At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu approved 14 Acts, which, among other things, restrict the rights of persons who evade conscript service and reservist trainings, concentrate the voting period into one week, exclude top specialists from the immigration quota, and establish a compulsory training for waterfowl hunting tourists.
The Act on Amendments to the Military Service Act and Other Acts (607 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the possibility to suspend the validity or granting of certain rights and permits granted to persons who evade conscript service and reservist trainings of the Defence Forces which is an obligation arising from the Constitution.
Under the Act, the Defence Forces and the Defence Resources Agency can file an action with an administrative court to suspend the validity or granting of the right to drive power-driven vehicle, the right to command a recreational craft and personal watercraft, a weapon permit, a weapon acquisition permit, a fishing card and hunting rights, besides imposing penalty payments and punishments for misdemeanours. The measures are similar to the measures already in force in regard to maintenance debtors, and they are imposed only by a decision of administrative court.
The coercive measures are imposed in particular with regard to call-up selectees who evade the performance of the conscript service obligation repeatedly, and with regard to whom other measures provided by law, such as precepts, fines and penalty payments, have yielded no results. It is also possible to impose these coercive measures with regard to those who evade reservist trainings of the Defence Forces repeatedly.
The Act enters into force on 1 January 2019.
Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Madis Milling (Reform Party) took the floor during the debate.
72 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act, seven voted against, and there were two abstentions.
The Act on Amendments to the European Parliament Election Act and Other Acts (400 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, the Social Democratic Party Faction and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, harmonises the advance voting period in the Acts concerning elections regardless of whether the voting takes place electronically or in voting districts. Advance voting will be held from the sixth day to the first day before election day.
The voting period will shorten to one week as of 2021. It will be possible to vote outside the electoral district of residence from Monday to Thursday, and electronically from Monday to Saturday, and the time of voting at home will be extended from Friday to Sunday. If necessary, a vote cast electronically can be changed by the voter by voting by paper ballot on Sunday.
In addition, an electronic list of voters will be implemented, which will extend the opportunities for voters to vote. Since the data on a voter are available electronically and not on paper, in the future, the voter will be able to vote in all voting districts of his or her electoral district irrespective of his or her place of residence.
The Act enters into force on 1 January 2021.
During the debate, Hanno Pevkur (Reform Party), Külliki Kübarsepp (Free Party), Martin Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Erki Savisaar (Centre Party) and Kalvi Kõva (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
52 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and 39 voted against.
The Act on Amendments to the 2014–2020 Structural Assistance Act and Other Acts (establishment of a single application service) (628 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the consolidation of the assistance granting services of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Rural Affairs into the State Shared Service Centre.
At present, the support granted to implement the regional programme in the area of government of the Ministry of Rural Affairs is allocated through Enterprise Estonia. As a result of the amendments, the State Shared Service Centre will allocate it. In addition, the programmes aimed at regional development that are funded from the state budget, for example, the Setomaa and Peipsiveere development programmes, the light and non-motorized traffic routes support scheme, the sparsely populated areas programme and the small islands programme will be transferred to the State Shared Service Centre.
The Ministry of the Environment is planning a support measure under which the costs of construction of water supply and sewerage lines inside registered immovables of residential buildings will be reimbursed to natural persons. Under the Act that was in force before, support could be granted to natural persons only in the role of a final recipient, that is, the beneficiary mediated support, such as study scholarships and research grants, to the person.
The Act changes the aim of the programme for regional investment support. The reference to the effect that the programme has to be linked to the welfare, study, sports and leisure conditions of children, young people, families, the elderly and disabled people will be omitted from the aim of the programme. In the future, the conditions of the programme will be established by a regulation of a minister, and not by a Government’s regulation.
77 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and eight voted against.
The Act on Amendments to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund Act and the Health Insurance Act (602 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for reduction of the number of the members of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund from fifteen to six. The main aim of the amendment is to make the work of the Supervisory Board of the Health Insurance Fund more efficient. The supervisory board will include, by virtue of their office, the Minister of Health and Labour, the Minister of Finance, as well as members appointed by the Government: two members on the proposal of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation, a member on the proposal of the Estonian Trade Union Confederation and a member on the proposal of the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People.
