Today, the Riigikogu discussed the report “NATO Deterrence in the Baltic Sea Region: Current Situation and Perspectives” by the National Defence Committee as a matter of significant national importance. With the report, the National Defence Committee gives its consensus-based recommendations for strengthening the deterrence posture in the Baltic Sea region to the Government before the NATO summit.
When presenting the report, the Chairman of the National Defence Committee Marko Mihkelson stressed that it was a consensus between all political forces represented in the Riigikogu.
Mihkelson referred to the conclusions of the report, which state that the security situation in the Eastern neighbourhood of NATO has become tense over recent years, and for a long time, and with this in mind, NATO must contribute towards long-term solutions to improve its collective defence.
In order to ensure the sustainability of the collective defence and capabilities development of the Alliance, NATO’s European allies must contribute more than before to defence cooperation. Mihkelson said that this must be taken to mean mainly the increasing of the rate of defence expenditure of countries which today amounts to only 1.4 per cent of GDP on the average with European allies. He pointed out that only five NATO member states – the United States of America, Great Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia – are complying with the political agreement to keep defence expenditure at the level of at least two per cent of GDP.
In Mihkelson’s words, it is of critical importance that efforts are made to strengthen the unity of the Alliance. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that allied relations function effectively in a crisis situation only if Estonia can prioritise the functioning of the independent defence capability more than before.
“NATO deterrence and protection of Member States need strengthening in actual terms, and the principles of NATO deterrence need updating,” Mihkelson said. Decisions on updating the deterrence will have to be made at the NATO Warsaw Summit, if not before, he said.
The report that was presented today points out that NATO defence planning, which is currently based on deployment of additional forces and deterrence by punishment, will have to focus more on deterrence by denial and adequate forward positioned presence in the Baltic states, Poland and the whole Baltic Sea region.
In the report, the National Defence Committee found that there is an additional need to preposition the heavy equipment and other equipment of the NATO Allies in Estonia and the other Baltic states. The report also stressed that, in the national defence interests, readiness to shift from the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission to an air defence mission will have to be ensured, by increasing the number of allied air force units and fighter planes in the region, and at the same time creating an adequate air defence system.
Mihkelson pointed out that, to strengthen deterrence, NATO’s permanent presence on the Baltic Sea will have to be achieved in cooperation with the Allies, national sea surveillance cooperation will have to be intensified, and the coastal protection system of Estonia will have to be developed significantly further in cooperation with the Allies.
Mihkelson said that the Committee had made a proposal to the Government to consider increasing Estonia’s defence expenditure, with particular focus on the crucial capability developments, and the investment need of the host country.
The National Defence Committee stressed in the report that NATO Member States will have to invest more into joint exercises, including into playing through collective defence activities in the Baltic Sea region.
According to the conclusions of the report, it is also important to increase the capabilities of the US and the Allies in cyber and electronic warfare in Europe, which would include closer cooperation with the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, located in Estonia, as well as with the Estonian Cyber Range.
Both in the main text and the recommendations of the report, the National Defence Committee highlights consistent contribution to more effective involvement of Finland and Sweden into regional defence cooperation. The potential future accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO would shift the security of the whole of our region towards greater stability and predictability. As the final recommendation of the report, the Committee supported a dialogue between NATO and the Russian Federation that would be based on adherence to the norms of international law.
The Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso pointed out in his report that Estonia can invest two percent of GDP into national defence only thanks to the extensive support of the society and the political parties. “This has found very positive resonance among our allies, as has the fact that we have a cross-party consensus in regards to defence expenditure,” Hanso said.
Hanso said that keeping defence expenditure at at least two per cent of GDP is an important part of the reputation of Estonia as a reliable ally. “Thanks to having avoided political draughts, we have been able to make important long-term defence plans,” he said. “However, in today’s security landscape, two per cent of GDP can be only the minimum standard.”
“Estonia does not presume that somebody would care for our security more than we ourselves do,” Hanso said. “However, Estonia is not alone; we have allies to support us.” The Minister of Defence said that it is certain already today that one of the major outcomes of the Warsaw Summit will be the strengthening of the Alliance’s defence and deterrence posture in NATO border states. This includes the increased presence of the Allies in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, dealing with Russia’s obstacle capability, and the strategy to counter hybrid warfare.
