Today, the Minister of Culture Indrek Saar introduced the report on the sports development strategy “The Fundamentals of the Sports Policy until 2030” in the Riigikogu.
The Minister of Culture Indrek Saar pointed out that the state must ensure the conditions and create the opportunities to engage in sports for all. “The national sports policy must be looked at as a wide-ranging, planned and consistent activity which includes fields ranging from youth sports to top-level sports, from well-maintained running paths to preparation for the Olympics.”
“The fundamentals of Estonian sports policy until 2030, approved in the Riigikogu one and a half year ago, determine the vision, national goals and priority development objectives in the field of sports,” Saar said.
““Sports 2030” formulates as a national goal that exercise and sport have a significant and growing role in increasing the vitality of the Estonian people, creating diverse living environment, and designing a good reputation of the Republic of Estonia. The general purpose is planned to be achieved through four priority development objectives. First, a majority of population exercises and is engaged in sports. Second, exercise and sport is a significant economic branch and employer with a strong organisation. Third, exercise and sport are the carriers of spirituality, coherence and positive values. And fourth, Estonia is represented in an effective and dignified way at international level,” the Minister said.
The Minister pointed out that a broad-based study on exercise conducted in autumn 2015, commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, had confirmed that the proportion of people who exercise is growing. “45% of the population exercises at least twice a week. We are in the European average with this indicator, but our goal is ambitious: to catch up with Northern countries where nearly 70% of the population engages in sports regularly. It is worrying, however, that one third of our population does not exercise at all,” Saar said.
“On 27 April this year, the Government supported the proposal of the Ministry of Culture to make a fundamental amendment to the Act concerning taxation and to eliminate the “fringe benefit” on the expenses incurred for the promotion of employees’ health,” the Minister pointed out.
“The hobby activities supporting system developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Culture will definitely contribute to increasing the exercise habits of young people,” Saar said. “According to youth monitoring data, 10% of young people have not participated in any hobby group or training within the past three years – this means nearly 30 000 children and young people to whom the state will now extend its helping hand together with local governments,” the Minister said.
The Minister pointed out that sufficient swimming skills will have to be ensured to all basic school graduates, and thereby also drownings will have to be reduced. “To raise swimming skills to the necessary level, I presented a joint memorandum together with three of my Government colleagues that proposes to update the description of learning outcomes in the physical education syllabus of the national curriculum for basic schools, to increase the funding of the basic swimming course, and to continue the training of swimming coaches, instructors and teachers according to the updated methodology,” Saar said.
The Minister said that the organisation of sports is based on the activities of own-initiative and volunteer sports associations. “Based on the budgets of public sector authorities, studies, and expert assessments, approximately 137 million euro was allocated to support sports in 2015; of that, local governments contributed 46 million, individuals 42 million, and the state and enterprises 25 million euro. An international study shows that there are more than 15 000 jobs in Estonia that are connected with sports directly or indirectly. Thus the contribution of sports into the economy and employment should not be underestimated,” Saar pointed out.
The Minister of Culture pointed out that a national labour cost support system for coaches with higher professional level has been established. “As of 2015, sports clubs, sports schools and sports federations can apply for labour cost support to the extent of up to 50% for coaches with the fifth and higher professional level. The aim of the support is to improve the sporting opportunities for children and young people everywhere across Estonia, to value the profession of coach, and to ensure the growth of a new generation of coaches with a higher qualification,” Saar said.
The Minister said that the Ministry of Culture had also launched a sports funding reform in 2015 that would make the current funding of sports clearer and more transparent, and would reduce bureaucracy and unnecessary errands for the parties involved.
Saar also said that the Ministry of Culture has made a proposal to amend the Gambling Tax Act and to direct the funds provided for sports by law in full amount to the Estonian Olympic Committee to support the Olympic preparation projects.
“Sports has to be fair. This is why we together with 19 European Union colleagues wrote a joint communication before the Rio Olympics in which we clearly expressed support to WADA in its anti-doping work,” Saar pointer out. “Both the Ministry of Culture and the Estonian Olympic Committee have increased their financial support to the Foundation Estonian Anti-Doping in recent years with the aim of standing for clean sports both at the top level and in youth sports,” the Minister added.
In conclusion, the Minister of Culture touched upon the most important sports investments.
