At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu passed 16 Acts and a Resolution.
The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act and Other Acts (130 SE), initiated by the Government, which transposes a European Union anti-money laundering directive and establishes several international standards within Estonia. The prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing in the Republic of Estonia will be enhanced thereby. Also, a framework for the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing will be prepared for an upcoming international evaluation.
The Act establishes a register of bank accounts to link all Estonian credit and payment institutions, establish a list of positions of politically exposed persons and create a mechanism to improve the quality of the data on beneficial owners in the commercial register. At the same time, the possibilities to check banks’ compliance with international financial transactions will be increased, additional measures to protect “whistle-blowers” will be established, and the possibilities for banks, notaries and other obliged entities to exchange information among themselves will be improved.
During the debate, Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party) and Jaanus Karilaid (Centre Party) took the floor.
95 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
Under the Act on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act (187 SE), initiated by the Government, the field of earth’s crust resources is included in the description of the area of government of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, and geological mapping and the ensuring of national geological competence are also defined as its activities. The field covers the main activities of the Geological Survey of Estonia, which is administered by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, as well as the existing posts in the Ministry that are in charge of coordinating these activities. Under the current Act, the issues relating to the activities related to the earth’s crust fall within the area of government of the Ministry of the Environment. The task of the area of government of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is to forecast the mineral resource need, to assess the socio-economic impacts related to mineral resources, to coordinate the research and development activities necessary for the use and development of the economic potential of the earth’s crust, to coordinate and finance the earth’s crust research, and to conduct and fund geological mapping. The area of government of the Ministry of the Environment includes strategic planning, the grant of permits for geological investigation, geological exploration permits and permits for extracting mineral resources, and the grant of other approvals and permits regarding the earth’s crust and the use and protection of mineral resources.
94 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act and Other Acts (merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate) (184 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate, two governmental authorities in the area of government of the Ministry of Environment. The name of the merged agency will be the Environmental Board. For that, amendments are made to the Government of the Republic Act and 38 other Acts.
The merger of the Environmental Board, which implements the policy of environment use, nature conservation and radiation safety, and the Environmental Inspectorate, which exercises environmental supervision, is part of the state reform plan. The merger of the Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate will also give a certain saving, in particular in terms of more effective use of vehicles and real estate.
The Environmental Board and the Environmental Inspectorate employ a total staff of 512. The new agency will have its official address in Pärnu. Both agencies are already now in dispersed locations across Estonia. According to the current plan, the merged Environmental Board will start work on 1 January 2021.
63 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act and 6 were against.
The Act on Amendments to the Trade Unions Act, the Working Conditions of Employees Posted to Estonia Act and Other Acts (158 SE), initiated by the Government, establishes measures to better protect the rights of posted workers. It is specified that posted temporary agency workers who are posted by user undertakings in the framework of the provision of services are also posted workers. The Act also amends the terms and conditions of employment that must be ensured to posted workers during their stay in Estonia. Instead of the minimum remuneration, remuneration must be ensured to workers, and expenditure incurred on account of the posting must be reimbursed additionally. A regulation for long-term posting is established, under which the whole Estonian labour law, instead of the minimum terms and conditions of employment listed in the Act, must be applied to a posted worker after he or she has worked in Estonia for 12 or 18 months.
92 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Police and Border Guard Act (161 SE), initiated by the Legal Affairs Committee, provides for ensuring the police officers and border guard officials as well as their family members, who have been granted the pension for incapacity for work or the survivor’s pension, a pension that is at minimum equal to the pension they would have received if the basis for calculating their pensions had not been reduced by 8 per cent from 1 July 2009.
The Act is necessary in order to ensure equal treatment of the persons who receive the superannuated pensions of police officers as well as the persons who receive the pensions for incapacity for work and survivor’s pensions of police officers and border guard officials.
Kalle Laanet (Reform Party) took the floor during the debate.
88 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act and the Building Code (179 SE), initiated by the Government, specifies the provisions relating to the recognition of professional qualifications on the basis of a relevant European Union directive that has been transposed into Estonian law; the European Commission has initiated infringement proceedings because it has found that the directive has not been transposed as required.
The purpose of the recognition of professional qualifications is to ensure access to the pursuit of regulated posts and professions in member states of the European Union, member states of the European Economic Area and the Swiss Confederation under equal conditions. The Act also specifies the regulation of the recognition and the acquired rights of architects.
91 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the State Borders Act (178 SE), initiated by the Government, establishes a border zone and amend the provisions concerning the border strip so that they would be in conformity with the actual needs.
In the designing of Estonia’s eastern border and the construction of test sections, it has become apparent that it is very complicated to construct the elements necessary for guarding the border on the up to ten-metre border strip required by law. Since the landscape varies in all border sections, different solutions are needed to complete them and every border section must be designed in a different way. Therefore the ‘ten-metre’ definition is eliminated from the Act, and in the future the Government of the Republic will determine the width of the border strip with its Regulation.
The Act provides for a regulation of the border zone in order to ensure efficient border security and border regime. A territory with a width of up to five kilometres, extending inland from the border strip and parallel with the border strip, constitutes the border zone. The width of the border zone will also be determined by a regulation of the Government of the Republic, taking into account the size of the territory necessary for guarding the state border and the natural conditions.
The organisation of the entry of vehicles in road border crossing points is amended. Under the current Act, the minister responsible for the area may transfer the task of organising the entry of vehicles in a road border crossing point and of managing the database of the border crossing queue to the local authority or a legal person in private law.
