At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu heard Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s report on the situation in research and development activities and the Government’s policy in this sphere.
The Prime Minister noted that the year 2020 had brought about changes in the work processes of researchers in connection with the pandemic. “One of the positive things that can definitely be highlighted is the significant increase in the role of science and researchers in solving the problems of the country and society,” Kallas said. In her words, Estonian researchers have stood out for their ability to respond quickly and they are valued partners in pan-European networks. She emphasised that researchers’ advice and the studies carried out by them helped make knowledge-based decisions in the rapidly changing and unpredictable situation and helped cope with the long-term impacts of the crisis.
The head of Government expressed hope that close cooperation with researchers would also continue once the pandemic has been contained and in the next great challenges such as climate issues and the green transition. “This is a unique opportunity for our researchers – to offer Estonian businesses technological solutions to implement the green transition, and to test and develop them in order to later offer the improved solutions outside Estonia as well. New technology alone will not change people’s mindsets, behaviour or preferences – the green transition will include all branches of science, from social and behavioural scientists to engineers,” the Prime Minister said.
In Kallas’s words, the decision to increase the funding of research and development by the state to one per cent of the gross domestic product is of significant importance – the funding of research and development by the state will increase by 56 million euro in 2021, totalling 286.4 million euro. In the Prime Minister’s words, private sector research and development investments increased by 85.8 million in 2019, and the private sector expenditure in this field totalled 246.8 million euro.
As the Government’s primary sectoral priorities, Kallas pointed out the doctoral studies reform and increasing the development and innovation capacity of businesses, as well as the funding of humanities. “We need to understand that an increase in research and development funding will bring about more work and responsibility for all parties involved,” she added. As to the doctoral studies reform, in Kallas’s words, it is intended to improve the incomes and social guarantees of doctoral students and thereby to reduce uncertainty. “Money alone is not enough. We need people who are also able to use all these opportunities,” the Prime Minister noted. “We promote researchers’ mobility between the academic and the private and public sector without which indeed no knowledge transfer takes place.”
The Head of Government also mentioned the new Research and Development, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Plan. In Kallas’s words, the development plan places a great emphasis on knowledge transfer, which is cooperation of businesses and schools. Special attention is paid to Estonia’s development needs in five areas – digital solutions, health technologies and services, local cleantech, smart and sustainable energy solutions and a viable Estonian society, language and cultural space. “The further development will have to be based on knowledge-based innovative solutions supported by high-level, influential and diverse Estonian science and a favourable business environment. Science must keep pace with society and its needs and be a leader,” Kallas said.
During the debate, Eduard Odinets (Social Democratic Party), Aadu Must (Centre Party)), Margit Sutrop (Reform Party), Jaak Valge (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa) took the floor on behalf of their factions..
The Riigikogu passed two Acts
The Act on Amendments to the Code of Enforcement Procedure and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (315 SE), initiated by the Government, makes amendments in the regulation of the termination of enforcement proceedings and in other associated Acts in order to simplify and specify the termination of enforcement proceedings in civil claims. The amendments included amend among other things the Fire Safety Act in order to enable different forms of cooperation related to fire safety to raise the quality of building design documentation.
In April 2011, an amendment to the General Part of the Civil Code Act entered into force that provided that the limitation period for a claim recognised by a court judgment that has become final and for claims that arise from other execution documents was ten years instead of the earlier 30 years.
Under the current Act, in order to terminate enforcement proceedings in civil claims due to expiry of the limitation period, the debtor needs to file a claim with a county court for compulsory enforcement to be declared impermissible, as the Code of Enforcement Procedure does not allow an enforcement agent to terminate enforcement proceedings in a civil claim by applying expiry of the limitation period.
When such statements of claim are filed in large numbers, the courts’ workload increases significantly, which brings about a significant extension of the duration of proceedings in other court proceedings. In order to reduce the workload, various measures have been proposed.
Under the Act, enforcement agents will have the possibility to terminate enforcement proceedings in civil claims in the event of expiry of the limitation period for enforcement. The debtor will have the possibility to turn to the enforcement agent and to apply for termination of the proceedings. Then the enforcement agent will carry out the relevant procedures and ask the party seeking enforcement if the party agrees, and the enforcement proceedings will be terminated with the party’s consent.
88 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and there was one abstention.