“The primary defence capability is the shield of the Estonian national defence, and collective defence is the sword,” the Minister of Defence said in his report. It is the NATO collective defence that fills the capability gaps that would otherwise be infeasible for a state as small as Estonia due to limited possibilities. He pointed out as an example the air policing provided by the Allies. He said that the fastest possibility to defend the airspace is to bring to Estonia anti-aircraft missile systems of the Allies, including also the long-range anti-aircraft missile systems Patriot, just as NATO Allies have done for example in Turkey.
Hanso noted that defence planning must be realistic. “We are not planning to create new capabilities that we cannot keep up sustainably due to limited resources,” he said. “However, we can use our resources more efficiently and economically.” The Minister finds that for example national sea surveillance cooperation will have to be enhanced, and more efficient sea surveillance will have to be established on the basis of the existing capabilities.
In conclusion, the Minister of Defence recalled that the unity and solidarity of NATO or the European Union can never be one-way. “We cannot be only consumers of security; we must also contribute correspondingly,” he said. “Without it, it is not possible to rely on other countries’ understanding and to presume that the Allies will come to help us in a difficult moment.”
Research Fellow of the International Centre for Defence and Security Kalev Stoicescu said that the report focuses only on conventional forces because they give Russia the greatest advantages in the Baltic Sea region, especially taking into account the geography, and the current relatively symbolic presence of the Allies.
NATO’s overall superiority in relation to Russia is obvious, he said, especially in the economic plane, but also in military terms. At the same time, NATO’s superiority is not reflected one-to-one in the Baltic Sea region.
Stoicescu said that deterrence has a key role in ensuring security in our region. There is a logic in it, he said, that is based on psychological factors, but also sober calculations, although possible emotional impulses have to be taken into account when dealing with Russia. “Russia is increasingly more capable and threatening in military terms, but Russia is deterrable by NATO,” Stoicescu said. He added that NATO Allies have understood that and have also made the relevant political decisions to increase military presence in the Baltic countries and in Poland and on the Baltic Sea.
In Stoicescu’s words, increased presence of the Allies will show to Russia that NATO takes seriously the ensuring of the protection of all its members, and any attempt to attack them will not remain without a resolute response. “When nuclear states US and Great Britain, and also other allies, including Germany, deploy not only symbolic but combat capable units to our region, then they can no longer be overlooked or simply bypassed,” he said.
In conclusion, Stoicescu listed the aspects that need to be addressed. He mentioned Suwalki corridor, or Russia’s capability to hinder the bringing in of the allied forces and their operation in our region. He also mentioned active air defence and air defence, a noticeably greater presence of the Allies on the Baltic Sea, and a NATO missile defence system which will have to extend to and cover also the Baltic states and Poland.
During the debate, Andres Herkel took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction, Oudekki Loone on behalf of the Centre Party Faction, Johannes Kert on behalf of the Reform Party Faction, Henn Põlluaas on behalf of the Conservative People’s Party Faction, Sven Mikser on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction and Marko Mihkelson on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction.
The Riigikogu passed four Acts:
The Riigikogu passed with 87 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Estonian Defence League Act, the Military Service Act and the National Defence Duties Act (212 SE), initiated by the Government, which makes the changes related to the work ability reform in the area of government of the Ministry of Defences. The Estonian Defence League Act, the Military Service Act and the National Defence Duties Act will be brought into conformity with the Work Ability Allowance Act due to enter into force on 1 July 2016, while the social guarantees for servicemen will be retained in their current form. In comparison with other fields, health damages are the most frequent in the military service, and the injuries suffered during the performance of duties are of vey varying degrees of severity. The transfer to assessment of partial capacity for work or incapacity for work, planned to take place in the course of the work ability reform, would mean a significant reduction in the guarantees for servicemen, and therefore payment of the single compensation according to the degree of severity of the injury suffered will be retained for them also in the future. In the area of government of the Ministry of Defence, the medical commission of the Defence Forces will continue to identify the extent of permanent incapacity for work and to express it in percentages of incapacity for work. Also, periodic payment of pension for incapacity for work and survivor’s pension under the Military Service Act will be retained in order to ensure a greater sense of confidence for servicemen in the performance of higher-risk duties. In addition to the amendments relating to the identification of incapacity for work, with the Act, the organisation of ensuring of social services and appliances provided for in the Military Service Act is harmonised with the amendments to be made in the course of the work ability reform. The amendments are planned to be enforced simultaneously with the Work Ability Allowance Act on 1 July 2016.
