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At the sitting that started at 2pm on Wednesday and lasted until Thursday morning, the Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the State Budget for 2024 Bill and nine other Bills initiated by the Government. The first reading of the Bills that were not deliberated at the sitting due to the end of the working hours will continue at Thursday's sitting.

The Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act and Other Acts (return support, home delivery, current account issues) (295 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. According to it, the payment of support to people who resettle from abroad will be terminated. According to the Bill, no support will be paid to people who will settle in Estonia after 2024. At present, 36 people are receiving the return support.

The Bill provides for the principle that, upon the disbursement of monetary benefits, the body granting the benefit has the right to transfer all benefits to one current account of the beneficiary. At present there are a little over 1,400 people in Estonia to whom various benefits are paid to different accounts. The Bill also provides that, if a benefit is already being paid to the account of the beneficiary, the Social Insurance Board will not begin to organise home delivery of other benefits, such as pensions, by post. The home delivery option will not disappear completely, and, for example, it will still be possible for a pensioner in whose place of residence the banking service is not readily available to receive pension by home delivery.

During the debate, Riina Solman from Isamaa Parliamentary Group, Liisa Pakosta from Estonia 200 Parliamentary Group, Kert Kingo from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group and Helmen Kütt from the Social Democratic Party Group took the floor.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the plenary did not support the motion. 33 members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 53 voted against.

The Bill on Amendments to the Medicinal Products Act, the Health Insurance Act and the Health Services Organisation Act (299 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. It will bring the Medicinal Products Act into conformity with EU law, reduce the administrative burden for the medicinal product market participants, and help improve the availability of medicines and develop pharmacy services.

While at present a proof of delivery and receipt must be drawn up and signed when medicines are disposed of at a pharmacy, according to the Bill, consumers will be allowed to dispose of waste medicines under a simplified procedure. Pharmacies will also be given an opportunity to conduct counselling on carrying medicines when travelling, and to issue the Schengen certificates necessary for carrying medicines when travelling, alongside with the State Agency of Medicines. Among other things, under the Bill, pharmacies will also be allowed to issue to other pharmacies medicinal products prepared in accordance with a medical prescription or retailed which will enable patients to receive medicines at pharmacies convenient to them.

In addition, the Bill is intended to improve the availability of medicines without a marketing authorisation, to update the regulation of marketing authorisations and the requirements for advertising medicinal products, and to develop activities concerning medicines.

During the debate, Martin Helme and Tõnis Mölder took the floor. They represented the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group Isamaa Parliamentary Group, respectively.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group and Isamaa Parliamentary Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. 21 members of the Riigikogu voted for rejection and 60 were against it.

The Bill on Amendments to the State Budget for 2023 Act (303 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will amend the distribution of expenditure by activities in programmes and the distribution of funds between expenditure and investments. According to the State Budget Act, the Government may initiate an amendment of the State Budget Act without amending the total amount of funds not later than two months before the end of the budgetary year.

During the debate, Rain Epler from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. 21 members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 52 voted against.

The State Budget for 2024 Bill (306 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. The volume of revenue will be 16.8 billion euro and the volume of expenditure will be 17.7 billion. Compared to this year, revenues will grow by 7.7 per cent and expenditure will grow by 4.9 per cent. Next year, a total of 1.9 billion euro will be directed into the economy as investments and investment subsidies, 1.1 billion euro of which will come from EU subsidies and 0.82 billion euro from the state budget. The structural deficit in the state budget will remain at 1.2 per cent, and the nominal deficit will be 2.9 per cent of GDP, according to the Bill.

In the next year’s state budget, the Government has given priority to the military and comprehensive national defence of Estonia, economic growth together with green reforms and the sustainability of public finances, the transition to Estonian-language education, increasing the cyber security capability, and supporting Ukraine.

According to the Bill, in 2024, Estonia’s defence budget will exceed three per cent of GDP for the first time, amounting to 3.2 per cent of GDP. Next year, the state will contribute over 1.3 billion euro to national defence. The agreement to allocate one per cent of GDP to research funding is also kept in the draft state budget. 71.9 million euro has been planned for the transition to Estonian-language education, and nearly 24 million for teachers’ pay rise. An additional 23 million euro will be invested next year to ensure the soundness of the basic national IT infrastructure, and cybersecurity.

During the debate, Jaak Aab from the Centre Party Group, Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, Jevgeni Ossinovski from the Social Democratic Party Group, Urmas Reinsalu from Isamaa Parliamentary Group and Maris Lauri from the Reform Party Group took the floor.