Member of the Reform Party Faction Lauri Luik, who took the floor during the debate, pointed out that the general rise in exercise has been remarkable over the past five years. “What is worrying, however, is what the Minister mentioned in his report, namely that nearly a third of Estonians does not engage in sports or in any exercise at all, apart from maybe simply walking to work,” Luik said. “Therefore, in my opinion, it is very important to put an emphasis on the people who tend to be more passive, starting already from school and school sports,” he added.
He positively acknowledged the development of a comprehensive exercise education concept which should integrate exercise through different subjects. He finds that the funding and management of top-level sports has been relatively well established in Estonia over the years. Luik appreciates what is being done continually to develop the basic swimming instruction. He also noted that a great emphasis has been laid on people with special needs in sports activities in recent years. In his words, it is good that the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the Estonian Olympic Committee is making efforts towards our funding in sports being more transparent and clearer.
Andres Ammas from the Free Party Faction said that the main problems in the sports in Estonia have been scarcity of funds, and fragmentation and little transparency and clarity in the funding of sports. Ammas said that, in the opinion of their faction, the most interesting part of the report on the development plan is the outlook to the future. “It is very clear and interesting, and we very much hope that the individual items of this future outlook will be supplemented and confirmed through preparation of more specific action plans, necessary regulations and necessary Bills, and will be realised,” he said.
Ammas pointed out that, as a member of the Board of the Estonian Chess Federation, he is interested in what the system for funding non-Olympic sports would be in the future. He said that this system should be revised, so that sports federations would concentrate also on the number of practitioners and the training and attestation of coaches, and he hopes that the experts of the Ministry will review this system with a critical eye.
Toomas Jürgenstein from the Social Democratic Party Faction said that sports connects people and carries values, and “Sports 2030” notes and maps that, gives a meaning to that and tries to influence that. ”Speaking of exercise which is one of the bases for health, “Sports 2030” provides for an aspiration to take exercising in Estonia to the level of Nordic countries. At the moment it is indeed true that one-third of our population does not think of regular exercising at all,” he said. “Personal experience confirms, however that there are tendencies towards improvement, step by step,” Jürgenstein added.
In Jürgenstein’s opinion, it is welcome that the measures are broad-based. Schools, the Estonian Defence Forces, sports organisations, organisations of disabled people, as well as the Estonian Anti-Doping Agency have been involved in giving a meaning to the sports culture as well as drawing attention to risks. “In summary, it seems to me that “Sports 2030” and the implementation thereof is a good compromise between conservatism and innovation,” Jürgenstein said.
Kalle Muuli took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction. “The Ministry of Culture has indeed taken steps to organise the funding of sports, and in my view these steps have been with a perspective. However, the current state funding of sports is still characterised by fragmentation, non-transparency and dependency on political tendencies,” he said. Muuli said that the result of the fragmented funding of sports and the lack of a definite goal is evident in health studies and the public health situation.
In his words, the number of physical education lessons in primary schools should be increased. “Keeping in mind that the exercise habit of adults depends greatly on how much they have been in contact with sports as kids, I would suggest that the Estonian sports development plan be amended by adding a simple and clear aim, which should be begun at school,” Muuli said.
Dmitri Dmitrijev from the Centre Party Faction said that, with sports policy, we can influence the exercise habits of people, and thereby also people’s health. In his words, when discussing the remuneration and social guarantees of coaches, it is important not to forget the referees. He said that both professions have to be supported. In Dmitrijev’s opinion, the initiative of the development of an exercise programme for children which aims to increase the physical activity of children, mentioned in the Action Programme of the Government, is commendable.
Dmitrijev noted that, in today’s Estonia, uneven distribution of sports facilities is a problem. He pointed out by way of criticism the funding of sports on the basis of popularity which leaves less popular sports in the background. He said that a strong emphasis needs to be laid on basic swimming instruction for children which the Government has put into focus today. He noted that the aim is that all children would be able to swim at a basic level when in the water, and unfortunately today’s system does not yet fulfil the aims and still needs improvement.
The Riigikogu passed six Acts:
The Act on Amendments to the State Secrets and Classified Information of Foreign States Act (202 SE), initiated by the Government, creates preconditions for transfer of the organisation and supervision of the protection of classified information of foreign states from the Ministry of Defence 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 Act on Amendments to the Victim Support Act (236 SE), initiated by the Government, ensures better access to services for victims of human trafficking and sexually abused children. In assisting victims of trafficking in human beings, the aim is to provide assistance to victims not only during the criminal proceedings but also sufficiently early before the criminal proceedings, thereby enabling criminal offenders to be brought to justice more effectively. In regard to sexually abused minors, the aim is to ensure assistance to victims before the submission of a report on a criminal offence and, if necessary, also when criminal proceedings are not commenced.