The Riigikogu passed the Radiation Act (169 SE), initiated by the Government, which has been drafted within the framework of codification of environmental law, and the aim of the Act is to organise the current law and to make the regulations more understandable to the addressees. The content of the regulation mostly remains the same compared with the current Act, but some amendments and specifications have also been made. 82 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act and 7 were against.
The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Tobacco Act (206 SE), initiated by the Government, which transposes the new European Union Tobacco Directive. 64 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act, 13 were against, and there were 5 abstentions.
The Directive approximates the laws and regulations of the Member States concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products. The Act amends the Tobacco Act by adding the requirements for the marketing of electronic cigarettes and nicotine-containing refill liquid for electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes must not contain nicotine in excess of 20 mg/ml, and they must deliver nicotine doses at consistent levels. Nicotine-containing liquid must not contain additives such as vitamins or other additives that create the impression that the product has a health benefit or presents reduced health risks. The Act establishes a prohibition on cross-border distance sales of tobacco products and tobacco related products.
The Riigikogu also passed the Act on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act, the Infectious Animal Disease Control Act and the Trade in, Import and Export of Animals and Animal Products Act (222 SE), initiated by the Government. 84 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of the passage of the Act and 1 was against it.
The Act brings the regulation concerning the transport of animals into conformity with the General Part of the Economic Activities Code Act and European Union law. To ensure that an especially dangerous infectious animal disease spreading among wild animals would not spread to the establishments or plants of keepers of animals and to households, and to increase the infectious animal disease control capability of the state, the Infectious Animal Disease Control Act is amended, taking into account the experience gained in the prevention and control of African swine fever from 2014 until today. Infectious animal disease control measures, including the competence of the Veterinary and Food Board in the event of suspicion or an outbreak of an infectious animal disease, are specified. The requirements for keeping animals susceptible to infectious animal diseases are tightened. The rules for the removal of live pigs from the restricted zone and for trading in pork and pork products are specified and updated. The bases for compensation for damage caused in connection with controlling an infectious animal disease are also amended. The support for compensation of infectious animal disease damage will not be paid in the case when, during the period of restriction, the keeper of animals restocks with animals a building where an outbreak of the same infectious animal disease has occurred, and the keeper of animals has already received support for compensation of damages related to the infectious animal disease. The Act also provides for the possibility to impose a restriction on the movement of vehicles to control the spread of an especially dangerous infectious animal disease. This means that, before entering a disease-free area, a power-driven vehicle and its trailer will have to be cleaned and, if necessary, disinfected. The driver will also have an obligation to keep account of the time and place of disinfecting and the disinfectant used, and to preserve the documents containing the account for at least one year.
Eight Bills passed the second reading:
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 the deadlines 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 course of the second reading, it was decided to postpone the transfer to the professions system until 31 December next year in the fields of design work, expert assessment of building design documentation, site investigations, audits of construction works and owner supervision. In the field of architectural design, an exception was made that extended the transfer to the proving of competence with a professional certificate until 31 December 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 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 Preservation Copy Bill (157 SE), initiated by the Government, will replace the current Legal Deposit Act. The Bill covers the submission, collection and preservation of publications that are of significance to the Estonian culture. The current title of the Act will be replaced in order to better convey the idea and purpose of the Act. The Bill provides for the rules for the collection and preservation of the source material of printed publications and the source material of films. The number of printed publications submitted for preservation will be reduced from eight to four, and the number of libraries who receive preservation copies will also be reduced. The obligation of the state to preserve printed publications for a long term in ten libraries will be reduced to four libraries. As modern technology for publishing of publications has changed, the state contribution to the activities relating to the preservation of digital publications and source material will be increased. The amendment is necessary in order to avoid destruction of a significant part of the digital cultural heritage. Also to ensure the preservation and making available of printed publications that have been created digitally. Under the Bill, all preservation copies on a physical medium (except for source material of films) will be collected through a single centre, the National Library of Estonia. This will make the submission of publications and source material of printed publications simpler and more understandable. For example, printing houses will submit printed publications to one library, instead of five. The centre will forward publications on physical medium to the entities who preserve them. This will reduce duplication in the obtaining of preservation copies in libraries. The National Library will compile online publications statistics, in addition to print output statistics. The National Archives will be charged with the task of collecting the source material of films with a view to ensuring the preservation of film heritage.