The Act on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act and Other Acts (295 SE), initiated by the Government, ensures more flexible organisation of the alternative and continuing care service, extends the range of persons who are entitled to monthly family allowances, and enhances the possibilities for local authorities to support young people who need the continuing care service.
The Act also enables a contract of employment to be entered into with family parents in family homes providing the alternative care service, besides the authorisation agreement provided for in the current law. Specifications regarding the working and rest time are provided for the cases when a contract of employment is entered into, which will ensure family parents social guarantees equally to other persons employed under the Employment Contracts Act. Under the current regulation, an agreement can be entered into with a family parent that is essentially an authorisation agreement under the law of obligations with special conditions and the conditions in place will not be amended.
The Act also creates the opportunity to receive family allowances, for example, child benefit, guardianship allowance, the single parent’s child allowance, the allowance for families with many children, as well as the disabled student’s allowance and the disabled parent’s allowance if a child of up to 19 years of age has been included in the list of a full-time in-service training course at a state agency administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The amendment concerns children over 16 years of age who are studying at Astangu Vocational Rehabilitation Centre and do not have the status of a student, and who are, therefore, deprived of the above-mentioned allowances. Under the current regulation, the payment of family allowances in connection with studies is contingent on studies at a basic school, a secondary school or in formal vocational education.
The Act also makes other amendments. For example, uniform state fee rates are established for the social services provided under an activity licence (the social rehabilitation service, the safe house service and the general care service provided outside home). In the case of the continuing care service, local authorities will have the possibility to use the resources of the support fund for all young people who have left alternative care and guardianship until they attain 25 years of age. Under the regulation in force, the age requirement is different.
During the debate, Natalia Malleus took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction.
88 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
Three Bills passed the second reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act, the Value-Added Tax Act and the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act (293 SE), initiated by the Government, will set out safeguards with regard to the jurisdictions included in the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, in order that aggressive tax planning would be impossible through the jurisdictions included in the EU list.
Under the Bill, the calculation of the basic exemption in Estonia will be equal for a resident natural person and a resident natural person of another Contracting State. The current Act also enables a resident natural person of another Contracting State to make the deductions from income earned in Estonia that are allowed for a resident natural person. The difference in the treatment of an Estonian resident and a resident of another Contracting State is however manifest in the calculation of the basic exemption.
At the same time, the Bill will ensure that, in terms of the taxation of the reimbursement of the daily subsistence allowances and the transport, accommodation and other costs of servants participating in secondments by Frontex and EASO, they will be treated equally as regards the taxation of the reimbursements made to the national experts at a European Union institution or office or agency who participate in civilian missions.
The Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (299 SE), initiated by the Government, will create a legal basis for checking the special systems of motor vehicles and their trailers. Considering the rapid technological development and the potential need to respond flexibly to the implementation of new technologies, the Bill will establish a general framework for checking special systems and for the bodies engaged in the checking. In particular, at present this concerns fuel tanks of the vehicles running on natural gas. The aim of the innovation is to ensure the safety of vehicles using compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas as fuel.
The amendments included in the Bill in the course of the second reading specify among other things the definition of truck. It is noted that truck is a vehicle designed to carry load, tow vehicles or carry out specific tasks. The amendment is due to the interpretation problems that have arisen in practice where disputes have arisen as to whether trucks that are the object of road toll also include special purpose trucks or not.
The Bill will extend the opportunity to assign the traffic control duties to a person with relevant competence who has been recognised as a volunteer rescuer by the Rescue Board within the meaning of the Rescue Act. This will not obligate rescue service workers, volunteer rescuers and assistant police officers to undergo any additional traffic controller training once the Act enters into force. At the same time it is provided that, where the blue flashing light or a blue signal light of an emergency vehicle is switched on, whether with or without a siren, police officers, assistant police officers, rescue service workers and volunteer rescuers who are passengers in the vehicle will be exempt from the requirement to wear a seat belt when the vehicle is in motion. The regulation of the admission to emergency vehicle driver training will also be specified, and an exemption will be provided under which an emergency vehicle with a trailer exceeding the maximum authorised mass of O1 light trailer but not exceeding the maximum authorised mass of O2 trailer will be regarded as a category C vehicle.
