At Wednesday’s sitting of the Riigikogu, the Bill allowing for compatibility between the mandate of member of the Riigikogu and the mandate of member of local government council passed the second reading.
The Bill on Amendments to the Status of Members of the Riigikogu Act and the Local Government Organisation Act (181 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, provides for the right of a member of the Riigikogu to be a member of a local government council and to perform the functions of a council member. The Bill will eliminate the restrictions according to which members of the Riigikogu may not participate in the work of rural municipality or city councils. The Bill will give them the possibility to have a say again in organising the life of the local government of their residence.
The plenary assembly supported two motions to amend submitted by the Constitutional Committee. The wording of the Local Government Organisation Act will be amended in the Bill so that councils would not need to begin to amend the internal legislation of local governments in order not to pay remuneration to chairs or deputy chairs of councils who are members of the Riigikogu. Member of the Constitutional Committee Andre Sepp explained that members of councils who are members of the Riigikogu will not be paid remuneration, but work-related expenses will be compensated for.
According to another motion to amend, members of the Riigikogu will be able to begin to perform the functions of members of rural municipality council or city council after the results of the local government council elections of 2017 will have been announced.
Members of the Riigikogu Andres Ammas, Lauri Luik, Mark Soosaar, Igor Gräzin, Külliki Kübarsepp, Jüri Adams, Henn Põlluaas and Artur Talvik took the floor during the debate.
Andres Ammas on behalf of the Free Party Faction and Henn Põlluaas on behalf of the Conservative People’s Party faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill.
The result of voting: 27 members of the Riigikogu in favour and 50 against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Riigikogu passed an Act:
The Riigikogu approved with 49 votes in favour (7 against) the Act on the Ratification of the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention (190 SE), initiated by the Government. The Forced Labour Convention, which was adopted in Geneva in 1930 with the aim of prohibiting forced or compulsory labour in all its forms, entered into force for the Republic of Estonia in 1997. The Act concerns the ratification of the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, adopted at the General Conference of the International Labour Organization in 2014. The aim of the Protocol is to more effectively prevent human trafficking and forced labour, to better ensure the protection of victims, and to sanction the perpetrators of forced or compulsory labour in all 185 Member States of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The latest ILO estimates indicate some 20.9 million people around the world still being subjected to forced labour. According to the ILO definition, forced labour is any work which is exacted of someone under the menace of a penalty and for which that person has not offered him or herself voluntarily. The context and forms of forced or compulsory labour have changed, and therefore measures to prevent it need to be taken.
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of three other Bills:
At 8.44 p.m. at Wednesday’s sitting, the Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Administrative Reform Bill that had begun a week ago on 11 May.
The Riigikogu reviewed the 121 motions to amend the Bill, four of which were accepted in substance. Of these four motions to amend, one had been submitted by the Constitutional Committee, one by the Social Democratic Party Faction, and two by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction.
The motion to amend submitted by the Constitutional Committee consisted of 35 sub-items. It includes proposals submitted by several factions which the lead committee had accepted in substance or in part.
One of the important motions to amend will give local governments the possibility to initiate a merger without a common border in the first stage if it is known that, in the following stage, the Government will merge with them a local government that remains between the local governments. Also, the requirement according to which at least 5000 residents must reside in the city territory if the city as an administrative unit is to be preserved or restored will be omitted from the Bill.
A sub-item will amend the Local Government Organisation Act by adding a subsection according to which the investments or development activities agreed upon in a merger agreement will have to be set out also in the local government development plan. The procedure for the appointment to office and the procedure for the release from office of rural municipality district elder and city district elder will also be amended. Upon appointment to office and release from office of these officials, the opinion of the rural municipality district council or city district council will have to be heard.
The date of entry into force of the Act was also changed. The Act will enter into force pursuant to general procedure, that is, on the tenth day following the date of publication in the Riigi Teataja.
The motion to amend submitted by the Social Democratic Party that was accepted concerned the granting of additional rights to representatives of rural municipality district councils and city district councils.
