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Three Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu today, and Auditor General Janar Holm gave an overview of the use of state assets and the options for the electricity system.

Today, Auditor General Janar Holm gave the Riigikogu an overview of the use and preservation of state assets in 2022–2023 and the electricity system options for Estonia. At the beginning of his report, Holm pointed out the practice of state agencies to cover up ordinary information. “This is worrying because the openness of the public sector and simple and practical solutions when solving various issues of national life have been characteristic of Estonia since the 1990s. At least we have wished to imagine ourselves like this. However, this urge and this attitude are unfortunately fading away and in geometric progression in some respects. We have heard plenty of caricature examples of how documents are covered with the stamp of internal use restriction for long years,” Holm said. According to him, he has received addresses even from members of the Riigikogu in which they ask for data on agreements and documents to which members of the Riigikogu have not been granted access. “The members of the Riigikogu not being given the information they need for their work is unprecedented behaviour,” he noted.

Holm explained that the fear of publishing information may have grave consequences at critical moments. “This year we assessed the readiness to implement the national defence action plan. As a result, it appeared that, since the sub-plans of ministries were classified, several divisions of ministries, as well as critical entities, who should prepare for national defence crisis and perform agreed tasks when a crisis arises did not know what was expected of them,” Holm described the situation. “An absurd situation. The Government Office and ministries will have to quickly find a way to forward restricted-access information with a necessary degree of generalisation to authorities who actually implement national defence tasks.”

Holm also discussed the rate of the use of the support funds from the joint budget of the European Union. “Four months before the end of this year, several hundreds of millions of euro were still waiting to be disbursed from the funds of the current European Union budget period. The officials of the Ministry of Finance have emphasised at the discussion of the select committee of the Riigikogu that in reality there is no major problem, and the funds will be disbursed because it will be possible to make disbursements until as late as next spring. It is important that facilities be completed, and projects be finished this year. I very much hope that it will indeed go like that,” Holm noted. He pointed out that Estonia was fifth among European Union countries in terms of the success in using the funds which was not very bad but could be better. “While 89 per cent of amounts of support had been used by the end of the eighth implementation year in the last funding period 2007–2013, in the current funding period, that is, in 2014–2020, 70 per cent of amounts of support had been used in the same period,” Holm pointed out the slowing rate of the use of funds.

When speaking of the electricity system options, the Auditor General admitted that it was not easy to make choices because there were many variables and each of them had their pros and cons. According to him, decisions cannot be delayed however, and the National Audit Office is going to publish more audit reports on topics related to the green transition in the future to make decision-making simpler.

During the debate, Aivar Kokk (Isamaa), Rain Epler (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Igor Taro (Estonia 200), Mario Kadastik (Reform Party) and Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) took the floor on behalf of their parliamentary groups.

Three drafts passed the first reading

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of the Consolidated Report of 2022 of the State” (309 OE), submitted by the Government, passed the first reading.

The consolidated annual report of the state gives an overview of the implementation of the goals of the state budget, and of the financial situation, financial result and cash flows of the state. The consolidated annual report of the state includes the audit report of the National Audit Office.

According to the data of the consolidated annual accounts of the state, the state had 23.99 billion euro worth of assets as at the end of 2022, the larger part of which was made up of fixed assets. Assets in aggregate increased by 4.65 billion euro over the year.

The consolidated liabilities of the state amounted to 17.07 billion euro at the end of 2022, which is 2.98 billion euro more than the year before. Among them, loan liabilities amounted to 6.95 billion euro and pension allocations to former and current state employees amounted to 4.12 billion euro.

The Bill on Amendments to the International Sanctions Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (332 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will specify how tasks are distributed between state agencies upon the implementation of international sanctions and will provide clear legal bases for the implementation of sanctions and supervision for competent authorities.

The Bill will create a national measure to influence the behaviour and activities of countries who violate the prohibition of the use of armed force arising from Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of warfare. This measure should also influence people to refrain from directly or indirectly supporting such wrongful acts. The aim of the measure is to urge the countries who have behaved wrongfully to meet their international obligations, and this will provide an opportunity to use the assets of the persons who have been accomplices to the wrongful acts of their country as advance payment for damages that the offender owes to the country that has suffered damage.

The Bill will provide for an opportunity whereby the assets of a subject to an international sanction that are under Estonian jurisdiction, in this case the assets of persons in Russia, can be used as advance payment to compensate for the damages caused in breach of international law if the country that has wrongfully caused damage fails to compensate it to the country that has suffered damage and the person’s connection to the wrongful acts of the country is sufficiently proven.

During the debate, Ants Frosch (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Kalev Stoicescu (Estonia 200) took the floor on behalf of their parliamentary groups.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 11 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 57 voted against. Thus, the Bill passed the first reading.

