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At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu passed an Act making amendments that will enable fixed price contracts for a specified term on more favourable conditions for consumers.

The amendments to the Act on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act and Other Acts (426 SE), initiated by the Government, increase opportunities for distributed generation through a regulation concerning active users of network services. This will give consumers an opportunity to participate more actively in the electricity market and to benefit in particular from changing their consumption habits. The Act also provides for a regulation relating to the creation, development and management of energy communities, as well as a regulation concerning aggregation and demand response, in order to increase the flexibility of networks, and energy efficiency for consumers. An obligation to procure flexibility mechanisms from the market through tendering procedures is provided for for network operators. The Act also sets the conditions for network operators to develop market-based charging networks for electric vehicles.

The Act also makes amendments to the Electricity Market Act and the Natural Gas Act that will enable fixed price contracts for a specified term on more favourable conditions for consumers. The Government, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications as well as market participants have pointed out the need to increase the flexibility of the contracts among various measures to mitigate the energy price crisis. In connection with the amendments, the provisions in the Law of Obligations Act are also amended in the interests of clarity.

During the debate, Jüri Jaanson took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction.

56 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and 22 voted against.

The Riigikogu passed eight other Acts

The amendments introduced with the Act on Amendments to the Land Valuation Act, the Land Tax Act and Other Acts (406 SE), initiated by the Government, update the criteria for calculating the value of land and bring the land tax into conformity with the principles of the market value of land. The amendments do not concern the current tax exemption on the land under homes.

The Act makes changes to the principles of mass valuation of land. In the future, the Land Board will carry out mass valuation mainly on the basis of the data contained in national databases. In the future, the value zones on the basis of which local governments calculate the value of each particular plot of land will no longer be determined upon mass valuation of land. Instead, the taxable value of each plot of land will be determined as a result of valuation.

The last mass valuation of land in Estonia took place in 2001, and in nearly 20 years, the value of land has increased by seven times on the average. The taxable value obtained as a result of mass valuation of land is the basis for determining land tax, the payments for tolerating utility networks and the use fee under different usufruct contracts.

According to the Act, the next mass valuation of land will take place in 2022, and after that, valuations will be carried out every four years. The results of the mass valuation of land will be implemented from 2024.

The Act reduces the maximum land tax rates that local governments can impose. For example, the maximum tax rate will be 0.5 per cent of the taxable value of the land instead of the current 2.5 per cent on residential land and forest land, and 1 per cent on commercial land. The lowering of the maximum tax rates will prevent land tax from becoming too high. In order to ensure a smooth transition to the new price level for the taxpayer, a 10 per cent limit is imposed on the annual increase in the land tax amount.

The tax exemption on the land under homes is fully extended on the lands where one of the intended purposes is residential land. For example, if there are business premises on the ground floor of an apartment building and the intended purpose of the plot of land is therefore partly commercial land, the apartment owners residing in the same building cannot enjoy tax exemption to the full extent.

The Act provides that, in the future, changes to land tax rates will have to be established at least six months before the beginning of the taxation year. At present, land tax rates are established by 1 February of the taxation year.

As the value of land has increased after the last mass valuation, the payments for tolerating utility networks will also increase by 3.5 to 4 times on the average once the new taxable values of land will be implemented. The payment for tolerating will change gradually during three years, in 2024–2026, each year by one third of the difference between the new and the present payment for tolerating.

During the debate, Andres Metsoja took the floor on behalf of Faction Isamaa.

72 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and 9 voted against.

The Act on Amendments to the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (420 SE), initiated by the Government, reforms the doctoral studies so that doctoral students would be starting researchers who do research at universities or with their employers. In addition, the conditions of the state-guaranteed student loan are made more favourable for students and the granting of the basic allowance in vocational educational is made more flexible.

The new regulation is intended to ensure new generations of young researchers and to create an industrial PhD that promotes cooperation between research institutions and companies. In addition, career options for doctoral students will widen and the current rigid academic career model will become more diverse and flexible.

