At today’s plenary sitting, the Riigikogu passed the amendments to the Building Code which aim to simplify the availability of high-speed Internet and to specify the regulation of the construction of the state border infrastructure.
Under the Act on Amendments to the Building Code (703 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Tanel Talve, Toomas Väinaste, Märt Sults, Peeter Ernits, Tarmo Kruusimäe, Krista Aru, Jaanus Marrandi, Raivo Aeg, Marko Pomerants, Andres Metsoja, Urve Palo, Hannes Hanso, Külliki Kübarsepp, Valeri Korb, Toomas Paur, Hardi Volmer, Toomas Jürgenstein, Heljo Pikhof, Dmitri Dmitrijev, Erki Savisaar and Barbi Pilvre, it is no longer necessary to apply for a building permit to build a broadband network. It is sufficient to submit a building notice to the local government. This is free of state fee, and the period of time provided for the processing of a building notice is also three times shorter compared to the processing of a permit.
The Act also extends the special regulation to the state border infrastructure in the possession of the area of government the Ministry of the Interior, including to the construction of the border strip on the national defence land. The Act establishes specifications for the construction of the state border infrastructure. Generally, the information concerning the construction regulated by law is public, but information concerning the construction work and the construction cannot be completely public in the case of the state border infrastructure.
73 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
The Riigikogu passed two other Acts and a Resolution
The Act on Amendments to the Local Government Organisation Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (574 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, provides for additional measures to prevent corruption risks and to avoid conflicts of interest mainly in local authorities. The regulations that have raised questions in the application of the Local Government Organisation Act are also specified.
Under the Act, the state or local government authorities are responsible for ensuring that persons who perform public duties on their behalf do not have criminal records for crimes of corruption. The Act establishes a restriction under which a member of the audit committee of a municipal council cannot be the manager or a member of the management board of a company, foundation or non-profit association under the dominant influence of the same rural municipality or city, or the head or deputy head of an authority administered by an administrative agency of the same rural municipality or city.
Under the Act, the prosecutor’s office has the right to collect from the suspect, the accused or the defendant the patrimonial damage to the state, local authorities and other public authorities, caused by a criminal offence.
The amendments are based on the address by the Chancellor of Justice in which she drew the attention of the Constitutional Committee to the fact that the existing Acts may not be sufficient for effective curbing of corruption at the local authority level.
During the debate, Arto Aas took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction. He supported the passage of the Act.
79 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.
The Act on Amendments to § 14 of the Health Services Organisation Act (293 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Jüri Jaanson, Helmen Kütt, Andres Metsoja and Mark Soosaar, gives family physicians the right to engage in diagnostics in specialised medical care and to use radiation equipment.
The amendment gives family physicians who hold a relevant qualification the right to provide two radiology services within the framework of their activity licence: to take X-ray images and to perform sonographic examinations. The requirements established by the Radiation Act must be met for taking X-ray images.
The amendment does not obligate family physicians to provide diagnostic services; however, those who have the relevant training, who have the relevant equipment and who wish to provide such services are able to do so.
Helmen Kütt took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Faction in the debate. She supported the passage of the Act.
70 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act and two voted against.
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Increasing the Holding of the Republic of Estonia in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development” (772 OE), submitted by the Government, increases Estonia’s holding in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) by 202 shares.
The increasing of Estonia’s holding will help raise the funding of official development assistance. Thorough the bank, it is possible for Estonia to also impact the countries and regions where Estonia’s proportion of bilateral development cooperation is small or non-existent.
Estonia’s contribution is nearly three million euro (3 370 542 USD). Contributions to increase the holding will be made over five years starting from 2020 (nearly 594 190 euro per year) and this has been taken into account in the state budget strategy for 2019-2022. At present, the amount of Estonia’s holding in IBRD is 1170 shares (valued at 141 142 950 USD), contributions for which amounted to nearly 5.2 million euro.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development aims to reduce poverty and to improve the standard of living of people in its member countries with the help of financial and advisory services. Estonia became a member of the bank on 22 April 1992.
78 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Resolution, and there was one abstention.
Six Bills passed the second reading:
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 Acts (722 SE), initiated by the Government, is to create more favourable conditions for registering foreign ships in the Estonian register of bareboat chartered ships. Thereby, the Estonian fleet would increase, which would contribute to the growth of the Estonian economy and the emergence of the shore sector.
The Bill will give the Estonian seafarers the possibility to conclude a voluntary contract with the Estonian Health Insurance Fund and so to obtain access to health insurance.
During the second reading, the Riigikogu introduced an amendment into the Bill which exempted seafarers wages from income tax.