The Centre Party Group, the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group and Isamaa Parliamentary Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the plenary did not support the motion. 32 members of the Riigikogu supported rejection but 52 were against.

The Bill on Amendments to the State Budget Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (304 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will change the rules for the general government balance that are the basis for drafting the state budget and will enable greater flexibility in the planning of public finances.

The amendment will bring Estonian national budget rules into conformity with the limits allowed under EU law and international agreements, and the stricter requirements that have been in place so far will be eliminated. They have proved too restrictive in budget planning particularly during big economic crises and when exiting the crises.

The Bill will also eliminate the construction of cumulative balance that has been implemented since 2017. The deficit and debt restrictions arising from the EU’s founding treaty will remain in force. According to the Bill, the general government budget will have to be drawn up such that the general government budget would meet its medium-term objective or would move towards it. In the future, the medium-term objective will be set in accordance with the EU fiscal agreement ratified in the Riigikogu.

In addition, according to the Bill, the Stabilisation Reserve Fund will be consolidated with the liquidity reserve in order to save on the interest costs covered from the state budget. According to an estimate, the interest cost for the state will thereby decrease by about two million euro per year.

Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. 14 members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 48 voted against.

The Bill on Amendments to the Land Tax Act and the Taxation Act (297 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will amend the rules for electronic delivery of documents in order to enhance tax proceedings.

According to the Bill, in the case of legal persons, documents will be deemed to be delivered once five working days have passed since they were uploaded to e-tax board or forwarded to e-mail. At present, for documents to be deemed to be delivered, the legal person must either open the documents in e-tax board or confirm by e-mail that they have received the documents. The Bill will also restrict the right of natural persons to receive documents on paper. The person will lose this right once they have already received the document electronically.

Rain Epler from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. 14 members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 54 were against.

The Bill on Amendments to the Salaries of Higher State Servants Act (305 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will cut the salary rise of members of the Government, judges, and some other higher state servants in 2024–2028.

The Bill will limit the pay rise for Prime Minister and ministers, the Prosecutor General, the State Secretary, justices of the Supreme Court, judges of circuit court of appeal, district court and administrative court, the Public Conciliator, and the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner from 1 April next year to 31 March 2028. Their pay rise will be cut by 50 per cent compared to the provisions of the current Act. Thus, their salary should increase by 5.5 per cent instead of the 11 per cent projected for next spring. According to the amendments, the estimated pay rise would be 3.5 per cent in 2025, 2.8 in 2026, and 2.3 in 2027. According to the Bill, the salaries will rise to the former level on 1 April 2028 when the state servants whose pay rise has been limited will have a 17-per cent pay rise.

In addition, the pay rise cut will affect the salaries of secretary generals, prosecutors, assistant judges, and law clerks, as well as chairmen of labour dispute committees, and the chairman and members of the Public Procurement Appeal Committee which are linked to the salaries specified in the Salaries of Higher State Servants Act.

The Bill will not amend the salaries of the members of the Riigikogu, the President of the Republic, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Auditor General, or the Chancellor of Justice, or the Chairman or members of the Supervisory Board of the Bank of Estonia, or the procedure for the indexation of their salaries. According to the explanatory memorandum, the Government had abandoned the cutting of the pay rise for the heads of constitutional institutions in order to refrain from crumbling the constitutional system when drawing up the state budget. The Constitution allows to change the remuneration of members of the Riigikogu only in respect of the next Riigikogu.

Anti Poolamets from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the plenary did not support the motion. 13 members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 46 voted against.

The Bill on Amendments to the Medicinal Products Act and the Health Services Organisation Act (beginner’s allowances) (293 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will make the conditions for receiving the beginner’s allowance for pharmacists more flexible and will also provide the possibility for nurses to apply for beginner’s allowance.

According to the Bill, the amount of the beginner’s allowance paid to pharmacists will be 15,000 euro per three years, and 25,000 euro with a working period of five years. At present, a beginner’s allowance of 15,000 euro per five years is in place. The Bill will establish an opportunity of proportional repayment where the person terminates work earlier. The requirement to take up employment at a pharmacy located outside the cities that are poles of attraction with a workload of at least 30 hours per week will remain in place as a requirement for receiving the allowance.

