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At today’s plenary sitting, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas made a political statement before the Riigikogu in connection with the submission of the State Budget for 2020 Bill.

In the Prime Minister’s words, the Government would continue with a conservative budget policy which focused on the structural budget balance and took into account Estonia’s economic situation and future prospects.

The head of Government said that the expenditure and investments volume of the next year’s state budget was approximately 11.6 billion euro, and the revenue volume 11.8 billion euro. Estonia’s tax burden will remain at 33.2 per cent of GDP over the coming two years. In 2020, the government sector debt burden will decrease to 8 per cent, that is, from 2.4 billion to 2.3 billion euro in absolute amounts.

Prime Minister Ratas said that the state budget Bill was based on the five priorities that had been agreed on when the Government had been formed. “First, family-friendly Estonia where people feel secure and safe. Second, cohesive society where members of the society feel involved, and gaps between different social groups are narrowing. Third, knowledge-based economy, and development of lifelong learning. Fourth, effective governance so that communication with the state would be simple and seamless. And fifth, a safe and secure state where everyone’s fundamental rights and freedoms are guaranteed equally,” Ratas noted.

Speaking of sectors, the Prime Minister pointed out that, in 2020, Estonia’s defence spending would stay above 2 per cent of GDP, which would be around 615 million euro in the following year.

In Ratas’s words, the funding of research and development from the state budget will increase by a total of nearly 16 million euro next year compared to this year in areas of government of several ministries, including 5.3 million euro to fund research grants and research baseline funding. The state budget will contribute 216 million euro in total towards research and development.

In the Prime Minister’s words, the average old-age pension will increase by 45 euro as of 1 April 2020. “The Government will contribute 20.8 million euro towards the extraordinary pension rise, and this is the largest pension rise in the past 12 years, which will give an average elderly person additional 540 euro in a year,” Ratas said.

The head of Government said that additional funds would be allocated to increase the salary fund of teachers, state-employed social workers and cultural workers, and to also contribute to the internal security sector. The Government allocated additional funds of 7 million euro in the state budget for 2020 Bill to increase the salary fund of internal security employees. The salaries of state-employed specialists in social rehabilitation, special welfare and substitute care will rise by an average of 2.5 per cent next year. The salary rise of health care workers will also continue, and the state will direct 50 million euro there to safeguard the salary agreement. A total of around 1.68 billion euro have been planned for health care in the state budget for the next year.

In conclusion, Ratas confirmed that, in the following year’s budgetary process, the Government would also undertake a state budget revision which would have to provide a comprehensive picture of the activities and services of the state and show if the expenses incurred were always reasonable and served our people and country in the best way.

Representatives of factions took the floor during the debate.

Indrek Saar (Social Democratic Party) pointed out that, this autumn, Social Democrats would make efforts to ensure that the budget for 2020 would be more caring and responsible. “We are always ready to discuss how to shift the tax burden from low income earners more on the shoulders of those who are better off and who can shoulder more,” Saar said.

Siim Pohlak (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) noted that the budget included no tax rise or excise duty rise and, besides, the government sector debt burden would decrease. At the same time, the rescue workers’ and police officers’ salaries will be raised, and teachers and teaching staff will be given a pay rise, and additional funds will be allocated to research. “This budget will help do many important things. This budget reflects the whole Estonia, and not only large cities or capitals,” Pohlak said.

Kersti Sarapuu (Centre Party) said that it was important that the Government had been able to find possibilities to resolve and improve important issues in the complicated budget situation. “There are indeed many aims, but improving the welfare of the Estonian people is clearly a priority. Significant contributions are made to the salary fund for state employees, teachers, nursery school teachers, rescue workers, police officers and others. Benefits, including disabled children benefits, will be raised, and new investments will be implemented in order to increase the welfare of the people living in Estonia,” Sarapuu noted.