In respect of doctoral studies, amendments are made as a result of which the majority of doctoral students will be contractual research staff at universities, research and development institutions and companies. Their work will essentially be research and development in the area related to their doctoral thesis in accordance with the study and research programme of the doctoral student.

The working conditions and environment of doctoral students will be transformed to enable the tasks related to doctoral studies to be specified and remunerated clearly and uniformly in order thereby to increase the effectiveness of doctoral studies. The Act eliminates the doctoral allowance, which is replaced by the remuneration of junior research fellow.

The employment contract relationship enables to ensure social guarantees to doctoral students, such as the annual paid leave, the possibility to receive sickness benefit, and the application of occupational health requirements.

The conditions for completion of doctoral studies are changed. In the future, the exact duration of a student’s doctoral studies will be agreed on in his or her study and research programme, which will generally remain between three and eight years and which is the current maximum period of study.

The regulation relating to the state guaranteed study loan is amended so that the conditions for a study loan would become more favourable to students. The number of the sureties required upon securing a study loan is reduced to one instead of the current two. The possibility to secure a study loan with a mortgage placed on an immovable situated in Estonia remains in place.

Compared to OECD countries, in 2016, Estonia had an average of eight people with a doctoral degree per 1000 working-age people while the average indicator for the OECD was ten people and the indicator for Finland was 12.6 people. Although the number of doctoral theses defended and the proportion of academic staff has increased somewhat, the number of doctoral graduates in Estonia still remains low and insufficient to change the economic structure and to meet the needs of society.

81 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.

The Act to Implement the European Union Cohesion and Internal Security Policy Funds for 2021–2027 (487 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic (487 SE), initiated by the Government, establishes a national regulation for the achievement of the results planned in the Operational Programme for the Investment for Growth and Jobs and the European Territorial Cooperation and the European Union Cross-border Cooperation programmes under the Cohesion Policy of the EU budget period 2021–2027. The implementation of the external support provided for the implementation of the objectives in the areas of EU migration, external borders and internal security is also regulated.

The Act provides for the implementation system institutions and the procedure for the designation of the institutions, as well as the powers to establish the conditions for the granting and use of the support. The Act regulates the informing of the public about the granting of the support, the control and audit of the granting and use of the support, the monitoring of the performance of the projects and the specifications for filing and processing challenges.

The Act has been drafted based on the directly applicable EU Regulations regulating the use of the supports. The Act is proposed as an implementing Act for these EU Regulations.

During the debate, Riina Sikkut took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, Paul Puustusmaa on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, Andres Metsoja on behalf of Faction Isamaa and Jürgen Ligi on behalf of the Reform Party Faction.

53 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and 24 voted against.

The Act on Amendments to the International Sanctions Act and the Law of Ship Flag and Registers of Ships Act (492 SE), initiated by the Government, specifies the obligations of the persons having specific obligations in order to ensure, in the case of international sanctions, application of due diligence measures that are similar to the ones provided for in the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act, taking into account the risks typical of financial sanctions. The Act is intended to ensure that persons having specific obligations would also handle the risks relating to financial sanctions systematically.

76 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.

The Act on Amendments to the Population Register Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (494 SE), initiated by the Government, amends the Population Register Act, the Vital Statistics Registration Act, the Consular Act and the State Fees Act. The purpose of the amendments is to automate services, to change the system of issuing of data from the population register and to find solutions to the problems that have emerged in practice.

The main amendments in the Act on amendments to the Population Register Act, the Vital Statistics Registration Act, the Consular Act and the State Fees Act are related to the establishment of a legal framework to enable automatic decisions in certain proceedings under the Population Register Act and the Vital Statistics Registration Act (e.g., registration of place of residence and registration of birth) and changing the system of competences in issuing the data of the population register. Automatic entries are entries made without the intervention of an official. For example, in some cases, if the data on the place of residence are submitted in a safe online environment, it will be possible to make an automatic entry of registration of place of residence, which means that, in the case of certain data submitted through electronic services, an official will no longer have to intervene in the proceedings and the entry into the population register will be made automatically.

