At today’s plenary sitting, the Riigikogu approved the Act that is intended to improve access to books and other printed material for visually impaired persons.
The Act is based on transposition of a European Union directive which allows to make, without the consent of the author and without payment of the remuneration, accessible format copies (e.g. an audio book of a book) of printed works (book, journal, newspaper, magazine and other kinds of writing) for persons who are visually impaired. The EU directive is based on the Marrakesh Treaty of the World Intellectual Property Organisation which was adopted in 2013 and entered into force on 30 September 2016.
62 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act on Amendments to the Copyright Act (686 SE), initiated by the Government.
The Riigikogu passed four other Acts:
The Act on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act and the Medicinal Products Act (689 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, provides for the right to exchange digital prescriptions and medical histories with the European Union Member States. Data from the health information system and the prescription centre to foreign countries, and from foreign countries to Estonian health care providers and pharmacies can be mediated through the data exchange platform. The development and the legal space supporting it allow to ensure a better service for patients as well as health care providers and pharmacies. There is already readiness to exchange data with Finland, Portugal and Croatia. In the case of medicines bought at full price, the patient can apply for the return of the difference with the preferential price provided for in Estonia.
65 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Act on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Precursors thereof (640 SE), initiated by the Government, transposes the EU Directive laying down the conditions for including new psychoactive substances in the definition of ‘drug’. As the requirements of the directive have been transposed into Estonian law earlier, the amendment does not affect our current situation. Estonia continues to include psychoactive substances in the schedule of narcotic drugs faster than it is done at European level. In the Act, the outdated reference to the Council Decision that has been repealed by the directive simply has to be replaced. In addition, references to the EU legislation regulating drug precursors are replaced and amended in the Act.
70 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act (645 SE), initiated by the Government, increases the maximum rate of the oil shale extraction charge to 10 euro per ton. During the second reading, the Environment Committee proposed not to change the principles for calculating the charge for the right to use oil shale, and not to link the oil shale resource charge to the market price of the products manufactured thereof (oil shale electricity), but to continue with the resource charge based on the oil price.
Peeter Ernits took the floor during the debate.
70 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
Under the Act on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act (676 SE), initiated by the Government, a new national park is established. Alutaguse National Park protects the nature in the typical and rare mire landscapes, forest landscapes and coastal landscapes, and traditional culture of Eastern Estonia.
The new national park is located in Ida-Viru County and it is established on the basis of the existing protected areas. It includes Puhatu, Agusalu, Muraka and Selisoo nature conservation areas and Kurtna, Smolnitsa, Jõuga, Struuga and Mäetaguse landscape conservation areas, the special conservation area of the headwaters of the River Narva, and the protected area of Iisaku forest park. The area of the national park planned is 43 568 ha. The whole area is already protected, and the extent of the restrictions does not increase with the establishment of the national park. State land accounts for 42 627 hectares and private land accounts for 910 hectares of the new national park.
With the establishment of the national park, a uniform natural and traditional culture complex is created in the region which combines the current protected areas with their values into a whole. The Alutaguse national park consists of several detached plots of land which means that the regions between the existing protected areas are not incorporated into the new national park.
During the debate, Peeter Ernits, and Krista Aru from the Free Party Faction took the floor.
65 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
Four Bills passed the second reading:
The Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act (649 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, is intended to give, starting from 1 January 2019, people living in social welfare institutions the possibility to obtain technical aids at a discount on the basis of the same principle as people living at home.
The Bill on Amendments to the Value Added Tax Act (674 SE), initiated by the Government, will provide for the tax treatment of transactions associated with vouchers, and simplify the procedure for the declaration of VAT on import on the VAT return and the procedure for the taxation of the supply of electronic communications services and electronically supplied services in the Value-Added Tax Act.
The tax treatment of vouchers has not been harmonised at EU level so far, nor is the VAT taxation of vouchers separately regulated in Estonian law. The VAT treatment of the transactions associated with vouchers needs to be harmonised at EU level, because when there are no uniform rules, both double taxation and non-taxation occur in the case of cross-border transactions.
The Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act and Other Acts (651 SE), initiated by the Government, is intended to merge the Consumer Protection Board and the Technical Regulatory Authority as of 1 January 2019 in order to enhance state supervision and to increase the number of services offered.