Kaja Kallas (Reform Party) expressed her delight over the fact that the state budget provided for pay rises for the sectors that definitely deserved it. However, she drew attention to the fact that the pay rise was on the same scale with the overall price rise and a far cry from what had been promised earlier. Kallas was critical because the Government was going to charge income tax on average pension and had postponed 100 million euro worth of investments. Kallas was critical that the Government was making cuts in the midst of economic growth; it was covering expenses instead of investing. “You speak of new taxes, and not of stimulating the economy. This budget has no direction, no objectives and no funds. When you came to power, you promised great changes. None can be seen in the budget. It is a budget of cheaters,” Kallas said.

Sven Sester (Isamaa) emphasised that the following year’s budget was a historical one which included no new tax rise and provided for no new taxes, and tax burden was decreasing. In Sester’s words, the budget is family-friendly, it supports Estonian language training and language immersion, and defence spending. “Funds have been directed well, they have been directed on the basis of political priorities,” Sester said.

Nineteen Bills and draft Resolutions passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:

The first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Citizenship Act and the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act (57 SE), initiated by the Government, which had been adjourned due to the end of the working hours at Tuesday’s plenary sitting, was concluded. The Bill will amend the provisions of the Citizenship Act to specify and harmonise with basic school studies the requirements for Estonian language proficiency and knowledge of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and the Citizenship Act, set for application for citizenship.

The provisions relating to graduation from basic school and the external assessment of learning outcomes in the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act will also be amended.

When the Act enters into force, national final examinations in basic schools will be omitted from the conditions of graduation from basic school. The competence to decide on graduation from basic school will be given entirely to schools.

On the basis of the national curriculum, schools will have the right to establish for example school examinations corresponding to the specifics of the school, or for example carrying out creative work or research, as a condition of graduation. As a national feedback tool, national curriculum-dependent and proficiency tests will be retained. They provide an opportunity to track students’ development over time, and to analyse the learning outcomes in different years and the learning outcomes of a school or a class within the context of the overall national level.

National surveys of students, parents and school employees will be provided for as a new external assessment instrument.

According to the Bill, an examination in Estonian or Estonian as a second language will be conducted for all final year students of basic schools. Passing the examination will not be connected with graduation from basic school, but its aim will be to measure the level of Estonian language proficiency in persons who have acquired basic education.

A national test will also be conducted for all basic school graduates before graduation from basic school. The test will evaluate students’ knowledge of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, the fundamentals of the constitutional order and the functioning of society, and the rights and obligations of citizens.

According to the Bill, if a basic school graduate successfully passes the national tests conducted within the framework of his or her studies, he or she will also comply with the requirements for Estonian language proficiency and knowledge of the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia and the Citizenship Act, set for application for citizenship.

During the debate, Heidy Purga (Reform Party), Katri Raik (Social Democratic Party), Mihhail Stalnuhhin (Centre Party), Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa) and Siim Pohlak (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.

The Social Democratic Party Faction and the Reform Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 39 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 47 were against, and there were two abstentions. Thus the motion was not supported and the Bill passed the first reading.

The Bill on the Ratification of Arrangements for Working Holidays between the Government of the Republic of Estonia and the Government of Japan (46 SE), initiated by the Government.

Under the arrangements, Estonia and Japan will be able to issue multiple working holiday visas to 18 to 30 year old nationals of the two countries for up to 12 months. The inter-state agreement provides that a person has the right to work without previously registering their visa with the Police and Border Guard Board. According to the Aliens Act, an alien who is staying temporarily in Estonia may work here without registering his or her employment if his or her right to work in Estonia arises directly from the law or the treaty ratified by the Riigikogu. Estonia has concluded similar agreements with Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The Bill on Amendments to the European Parliament Election Act, the Municipal Council Election Act, the Riigikogu Election Act, the Referendum Act and the Penal Code (elimination of the restriction on election campaigning and the prohibition on political outdoor advertising on election day) (51 SE), initiated by the Government, which will repeal the restriction on election campaigning on election day and the prohibition on political outdoor advertising. Polling places must remain free of advertising.

The issue of the expediency of the restriction on election campaigning has arisen previously in the Riigikogu, and the Chancellor of Justice has also raised it. In the situation where election advertising is for a large part based on the Internet, it is complicated and inexpedient to demand that no advertising be published on election day. Polling places must remain free of advertising.