A motion to amend submitted by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction that had been accepted provided for the obligation of local governments formed as a result of a merger of local governments to establish the new statutes within six months, instead of four months, after the announcement of election results. The other motion to amend was of technical nature.
The Administrative Reform Bill (200 SE), initiated by the Government, includes the bases and procedure for carrying out the administrative reform, and determines the minimum size of a local government and the relevant exceptions, and the rights and obligations involved in the merging of local governments.
The objective of the administrative reform is that local governments would be formed that are able to offer better public services to people, ensure the increase of competitiveness of regions, and independently perform the functions assigned to them by law. According to the Bill, generally at least 5000 people should reside in a local government. At the same time, the Bill sets out that formation of local governments with at least 11000 residents is recommended to achieve the objective of the administrative reform. Eighty per cent of the local governments of Estonia have less than 5000 residents today.
According to the Bill, local governments will have time for voluntary mergers until the end of this year, and the Government will pay a merger grant to such local governments. A total of up to 80 million euro have been planned for that. If, after the voluntary mergers, there will still be local governments that do not meet the criteria, the Government will first make a proposal for a voluntary merger to them next year, and if this will give no result either, the Government will merge the local governments.
The Free Party Faction, the Centre Party Faction and the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading.
The result of voting: 35 members of the Riigikogu in favour and 47 against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Food Act and the Act on Amendments to the Food Act (198 SE), initiated by the Government, will specify the obligation to notify of the placing on the market of food for particular nutritional uses. With the amendment, the obligation to notify of all food for particular nutritional uses will be replaced with an obligation to notify only of food for particular nutritional uses provided for by the implementing acts of the European Commission. For the present, such food includes infant formula and follow-on formula, and food for special medical purposes. The Act is planned to enter into force on 20 July this year. As of the abovementioned date, the Veterinary and Food Board will not have to be notified of gluten-free and lactose-free food, and food intended for sportspeople. Also, operators of food for particular nutritional uses will no longer be required to notify the Veterinary and Food Board whether the food for particular nutritional uses has already been placed on the market of another Member State earlier. The amendment will reduce the administrative burden of the persons responsible for placing on the market of food for particular nutritional uses. The regulation will concern circa 30 persons responsible for placing on the market of food for particular nutritional uses.
The Bill on Amendments to the State Pension Insurance Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (199 SE), initiated by the Government, will amend the State Pension Insurance Act and the special Acts regulating pensions with the aim of extending the payment of state pensions with certain restrictions to all foreign states. Under the current national law, a person has to reside in Estonia to receive a state pension. At present, state pensions are paid outside Estonia only in the member states of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association on the basis of European Union Regulations, and in countries with whom Estonia has a bilateral agreement on social security. The Bill will eliminate such restriction on place of residence, and will thereby extend the rights of persons. The main aim of the Bill is to ensure pension rights with certain restrictions also to persons who have moved outside Estonia, upon realisation of old-age risk or the risk of loss of a provider.
Ten Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (Transposition of the Market Abuse Directive) (220 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the relevant European Union directive on criminal sanctions for market abuse. According to a requirement of the Directive, maximum punishments for market abuse will be increased from three years’ imprisonment to four years’ imprisonment. The market abuse directive obliges Member States to criminalise manipulation and misuse of inside information. For example, leaking of internal information, insider dealing, or recommending or inducing another person to engage in insider dealing. The criminal offences set out in the directive have been set out as criminal offences in the Penal Code already.
Külliki Kübarsepp, who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction in the debate, was not content with the too hasty transposition of the directive.
