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Prime Minister Andrus Ansip replied to the interpellation concerning the unconstitutionality of the raising of environmental charges (No 377), submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Kalev Kallo, Tarmo Tamm, Enn Eesmaa, Peeter Võsa, Lauri Laasi, Vladimir Velman, Valeri Korb, Mihhail Stalnuhhin, Aivar Riisalu, Mailis Reps, Ester Tuiksoo, Viktor Vassiljev, Urbo Vaarmann and Priit Toobal on 15 January. 

The interpellators referred to the fact that, according to a decision of the Constitutional Review Chamber of the Supreme Court, the unexpected raising of environmental charge rates by the Government had been unconstitutional and, as a result of that, the state will fail to receive circa 12 million euro this year. The interpellators wished to know how this gap in the budget was going to be covered. 

According to Ansip’s explanations, the Government had established relatively low environmental charges in the situation of economic crisis in 2009 and the amount of the charges had been fixed on a yearly basis until 2015. “After the Chancellor of Justice highlighted the issue, an additional analysis was made and the constitutionality of the change was ascertained,” Ansip said. The Supreme Court had found that the raising of the disputed charge rates was a proper and necessary measure to direct undertakings to sustainable use of natural resources and to increase state budget revenues. 

The interpellators highlighted the fact that, in October 2012, the Government had decided to change the charge rates with its Resolution No 83, and had increased them more rapidly and to a larger extent than had been planned in 2009. 

The Supreme Court had considered it important that the timeline of the increase of environmental charges until 2015 had been established at Government level which had created a legitimate expectation in enterprises. 

In Ansip’s words, he had said in front of the Riigikogu on 18 December that, despite the significant increase of environmental charges, extraction had intensified remarkably. The Prime Minister noted that if the intensification continues at the same pace, then the increased volume of extraction will also cover the loss of profit arising from the lowering of the tariffs. Ansip explained that the actual state budget revenues in 2014 will be ascertained by the end of the year, and not until then can any under or over accrual of revenues be estimated. If the receipt of revenues remains lower than expected, a need to use the state reserves may arise, the Prime Minister said. 

Ansip noted that environmental charges are raised with the aim of directing undertakings to more sustainable use of natural resources. Besides, extraction and the pumping out of water brings about significant damage which has to be compensated to local residents and the state. When determining the environmental charges, the Government has been guided by the “polluter pays” principle and it is not fair to burden someone else with the obligation to compensate for the damage caused to the environment. 

The Prime Minister also replied to the interpellation concerning statements of the Minister of Defence (No 375). 

The Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts replied to the interpellation concerning the organisation of the carriage of passengers by railway (No 374). 

During the open microphone, Mihhail Stalnuhhin and Valeri Korb took the floor.

The Riigikogu Press Service