During the debate, Liina Kersna from the Reform Party Faction, Helmen Kütt from the Social Democratic Party Faction, Peeter Ernits from the Centre Party Faction and Aivar Kokk from the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction took the floor.
The Act on the Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (279 SE). initiated by the Government. The aim is to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, and to implement the Convention in Estonia. This Convention entered into force internationally on 1 July 2010. Estonia signed the Convention on 17 September 2008. 47 Member States of the Council of Europe have signed the Convention and 41 have ratified it as at 3 June 2016. The Convention is the widest international agreement concerning the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. The Convention is geared to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse of children, ensuring protection of the rights of child victims of sexual exploitation and abuse and promoting national and international co-operation in combating the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. In order to ensure effective implementation of its provisions by the Parties, the Convention sets up a monitoring mechanism.
Heljo Pikhof from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Act on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and Georgia on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments and the Protocol to Amend It (242 SE), initiated by the Government. The aim is to ratify the Agreement and the Protocol and to enable their enforcement. The aim of the Agreement is to promote closer economic co-operation between Estonia and Georgia, and to stimulate the flow of private capital and the economic development of the Contracting Parties. It is also intended to create a favourable investment environment, to ensure equal treatment of investors of both countries, and to establish a most favoured nation treatment according to which neither Contracting Party shall accord to investments and returns of investors of the other Party a treatment less favourable than that which it accords to investments and returns of investors of any other third State. The Agreement determines the requirements related to investment, such as free transfer of payments, expropriation of investments and the compensation paid for it, etc., and establishes the procedure for the settlement of disputes arising from the Agreement. The need to conclude the Protocol to amend the Agreement arose from the judgment of the Court of Justice of 2009 according to which, in agreements on the protection of investments concluded with third countries, a Member State must stress the competence of the European Union to restrict money transfers to non-EU countries in certain cases. Both the Agreement and the Protocol have to be ratified in the Riigikogu. Georgia has already ratified the Agreement and the Protocol.
The Act on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and the Protocol thereto (277 SE), initiated by the Government. The aim is to ratify the Agreement and the Protocol thereto, and to create the possibility to apply it. The Agreement will create more favourable conditions for investments between the states and for free movement of people, goods and services. The purpose of agreements for the avoidance of double taxation is to facilitate investments, for example, the Agreement restricts the rights of a state to tax the income of residents of the other Contracting State. Also, a state may not tax its own nationals more favourably than the nationals of the other state. The Agreement prevents double taxation that may occur as a result of joint influence of the Acts of two states.
The Act on the Approval of the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of Montenegro (283 SE), initiated by the Government. The aim is to approve the Protocol and to enable its enforcement. The aim of the Protocol is to arrange the accession of Montenegro to the North Atlantic Treaty. The Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of Montenegro regulates the arrangement of the accession of the state to NATO. Montenegro’s accession to NATO will increase security in the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to achieving a whole, free and peaceful Europe. The explanatory memorandum notes that Montenegro’s cooperation with NATO began in 2003 when the federal state of Serbia and Montenegro joined the programme “Partnership for Peace”. After the disintegration of the federal state in 2006, Montenegro set the goal of accession to NATO. At the meeting of NATO foreign ministers on 1 December 2015, it was decided to invite Montenegro to accession negotiations. The draft protocol of accession was approved in the North Atlantic Council on 22 March 2016. It is the fifth enlargement of NATO since the end of the Cold War. Montenegro has participated in NATO operation in Afghanistan (ISAF, International Security Assistance Force) in 2010–2014, and is on the follow-up mission there at present, advising and assisting Afghan security forces and training them.