During the debate, Lauri Läänemets (Social Democratic Party) took the floor. On behalf of the faction, he moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. However, with 8 votes in favour and 64 against, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the Bill was concluded.

The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and Other Acts (transposition of the directive on the protection of the European Union’s financial interests, and the directive on the procedural rights of minors) (50 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the directive on the protection of the EU’s financial interests, and the directive on the procedural rights of minors. Estonian law is already in conformity with the requirements of the directive, but specifications are needed. The Bill will also make some other amendments.

The directive on the protection of the European Union’s financial interests obliges Member States to apply sanctions to natural and legal persons who are guilty of intentional fraud affecting the Union’s financial interests, as well as other related criminal offences (e.g. the laundering of proceeds of crime).

On the basis of the directive, the definition of EU’s financial interests will be inserted into the Penal Code under which ‘European Union’s financial interests’ means revenues, expenditure and assets covered by, acquired through, or due to the EU’s budget and the budgets managed by the EU’s structural units. The scope of application of the Estonian Penal Code will also be extended by providing that it also applies to criminal offences affecting the Union’s financial interests committed outside Estonian territory if they are committed by an Estonian citizen, Estonian official or a legal person registered in Estonia.

With a view to transposing the directive, the Penal Code will be amended by inserting a new provision concerning procurement fraud affecting the EU’s financial interests, and the elements of crimes related to smuggled goods will be amended. In the case of criminal offences affecting the EU’s financial interests, foreign officials will also be deemed to be officials. The maximum sanction for fraud and smuggling will be increased by raising the maximum term of imprisonment from three years to four years.

The amendments are necessary in order that Estonia could meet its commitments as a country participating in the enhanced cooperation of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. With the launching of the work of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the prosecutors of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office will prosecute at least serious criminal offences affecting the EU’s financial interests.

On the basis of the function of the government committee on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism, the maximum term of imprisonment imposed for money laundering agreement will be raised from one year to two years, and the liability of legal persons will be provided for.

The directive on the procedural rights of minors concerns procedural safeguards for children who are suspects or accused persons in criminal proceedings. With a view to transposition of the directive, the rights of suspects or accused who are minors will be provided for more clearly. As major amendments, the Bill will provide the right of a minor to an individual assessment, and to a medical examination upon deprivation of liberty, and the right of his or her legal representative or another person to participate in the criminal proceedings. For individual assessment, in the future, a pre-trial report will have to be prepared with regard to suspects who are minors at the latest before indictment.

The Bill on Amendments to the Atmospheric Air Protection Act (54 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the EU directive which aims to enhance cost-effective greenhouse gas emission reductions and low-carbon investments. Another aim is to bring the Act into conformity with the EU Regulation amending the purposes of the use of revenues generated from the auctioning of aviation allowances, and the decision concerning the establishment of a market stability reserve for the Union greenhouse gas emission trading scheme.

The directive updates the system for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading and specifies the rules for the following trading period, 2021–2030. In addition to that, additional opportunities to make investments will be created. The main new possibility in the following trading period will be the Modernisation Fund which will allow Estonia to support investments in the modernisation of energy systems and in the transition to a low-carbon economy in other sectors. The Government will also be given a possibility to implement the measure under which allowances will be allocated to installations for electricity generation which make investments in the modernisation of the energy sector.

In addition, the purposes of the use of revenues generated from the auctioning of aviation allowances will be amended, and as of 2021 aircraft operators will be obligated to decrease by a linear factor of 2.2 the quantity of allowances allocated for free, similarly to stationary installations.

The Act will also be brought into conformity with the decision of the European Parliament and of the council concerning the establishment and operation of a market stability reserve for the Union greenhouse gas emission trading scheme.

The explanatory memorandum notes that the aim of the market stability reserve will be to control the surplus of allowances in the market. So far, the surplus has been very large, and therefore the price of allowances was low until the beginning of 2018. The European Commission will begin to gradually reduce the allowance surplus by increasing a certain part of the market stability reserve. The market stability reserve will apply for the first time in 2019. The European Commission will allocate allowances to a certain extent for as long as the surplus remains large. Should the quantity of allowances in the market for some reason fall below the critical level, the European Commission will place the allowances from the market stability reserve back on the market.