During the debate, Peeter Ernits, Sven Sester (Isamaa), Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa), Arto Aas (Reform Party), Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party), Erki Savisaar (Centre Party) and Jaanus Marrandi (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
The Water Bill (643 SE), initiated by the Government, is intended to organise environmental law and also to make some amendments to the content of the Act. For example, amendments are planned in the issue of water permits and the registration of activities which pose a limited risk to the aquatic environment. The amendments aim to reduce bureaucracy and to speed up the adoption of decisions.
It has become apparent in practice that several activities are not so dangerous for the aquatic environment that a water permit would be needed to perform them. In the future, such activities will have to be registered in the Environmental Board. For example, disposal of 5-100 cubic metres of solid substances or installation of a geothermal system into a water body will require a registration.
The Bill also specifies the definition of water body. Fish farm ponds and tanks, rain water collection systems and other similar construction works established for a specified purpose will not be treated as bodies of water. Such construction works do not have safeguard zones, but the general water protection requirements will continue to apply to them.
For marine research, the regulation of issuing research permits to foreign vessels will be provided for. At present, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs applies the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which are very general, to the application for such permits. In the future, the Ministry of the Environment will issue the permits.
On the proposal of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the provisions regulating drinking water, mineral water and bathing water that were in the Public Health Act will be brought into the Bill. The requirements for persons responsible for water sampling and persons taking samples of drinking water, which so far have been in separate Acts, will also be consolidated into a single regulation.
The provisions relating to state supervision have been specified, and the necessary elements of misdemeanours have been updated in the Bill. For example, the rates of punishment for legal persons will be increased from the current maximum rate of 32 000 euro to 400 000 euro.
The Bill on Amendments to § 11 of the Income Tax Act (770 SE), initiated by the Government, will amend the drawing up of the list of non-profit associations, foundations and religious associations benefiting from income tax incentives. This list is maintained by the Tax and Customs Board, and a non-profit association, foundation or religious association operating in the public interest and for charitable purposes who has operated for at least six months is entered in the list. Inclusion on the list brings incentives for both the associations entered on the list and donors to such associations.
According to the Bill, the list of the associations will be updated on the first day of the calendar month and a resolution to enter the association into the list, refuse to enter it into the list or delete it from the list will be made within 30 days as of submission of the application. Under the current law, the list is updated twice a year and at present it takes a minimum of four moths to be entered into the list.
The Bill is also intended to eliminate the committee charged with the task of recommending proposals to the Tax and Customs Board to enter associations into the list, refuse to enter them into the list or delete them from the list. The initiative to eliminate the committee has come from the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations, and the aim is faster updating of the list of non-profit associations, foundations and religious associations benefiting from income tax incentives. In the future, the tax authority will cooperate with the third sector through sectoral representative associations.
The Bill on Amendments to the Insurance Activities Act and the Law of Obligations Act (769 SE), initiated by the Government, will allow commercial associations to also operate as insurance associations. Under the current law, only public limited companies and European companies may provide insurance.
The Bill on Amendments to the Notarisation Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (719 SE), initiated by the Government, will simplify the acts and transactions requiring a notarial format for e-residents as well as for Estonian citizens abroad. The Bill will create a new form of notarial authentication, remote authentication, which will allow authentication of, for example, transactions and powers of attorney of transfer and pledging of shares of private limited companies, as well as submission of applications for marriage and divorce, and succession or renunciation of succession via a video bridge between the notary and the client.
Upon performance of remote authentication acts, the identity of the participant in the act will be established at the foreign mission. The notary fee upon remote authentication will be higher by 20 euro compared to ordinary acts, and the state fee for acts performed in foreign missions will be 20 euro.
The Bill will explicitly enable notaries to also certify digital signatures. This will facilitate electronic certification by an apostille of digitally signed documents (e.g. diploma, certificate, documentation, correction notice, notification, etc.).
The Bill on Amendments to the Code of Enforcement Procedure and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (exerting pressure on maintenance debtors) (737 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for imposition of additional measures on persons who evade payment of maintenance for children.
Under the current law, it is possible to suspend the rights and the validity of authorisations of maintenance debtors (e.g. the right to drive a power-driven vehicle, weapons permit, fishing card), to refuse payment of allowances (e.g. private forest owners’ support) to maintenance debtors, to request seizure of money paid for a debtor from a third person, and to disclose the names of debtors. These measures entered into force on 1 March 2016.