Three Bills passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Foreign Service Act (241 SE), initiated by the Government, will amend the Foreign Service Act in connection with the performance of the task of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union by Estonia in the first half of 2018. The aim of the amendments is to simplify the appointments of staff related to the presidency of the EU and to reduce the workload connected with it, to enable smooth and operative posting of public servants to posts related to the presidency of the EU, and to clarify the current regulation. Current Act does not allow for the flexibility needed for the presidency of the EU Council, and operative processing of documents relating to postings under conditions of increased workload. The Bill will allow also the Government Office to post specialist diplomats on the basis of the Foreign Service Act in the future. The amendment is connected with the performance of the tasks related to the presidency of the EU which will increase the number of officials posted from the Government Office. The Bill creates the possibility of employing specialist diplomats in foreign service also when English is the only foreign language they speak. At present, the requirement is two foreign languages, one of which is English or French. A specialist diplomat is a specialist in a particular field whose most important asset is their specialist knowledge. The amendment is necessary because the requirement of two foreign languages is an obstacle to posting competent specialists as specialist diplomats.
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.
The Bill on Amendments to the Value Added Tax Act (276 SE), initiated by the Government, will increase the threshold for taxable turnover in excess of which the person engaged in business will be required to be identified for VAT purposes and to supplement the list of goods subject to special arrangements for VAT – the reverse charge.
Eight Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act, the Law of Property Act and the Building Code (270 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Mihhail Stalnuhhin, Andres Ammas, Henn Põlluaas, Andres Metsoja, Tanel Talve and Kristjan Kõljalg. The aim of the Bill is to improve the availability of broadband service through reducing the costs of deployment of broadband networks. In order to take broadband connections to homes, businesses and authorities, the existing infrastructures will have to be co-deployed. Shared use of infrastructures is a measure that allows to reduce costs on the broadband network. In regions where the broadband service is absent at the moment, electricity poles are the main usable infrastructure. The Bill is aimed particularly at the use of the electricity poles that are at the disposal of owners of physical infrastructure (electricity infrastructure), with a view to installing communications network elements on the poles. The current Electricity Market Act does not provide for an obligation to grant use of the distribution network infrastructure.
During the debate, Tanel Talve from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Kristjan Kõljalg from the Reform Party Faction took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the State Legal Aid Act and Other Acts (299 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill regulates the availability of legal counselling in more detail. The procedure for the competition for state legal aid will be changed. In the future, a contract will be concluded with the winner of the competition for up to five years. In the current procedure, there is no time limit, but in practice, an agreement is concluded for one or two years. According to the current procedure, support can only be given to non-profit associations or foundations. According to the Bill, it will be possible to give it to all legal persons, for example law offices. The Ministry of Justice will exercise supervision over the service. If a criminal offence in the second degree can be resolved in alternative proceedings and the suspect does not request the appointment of a counsel, the state will no longer have to appoint a counsel. It will be provided that people to whom a representative is appointed without their application in proceedings on petition in a civil matter will be released from the obligation to compensate for the state legal aid expenses. Higher than usual additional remuneration of the chairman of Viru County Court will be provided for to motivate the judges in the permanent service of other courts to stand as candidates for chairman of Viru County Court. The state register of state and local government authorities will be taken to the information system platform of the commercial register.
During the debate, Heljo Pikhof from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Raivo Aeg from the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Permanently Inhabited Small Islands Act (254 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Johannes Kert, Imre Sooäär, Raivo Aeg, Kalev Kotkas, Mark Soosaar and Jüri Adams. The Bill will amend the Permanently Inhabited Small Islands Act on the basis of the amendments accompanying the Administrative Reform Act and the need to extend the list of the permanently inhabited small islands.
During the debate, Peeter Ernits from the Centre Party Faction, Andres Ammas from the Free Party Faction, Mark Soosaar from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Kalle Laanet from the Reform Party Faction took the floor.
The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading.
30 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 32 were against, and there were no abstentions. The motion was not supported and the Bill remained in the proceedings.