The main aim of the Public Procurement Bill (204 SE), initiated by the Government, is to increase the flexibility of the conduct of public procurements, reduce the costs of procurement procedure, and transpose three European Union directives. The Bill provides for raising the thresholds for public procurements which will allow for simplified procurement procedures to be used more extensively. The Bill will also create preconditions for small and medium-sized enterprises to have better access to procurements, because it will restrict the right of the contracting authority to require a large economic turnover for participation in a competition, and will obligate the contracting authority to give additional reasons as to why they do not wish to divide up a large procurement. The Bill provides for a new type of procurement procedure – innovation partnership, which can be used for the development and subsequent purchase of an innovative product, service or works not yet on the market. The amendments also provide that, in the future, small-scale (10% of the initial value of the supply and service contract or 15% of the initial value of the works contract) changes to a public contract will be allowed without additional obligation to give reasons. The Bill will create the bases for transition to paper-free organisation of e-public procurements. The obligation of full transition to e-public procurements will enter into force on 18 October 2018. During the transitional period, contracting authorities can adapt themselves to the new provisions and make the information technology developments necessary for a smooth transition. The obligation to organise e-procurements to the extent of 70% of the procurements commenced in the register will enter into force as of 2017, and the share of e-procurements will have to be 100% as of 2018.
Ken-Marti Vaher, who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction during the debate, expressed a hope that Estonia is ready for changes to disclose all tenders in public procurements. In his opinion, this would make the society more transparent.
The Bill on Amendments to the State Secrets and Classified Information of Foreign States Act (202 SE), initiated by the Government, will create preconditions for transfer of the organisation and supervision of the protection of classified information of foreign states to the Estonian Information Board. The Ministry of Defence is aiming to reorganise the activities of its area of government so that as few as possible authorities would do duplicate work, and the Ministry would be released of functions not related to its principal activity.
The aim of the Bill on Amendments to § 13 of the National Defence Act (209 SE), initiated by the National Defence Committee, is to provide in the National Defence Act the obligation of the Government of the Republic to notify also the President of the Republic, in addition to the Riigikogu, of a decision to increase the defence readiness. As the President of the Republic is the supreme commander of national defence of Estonia under the Constitution, the obligation to notify also the President of an increasing of the defence readiness will have to be provided by law.
The Bill on Amendments to § 17 of the Water Act (226 SE), initiated by the Environment Committee, will grant discretionary room to the Environment Committee, in order that it would be possible to resolve situations where the interests of environmental protection and heritage conservation are opposed. The initiation of the Bill on amendments to the Water Act arises from the Resolution of the Riigikogu to support the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice of 1 December 2015 to bring the Water Act into conformity with the Constitution. Under the current Water Act, the owner or possessor of a barrage must, under the Nature Conservation Act, construct a passage for fish both upstream and downstream of the barrage if the barred water body or a section thereof has been approved as a spawning area or habitat of salmon, brown trout, salmon trout or grayling. For that, either a special passage for fish must be constructed on the barrage, or the barrage must be demolished, and the Act allows for no exceptions for the protection of other values. The Bill is intended to amend the Water Act by adding a provision according to which it will be possible to set mitigating measures to the abovementioned obligation, or to release the owner of the barrage from the performance of the obligation to construct a passage for fish.
The Foresight Monitoring Bill (239 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee, provides for the establishment of the Foresight Monitoring Centre at the Chancellery of the Riigikogu for conducting foresight activities. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure the performing of research-based and high quality analyses, studies and other activities necessary for understanding the long-term developments in Estonia, identifying potential risks and opportunities, and assessing different versions of activities. The Bill also deals with reorganising the investment activities of the Estonian Development Fund (Eesti Arengufond). Due to that, the Bill contains the necessary amendments to the Estonian Development Fund Act and the Support of Enterprise and State Loan Guarantees Act. More specifically, it concerns the liquidation of the Estonian Development Fund, repealing the Estonian Development Fund Act, and describing the content and implementation of the tasks that will be preserved in the new structures.
Ken-Marti Vaher, who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction in the debate, brought out three success factors in the establishment of the Foresight Monitoring Centre: sufficient resources, a strong leader, and competence-based authority.
In the opinion of Krista Aru, who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction, foresight monitoring is necessary, and she supported the establishment of the Foresight Monitoring Centre at the Riigikogu.
Mihhail Korb, who took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction, said that there is no point in liquidating the Development Fund light-handedly. He stressed that the Development Fund should be given back the role for which it had been established. On behalf of the Centre Party Faction, Korb moved to reject the Bill at the first reading.