The Bill will also provide for a beginner’s allowance for nurses. A nurse can apply for a beginner’s allowance if they have been registered as a nurse in the Health Care Providers’ Information System and have not been working as a nurse for at least the last five years. Similarly to medical specialists, a nurse can apply for a beginner’s allowance if they take up employment as a nurse with a workload of at least 30 hours per week at a hospital specified in the plan of the hospital network or at a provider of health care services providing general medical care outside Tallinn, Tartu, or local governments immediately bordering thereon. The amount of the beginner’s allowance will be 30,000 euro and the Health Board will begin to process the allowances.

The conditions and procedure for the payment of the beginner’s allowance have been in place for medical specialists since 2012 and for pharmacists since 2015. Since then, 94 doctors have been assigned to work away from the cities that are poles of attraction but the conditions for receiving the beginner’s allowance for pharmacists have not been flexible enough and therefore no pharmacist has received the beginner’s allowance so far.

Anti Poolamets from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the plenary did not support the motion. 13 members of the Riigikogu supported rejection but 47 were against it.

The Bill on Amendments to the Health Insurance Act (294 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will provide parents of small children better social guarantees for when they or their children fall ill and will enable them better reconcile work and family life.

The amendment will solve a problem that has been repeatedly raised by the Chancellor of Justice and parents in recent years. It concerns the payment of sickness benefit and care benefit to parents during their first year of work after they return from parental leave. At present, when calculating the benefits for temporary incapacity for work, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund takes as the basis the personal income that the person has received in the calendar year preceding the starting date of their certificate of incapacity for work and on which social security contribution has been paid. If a parent has been at home with a child and has had no opportunity to earn income during the year preceding the date of their certificate of incapacity for work then, during the first year of their work after returning from parental leave, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund pays them sickness benefit and care benefit on the basis of an amount not exceeding the minimum remuneration.

The Bill will establish a legal basis for the Estonian Health Insurance Fund to pay the parent or adoptive parent, in their first year of work after their parental leave, sickness benefit and care benefit either on the basis of the income of the parent in the previous calendar year on which social security contribution has been paid, or on the basis of the amount of the shared parental benefit that has been paid to them during their parental leave, and will take as the basis the option that is more favourable to the person.

Since the amendment of the calculation of sickness benefit will require a development of information systems of both the Social Insurance Board and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, according to the Bill, the amendments will enter into force on 1 July next year.

During the debate, Riina Solman from Isamaa Parliamentary Group and Kert Kingo from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. No one voted for rejection but 56 members of the Riigikogu were against it.

The Bill on Amendments to the State Fees Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (298 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will update the rates for the state fees for environmental protection permits, and the state fees related to the maritime sector and land transport.

The Bill will update the rates of the state fees for the grant of environmental protection permits, and the state fees in the maritime sector, in the land transport sector of the Transport Administration, and for the application for building permits and occupancy permits for similar facilities. The rates for the state fees for the acts of the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority will also be increased, and a new state fee for the submission of a forest notification will be established. According to the explanatory memorandum, the amendments are necessary because the state fees no longer cover the actual costs relating to them.

During the debate, Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, Tanel Kiik from the Centre Party Group, and Helir-Valdor Seeder from Isamaa Parliamentary Group took the floor.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, the Centre Party Group and Isamaa Parliamentary Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. 26 members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 45 voted against.

The deliberation of a Bill was adjourned, and 20 items will be deferred

The first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act and the Road Transport Act (302 SE), initiated by the Government, was adjourned at the sitting. The Bill will amend the rates for the road user charge for trucks in order to improve the energy efficiency of trucks and to reduce negative environmental impact. The deliberation of this Bill will continue at the plenary sitting beginning at 10 a.m. today.

The deliberation of four other Bills initiated by the Government will be deferred from the agenda for Wednesday’s sitting of the Riigikogu due to the end of the working hours. The first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Earth’s Crust Act (296 SE), the Bill on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act and the Forest Act (300 SE), the Bill on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act and the Land Register Act (301 SE) and the Bill on the Ratification of the Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (226 SE) will be deferred.

In addition, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Weapons Act (19 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, and 15 Bills on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (75 SE, 88 SE, 110 SE, 112 SE, 116 SE, 127 SE, 130 SE, 133 SE, 150 SE, 151 SE, 155 SE, 181 SE, 194 SE, 199 SE and 253 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu, will be deferred due to the end of the working hours.

The sitting ended when the chair of the sitting declared a recess at 9.30 on Thursday.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

Photos (Author: Erik Peinar / Chancellery of the Riigikogu)

Video recording will be available to watch later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.

Riigikogu Press Service
Karin Kangro
+372 631 6356, +372 520 0323
[email protected]
Questions: [email protected]

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