The aim of the Bill on Amendments to the Building Code, An Act to Implement the Building Code and the Planning Act and the State Fees Act (250 SE), initiated by the Government, is to transpose into Estonian law the relevant EU directive on measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks, or the “Broadband Directive”. The Directive aims to reduce the costs of deploying the communications network and to ensure that, by 2020, all Europeans have access to internet speeds of above 30 Mbps and 50 % or more of European households have access to internet connections above 100 Mbps. For that, according to the Bill, communications undertakings will be ensured access to physical infrastructures suitable for rolling out communications networks, i.e. masts, ducts, pipes, inspection chambers, manholes, cabinets, antenna installations, towers and poles. In order to maximise synergies across networks, the Bill is addressed not only to communications network providers but to any owner of physical infrastructures, such as electricity, gas, water and sewage, heating and transport services, suitable to host communications network elements. An electronic communication capability will be created for the register of construction works as of 2017 where communications undertakings will be able to communicate with other businesses owning physical infrastructures, agree on surveys of infrastructure, and apply for access to infrastructure. Starting from January 2017, new buildings and residential buildings with two and more dwellings will have to be equipped with in-building physical infrastructure allowing the delivery of electronic communications services. The same obligation will apply in the event of major renovation works concerning buildings and residential buildings with two and more dwellings. In the case of this requirement, a parallel can be drawn with electricity and water routes which are also mandatory for buildings constructed. As the target group, the Bill will affect private property owners, state authorities as well as network holders, including electronic communications undertakings. As to state authorities, the Bill will affect particularly the Technical Regulatory Authority who will be the pre-trial dispute resolution body within the meaning of the Broadband Directive, resolving the disputes that arise.
The Bill on the Ratification of the Paris Agreement (310 SE), initiated by the Government. The aim of the Act is to ratify the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is a global milestone for enhancing global collective action and accelerating the global transformation to a low-carbon (CO2, CH4, N2O, etc.) and climate resilient society. The Paris Agreement sets out a qualitative long-term emissions reduction goal for which the greenhouse gas reduction targets beyond 2020 have been set. It should help reduce dangerous climate changes in the world by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor during the debate and pointed out the motion of the faction to reject the Bill at the first reading.
7 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 37 were against, and there was one abstention. The motion was not supported and the Bill remained in the proceedings.
The Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Social Tax Act (302 SE), initiated by the Government, will give employers the possibility to pay sickness benefit also for the second and third day of sick leave, similarly to the 4th until the 8th day of sick leave, to employees, free of social tax. Employers will not have the obligation to pay benefit for the second and third day of injury or illness, but the Act will give the possibility to pay it free of social tax. Also, when paying benefit for the second and third calendar day, employers will not have the obligation to pay at least 70 per cent of the average salary of the employee as in the case of the 4th until the 8th day of sick leave, but employers will be able to decide on the amount themselves.
During the debate, Kersti Sarapuu from the Centre Party Faction, Andres Ammas from the Free Party Faction, Raivo Põldaru from the Conservative People’s Party Faction, Priit Sibul from the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, Aivar Sõerd from the Reform Party Faction, Helmen Kütt from the Social Democratic Party Faction and the Minister of Finance Sven Sester took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Insurance Activities Act and Other Associated Acts (275 SE), initiated by the Government, will strengthen the protection of retail investors and increase their trust in packaged insurance investment opportunities and insurance-based products, for example, investment funds, unit-linked life insurance contracts, structured products, and investment deposits.
The Bill on Amendments to the Health Insurance Act and Other Acts (301 SE), initiated by the Government, concerns dental care services provided to adults. According to the new procedure, a half of the treatment bill for dental care services agreed upon will be compensated to adults, but not more than 30 euro in a year. The explanatory memorandum notes that, according to the new procedure, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund will compensate for a half of all treatment bills for dental care services agreed upon, with a maximum total amount of 60 euro per year. Until then, nothing will be compensated. The elderly will also receive support in paying for treatment, in addition to the benefit for dentures. Dental care benefit will increase for persons receiving a pension for incapacity for work, old-age pensioners and persons of over 63 years of age who have health insurance. At the moment, the state compensates 19.18 euro for dental care to such persons with health insurance. The dental care benefits for pregnant women, mothers of children under one year, and people with an increased treatment need will also increase. At the moment, the benefit for dental care is 28.77 euro. In the case of both target groups, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund will pay for 85 per cent of the treatment bill for primary dental care services with a calculation that a treatment bill or the total amount of treatment bills sent to a patient will not exceed 100 euro per year. The state will pay up to 85 euro per year for them. The benefit for dentures, 255.65 euro per three years, will also be retained for the elderly. In order that a person could receive the benefit for dentures as conveniently as possible, he or she will no longer have to submit applications in the future, but the Estonian Health Insurance Fund will organise payments with the manufacturer of dentures. The current benefits for children and emergency care will not disappear. The Estonian Health Insurance Fund will pay for the dental care for all insured persons under 19 years of age and the emergency care for adults with health insurance. The emergency care for persons without insurance will be paid from the state budget.
Raivo Põldaru from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The sitting ended at 10.14 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201610191400
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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