Krista Aru took the floor during the debate, and on behalf of the Free Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. 9 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 58 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the second reading of the Bill was concluded.
The Family Allowances Bill (217 SE), initiated by the Government, will consolidate into one Act the current Family Benefits Act, Parental Benefit Act and Maintenance Allowance Act.
When presenting the Bill, member of the Social Affairs Committee Helmen Kütt said that the benefits relating to the birth and raising of a child will collectively be called family allowances in the future, and the outdated provisions of the current legal order will be updated.
Kütt said that the Bill also provides for new principles of payment of maintenance allowance which aim to improve the subsistence of children living with one parent in the case when one parent does not perform the maintenance obligation. According to a decision of the Government, the amount of the maintenance allowance per child will be up to 100 euro.
In general, the Bill will also amend 19 different Acts. The amendments are also connected with the development of the new information system SKAIS2 of the Social Insurance Board which will increase the effectiveness of the provision of public services, and services and the use of the services will actually become more comfortable for the people.
In the course of the second reading, the Bill was amended by adding a provision concerning disabled child allowance, and the payment and suspension and termination of the payment of benefit to a parent of a disabled child and disability allowance for a person of working age granted to a child under the age of 18 years.
Dmitri Dmitrijev from the Centre Party Faction and Monika Haukanõmm from the Free Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
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.
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 Atmospheric Air Protection Bill (165 SE), initiated by the Government, will codify environmental law: the provisions relating to atmospheric air protection will be organised and at places restructured, and the processing of and reporting on permits will be harmonised. The implementation and checking of interrelated local and international requirements will be simplified. In the drafting of the Act, account has been taken of the existing practice, as well as the need to bring the Act into conformity with the directives. When the Act enters into force, it will replace the current Ambient Air Protection Act.
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 Riigikogu concluded the first reading of two Bills:
The Bill on Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions (237 SE), initiated by the Government, will create a national regulation for implementation of the EU Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions (eIDAS Regulation). The European Union wishes to enhance trust in electronic transactions in the internal market by providing a common foundation for secure electronic interaction between citizens, businesses and public authorities. The EU Regulation regulates the cross-border use of electronic identification and the provision of trust services such as electronic signature, time stamp, website authentication, etc., in the internal market on the basis of uniform rules. The Regulation contributes to the promotion of the single market and facilitates the cross-border use of online services. Under the electronic identification cooperation, authorities of Member states will have to begin to mutually recognise digital signatures in 2016, and electronic identity in 2018. Member States may mutually recognise electronic identities of other Member States already earlier. The Bill is planned to enter into force in Estonia simultaneously with the entry into force of the eIDAS Regulation in the European Union which will be on 1 July this year.
The Bill on Amendments to the Civil Service Act (Estonia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union) (240 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for a temporary amendment to the Civil 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 Act will provide for specifications for officials who perform functions related to the Estonian Presidency. Prior to the EU Presidency and for the time of the EU Presidency, a specification will be established for more flexible recruitment of personnel under which an official may be appointed to the service for a specified term without competition.
To compensate for an intensive work period and increased workload, and to motivate officials, there will be a possibility to grant an additional holiday of up to 10 calendar days and a possibility to pay a higher additional remuneration. All specifications introduced into the Act will be in force until 31 December 2018, and they will concern only the officials who perform functions related to the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The sitting ended at 7.15 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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