The Bill on Amendments to the Maritime Safety Act (47 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the relevant EU directives which aim to update and harmonise the safety standards for passenger ships, to improve the safety of and rescue opportunities for passengers and crew members on passenger ships, and to ensure that search and rescue and the activities in the aftermath of a potential accident would be more effective, and that the competent authorities have operational information on persons on board, as well as to harmonise the mandatory inspections of ro-ro passenger ships and high-speed passenger craft and to reduce duplicate procedures for inspections.

The Bill concerns the passenger ship owners and operators whose vessels engage in regular service and call at Estonian ports, and the work of the officials and inspectors of the supervision department of the Maritime Administration. The Bill concerns all undertakings whose passenger ships are engaged in regular services both within Estonia and to other European Union and foreign ports. The Bill will provide for an obligation to communicate the number of persons on board a passenger ship to the Electronic Maritime Document Exchange. Passenger ships that make regular voyages of over 20 nautical miles and that are not exempt from the relevant obligation under the Maritime Safety Act, also forward the list of persons on board the passenger ship to the Electronic Maritime Document Exchange. The obligation of the ship operator to maintain a register of persons will be omitted from the Bill.

 The Bill on Amendments to the Energy Sector Organisation Act (48 SE), initiated by the Government, will eliminate the unjustified specification due to which the Energy Sector Organisation Act that is in force in Estonia is not in conformity with the relevant European Union’s Energy Efficiency Directive.

The provision of the current Act under which distribution system operators who are large undertakings, and transmission system operators do not have to prepare regular energy audits is in conflict with the directive. When the specification is eliminated, Elektrilevi OÜ and Port of Tallinn Ltd will also have to carry out energy audits in the future.

The Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act relating to the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (61 SE), initiated by the Government, will ensure transitional provisions for holders of the United Kingdom’s driving licences permanently residing in Estonia for the eventuality that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Without a special regulation in place, some UK driving licences may become invalid in Estonia. For example, the UK driving licence of a person who has been permanently residing in Estonia for longer than 12 months would become invalid upon the entry into force of a no-deal Brexit.

After the 12-month transition period set out in the Bill, UK driving licence will be a third country driving licence, and holders of UK driving licences who permanently reside in Estonia will have to exchange their licences for Estonian driving licences within that 12-month period. The driving licence will be exchanged without having to take an exam.

The Bill will also provide that the parking cards of vehicles servicing people with a mobility disability or blind people issued in the UK will continue to be valid in Estonia. The Act will come into force on the day following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in France’s Military Operation Barkhane in Mali” (73 OE), submitted by the Government, will allow to contribute with up to 95 servicemen to France’s military operation “Barkhane” in Mali.

It is an Estonia’s defence policy interest to support a stable security environment globally, and solidary contribution of the European countries in the fight against the threats affecting Europe, in their place of origin where possible. In addition to the above, contribution to Operation ‘Barkhane’ will help deepen the strategic relationship between Estonia and France which is based on a common understanding of the security environment and the threats affecting it, besides a shared value space. France also actively participates in the strengthening of NATO’s deterrence posture, contributing with its units to enhanced allied presence in the Baltic states, including Estonia.

Operation Barkhane is a France-led independent international military operation in the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad) and France’s largest foreign military operation (4,500 troops). The strategic aim of the operation is to manage the global problems, and in particular the problems relating to Europe (terrorism, immigration), arising from the Sahel region. The final aim of the operation is to stabilise the situation in the region, with military operations, to the extent that will allow the authorities of the local countries to ensure the security situation independently. Operation Barkhane also supports the governments of the countries in the region in the establishment domestic stability.