The problems that have emerged in the course of daily practice and the solution of which requires amendment of the Act will also be solved. For example, after the registration of the birth of a child, it will also be possible to submit applications on admission of paternity in a notarised form. At the same time, a legal basis is provided for paying a state fee for issuing data from the population register.

76 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.

The purpose of the Act on Amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act and Other Acts (507 SE), initiated by the Government, is to mitigate the risks of the money laundering, terrorist financing and financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction committed in the area of virtual currencies.

The Act strengthens the competence of the Financial Intelligence Unit in the authorisation procedure and supervision of the virtual currency service and provides virtual currency service providers with requirements meeting the international standard. The share and equity capital requirement for virtual currency service providers is increased from 12,000 euro to 100,000 euro and, depending on the field of activity, to 250,000 euro. The Financial Intelligence Unit is given the right to check the background of its employees and officials.

The Act was drafted on the basis of the national risk assessment to solve the most time-critical problems in the area of virtual currencies. A comprehensive legal framework for virtual currency service providers will be established with the Crowdfunding and Other Investment Instruments and Virtual Currencies Bill, which is under preparation.

During the proceedings, the regulation concerning having a qualifying holding and supervision fee was omitted from the Bill and the deadlines for the entry into force and implementation of the Act were amended. The Act is planned to enter into force on 15 March. Virtual currency service providers will have to bring their activities mostly into conformity and submit documents by 15 June. The time of the extraordinary audit of own funds will be postponed from 15 August 2022 to 1 January 2023.

During the debate, Jürgen Ligi took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction and Aivar Kokk on behalf of Faction Isamaa.

59 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.

The Act on Amendments to the Creative Persons and Artistic Associations Act and the Work Ability Allowance Act (517 SE), initiated by the Government, makes amendments to the Act in order to continue the payment of the support for creative activity on mitigated conditions until the end of 2022 to creative people engaged in liberal professions.

Due to the conditions of the COVID-19 crisis, in 2020, mitigations were made in the application for the supports for creative activity and the mitigations were continued in 2021. The restriction to the effect that creative persons who had already received the support would not be granted the support again during two years was temporarily suspended. At the same time, the persons were temporarily allowed to earn income to the extent of up to one minimum wage in a month besides the support for creative activity. The Act extends the mitigations until the end of 2022.

Permanent amendments are also made to the conditions for application for and payment of the support for creative activity. For example, the definition of income, and the size of income that is taken into account when deciding on the grant of the support for creative activity are specified. According to the Act, application for support for creative activity is open to a creative person who is engaged in a liberal profession and whose income subject to income tax received in the month preceding the application for the support for creative activity and in each month over the period of the payment of the support for creative activity does not exceed half of the minimum remuneration. In addition, the Act specifies the bases for refusal to pay the support for creative activity where the Ministry of Culture pays the support.

In order to receive the support for creative activity, the creative person needs to have been active in the corresponding artistic field over the last three years, and published works. The Act provides for a mitigation to the effect that, if a creative person engaged in a liberal profession has been on parental leave, received parental benefit or been in conscript service within the past three years, the three-year period is extended by the period when the person received parental benefit or was on parental leave or in conscript service.

The Act also specifies the bases for termination of the payment of the support for creative activity. According to the Act, a support for creative activity paid without basis can also be reclaimed in a situation where the creative person does not meet the requirements for application for support for creative activity, in addition to the situation where false information has been submitted.

Support for creative activity is a support in an amount of the minimum remuneration paid over six months for people engaged in cultural activities who operate in irregular or non-standard forms of work and have temporarily lost their income. Besides ensuring the minimum wage, support for creative activity ensures health insurance and other benefits arising from regular social tax payments.

70 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.

