Prime Minister Andrus Ansip gave an overview of the activities of the Government of the Republic in implementing the European Union policies to the Riigikogu today. In his overview, the Prime Minister highlighted the fact that functioning domestic e-solutions had been taken to the European Union level which has helped make the life of numerous co-citizens in the EU more comfortable. An enterprise portal for Belgian, Lithuanian and Finnish citizens has been opened unilaterally. Recently, a solution was presented in the Council of the EU together with Portugal which enables Estonian and Portuguese citizens to establish enterprises in the respective countries without leaving home. “Estonian economy is the one that has profited most from openness and freedom: sixty per cent of the export of the Estonian processing industry is produced by foreign enterprises operating in Estonia,” stressed the Prime Minister.
In the words of the Prime Minister, the outcome of the Government’s EU policy is above all the legal order which is developed together with partners in Europe. He added that in the most part this legal order is regulating areas which are closely connected with domestic policy choices.
The Prime Minister: “We are facing two big tasks in the coming years: first, contributing to the new growth of the economy and ensuring long-term competitiveness of Europe and, second, a breakthrough in international climate negotiations and creation of a single European energy market.” Ansip noted in this connection that the internal market freedoms must be extended which includes moving on with the Common Agricultural Policy reform. At the same time, the attempts at building barriers in international trade must be strongly resisted. Talking about climate package, Ansip said that an international agreement in climate issues is inevitable and necessary and Estonia wishes that Europe be united when taking part in these negotiations. “It is a choice of principle if Europe wants to move towards a more environment-friendly economic model and if we thereby want to reduce our energy dependence on third countries,” said Ansip.
Members of the Riigikogu asked the Prime Minister many questions. Comments were presented by Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson as a representative of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, Aleksei Lotman as a representative of the Estonian Green Party Faction, and Vice-Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Enn Eesmaa on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction.
The Riigikogu passed with 54 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Victim Support Act and Other Acts (349 SE), initiated by the Government. The amendments make several reductions in social expenses. In the future, dental care benefit will no longer be paid to all persons of over 19 years of age. The payment of the benefit of 300 kroons per year to persons receiving a pension for incapacity for work or an old-age pension on the basis of the State Pension Insurance Act and insured persons of over 63 years of age will be continued. On entry into force of the Act, payment of school allowance will be terminated as of 2009 and the leave for fathers which is compensated on the basis of the average wages of the father will be eliminated. Fathers will retain the right to use the holiday without pay. Child care allowance will no longer be paid to parents to whom simultaneously a parental benefit is paid and, in cases when a parental allowance is paid for a child, the granting of breaks for feeding the child and the compensation thereof from the state budget will be terminated.
The Artificial Insemination and Embryo Protection Act, the Notaries Act, the Notary Fees Act, the Holidays Act, the Health Insurance Act, the Medicinal Products Act, the State Fees Act, the State Family Benefits Act, the Working and Rest Time Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act are amended, besides the Victim Support Act. This Act enters into force on 1 January 2009; §§ 3 and 4, clause 8 1) and clauses 9 11) and 12) enter into force on the day following publication in the Riigi Teataja. 28 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act, nobody abstained.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee as the leading committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Police Service Act (351 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to transfer the paying of the pension for police officers which is paid out of state budget funds solely to the competence of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the case of both police officers and prosecutors who have the right to receive the pension for police officers. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee as the leading committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Local Government Council Election Act (392 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to bring the Local Government Council Election Act into conformity with the Constitution, according to the proposal from the Chancellor of Justice. Several amendments are planned in the Local Government Council Election Act. Significant amendments concern the election of the council in local governments with several electoral districts like Tallinn where, according to the amendment, half of the mandates will be divided equally among the electoral districts, observing the principle that the number of mandates in the district equals to the smallest integer divisible by the number of electoral districts which is at least a half of all mandates, and the remaining mandates will be divided according to the number of voters in the city district. In Tallinn, the council will form electoral districts by city districts, based on the principle that one electoral district is formed in each city district. Also, the council will have to comprise at least 79 members instead of the current 63 in cities with a population of more than 300 000. The sections which provide the preparing of the list of candidates and verification of the election results in local governments with one electoral district and those with several are also amended. The motion of the Estonian Centre Party Faction to suspend the second reading of the Bill was not supported by the plenary assembly: 57 members of the Riigikogu voted against the motion and 20 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour. Thus, the Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Cultural Affairs Committee as the leading committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Republic of Estonia Education Act and the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act (279 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Peeter Kreitzberg, Sven Mikser, Igor Gräzin, Mark Soosaar, Lauri Vahtre and Marek Strandberg, was concluded. The purpose of the amendment is to extend the variety in choosing educational literature which in the opinion of the initiators is hindered by the current procedure. According to the amendment, the responsibility of the Ministry would only be to direct and organise the compiling of teaching aids, including educational literature, for students with special needs. As concerns other educational literature, then only the establishing of the requirements for educational literature would remain within the competence of the Ministry. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee as the leading committee, the second reading of the Equal Treatment Bill (384 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction, the Social Democratic Party Faction and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that everyone is protected against discrimination on the grounds of race, nationality, colour, religion or beliefs, age, disability or sexual orientation. The Bill provides the principles of equal treatment and the tasks in the implementation and promotion of the principle of equal treatment, and resolution of discrimination disputes. The specified Bill is in the legislative proceeding for the third time. In two previous times, the Bill which bore the same name was not supported with the majority vote of the members of the Riigikogu required for passing. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
See the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):
The Riigikogu Press Service