The cooperation within the framework of operation Barkhane has further strengthened the strategic allied relationship and the military cooperation between Estonia and France. The cooperation of the defence forces units of the two countries in the ongoing military operation has increased the interoperability between the units. In view of the ongoing good cooperation, France has made a proposal to Estonia to increase Estonia’s contribution to operation Barkhane and to jointly start cooperation between special operations units in the training of the Malian armed forces. A similar cooperation proposal has been made to other countries, including the Nordic countries. In addition, Estonia wishes to give additional capabilities to the infantry platoon operating within the framework of operation Barkhane so that the unit could carry out its tasks independently within the framework of force protection.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Composition of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Response Force” (69 OE), submitted by the Government, will allow to contribute with up to 210 servicemen to the composition of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Response Force.

The establishment of the NATO Response Force (NRF) was decided at the Prague Summit in 2002. The NRF is a high-readiness unit capable of conducting military operations anywhere in the world. The NRF has a key role in launching NATO’s short-notice collective defence operations. Overall command of the NRF belongs to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). The decision to deploy the NRF is taken by the North Atlantic Council. Ensurance of full manning of the NRF is directly in Estonia’s national interests because the NRF ensures NATO’s commitment to deterrence and collective defence.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Training and Advisory Mission in Afghanistan” (72 OE), submitted by the Government, will provide for continuing participation in the NATO-led training and advisory mission in Afghanistan with up to 46 servicemen. The activities of the mission are directed at the ministries and security forces connected with Afghanistan’s security issues, focusing on the higher-level command of the army and police. Estonia has participated in the ISAF operation in Afghanistan for 11 years (2003−2014) and is participating in the RSM starting from 2015, and is planning to continue meeting its Alliance commitments in the NATO-led training and advisory mission in the current extent. By contributing to the largest ongoing NATO’s military operation, Estonia helps improve the international security situation.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Composition of the United Kingdom’s Joint Expeditionary Force” (71 OE), submitted by the Government, will provide for participation in the composition of the United Kingdom’s Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) with up to 24 servicemen. The JEF is a coalition of the willing, initiated, owned and led by the United Kingdom, with membership of other countries. JEF brings together like-minded countries who share a common sense of danger and who are generally ready to contribute to operations quickly and flexibly.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the European Union Training Mission and the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali” (70 OE), submitted by the Government, will allow to contribute with up to ten servicemen to the European Union (EU) Training Mission in Mali, and with up to ten servicemen to the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in Mali.

The Council of the EU established the training mission EUTM Mali (European Union Training Mission in Mali) in Mali by decision 2013/34/CFSP of 17 January 2013. This mission has become one of the most important military missions of the EU. Together with Estonia, 27 countries, including 22 EU Member States, contribute to it with around 600 troops. The objective of EUTM Mali is to support the development of the military capability of the Malian Armed Forces and to improve the security situation in Mali. In addition to that, it supports achievement of political stability and implementation of the Algiers peace agreement in order to enhance the restoration of state authority and the rule of law throughout Mali. EUTM Mali supports the Sahel region more broadly by improving the operational capability of the G5 Sahel Joint Force and enhancing regional cooperation, focusing primarily on common security threats, in particular terrorism and human trafficking.

On 25 April 2013, the peacekeeping mission MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) was established by UN Security Council Resolution 2100 (2013). The strategic aim of MINUSMA is to support the implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali concluded in 2015 by directing its efforts increasingly to supporting political dialogue and the restoration of state authority in central Mali where violence has increased. Another strategic aim of the UN mission is to facilitate the implementation of Mali’s broad strategy in order to protect civilians, reduce intra-community violence and ensure the provision of the main public services particularly in central Mali.

The participation of Estonian servicemen in UN operations helps strengthen Estonia’s contribution to UN activities in securing peace. It helps increase the visibility of Estonia in the UN. Estonia’s contribution to the EUTM Mali mission is important because it is one of Estonia’s priorities to actively participate in the implementation of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy. Through participation in these missions, Estonia contributes to the common fight against the threats affecting Europe, including the fight against terrorism and the resolution of immigration issues.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in Another International Military Operation Led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its Member State, the European Union or the UN upon the First Contribution thereto” (68 OE), submitted by the Government, will provide for the use of up to 50 servicemen under subsection 34 (1) of the National Defence Act. According to it, the Riigikogu determines by a resolution for each year the limit number of servicemen who may participate in another international military operation led by the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) or a member state thereof, the European Union (EU) or the United Nations (UN), upon contributing thereto for the first time. The exact contribution of Estonia and the amount will depend on the needs of a specific operation, and it will be decided under the general procedure under subsection (1) of the abovementioned section.