The Act on the Acceptance of the Amendments of 2018 to the Code of the Maritime Labour Convention of the International Labour Organization (471 SE), initiated by the Government, accepts the amendments that concern the effect of a seafarer’s employment agreement and the payment of wages to a crew member in a situation where the crew member is held captive as a result of an act of piracy or armed robbery against a ship.

According to the amendments, the operator has the obligation to continue to pay wages in a situation where a crew member is held captive as a result of an act of piracy or armed robbery against a ship. The operator must then continue to pay to the crew member the wages, remuneration and other entitlements, whether arising under the seafarer employment agreement, a collective bargaining agreement or any enactment. The operator’s obligation will continue to have effect until the crew member is repatriated or, where the crew member dies while in captivity, until the death of the crew member.

For national implementation of the amendments, the Ministry of Social Affairs has initiated a Bill on Amendments to the Seafarers Employment Act that will amend the Act according to the amendments to the Convention. The amendments concern the operators whose ships have a maritime labour certificate.

The Riigikogu ratified the Maritime Labour Convention on 23 February 2016, and it entered into force for Estonia on 5 May 2017. The amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention will enter into force for Estonia six months after Estonia will have notified the Director-General of the International Labour Office of its acceptance of the amendment.

59 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.

Two Bills passed the second reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Fiscal Marking of Liquid Fuel Act and the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act (495 SE), initiated by the Government, is intended to reduce misuse of diesel fuel marked with a fiscal marking used in the agriculture and fisheries sector and to increase the receipt of excise duty.

The current Act enables to perform only formal checking before sale and this does not ensure purposeful use of the reduced excise duty. Before sale, the buyer is required to inform the seller orally of the purpose of use of the fuel. Thus there are actually no restrictions when buying diesel fuel for specific purposes and it is available to everyone who, at the moment of buying, says that the purpose of use of the fuel is agriculture or fisheries. As a result of the amendment, diesel fuel for specific purposes will no longer be available to everyone but only to those who have the relevant right to buy it.

The Bill provides that, in order to buy and use diesel fuel for specific purposes, the right to buy diesel fuel for specific purposes will be needed and the grant of the right will be decided by the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board. Thus, fuel subject to a reduced excise duty will no longer be sold to everyone who wishes to buy it. The right to buy will be granted only to legal persons and sole proprietors operating in the agriculture and fisheries sector. Before sale, the seller of diesel fuel for specific purposes will have to check whether the person has the right to buy.

The Bill on Amendments to the Seafarers Employment Act (472 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the amendments to the ILO Maritime Labour Convention adopted in 2018. The amendments concern the effect of a seafarer’s employment agreement and the payment of wages to a crew member in a situation where the crew member is held captive as a result of armed robbery or piracy.

The Seafarers Employment Act will be amended by adding a provision under which the operator has the obligation to continue to pay wages in a situation where a crew member is held captive as a result of an act of piracy or armed robbery against a ship. In such a situation, the operator will have to continue to pay to the crew member the wages, remuneration and other entitlements, whether arising under the seafarer employment agreement, a collective bargaining agreement or any enactment. The operator’s obligation will continue to have effect until the crew member is repatriated or, where the crew member dies while in captivity, until the death of the crew member. The obligation to pay wages will be applied to the operators whose ships must have a maritime labour certificate under the Maritime Safety Act.

The Bill will also regulate the effect of a seafarer’s employment agreement in the event of captivity of a crew member. A seafarer’s employment agreement will continue to have effect while a crew member is held captive as a result of an act of piracy or armed robbery against a ship, regardless of whether either party has given notice to suspend or cancel the seafarer’s employment agreement, or the deadline of the seafarer’s fixed term employment contract has passed.

The explanatory memorandum notes that, in Estonia, there are currently nine operators whose ships have a maritime labour certificate. According to the Transport Administration’s knowledge, the ships of Estonian operators have had no cases that could be regarded as piracy or armed robbery in foreign waters. According to the data of the International Maritime Organization, a total of 192 incidents of piracy and armed robberies occurred in the world in 2020.