The result of voting: 22 members of the Riigikogu in favour and 51 against. Thus the motion was not supported.
The Bill on Amendments to an Act to Implement the Building Code and the Planning Act (238 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee, will amend § 16 of the Act to Implement the Building Code and the Planning Act, and will set 1 January 2008 as the deadline for profession-based transfer in the fields of design work, expert assessment of building design documentation, site investigations, audits of construction works and owner supervision. Under the current Act, persons who have not acquired a relevant profession will not be able to prove their competence in the above-mentioned fields as of 1 July this year. In the establishment of the durations of the transition periods for transfer to profession-based activity, the basis was the capability of awarders of professions to ensure high-quality proceedings on the professions in order to avoid low-quality work due to hurrying. It has also been taken into account that the duration of the transition period would be sufficient for the persons operating in the field to acquire the necessary profession. The relevant transition period will end on 30 June 2008 as regards the field of construction.
The Bill on Amendments to the Identity Documents Act, the Credit Institutions Act and the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act (232 SE), initiated by the Government, will simplify the procedure for becoming an e-resident, make e-services more user-friendly for them, and provide for the possibility to open bank accounts without visiting a bank branch for both e-residents and Estonian residents.
The aim of the Bill on Amendments to the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act (231 SE), initiated by the Government, is to organise the rights relating to the intelligence activities of the Defence Forces. For example, under the Bill, the Defence Forces will be given the right to perform certain acts of information collection outside the Estonian state. Until now, the Defence Forces had such right only in the area of an international military operation. The Bill will also extend the rights of the Defence Forces to act in a situation where the collecting of information requires concealment of identity. For that, the regulation of “covert identity” is provided, according to which the connection of a serviceman with the Defence Forces is concealed. Civilian control over the activities of military intelligence is ensured with supervisory control in the Ministry of Defence and internal control measures in the Defence Forces. Also, the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee of the Riigikogu has the right to obtain information on the intelligence activities of the Defence Forces, to summon persons, to require documents for examination, and to have recourse to an investigative body or the Chancellor of Justice in the event of suspicion.
The Earth’s Crust Bill (213 SE), initiated by the Government, will harmonise the terminology relating to earth’s crust and organise legal provisions. To regulate the field as a whole and to avoid duplication, the Bill consolidates the provisions of the Mining Act that so far regulated the technical requirements for and safety of mining. The Bill will abandon the categorisation of mineral deposits into mineral deposits of local importance and mineral deposits of national importance. Regardless of activity in one or another mineral deposit, the procedure of granting an exploration permit and extraction permit will be the same. Abandonment of the division of mineral deposits means that, in the future, the ownership of such mineral resources as sand, gravel, lake mud and sea mud with therapeutic effect, peat and quaternary clay will depend on in whose ownership the land is. The system of dividing the resource charge between local governments and the state budget will be changed. The aggregate receipt of resource charge by local governments will on the whole be retained. However, should the change affect the revenue base of a particular local government, it will be taken into account through the equalisation fund. The change in the categorisation of mineral deposits will mean that the Environmental Board will issue all exploration permits and extraction permits in the future. The keeping of records on data on mineral resources in the environmental register will also be simplified.
One Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act (201 SE), initiated by the Centre Party Faction, had been intended to give members of the Riigikogu the right to ask at least one oral question of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minster and ministers who make a political statement of their own motion before the Riigikogu.
Member of the Constitutional Committee Andre Sepp said that the Constitutional Committee had reached a conclusion that, under the Constitution, the President is not accountable to the parliament. He explained that the current Act does not provide for a possibility that the President holds a parliamentary debate with the parliament. The Constitutional Committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading.
Jüri Adams, who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction in the debate, announced that the Free Party did not support the excluding of the Bill from the proceedings.
President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor said by way of remark that the Board of the Riigikogu has asked the Constitutional Committee to analyse the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act.
The result of voting: 46 members of the Riigikogu in favour and 29 against. Thus the Bill was rejected and was dropped from the proceedings.
The sitting ended at 2.41 a.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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