Conflicts and crises in various regions of the world may escalate unexpectedly and quickly, and if necessary Estonia must be capable of deploying defence forces units to crisis and conflict regions quickly and flexibly in order to ensure international stability and in this way to also protect Estonia’s security interests. If this mandate is given, it will be possible to respond as flexibly as possible to rapidly escalating situations that do not fall under other exemptions allowing rapid response (e.g. participation in the NATO response force) provided for in the National Defence Act.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Post-Conflict Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria” (67 OE), submitted by the Government, will allow to contribute with up to six servicemen to the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in the Middle East.

UNTSO is the first UN peacekeeping mission that is purely an observation mission. The military observers participating in the mission are unarmed and their task is to observe adherence to peace agreements and armament agreements in the Middle East, thereby preventing escalation of conflicts.

The Estonian military observers have been participating in the membership of the UNTSO mission since 1997. As of 2014, Estonia’s contribution to the mission was increased to up to six servicemen with a Resolution of the Riigikogu. They man the posts of military observer and Senior Staff Officer.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the International Military Operation “Inherent Resolve”” (66 OE), submitted by the Government, will provide for continuing participation in the international military operation “Inherent Resolve” with up to 20 servicemen. The US-led international military operation “Inherent Resolve” against ISIL was launched on 15 June 2014. The aim of the operation is anti-ISIL support and supporting military action. An important task of the operation is the training of the Iraqi security forces. Estonia began its participation in the operation in August 2016.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Mission in Iraq” (65 OE), submitted by the Government, will provide for continuing participation in the NATO mission NMI in Iraq with up to five servicemen. At the NATO summit in Brussels in July 2018, a new training mission was launched to help Iraq develop its capacity to build more sustainable, transparent, inclusive and effective national security structures and professional military education institutions, through the formation of a self-sustaining cadre of Iraqi instructors.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the European Union Military Mission EUNAVFOR Med/Sophia” (64 OE), submitted by the Government, will allow to contribute with up to six servicemen to operation EUNAVFOR Med/Sophia.

The mission of EUNAVFOR Med/Sophia is to deter illegal migration in the Mediterranean, and to assist in the capacity building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard and navy. Also, information on crude oil illicitly exported from Libya is gathered according to UN SC Resolution 2146 (2014) and Resolution 2362 (2017), and information exchange between the EU Member States, FRONTEX and EUROPOL regarding human trafficking is enhanced. When the operation’s mandate was last extended in March 2019, the participation of ships in the operation was terminated, whereby the actual capacity to save lives in the Mediterranean was lost.

By participating in the operation, Estonia contributes solidarity with other Member States to the EU military operation which helps prevent Europe-bound illegal migration, increases Estonia’s foreign policy visibility and gives Estonian servicemen an opportunity to obtain diverse experiences in the operation.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon” (63 OE), submitted by the Government, will allow to contribute with up to three servicemen to the United Nations (UN) mission UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon).

UNIFIL is mandated to monitor the cessation of hostilities, support the Lebanese armed forces in the South of Lebanon, and to co-ordinate these activities with the Governments of Lebanon and Israel. UNIFIL is also mandated to extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons.

Estonia participated in UNIFIL in 1996–1997, when it contributed with a peacekeeping company (135 servicemen). From spring 2015 to autumn 2018, Estonia contributed to UNIFIL with an infantry platoon and a support element – 38 servicemen in total – in the composition of the Irish-Finnish joint battalion. As of autumn 2018, Estonia is contributing with a staff officer at the mission headquarters in Naqoura. In 2020, Estonia will continue to contribute to UNIFIL with up to three servicemen.

The sitting ended at 6.40 p.m.

Photos of the sitting.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian).

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.)

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
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