The merger of the authorities proceeds from a more general principle of the state reform which is reduction of duplication in state offices, reduction of the number of administrative agencies and improvement of the quality and availability of public services. In preparation for the merging of the divisions of the area of government of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, amendments will need to be made to 55 Acts.
In addition, the Bill will amend the Government of the Republic Act and the Civil Service Act in order to eliminate the deficiencies in Estonian law due to insufficient transposition of the relevant directives on the electricity market and natural gas, in regard to which the European Commission has started infringement proceedings against Estonia. An additional restriction on the term of office of the Director General of the Estonian Competition Authority will be included into the Civil Service Act. In the future it will be possible to extend the five-year term of office only once. An exclusion under which the minister will have no right of supervisory control of the Competition Authority with regard to functions arising from the Electricity Market Act and the Natural Gas Act will be included into the Government of the Republic Act.
The principal purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Railways Act, the Atmospheric Air Protection Act and the State Fees Act (670 SE), initiated by the Government, is to transpose the EU directive laying down and specifying requirements to ensure the independence of infrastructure managers and non-discriminatory treatment of applicants for capacity, and efficient competition. In addition, the rights of the regulatory body when performing supervision will be specified.
The proposed amendments regarding the opening of the market for domestic passenger transport services and the governance of the railway infrastructure meet the objectives of the railway system and improve its competition conditions and efficiency. The amendments will facilitate economic growth, increase possibilities for use and the performance of the railway infrastructure, and reduce barriers and obstacles to entering the market, thanks to elimination of conflict of interest. The amendments will also ensure financial transparency and reduce regulatory costs by limiting the cost of implementation of the amendments.
The impacts of the amendment to the directive are positive on the European rail market and suitable for Estonia because we already have an open rail market and separate infrastructure managers and transport operators which ensures equal treatment of shippers. The directive gives Member States the possibility to restrict the passenger market under certain conditions, but Estonia does not consider this possibility viable and will not provide for stricter requirements than provided for by the directive, and will not implement the requirements of the directive before the date of its entry into force.
Five Bills passed the first reading:
Under the Bill on Amendments to the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act, the Fisheries Market Organisation Act, the 2014–2020 Structural Assistance Act and the 2007–2013 Structural Assistance Act (687 SE), initiated by the Rural Affairs Committee, the calculation of the late interest applied upon recovery of payments, aid and support will become more flexible and take more account of the rights of beneficiaries. According to the Bill, late interest will no longer be applied upon deferral of the recovery of payments, aid or support granted under this Act. As another significant amendment, the Acts will be amended by including the principle established in judicial practice in private law according to which the amount of late interest must not exceed the principal debt.
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Law of Ship Flag and Registers of Ships Act and Amendments to the Income Tax Act and Other Associated Act (722 SE), initiated by the Government, is to increase the fleet under the Estonian flag and to grow the shipping sector on the shore. As a result of that, the Estonian fleet will increase, which will contribute to the growth of the Estonian economy and the emergence of the shore sector. The tax revenues of the state will increase through the receipt of the registrar’s fees. The shipping sector helps expand the range of Estonia’s export target countries which largely consists of only our neighbouring countries at present.
The Bill will give the Estonian seafarers the possibility to work on the ships that have come under the Estonian flag or belong to the Estonian shipowners, and to get the Estonian pension insurance under special regime. The Estonian seafarers will get health insurance if they have entered into a voluntary agreement with the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.
Kristen Michal from the Reform Party Faction and Sven Sester from the Faction Isamaa took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Museums Act (716 SE), initiated by the Government, is intended to change the principles for compensation for the damage caused to the owner of the international exhibition, in order to bring the regulation of the guarantee of the compensation for damage in Estonia into conformity with internationally accepted practice, to increase the credibility of the organisers of exhibitions in Estonia in international communication, and to facilitate the organisation of international exhibitions.
Under the Bill, the national regulation of the guarantee of compensation for damages to the exhibition does not cover the risks acknowledged in the practice of exhibiting international exhibitions which the exhibitor cannot influence or take into account when providing a security. According to the Bill, the Government will establish the list of the risks. Under the current Act, the compensation for the damage to the exhibition does not cover the damage that has been caused by confiscation of the exhibition by another state, the natural aging of the work, a fault that was made during earlier restoration or conservation, or force majeure.