Standing advisory committees have been formed at the Supervisory Board of the Health Insurance Fund to involve representatives of the health sector in the development of health insurance and in the decision-making processes of the supervisory board. Through the committees, when making decisions and forming positions, it is possible to involve the opinions of a significantly wider range of representatives of the health sector than those represented in the Supervisory Board of the Health Insurance Fund earlier.
A standing advisory committee to discuss the issues concerning the strategic development of the health insurance fund and the national health insurance was formed at a meeting of the Supervisory Board of the Health Insurance Fund this February under the current Health Insurance Fund Act that was in force earlier. The committee on the list of health services who will give opinions on amending the list of health services will also be established at the Management Board of the Health Insurance Fund under the Health Insurance Act.
The Act provides for additional requirements for the members of the supervisory board appointed by the Government in order to reduce the possibilities of conflict of interest in the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.
During the debate, Monika Haukanõmm (Free Party), Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party) and Henn Põlluaas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
49 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act, 25 voted against, and there were five abstentions.
The Act on Amendments to the Trade Unions Act and the Collective Labour Dispute Resolution Act (604 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, provides for the possibility to also hold a legal person liable in the event of violation of obligations provided for in the Trade Unions Act and the Collective Labour Dispute Resolution Act. Up to now, there was no reference to the liability of legal person in the Act, and only a natural person who is an employer could be held liable.
68 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act, one was against, and there were four abstentions.
The Act on Amendments to the Road Transport Act (621 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee, specifies some provisions on the basis of European Union law. The amendments add a requirement under which undertakings engaged in transport in the EU must ensure correct use, good technical condition and proper storage of their motor vehicles and their trailers. These obligations must also be performed upon the carriage of passengers for hire or reward. The regulation of good repute in the Act that was in force earlier is amended by adding a reference to the necessary elements of a misdemeanour in the Traffic Act that regulate intentional corruption of the data of a digital tachographs or driver card. Starting from 2019, a sanctioning fine, which will not be recorded in the criminal records database, will be imposed on carriers if they fail to pay the road user charge, instead of a fine. The data concerning sanctioning fines, which are given legal effect, are entered into the e-file. Besides the sanctioning fine, administrative measures may also be imposed, for example, the transport permit may be revoked.
64 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and nine were against.
The Act on Amendments to the Weapons Act, the Strategic Goods Act, the Explosives Act and Other Acts (615 SE), initiated by the Government, will enable Estonian undertakings to begin to manufacture, maintain, import and export weapons of war, ammunition, munitions of war and combat vehicles.
With undertakings located in Estonia having the possibility to handle weapons of war and munitions of war, on the one hand, the Defence Forces will be able to manage their armament more sustainably, and, on the other hand, defence industry companies will be able to expand their activities and to offer their products also outside Estonia.
The Act partially transposes the European Union Weapons Directive. The definition of firearm given in the directive has been adapted to the needs of Estonia.
The Act enters into force on 1 July 2018.
Hannes Hanso (Social Democratic Party) took the floor during the debate.
79 members of the Riigikogu voted for the passage of the Act.
According to the Act on Amendments to § 102 of the Traffic Act (635 SE), initiated by the Government, doctors employed in the Defence Forces are allowed to carry out medical examinations of applicants for a driving licence and to issue the relevant medical certificate. At present, only family physicians and occupational health doctors working in the medical centres of the Defence Forces have such a right. All doctors in the Defence Forces are allowed to provide general medical care and emergency medical care regardless of their speciality.
In preparation of the staff of the reserve units of the Defence Forces, 700-800 conscripts are trained to be drivers of vehicles of various categories every year, and they must undergo the relevant medical examination. There are seven medical centres in total at the Defence Forces units engaged in training in various parts of Estonia, but only three of them employ doctors who are allowed to carry out medical examination of drivers of power-driven vehicles. A total of 13 doctors work in these medical centres.
