The Riigikogu passed with 88 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Citizenship Act and the State Fees Act (164 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction. The amendment gives to persons who have been erroneously defined as Estonian citizens due to an error of an authorised government authority the right to maintain the Estonian citizenship. The provision does not apply in the case when the source documents which were the basis for granting citizenship were falsified. According to the Act which is currently in force, the errors of officials made before the year 1995 can be resolved in a manner favourable to the person while the Act provides no such opportunity in the case of the identity documents of an Estonian citizen erroneously issued after 1 July 1995. This Act enters into force on 1 August 2012.
The Resolution “Removal of a Member and Appointment of a New Member of the Supervisory Board of the Foundation Environmental Investment Centre” (244 OE), submitted by the Environment Committee, was passed with 47 votes in favour. Member of the Riigikogu Aivar Kokk was appointed a member of the Supervisory Board of the Foundation Environmental Investment Centre instead of Andrus Saare who had left the Riigikogu. The Resolution enters into force upon signature. 39 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Resolution.
The Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder took the floor in the Riigikogu to comment on the 2011 activities report of the Chancellor of Justice that had been submitted to the Riigikogu. Teder explained that the situation has been assessed on the basis of the daily work of himself and his advisers and that the written annual report includes a summary of and references to the cases resolved last year. The Chancellor made general but also more fundamental observations. “I am most disturbed by the fact that we keep distancing ourselves from section 1 of the Constitution which says that Estonia is a democratic state where the supreme power of state is vested in the people,” Teder emphasised. ”We are moving further from one of the fundamental values of our society, the basis for the functioning of the state. Vesting the supreme power of the state in the people was agreed upon at the referendum in June 1992, whereby we adopted the Constitution that will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. We also determined at the time how the people should carry out this power.” He continued that this power is applied daily in the name of the people by the Riigikogu and that the decisions to be made by the Riigikogu are in part directly set out in the Constitution, in part derived from the provisions and ideas of the Constitution. There is no doubt that all the issues connected to restricting fundamental rights and freedoms are important in a democratic rule of law. Teder said that the Constitution also accords importance to borrowing by the state and to assuming other proprietary obligations as well as to imposing taxes. ”Our Constitution does not allow the Riigikogu to delegate decisions in important issues to its committees. A committee of the Riigikogu, no matter how high-sounding its name, cannot replace the Plenary Assembly of the Riigikogu. Despite the provisions of the Constitution, there is a growing trend in Estonia to have the deputies decide less and less. Even the important decisions are delegated to the executive power, a committee of the parliament, a person in private law, an international organisation,” Teder cautioned. He briefly reminded the listeners that in connection with the European Financial Stability Facility case he had already pointed out last year that when helping other countries involved in the European debt crisis or promising to do so in the future, the Riigikogu must make sure that it holds onto its full right to make decisions, on the conditions for helping among other things, as these conditions have a considerable impact on the realisation of Estonia’s financial obligations. It is therefore not enough for the Riigikogu to decide that Estonia is prepared to irreversibly and unconditionally contribute to the European rescue plan with more than one billion euro if it leaves it up to a committee of the Riigikogu or, worse, a body outside of Estonia to agree on the more specific conditions of the rescue plan. A decision like this would not be in conformity with the duty of the Riigikogu to decide on all important issues concerning the Estonian state. The Chancellor added that despite all this the Constitution is a living document that must receive its content in the context of changed social circumstances and values. ”But have the circumstances and values changed that much? Do the people wish to relinquish their right to make decisions or move further from the decision making? Can this be done by radically reinterpreting constitutional norms or must the Constitution be changed in order to do this?” Teder asked.
The Chancellor of Justice also talked about how the pan-European trends leave us to conclude that the role of the national parliaments has somewhat diminished and how more decisions are made at the level of the executive power or even of a third party, such as the European Commission. The phenomenon whereby democracy, i.e. the rule of the people, is prescribed in the law but in actual fact the power and the decision making have moved further from the people has been termed post-democracy. Although the last decade has shown a tendency towards reducing the people’s right to make decisions, we must ask if this is the right way or should the people still remain the source of legitimisation of important decisions. ”I have not noticed that the people in Estonia no longer wish to make decisions and that they prefer to delegate their power. As far as I understand, the people – the voters – have not expressed a wish to eliminate the right of the Riigikogu to make decisions in important issues of the country’s life or authorised it to hand the decision making right over to someone else,” Teder said.