As the most important amendment, the Bill will abandon the use of the concept of “force majeure” and will extend the risks that have been regarded as force majeure up to now, this way including, for example, damage caused by natural forces as well as terrorist attacks occurring during transportation of the exhibition. With the amendment, the system of compensation for damages to the exhibition that is in force in Estonia will become more credible in the eyes of international cooperation partners. It will also allow to reduce the insurance costs of state museums and museums operating as foundations established by the state.
The Bill will establish the conditions for cases in which the compensation for damage covers only part of the composition and value of the exhibition. Such conditions are the cultural significance of the exhibition, the high price of the guaranteed compensation for damage, or the existence of an equivalent guarantee of a foreign country. The Bill also provides that if the part of the compensation for damage which is not ensured is not covered by a guarantee granted under equivalent law of a foreign country, an insurance contract must be concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Vital Statistics Registration Act, the Population Register Act and the State Fees Act (723 SE), initiated by the Government, provides that, in the future, duplicate certificates of vital statistics events (e.g. birth certificate) will be issued in multilingual standard forms if the persons so wish. With the introduction of multilingual standard forms, the need to additionally translate or legalise documents, or the need for other similar formalities, will be precluded. This way, the administration will also become simpler for people. The amendment is necessary to implement a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council. It promotes the free movement of citizens by simplifying the requirements for presenting certain public documents in the European Union. The amendment will enter into force on 16 February 2019.
Besides, an additional possibility to apply for a change of the data in a birth registration will be provided for in the Vital Statistics Registration Act. Before 30 June 2010 it was possible for the mother, upon the registration of the birth of a child, to apply for entering the name of the father into the birth registration also in the case when the mother was not married to the father of the child and no one had acknowledged paternity. In such a case, the name of the father was entered into the birth registration on the basis of the statement of the mother, although no paternity was created this way. If the name of the father was included in such a way, that brought about no obligations for the child for any man. The Bill provides for the possibility to delete, on the basis of an application of the legal representative of the child or an application of the adult child, the data of the father entered into the birth registration of the child on the basis of the statement of the mother.
The Bill on Amendments to the Population Register Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (724 SE), initiated by the government, will change the date of termination of the validity of the data on residence in cases where the residence of the person is indicated to the accuracy of the city or city district or rural municipality at the reasoned request of the owner of the space. The amendment concerns people who have not updated the data on their residence after moving, and in the case of whom the owner of their previous apartment or house has requested that they terminate their registration at that residence. As a result of that, the residence of a person is indicated to the accuracy of the city or rural municipality – e.g. the city of Viljandi (the street or the house is not indicated).
Under the Act that is to enter into force on 1 January 2019, the validity of such data on residence will terminate upon the entry into force of the Act. As the amendment will affect to a significant extent the accrual of income tax of local governments and the accrual of the equalisation fund, and the data of the population register as at 1 January are used to calculate the income tax and the equalisation fund, the term for the revocation of the data on residence will be postponed by one day, i.e. to 2 January 2019.
The amendment will prevent the negative impact on the local government budget for 2019 and will give local governments additional time to give notice to the people whose data on their residence is expiring.
In order to simplify the records management, the residences indicated to the accuracy of local government (e.g. Tallinn, Kristiine District), registered for the Riigikogu elections, will be in force for four months instead of the current 30 days. This way, people will also be able to use the same data when voting in the European Parliament elections.
Two Bills were dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act (702 SE), initiated by the Estonian Free Party Faction, provided that the maximum number of members of the Government should be 12. The explanatory memorandum said that the duplicating offices of ministers had to be remerged. This concerns the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. There was also a proposal to merge the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Rural Affairs. According to the Bill, the optimal size of the Government could be 11 to 12 members, considering the diminishing population of Estonia and the labour shortage in the private sector.
Taavi Rõivas from the Reform Party Faction, Mihhail Stalnuhhin from the Centre Party Faction and Jüri Adams from the Free Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Constitutional Committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 53 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 12 were against, and there was one abstention. Thus the Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu.
The Bill on Amendments to the Status of Members of the Riigikogu Act (669 SE), initiated by the Estonian Free Party Faction, was intended to reduce the compensation paid in the case when a member of the Riigikogu voluntary declines the mandate from three months’ salary to one month’s salary. It would be paid in the case when the member has been in the Riigikogu for at least two years.
Mihhail Stalnuhhin from the Centre Party Faction and Jüri Adams from the Free Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Constitutional Committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 50 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 12 were against. Thus the Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu.
The sitting of the Riigikogu ended at 6.58 p.m.
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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