76 members of the Riigikogu voted for the passage of the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Estonian Flag Act (599 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, includes into the Act the title and the authors of the national anthem of Estonia, which is used as the musical signature on the raising of the national flag on the Tall Hermann Tower. Subsection 3 (2) of the Estonian Flag Act is amended and worded as follows: “On the hoisting of the Estonian flag on the Pikk Hermann tower, the opening phrases of the national anthem of Estonia “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm” [“My Fatherland, My Happiness and Joy”] by Friedrich Pacius (lyrics by Johann Voldemar Jannsen) are used as a musical signature, and the musical signature used when the Estonian flag is lowered is the signature created on the basis of a fragment of “Mu isamaa on minu arm” [“My Fatherland Is My Love”] by Gustav Ernesaks (lyrics by Lydia Koidula).”.
74 members of the Riigikogu voted for the passing of the Act.
Under the Act on Amendments to the Chancellor of Justice Act (609 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, the institution of the Chancellor of Justice becomes the national human rights institution in Estonia. The Chancellor of Justice will also monitor compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Under the Act on Amendments to the Chancellor of Justice Act, the Chancellor of Justice will have the function of protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities, and investigating complaints related to violation of their rights in Estonia.
The Act enters into force on 1 January 2019.
Monika Haukanõmm (Free Party) took the floor during the debate.
65 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act, seven voted against, and there were two abstentions.
The Act on Amendments to the Aliens Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (617 SE), initiated by the Government, changes the regulation concerning the immigration quota where top specialists are excluded from the calculation of the quota. For several years already, such labour force has not been able to come to Estonia because the immigration quota is full. “Top specialist” means an alien with professional training to whom the Estonian employer pays at least double the average gross monthly salary in Estonia.
The Act extends the maximum duration of short-time employment from the current nine months to one year in order to mitigate the labour shortage due to the cyclical development of the economy.
Under the Act, level A2 Estonian language proficiency is required of aliens who have resided in Estonia on the basis of a temporary residence permit for employment for at least five years and who wish to apply for a new or to extend an existing residence permit. The requirement applies only to new entrants who will receive residence permits after 15 July when the amendment enters into force.
The Act will also help prevent and disrupt illegal working by aliens. For example, the employer will have a notification obligation when an alien commences work in Estonia. A penalty payment for failure to notify is provided for for the employer. The rates of punishment for legal persons for using illegal foreign labour force increase from 3200 euro to 32 000 euro. The possibility to impose a prohibition on business with regard to persons who have been punished for the same misdemeanour earlier extends. It is also possible to exclude from a public procurement a tenderer who has been punished previously for violation of conditions of employment of an alien in Estonia. Starting from 15 August, in the case of workers posted to Estonia, employers will have the obligation to submit data on the posting to the Labour Inspectorate before the worker commences employment.
During the debate, Jaak Madison (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Jaanus Marrandi (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
54 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act, seven voted against, and there were two abstentions.
The Act on Amendments to the Radiation Act, the General Part of the Environmental Code Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (623 SE), initiated by the Government, transposes the relevant EU Directive Euratom, laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation. The deadline for the transposition of the directive was 6 February.
57 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and five voted against.
The Act on Amendments to the Atmospheric Air Protection Act (624 SE), initiated by the Government, transposes into Estonian law the EU directive on national commitments to reduce the emissions of the five main air pollutants.
The directive establishes national commitments to reduce pollutant emission for 2020 and 2030, and the requirements of the national programme for reducing emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants. The programme sets targets and measures for reducing atmospheric pollutants that are mandatory nationally.
The directive covers the following pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, fine particulate matter, ammonia, and non-methane volatile organic compounds. Reduction of these substances in air pollution improves ambient air quality and brings about a positive impact upon ecosystems as well as the living and natural environment.
The first national programme for reducing atmospheric pollutants will have to be provided to the European Commission by 1 April 2019, and it will have to be reviewed at least every four years.
58 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passing of the Act and four voted against.
The aim of the Act on Amendments to the Hunting Act and the Administrative Co-operation Act (633 SE), initiated by the Environment Committee, is to ensure that the hunting tourists who wish to hunt birds in Estonia have sufficient knowledge of the hunting rules in force in Estonia and the good hunting practice in Estonia, as a precondition for lawful behaviour. The Hunting Act is amended by adding the requirement that a person to whom a hunting certificate is issued in Estonia on the basis of a valid hunting certificate issued in a foreign state will be issued a small game hunting permit for hunting waterfowl in the case when he or she has undergone training in the field of hunting. The requirements for the training and the training provider and the volume of the training, and the procedure for conducting the training will be established by a regulation of the Minister of the Environment.
