a year earlier, it had accounted for 1.40 per cent in 2018, amounting to 365.64 million euro. He said that the volume of funding research and development from the state budget was also on the increase, rising to 219.1 million euro in the current year.
The Prime Minister added that, of the total additional funds, 5.3 million would be directed to the main research funding instruments, that is, competition-based research grants and baseline funding. At the same time, the balance between competition-based research grants and baseline funding has been a touchstone for a long time – starting from this year, both equally account for 50 per cent, totalling together 84.6 million euro.
The Prime Minister pointed out the scarcity of businesses contributing to research and development as the greatest problem in the sector. “In the records of Statistics Estonia, as few as 238 businesses reported expenditure on research and development in 2018. I believe that this is an issue for consideration because in fact there are upwards of about a hundred thousand operating businesses in Estonia,” Ratas said. He thinks that, in addition to the measures taken by the state, it is paramount that businesses give a new breath to the Estonian innovation sector and the private sector research and development.
The head of government emphasised that, besides the funding target, the research agreement entered into at the end of 2018 also contained a commitment by researchers to give priority to the development of sectors oriented to the development of Estonian economy and society, and a commitment by representatives of entrepreneurs to cooperate more with researchers and research institutions. “I ask everyone, including the parties to the research agreement, to understand that the development and building up of a research and innovation system must go hand in hand with the increase in state funding. This should create an innovation ecosystem that contributes to the research and development work of undertakings and more efficient direction of resources,” Ratas said.
The national long-term development strategy “Estonia 2035” sets long-term objectives for Estonia and points out the main tests that lie ahead. Ratas emphasised that it was possible to achieve those objectives only if all sectors, including research and development, took action towards common national goals.
During the debate, Kaja Kallas (Reform Party), Katri Raik (Social Democratic Party), Aadu Must (Centre Party), Jaak Valge (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa) took the floor on behalf of the factions.
One Bill passed the second reading:
The Bill on Amendments to the Weapons Act, the State Fees Act and the Strategic Goods Act (transposition of the Firearms Directive) (62 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the relevant EU directive laying down the rules for control of the acquisition and possession of weapons (hereinafter also the Firearms Directive).
The European Commission finds that some of the requirements for firearms need to be amended and specified in light of the terrorist attacks in the EU in recent years. It is also necessary to implement measures to address the misuse of firearms for criminal purposes. The deadline for the transposition of the directive was 14 September 2018.
The requirements of the Firearms Directive have to a large part already been transposed into Estonian law, but the Weapons Act needs to be amended to fully transpose the requirements of the directive. With the major amendments, among other things, weapons will be divided into categories, the regulation concerning magazines will be incorporated into the scope of application of the Act, and restrictions will be set on the handling of certain weapons and magazines.
The classification of weapons into categories under the Firearms Directive will be incorporated in the Weapons Act. Weapons are divided into categories A, B and C based on their dangerousness, but the classification of weapons into categories does not change the current principles of the Act in regard to weapons permitted for civilian purposes, weapons in restricted commerce and weapons prohibited for civilian purposes.
The division of weapons into categories is important particularly in terms of travelling out of Estonia or into Estonia with weapons. The category of the weapon will determine what document will be required when travelling with a weapon.
Compared to the regulation that was in force before, the conditions for travelling with weapons for the purpose of engaging in hunting will change. The requirements for travelling with deactivated weapons in the EU will also change. In the future, it will also be mandatory to apply for the consent of a public authority when travelling temporarily or permanently to another EU Member State with a properly deactivated weapon.
The Bill will amend the Weapons Act by adding a regulation concerning magazines which is lacking so far. It will establish heightened requirements for owning and possessing semi-automatic firearms with large-capacity magazines.
When determining the purpose of weapons permitted for engaging in shooting sports, a distinction will be made between weapons with large-capacity magazines and weapons with “ordinary”-capacity magazines, and the corresponding requirements for target shooters will be established. In connection with that, the definitions of shooting sports organisation and shooting sports club will be specified, and the requirements for them will be amended.
The requirements for the collection of weapons will also change. Compared to the current Weapons Act, the bases and purposes of the maintenance of collections have been amended in view of the Firearms Directive. The Bill will also regulate the activities of museums that have weapons collections, and will provide for the criteria to be met by museums that collect weapons.
Leo Kunnas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor during the debate.
A Bill passed the first reading:
The Bill on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and Guernsey for the Elimination of Double Taxation with respect to Taxes on Income and the Prevention of Tax Evasion and Avoidance (116 SE), initiated by the Government.
The purpose of the agreement for the elimination of double taxation is to facilitate investments between Estonia and Guernsey. Compared to national legal acts, the agreement as an international legal act provides investors with greater legal certainty with regard to the elements of the tax system that are regulated by the agreement, because amendment of an international agreement is more time-consuming than amendment of a national legal act. To achieve the purpose, the agreement between Estonia and Guernsey for the elimination of double taxation limits the income taxes that the country of the source of income can establish for the residents of the other country, ensures equal treatment of persons and eliminates potential double taxation. The agreement also establishes an obligation of mutual exchange of information which creates additional possibilities for prevention of tax avoidance.
The entry into force of the agreement will bring about a positive impact on taxpayers who receive income from Guernsey that is subject to tax in both jurisdictions with no tax agreement in place. The agreement provides no additional opportunities for taxation for the countries, but it restricts the existing taxation rights that have been established under national law. Estonia has concluded the agreements for the elimination of double taxation with 59 countries.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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