Comments were presented by Members of the Riigikogu Rait Maruste, Neeme Suur and Kaia Iva.
On the motion of the Environmental Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Ambient Air Protection Act, the General Part of the Economic Activities Code Act and the State Fees Act (232 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. According to the Bill, the Ambient Air Protection Act will be brought into conformity with the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on substances that deplete the ozone layer and the problems which have emerged in the implementation of the current version of the Act will be solved. As a result of the clarification and specification of the regulation, the compliance with the requirements established for ozone-depleting substances will improve in Estonia. The Bill also creates the basis for implementing the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases and its implementing Regulations in Estonia. The amendments mostly affect personnel and companies handling fluorinated greenhouse gases. On the entry into force of the Act, persons involved in the installation, maintenance or servicing of stationary fire protection systems and fire extinguishers and refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment which contain certain fluorinated greenhouse gases recovering certain fluorinated greenhouse gases from high-voltage switchgear, recovering certain fluorinated greenhouse gas-based solvents from equipment and air-conditioning systems in certain motor vehicles containing certain fluorinated greenhouse gases will have the right to involve in such activities only if they hold a relevant certificate or training attestation or handling permit. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Health Insurance Act and the Social Benefits for Disabled Persons Act (229 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to increase the financial availability of medicinal products to patients. Upon implementation of the Act, patient cost-sharing in the purchase of medicinal products will be reduced by ca 22%. Another aim of the Bill is to reduce the workload of specialist doctors by including the monitoring of patients with chronic illnesses in the ordinary work of family physicians. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Forensic Examination Act and Other Associated Acts (202 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to organise the regulation relating to the field of forensic examination. The Bill provides the basis for establishing the forensic examination information system and brings the regulation concerning the national fingerprint database and the national DNA database into conformity with Estonian legislation in force and also takes into account the conditions and requirements arising from the European Union legislation. The price list of examinations is renewed and updated. The amendments concerning the field of forensic psychiatric examination organise the application of forensic psychiatric examination in civil proceedings by bringing the legislation into conformity with research and application practices. The Social Democratic Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of this Bill; 29 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour and 51 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Political Parties Act (216 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The amendments provide the basis of the payment of remuneration to members of the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee formed on the basis of the Political Parties Act as there is no relevant regulation in the Act which is currently in force. In the opinion of the initiator, it would be fair to make the remuneration of a member of the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee dependent on the work that he or she contributes. In the opinion of the initiator, upon calculation of the contributed work, it would be expedient to proceed from the time spent on attending the meetings of the committee and on performance of other functions of the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee. Upon calculation of the remuneration, the amount of the remuneration of the members of the National Electoral Committee has been taken as a model. It equals to 25 times the minimum hourly wage rate established by the Government of the Republic (which at present amounts to 1.8 euro per hour upon full-time employment). The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Ratification of the Amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (237 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The aim of the Bill is to ratify the amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union by which the treaties establishing the European Union uniformly provide that Member States may establish a permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM). For this purpose, a new paragraph is added to Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union according to which the Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole. The amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union was adopted by the European Council Decision of 25 March 2011. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the first reading of the draft Resolution on amendment of the Resolution on formation of the State Budget Control Select Committee (217 OE), submitted by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, was concluded. According to the Resolution, the Estonian Centre Party Faction wishes to appoint Tarmo Tamm a member of the State Budget Control Select Committee instead of Inara Luigas, and Olga Sõtnik an alternate member instead of Lembit Kaljuvee. The draft Resolution was sent to the second reading.
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the first reading of the draft Resolution on amendment of the Resolution on formation of the Select Committee on the Application of the Anti-corruption Act (238 OE), submitted by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, was concluded. According to the Resolution, Peeter Laurson is appointed a member of the Select Committee on the Application of the Anti-corruption Act instead of Andrus Saare, and Andres Jalak is appointed an alternate member instead of Kaia Iva who has been elected Chairman of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction. The draft Resolution was sent to the second reading.
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to § 90 of the Electronic Communications Act (243 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. According to the Bill, providers of free-access television services will have the right to request a fee for retransmission of television programmes from communications undertakings providing cable distribution services. The drafting of the Bill had been necessitated by several statements by providers of television services (Kanal 2, TV 3) concerning stopping of free-to-air distribution. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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