The Bill on the Protection of Persons Who Report Work-related Breaches of Union Law (257 SE), initiated by the Government, also passed the first reading. The Bill will create a minimum framework for receiving reports of breaches of the requirements arising from European Union law that become known in the course of work-related activities, for follow-up and giving feedback, and for the protection of whistleblowers. The purpose of the Bill is to respond as promptly and effectively as possible to acts that are in conflict with European Union law.

The Bill will create the conditions for and define the extent of the protection of whistleblowers who report breaches that become known to them in the course of their work-related activities. The new regulation will provide for the ways and channels of reporting and when, to what extent and under what conditions whistleblower protection will apply. The Bill will apply when reporting breaches in areas such as public procurements, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing as well as public health. According to the Bill, state agencies, enterprises having 50 or more workers, and local government agencies will have an obligation to establish a reporting channel for reporting breaches of European Union law.

A person who reports qualifies for the protection if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that a breach has been directly commenced or it has been concluded, the breach falls within the scope of this Act and the reporting takes place in accordance with the Act. A wider aim of the Bill is to protect public interests and the functioning of legal order. The enjoyment of the protection will not depend on the motivation of the whistleblower or whether they act in public interests. In particular, it will be required that breaches of the requirements arising from European Union law in specific areas be reported, that reports be first made internally or to the competent authority and that the whistleblower have grounds to believe that the information is true.

The Bill will transpose the European Union whistleblower protection directive. The Bill focuses narrowly on the reporting of breaches of Union law. The Member States were obliged to transpose the whistleblower protection directive by December 2021.

During the debate, Anti Poolamets (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Anastassia Kovalenko-Kõlvart (Centre Party) and Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) took the floor on behalf of their parliamentary groups.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, the Estonian Centre Party Group and Isamaa Parliamentary Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 28 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 48 voted against. Thus, the first reading of the Bill was concluded.

Seven Bills were dropped from the proceedings

The Bill on Amendments to the Citizenship Act (136 SE), initiated by Isamaa Parliamentary Group, was dropped from the proceedings. It was intended to amend the Act so that people who publicly support the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine could be deprived of Estonian citizenship. People who have acquired Estonian citizenship by naturalisation could have been deprived of it.

The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 49 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 17 voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.

The Bill on Amendments to the Local Government Organisation Act (137 SE), initiated by Isamaa Parliamentary Group, was also dropped from the proceedings. It was intended to amend the Local Government Organisation Act by adding a section that would provide that the legislation and the minutes of the meetings of municipal councils and governments would be prepared in Estonian.

The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 44 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 13 voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.

The Bill on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act (78 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Rain Epler, Martin Helme and Helle-Moonika Helme, was dropped from the proceedings. It was intended to amend the purpose of the Nature Conservation Act as worded in the first section of the Act so that person would be regarded as part of nature and not as standing apart from or above nature.

The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 51 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 14 voted against. There was one abstention. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.

The Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (73 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Kert Kingo, Arvo Aller and Martin Helme, was dropped from the proceedings. It was intended to remove NGO Slava Ukraini from the list of legal entities to which donations and gifts made between 24 February 2022 and the end of 2023 by resident legal entities are exempt from income tax.

The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 40 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 12 voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.

The Bill on Amendments to the Value Added Tax Act (79 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Arvo Aller and Rain Epler, was dropped from the proceedings. According to the proposed amendments, if the taxable supply of the transactions carried out by a person exceeded 60,000 euro as of the beginning of a calendar year, the obligation to register as a taxable person would have arisen for the person. The limit is 40,000 euro in the current Act.

The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 41 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 15 voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.

The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (29 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Kalle Grünthal and Leo Kunnas, was dropped from the proceedings. It was intended to restore the possibility of holding representatives of the executive power to account for negligence related to office and misuse of official position where significant damage is thereby caused to the rights or interests of another person that are protected by law or to public interests.

The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 43 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 13 voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.

The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (72 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Anti Poolamets and Ants Frosch, was dropped from the proceedings. It was intended to strengthen the sanction for rigging elections. Under the current Act, damaging, destruction, elimination, falsification of election or voting documents or incorrect counting of votes is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to three years’ imprisonment. According to the Bill, an up to ten years’ imprisonment could have been imposed as punishment.

The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 38 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 12 voted against. There was one abstention. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.

The first reading of an agenda item was deferred due to the absence of the presenter. It was the Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (76 SE), initiated by Member of the Riigikogu Varro Vooglaid, which is intended to include additional necessary elements of a criminal offence to the Penal Code. According to the explanatory memorandum, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure the administration of medicinal products voluntarily and, as a part of it, the principle of vaccination freedom.

The sitting ended at 9.17 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

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

Riigikogu Press Service
Maris Meiessaar
+372 631 6353, +372 5558 3993
[email protected]
Questions: [email protected]

 

 

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