Two Bills passed the first reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Employment Contracts Act and Other Associated Acts (521 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the relevant EU directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union, which lays down minimum requirements relating to working conditions that apply to every worker in order to guarantee an adequate degree of transparency and predictability as regards the working conditions. The proposed amendments will enhance the protection of both employees and officials in employment and service relationships and will help ensure that they are informed about essential working and service conditions at as early a stage of an employment or service relationship as possible.

In the Employment Contracts Act, amendments will be made to the set of data of which the employer must inform the employee in writing on commencement of employment. The employer will have the obligation to inform the employee of the training entitlement provided by the employer, the paid leave, the duration of the probationary period, the procedure for working overtime and compensation therefor, the form for cancellation of the employment contract and the obligation to provide justifications, as well as the institutions receiving the taxes and social contributions and the protection accompanying the payment thereof. In the event of changes to the data, information on the changes will have to be provided at the latest on the day on which the changes take effect.

It will also be provided that, in the event of an impediment to work, the probationary period will be extended correspondingly, in relation to the duration of the absence, for example in the event of temporary incapacity for work. The employee will be given the right to request suitable working conditions, for example, to request full-time work instead of part-time work and to receive a response to their request from the employer. In addition, the Bill will provide for protection against unfavourable treatment for the case when the employee invokes their rights or draws attention to a breach of such rights. This means that, where an employee stands up for their rights, this must not be followed by adverse consequences, for example, where an employee draws attention to the fact that the employer is failing to meet the working hours and rest period requirements, the employer must not impose adverse consequences on the employee.

The Bill will also amend the Civil Service Act and amend the set of data that will have to be provided to officials in the acts concerning the organisation of work and in the salary guides of authorities. At the same time, the Working Conditions of Employees Posted to Estonia Act will provide for the set of data of which the employer will have to inform the employer in writing in the event of a posting longer than one month, for example, information on the amount of and the currency to be used for the payment of remuneration, and repatriation. The Occupational Health and Safety Act will be amended by adding the obligation of the employee to ensure that their working or provision of services at other persons providing employment does not endanger the employee’s or other people’s life or health. The amendment is important for drawing employees’ attention to the importance of meeting the working hours and rest period requirements for health protection purposes.

During the debate, Aivar Kokk took the floor on behalf of Faction Isamaa.

The Bill on Accessibility of Products and Services (511 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the relevant European Union directive on the accessibility requirements for products and services.

The Bill will provide for assuring every person with special needs that they will not experience difficulties when using products and services but will find alternative formats to use products and consume services. Thereby the aim is to shape a more inclusive society in order to simplify the independent living of people with functional limitations.

The Bill will provide for the accessibility requirements for products and services falling within the scope of the Accessibility Directive, the obligations of economic operators to ensure accessibility, the assessment of conformity with the accessibility requirements, and the presumption of conformity and the state supervision and liability. It will also adopt terms that have not been legally defined so far and that will need to be defined in view of the definitions used in the transposition of the directive.

According to the Bill, for example, self-service terminals and automated teller machines will have to be made accessible so that they could be conveniently used by people in wheelchairs as well as children, short adults and the elderly.

The amendments provided for in the Bill concern economic operators who will have the obligation to meet the proposed requirements. The requirements will not be applied to service providers that are microenterprises, that is, enterprises which employ fewer than 10 persons and which have an annual turnover not exceeding EUR 2 million.

During the debate, Mart Helme took the floor on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party and Jüri Jaanson on behalf of the Reform Party Faction.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 16 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 48 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the Bill was concluded.

The sitting ended at 6.22 p.m. The additional sitting of the Riigikogu will start at 7.22 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

The video recording of the sitting will be available on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)

Riigikogu Press Service
Merilin Kruuse
Phone: +372 631 6592, +372 510 6179
E-mail: [email protected]
Questions: [email protected]

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