The Act enters into force on 1 August 2018.
50 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act, two voted against, and there were three abstentions.
The Riigikogu received an overview of the civil service report:
When giving an overview of the civil service report of 2017 to the Riigikogu, the Minister of Public Administration Janek Mäggi said that both the civil service and the whole government sector had had a busy year, and several important reform processes had continued. “During the whole year, the termination of the activities of county governments was prepared, and administrative reform was carried out. In the second half of the year, we successfully performed the tasks of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union,” Mäggi said.
The minister pointed out that, largely as a result of administrative reform and the closing down of county governments, as at 1 January 2018, the number of civil servants had decreased by 1123 persons as compared to their number on 1 January 2017. He also said that, in 2017, the salary rise in the government sector had been on the same scale with the salary rise in the whole labour market, that is, 6.5%. Mäggi noted that the government sector’s salary rise had taken place mostly at the expense of the internal resources of the authorities: by reducing the number of employees and reorganising work.
Mäggi said that the annual civil service report also discussed in more detail the issue of the gender pay gap. “In state authorities, the general gender wage gap is 9.4%, which is smaller by more than half than in the Estonian Labour Market as a whole,” Mäggi said. He added that last year some pay rate differences had been equalised at the national level, and in some places the salaries had become more even.
At the debate after the report, Krista Aru (Free Party) took the floor.
One Bill passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
Under the Bill on Amendments to the Citizenship Act (629 SE), initiated by the Government, it is intended to provide language training to aliens who reside here and wish to apply for Estonian citizenship. The language training will be free for the aliens, and the government is ready to pay compensation to them for the time they are on an unpaid study leave for language training by agreement with their employers.
In the future, the state will provide the possibility of entering into a language training contract for people who have lawfully resided in Estonia for at least five years, and who meet the requirements for applying for citizenship and who wish to apply for Estonian citizenship. According to the contract, people who enter into the contract will be provided a one-off free Estonian language training course from zero level to the level of independent language user B1.
The contract will be deemed to be fulfilled when the person submits an application for acquisition of citizenship to the Police and Border Guard Board. For participation in the Estonian language courses, persons who enter into the contract will be paid a language training allowance during the days of study leave on the basis of their average salary for 20 calendar days for the times they participate in the language training courses. The Estonian Academy of Security Services will organise the language training.
It is planned to start with the conclusion of language training contracts as of next January. According to the Bill, a total of 3.7 million euro will be allocated for language training expenses for the next three years.
Proficiency in the Estonian language at B1 level is required for obtaining Estonian citizenship. An alien who has resided in Estonia for at least eight years, and who meets the conditions provided by law, can apply for citizenship.
One Bill passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Family Benefits Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (652 SE), initiated by the Government, will introduce into the Act amendments that will allow for a significantly more flexible use of parental benefit. The aim is to harmonise the parental leave system and to create more opportunities for reconciling work and family life in the parental benefit scheme.
The Bill will merge pregnancy and maternity leave and maternity benefit into the parental leave and benefit system. There will be a possibility to collect parental benefit on a day-by-day basis until the child attains three years of age, and a possibility for parents to be on parental leave together to the extent of two months. According to the Bill, child leave of ten working days for each child until the child attains nine years of age will be provided for both parents. The entitlement to adoptive parents leave and adoption benefit will also be extended.
Heljo Pikhof (Social Democratic Party) took the floor during the debate.
One Bill was withdrawn from the proceedings:
At the beginning of the sitting, the Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu made a political statement in which he withdrew from the proceedings of the Riigikogu on behalf of the Government as the initiator of the Bill the Personal Data Protection Bill (616 SE). As of 25 May, a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council regulates personal data protection law, and the Bill aimed to implement it in Estonian law.
At the debate after the political statement, Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party), Andres Herkel (Estonian Free Party), Marko Pomerants (Pro Patria and Res Publica Union), Oudekki Loone (Centre Party), Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party) and Martin Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
The sitting ended at 5.38 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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