Today, the Riigikogu passed the Act that ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
The Convention aims to design a framework for the protection of and assistance to victims of violence against women and domestic violence. The Convention is also intended to promote international co-operation with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence.
79 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act on the Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (475 SE), initiated by the Government. Six were against.
During the debate, Henn Põlluaas from the Conservative People’s Party Faction, Liina Kersna from the Reform Party Faction, Marianne Mikko from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Oudekki Loone from the Centre Party Faction took the floor.
The Riigikogu also passed with 71 votes in favour the Act on the Ratification of the Agreement Establishing the European Union ‒ Latin America and the Caribbean International Foundation (446 SE), initiated by the Government. It ratifies the Agreement establishing the EU-LAC International Foundation which Estonia signed on 25 October 2016.
The EU – Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Foundation was established in Hamburg six years ago with the aim of strengthening the EU-CELAC partnership, encouraging mutual understanding and enhancing mutual visibility between the regions. The Foundation was established pending the possible conclusion of an international constituent agreement to convert it into an international organisation.
The aim of the Agreement is to establish the EU-LAC Foundation as an international organisation with legal personality under public international law. The Foundation can be seen as an instrument of EU common foreign policy because its activities contribute to the convergence of Member States’ actions towards the Latin American and Caribbean region, ensuring that the EU is able to assert its interests and values in the framework of the partnership between the two regions.
Establishing the Foundation as an international organisation will improve its capacity to obtain funding from its member countries, many of which are unable to make financial contributions to it while it remains established under German civil law. By acquiring the status of an international organisation, the Foundation will also be able to reduce certain costs, benefit from privileges and immunities under international law and make better use of its financial and human resources. This, in turn, will allow it to maintain and develop further its activities in support of the partnership.
A Bill passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
According to the Bill on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act (445 SE), initiated by the Government, upon public exhibition of animals, it will be permitted to use animals whose species-specific behavioural habits or life enable that without damaging the health of the animals. The list of animal species and subspecies who will be allowed to be used at animal exhibitions, competitions, fairs and auctions and other public events involving the gathering of animals will be established by a regulation of the minister responsible for the field. This regulation will not extend to zoos that hold an activity licence. In addition to the protection of the welfare and health of animals, the aim of the Bill is to prevent the risk of accidents relating to animals at public events, and to prevent people, especially children, from developing misconceptions about animals’ behaviour in free nature on the basis of non-species-specific behaviour of animals that they see during circus performances.
Barbi Pilvre from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
Six Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on the Ratification of the “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada, of the One Part, and the European Union and Its Member States, of the Other Part” (466 SE), initiated by the Government, will ratify the economic and trade agreement between the European Union and Canada (CETA) which Estonia ratified on 28 October 2016.
CETA is an agreement which is important to the European Union as a whole in economic terms, and the most ambitious agreement that the EU has managed to negotiate with a third country so far. With CETA, European companies will have the possibility to operate under the same competition conditions as Canadian firms. For example, under CETA, the government procurement market of Canadian provinces and local governments will open to foreign partners for the first time. CETA will eliminate 99 per cent of customs duties, and that to a large part starting from temporary application of the Agreement. There will be total liberalisation regarding manufactured articles and fish products, as well as wine and alcohol. Tariffs on export articles important to the EU, such as confectionery, baked products, vegetables and fruits, will also be eliminated. In addition to the lowering of tariffs, for example, simplifications in the rules of origin, the simplification of the mutual recognition of technical regulations, and the streamlining of the processes of sanitary and phytosanitary rules should also contribute to the stimulation of trade.
In addition, new opportunities will open in the Canadian service market to European undertakings through CETA. Liberalisation will concern the energy, financial services, telecommunications and maritime transport services sectors. The Agreement will simplify for example also the movement between the European Union and Canada for managers and specialists who are temporarily transferred within a corporation.
Estonia does not have an agreement for the promotion and protection of investments with Canada. CETA contains the EU’s new more transparent and institutionalised approach to the protection of investments as well as to disputes relating to them. The Agreement provides significantly more legal certainty regarding investments, compared to the mutual agreements for the protection of investments that Estonia has concluded until today.
The Agreement touches upon the conditions for expropriation and the right of recourse to the courts. Thus it will have to be ratified in the Riigikogu because the Agreement contains rights and obligations directly applicable to individuals that can be provided for only by Acts, according to the Constitution. Namely, citizens of the Parties to the Agreement can submit claims directly against a Party (incl. Estonia) under the provisions of the chapter concerning investments, on the basis of CETA.
The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (changing of the treatment of juvenile offenders) (453 SE), initiated by the Government.
The Bill is motivated by the Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act and Associated Acts (360 SE), initiated by the Government, under which the Juvenile Sanctions Act will be repealed and juvenile committees will be eliminated as of 1 January 2018. The Bill proposes amendments to the Penal Code, the Criminal Records Database Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure.
As a result of the amendments, a system of special treatment of minors and young offenders will be created in Estonia, where taking responsibility for acts committed will have an important place. The Bill provides that the state will respond to such acts according to the risks and needs relating to the minor. The Bill will ensure faster response to offences by juveniles, reduce the time needed for the proceedings conducted in the juvenile committee, and enable the body conducting proceedings to make the necessary decision independently. For that, bodies conducting proceedings in the matters will be given the possibility to use a wider range of sanctions with regard to minors. The Bill will provide for the general rule that, in the case of minors, in particular, disciplinary sanctions taking into account their development must be used.