The Bill on Amendments to § 3 of the Mental Health Act (115 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction, is intended to amend the procedure for providing psychiatric care to persons with restricted active legal capacity. The Bill was initiated when the Chancellor of Justice pointed out that, under the current procedure, young people under the age of 18 who are sufficiently mature and capable of judgment are not allowed to receive psychiatric care without the consent of their legal representative or without the permission of a court.
The current Act does not enable to provide psychiatric care to a minor without parental consent under any circumstances, and currently psychiatrists are the only specialist doctors whom a person under 18 years of age cannot consult without his or her parent’s consent. Differently to the Law of Obligations Act which regulates the provision of other health care services, the Mental Health Act does not enable doctors to assess a minor’s capacity for judgment or to decide if a young person is sufficiently responsible to give his or her consent to treatment.
Under the amendments included in the Bill in the course of the second reading, the Bill will establish the main principle for the provision of psychiatric care, or the provision of care on a voluntary basis, and will specify the right of people with restricted active legal capacity to receive psychiatric care similarly to other health care services. Under the Bill, in the future, the legal representative of the person with restricted active legal capacity or an adult person with active legal capacity whom the person trusts can also be involved and he or she can assist and offer support based on the interests of the person with restricted active legal capacity.
During the debate, Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa), Kert Kingo (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party) and Siret Kotka (Centre Party) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. 18 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 71 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
Six Bills and draft Resolutions passed the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act (281 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and member of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, provides for ensuring a care home place to every person in need regardless of their or their family’s financial means.
According to explanation, the solution provides that elderly who need a care home place will be able to afford it with their pension. Under the Bill, the state and local government will cover the price difference. The development of a specific funding model will be the Government’s responsibility.
During the debate, Viktor Vassiljev (Centre Party) and Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act (right to appeal a challenge against a decision on a visa) (328 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic.
The aim of the amendment is to bring Estonian legislation into conformity with European Union law. The amendment concerns aliens who file a challenge against a decision on the refusal to issue a visa, annulment of a visa, revocation of a visa, refusal to extend the period of stay and premature termination of the period of stay. Although European Union law obligates to allow judicial control only with regard to decisions on Schengen visas, for the purposes of clarity and uniformity of the legal space it is expedient to extend the same system also to decisions concerning Estonian long-stay visas and visa-free stay.
The amendments relating to the challenging of decisions regarding applications for Schengen visas need to be incorporated into Estonian legislation on the basis of the judgment of the Court of Justice of 2017 according to which Member States must allow a judicial appeal of negative decisions on visas.
At present, it is possible for aliens to use a two-tier challenging system when challenging decisions relating to visas. The first challenge is decided on by the authority that has made the decision – for example, the Police and Border Guard Board or a foreign mission – and in the case where the challenge is dismissed, it is possible to turn either to the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a new challenge.
In the future, it will be possible to file an appeal with an administrative court after the mandatory two-tier challenge proceedings. The amendment will not give aliens the right to obtain a visa, nor will aliens have the right to come to or stay in Estonia when they file an appeal with a court or when a court session is held to hear an appeal.
During the debate, Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction and the Faction Isamaa moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 30 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 57 voted against. Thus, the first reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the State Assets Act (308 SE), initiated by the Government, will update and improve the legal provisions regulating the release for use of state assets and the possibilities for the use of state assets between administrators of state assets, taking into account the development of the economic and technological environment.
According to the explanatory memorandum, it has appeared in practice that the current regulation does not take into account the specific aspects relating to the use of (including granting use of) intellectual assets, in particular in transactions relating to software belonging to the state. The current law lacks clear bases for granting free use of software to the public and for simultaneous use of software between administrators of state assets (“cross-use of software”).
The purpose of the Bill is therefore to provide in the Act uniform and clear bases for granting free use of national software to the public and for cross-use of national software between administrators of state assets.
The Bill on Amendments to the Competition Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (325 SE), initiated by the Government, will provide a clear domestic legal basis for recovery of unlawful and misused state aid in a situation where the European Commission or the Court of Justice of the European Union has made no such decision.