The Bill will allow to additionally revoke the travel documents (e.g. Estonian citizen’s passport, temporary travel document, seafarer’s discharge books, certificates of record of service on Estonian ships) of maintenance debtors, and to prohibit the issuing thereof. Since it is obligatory in Estonia for all persons who have attained the age of 15 years to hold an ID-card, the ID-card of a maintenance debtor cannot be revoked, and his or her free movement in the European Union cannot be restricted. The measure would however restrict the right of debtors to travel outside the European Union.
If a bailiff has not succeeded in collecting the maintenance from the maintenance debtor within two months, the bailiff will be able to have recourse to a court for revocation of the travel document and prohibiting the issue of a new one.
The Bill is intended to introduce an additional notation to the traffic register on the basis of which the police will be able to transfer the vehicle of the debtor to the bailiff.
According to the Bill, third persons (e.g. banks, casinos, pawn shops, etc.) who are required to identify persons will be required to refuse performance of monetary obligations exceeding 5000 euro in cash to maintenance debtors.
Four Bills passed the first reading:
The Bill on Amendments to the Trade Marks Act, the Principles of Legal Regulation of Industrial Property Act and Other Acts (793 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the directive harmonising trade mark law in EU Member States.
The requirement that signs protected as trade marks must be capable of being represented graphically will be eliminated from the current law. A trade mark is a sign used to distinguish the goods or services of an undertaking from similar goods or services of other undertakings. The Bill will simplify the protection of non-traditional trade marks, e.g. sound, multimedia and hologram signs as it will be possible to submit them to the Estonian Patent Office also as sound or video files in the future. Under the current law, each trade mark must be capable of being represented graphically.
Under the current law, in the course of registration of a trade mark, the Estonian Patent Office verifies that there are no absolute (e.g. the sign is not distinctive or it is only descriptive) or relative (e.g. the existence of an earlier confusingly similar trade mark) grounds for refusal which preclude registration of the trade mark. According to the Bill, in the future, the Estonian Patent Office will no longer examine relative grounds for refusal.
In order to meet the requirements of the directive, the Board of Appeal will be transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Estonian Patent Office. The board is an independent body which resolves disputes relating to industrial property (trade mark, patent, design) by way of mandatory pre-trial proceedings.
In addition, the structure of the Board of Appeal will be amended. A board consisting of two permanent members will be provided for, instead of the current eight-member board. Similarly to the current system, the board will settle disputes in a three-member panel, involving experts in the field, also in the future.
The Bill will also extend the competence of the board. In addition to the appeals against decisions from the Estonian Patent Office, and notices of opposition of trade marks, the board will also adjudicate applications for declaration of nullity of the exclusive right of the proprietor of a trade mark, and for declaration of the exclusive right of the proprietor of a trade mark extinguished, and applications for revocation of legal protection granted to other objects of industrial property rights which are resolved by county courts at present.
The Bill on Amendments to the Auditors Activities Act, the Financial Crisis Prevention and Resolution Act and Other Acts (reform of punishments for misdemeanours in the financial sector, sanctions arising from EU law) (771 SE), initiated by the Government, will bring the upper limits of sanctions in the financial sector into conformity with European Union law and strengthen the requirements for authorisations issued by the Financial Intelligence Unit.
The Bill will raise the upper limit of a fine for a misdemeanour which will be up to five million euro in most cases, for both natural and legal persons. For example, at present, a fine of up to 32 000 euro can be imposed on a bank for failure to submit information to the Financial Supervision Authority. Under the Bill, the fine rate would rise to five million euro.
Under the Bill, in the future, the Financial Intelligence Unit will also have to verify the reputation and suitability of a member of the management board before issuing an authorisation. In the future, a company will also have to have its registered office, head office or a branch in Estonia. The state fee for an authorisation of a financial institution, a provider of the service of exchanging a virtual currency against a fiat currency, and a provider of a virtual currency wallet service will be raised from 345 euro to 1300 euro.
The Bill on Amendments to the Official Statistics Act and the Public Information Act (794 SE), initiated by the Government, will regulate data management that provides for specific rules with which data in databases and data management must comply. Coordination of data management will be given to Statistics Estonia. At present, no uniform rules of national data management have been agreed on, and therefore it is also impossible to implement the ‘once-only’ principle. Nor does current law provide a regulation as to who should coordinate data management at national level. The Bill will include in the Public Information Act data dissemination service that will enable linking of different data sources and processing of data for scientific or statistical purposes in the future. With the amendments, it will be possible to interconnect data held in databases, to provide better services, to reduce administrative burden and to produce official statistics on the basis of the data collected.
The Bill on Amendments to the Accounting Act (795 SE), initiated by the Government, will make machine-processable invoices mandatory in invoicing with the public sector. The amendments aim to reduce the workload and the time required in invoicing with the public sector.
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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