The Bill will give courts the possibility to release minors from punishments imposed under the law and to apply juvenile sanctions also on 18-21-year-olds instead. For example, to order a young person to a social programme or suitable treatment if the mental development level of the young person corresponds more to that of a minor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Military Service Act and Other Acts (447 SE), initiated by the Government, will eliminate the military pension of an active serviceman, the superannuated pension of a police officer, and the prosecutor’s old-age pension (special pensions) as of1 January 2020. The current procedure provides for entitlement to a special pension for an active serviceman at the age of 50 in the case of a length of service of 20 years, for a police officer at the age of 55 in the case of a length of service as a police officer for 20 years, and for a prosecutor in old age pension age in the case of a length of service as a prosecutor for 25 years. The amount of the special pension is 50-75% of the salary of the respective post, depending on the type of service and the length of service. According to the Bill, active servicemen, police officers and prosecutors who are in service on 31 December 2019 will continue to be entitled to a special pension under the current rules. The entitlement to special pension of such persons will not depend on the necessary length of service they will have acquired by 1 January 2020 and, according to the Bill, they will be able to increase their length of service necessary for the grant of a special pension.
Persons who leave service who have acquired the necessary length of service will continue to be entitled to a special pension under the current procedure with some specifications. For example, if a person returns to active service as of 1 January 2020, his or her length of service will not increase, because, as a result of the amendments, continuous length of service will be a condition for receiving a special pension and, when the age requirement is met, a pension will be granted on the basis of only the length of previous active service.
In the future, the Prosecutor’s Office Act will make the prosecutor’s old-age pension available also to persons who leave the prosecutor’s office before reaching old-age pension age and whose length of service as a prosecutor is at least 25 years. According to the amendments, the condition for receiving the prosecutor’s old-age pension will be similar to the condition for receiving the military pension of an active serviceman where the person does not have to retire immediately from active service. A different rule applies and will apply in the future to police officers. With them, five years of continuous police service must immediately precede the attainment of pensionable age.
Eiki Nestor from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Fishing Act (491 SE), initiated by the Government, will ensure the collection of the data related to fishing as provided for in the Act, and inclusion thereof in the database established therefor which is registered in the administration system for the state information system (RIHA) in accordance with current legislation. The Bill will also ensure that the collection, analysis and transmission of data related to fishing as established in European Union legislation and in law will be conducted on the basis of provisions delegating authority. The persons submitting the data, the agencies related to the organisation and supervision of fishing, scientists researching fish stocks, and other stakeholders will be able to use the data collected to the commercial fishing register. After registration of the commercial fishing register in RIHA in compliance with the requirements, and with the use of the interfacing possibilities necessary for the commercial fishing register in connection with other national registers and databases, the availability of data will be simplified and the administrative burden of citizens will decrease.
The Bill will increase the clarity and efficiency of the use of free fishing capacity of the register of fishing vessels. Persons engaged in commercial fishing will have the possibility to faster find the necessary restricted fishing capacity necessary to register a fishing vessel used in fishing, as businesses who have free fishing capacity will have less opportunity to keep free fishing capacity in their possession without limits. Thus the waiting period for entering a fishing vessel into the register of fishing vessels will be reduced in some cases. There will be less possibility to make fictitious transactions in the register of fishing vessels whereby an undertaking extends the time of keeping for itself a free fishing capacity that is expiring.
The Bill on Amendments to the Fisheries Market Organisation Act (465 SE), initiated by the Government, will amend the rules for the organisation of the grant of state aid to fisheries and de minimis aid and for the disclosure of the data concerning such aid. To implement the European Commission Regulation, a procedure that increases the transparency of the granting of the aid will be established.
According to the national procedure rule, the grantor of aid will have to disclose the grantings of state aid to fisheries that exceed 30 000 euro on the relevant website through the Ministry of Rural Affairs. The European Commission has created a single voluntary web application TAM (Transparency Award Module) for Member States. Disclosure of data through the application is less costly and burdensome than the creation of a separate single website with an efficient search and download function.
At the same time, grantors of aid (the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board, foundations, including the Environmental Investment Centre, the Rural Development Foundation, etc.) will be obligated to register the information concerning state aid in the register of the granting of state aid created under the Competition Act. This will simplify the monitoring of various ceilings for the aid. The amendments reflect the rules that are already functioning and have been set out in EU legislation.
Under the Bill on Amendments to the Food Act and the Feed Act (487 SE), initiated by the Government, references to the relevant new EU Regulation in the area of novel foods will be incorporated into the Food Act. The main amendment concerns the authorisation procedure for implementation of a novel food. The current authorisation procedure at Member State level will become an EU’s central authorisation procedure. When the Act enters into force, there will be no need for the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods because, in the future, the European Commission will make a decision on authorising the placing on the market of such food and request a safety assessment from the European Food Safety Authority. The explanatory memorandum notes that ‘novel food’ means any food that was not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the Union before 1997.
A Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Municipal Council Election Act (470 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, would have narrowed the right to vote in municipal council elections, which would have extended only to citizens of Estonia and citizens of the European Union. The current Act allows also permanent residents who are citizens of another country or who lack citizenship to vote in local elections.
The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 77 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 7 were against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/en/201709201400.
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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