Since no provision of European Union law has explicitly required Member States to recover aid without a decision of the European Commission, until now it was not unambiguously clear to grantors and beneficiaries of state aid whether the recovery of aid on the initiative of an authority of a Member State is a right or a duty of the authority that grants the aid. The explanatory memorandum notes that the Court of Justice had eliminated this ambiguity with a judgment issued in spring 2019 and had confirmed that, if state aid has been granted unlawfully, the authority of the Member State is required to recover the state aid on its own initiative also without relevant proceedings of the European Commission. In such cases, the cases of unlawful aid are identified by the grantor of the aid who also makes a relevant decision on recovery.
The Bill also includes an amendment under which the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act will be amended by adding the opportunity to grant state aid by way of exception also to undertakings experiencing difficulties. Under the current Labour Market Services and Benefits Act, state aid is not granted to undertakings experiencing difficulties.
The Bill on Amendments to § 11 of the Infectious Animal Disease Control Act (307 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Andrei Korobeinik, Erki Savisaar, Marko Šorin, Siret Kotka, Martin Repinski, Helmen Kütt, Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski, Raimond Kaljulaid, Natalia Malleus, Jaanus Karilaid, Tõnis Mölder, Oudekki Loone, Andres Metsoja, Heidy Purga, Mihhail Stalnuhhin, Kaido Höövelson, Dmitri Dmitrijev, Paul Puustusmaa and Heljo Pikhof.
The Bill provides for the establishment of a regulation that will provide the basis for obligating all local governments to use a national online pet register that would be managed by the state or a cooperation partner selected by the state.
During the debate, Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Andres Metsoja (Isamaa) and Tarmo Tamm (Centre Party) took the floor.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 18 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 53 voted against and there was one abstention. Thus, the first reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Riigikogu Study Committee to Solve the Demographic Crisis”” (338 OE), submitted by the Estonian Reform Party Faction and the Estonian Centre Party Faction.
The draft Resolution provides that the activity of the study committee to solve the demographic crisis is to be terminated and the relevant issues are to be addressed further in the Riigikogu, in particular in the Social Affairs Committee, and in the Ministry of Social Affairs, as well as in the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The explanatory memorandum notes that the Riigikogu Study Committee to Solve the Demographic Crisis is duplicating the work of the Social Affairs Committee and the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu as well as the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Therefore the existence of the committee is not necessary, practical or economically expedient, as the work of the committee also requires considerable additional expenditure from the state budget. In a situation where the aim of the state is to cut public sector expenditure, the Riigikogu will set a much-needed example by finding saving opportunities. In January 2021, the post of the Minister of Population was also eliminated and officials were transferred to the ministries that had been dealing with the relevant policies earlier.
During the debate, Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Siret Kotka (Centre Party) and Toomas Kivimägi (Reform Party) took the floor.
The Faction Isamaa and the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading. 28 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 39 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the draft Resolution was concluded.
The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Study Committee on the Development of Estonian Language Instruction”” (335 OE), submitted by the Estonian Reform Party Faction and the Estonian Centre Party Faction, provides for the formation of the membership of the committee on the basis of the principle of proportionality.
During the debate, Mihhail Stalnuhhin (Centre Party), Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) and Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
The Faction Isamaa and the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading. 26 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 44 voted against. Thus, the first reading of the draft Resolution was concluded.
A Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu
The Bill on Amendments to § 3 of the Mental Health Act (303 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction.
The Bill was intended to amend the Mental Health Act to establish the provision of psychiatric care to persons with restricted active legal capacity at the request or with the informed consent of the person. The right to receive psychiatric care is important for maintaining the health of young people in society.
The explanatory memorandum to the Bill notes that, in practice, inclusion in the treatment process occurs quite naturally for both children and adults, taking into account the wishes, circumstances and medical condition of the patient. For the most part there are no problems in this regard and this does not need special regulation. The Bill was intended to ensure care to everyone whose condition would benefit from involuntary treatment. This would also include those who agree to their treatment or handling, and in the case of minors, themselves and their parents. The above-mentioned patients account for the great majority of patients. Section 3 of the Act becomes restrictive however in individual cases when a minor wants help and needs help and can be treated but his or her legal representative disagrees. Problems arise in cases where a parent does not consider a young person’s consultation with a psychiatrist justified, while the conditions for application of involuntary psychiatric care are not there.
During the debate, Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski (Centre Party) took the floor.
The Social Affairs Committee as the lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 70 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 16 voted against. Thus the Bill was rejected and it was dropped from the proceedings.
The sitting ended at 5.06 a.m. on 11 March.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu.
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