The Act grants the minister responsible for the area the right to authorise the Police and Border Guard Board to conclude the abovementioned contracts under public law; the fees charged for the organisation of a border crossing queue are established to the accuracy of euro; the regulation of the organisation of a border crossing queue is separated from the border regime regulation in the Act because it is a traffic organisation measure, and the regulation is made clearer and more understandable.
The amendment will help enhance the organisation of the entry of vehicles in road border crossing points, which will improve traffic safety on the roads leading to border crossing points.
89 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Road Transport Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (157 SE), initiated by the Government, extends the range of persons who are exempt from the requirement of the professional training for professional drivers. For example, in the future, the requirement to complete professional training will not extend to persons engaged in the maintenance of category D vehicles who drive vehicles without passengers from the vehicle storage facility of the carrier to a nearby maintenance or repair facility.
With a view to implementing the new European Union framework Regulation on the type-approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, the bases for the invalidation of type-approvals are specified. According to it, the Road Administration will be able to invalidate type-approvals on broader bases than before, including also in the event of submission of false data during market surveillance.
The Act also establishes an obligation for vehicle owners to have their vehicles repaired where the vehicles have manufacturing defects or do not correspond to their type-approvals. According to the Act, the obligation to bring vehicles into conformity lies with manufacturers. The Act provides for an obligation of vehicle owners to enable manufacturers to implement corrective measures to bring vehicles into conformity. Vehicles that are not in conformity will not be able to pass roadworthiness tests in the future.
87 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Public Procurement Act and the Commissioning of Artworks Act (177 SE), initiated by the Government, amends the provisions regulating electronic information exchange. As a result of an amendment, suppliers are released from the obligation of electronic information exchange in public procurements of small value, less than 30,000 euro in the case of supplies and services, and less than 60,000 in the case of works.
Under the current Act, high-security electronic exchange of information must be used in the case of every public procurement regardless of the value. The purpose of the amendment is to enable simpler electronic information exchange (e.g. by e-mail) in public procurements of smaller value whereby the workload of contracting authorities and the administrative burden of tenderers will be significantly reduced. In the case of reopening a competition on the basis of a framework agreement, the obligation of electronic information exchange would not apply where the estimated value of the public contract to be awarded is below the simple procurement threshold, that is, below 30 000 euro in the case of supplies and services. In the case of public procurements that do not fall within a simplified procurement threshold provided for by law, the obligation of electronic information exchange would apply starting from the public procurement threshold.
An amendment to the Commissioning of Artworks Act increases the threshold that requires the commissioning of artworks in connection with contracting for works. The current threshold of 450 000 euro is raised to 750 000 euro. The price cap for art works procured is also increased. Starting from 2010 when the Commissioning of Artworks Act was passed, the price cap for art works procured has been limited to 65,000 euro. The Act increases the price cap to 110,000 euro. The general principle remains in place that the total price of works of art without the value added tax must be at least 1/100 of the price of the procurement contract or the total price of the procurement contracts but the maximum price does not exceed 110,000 euro. The cap of 110,000 is not an obligation but the highest possible price limit.
In addition, the Minister of the Environment is given the authority to establish mandatory environmentally sound criteria in procurements to purchase furniture, cleaning products and services, office IT-equipment, and copying and graphic paper.
92 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the 2014‒2020 Structural Assistance Act and the Foreign Relations Act (129 SE), initiated by the Government, specifies the implementation of the operational programme for the investment for growth and jobs under the EU Cohesion Policy 2014–2020. The Act regulates more specifically the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance as the main entity performing the functions of the Member State, and the State Shared Service Centre as the entity performing mainly the functions of the managing authority in the preparation and implementation of the operational programme. The functions of the authorities remain essentially the same compared to the ones assigned from 1 September 2018 as a result of the restructuring within the framework of the single assistance application services pilot project. In addition, the obligation to follow the general principles of public procurements in the case of smaller-scale procurements is mitigated.
The Foreign Relations Act provides for the possibility to initiate compulsory enforcement proceedings in respect of decisions to reclaim support granted from foreign aid. This is necessary for reclaiming the support granted from of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism, as well as the funds of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the Internal Security Fund.
91 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Aliens Act, the Income Tax Act and the Taxation Act (reduction of the abuse of the rules for working in Estonia) (145 SE), initiated by the Government, will prevent the abuse of the rules for working in Estonia and ensure that businesses do not evade the payment of taxes and pay the average gross monthly wage in Estonia to aliens as required by law.
The explanatory memorandum to the Bill notes that the factual activities of an alien employed in Estonia must meet the legal basis for and the purpose of his or her employment in Estonia. In addition to third-country nationals who are being employed in Estonia for a short term and their employers, the obligation to prove the legality of the employment in Estonia would also extend to undertakings using temporary agency staff, that is, user undertakings. If an alien does temporary agency work or provides a service in Estonia, the user undertaking is also required to ensure that the alien is employed in Estonia according to the legal basis given therefor and the contract entered into between the employer and the user undertaking or another agreement. Upon failure to meet the obligation, in the future, it will be possible to bring to justice and punish user undertakings by a fine under misdemeanour law. The maximum fine rate will be 300 fine units for natural persons and 32,000 euro for legal persons. The same fine rates are also in force now.
The legal basis for workers’ stay and employment in Estonia can be checked through electronic queries on the homepage of the Police and Border Guard Board. In the case where a worker has no legal basis for employment, it is also possible to submit applications for the registration of short-term employment of an alien electronically through the self-service environment of the Police and Border Guard Board.
The aim of the amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Taxation Act is to ensure that the income tax liability of all undertakings offering the temporary agency staffing service in Estonia and the people employed in Estonia is as similar as possible. As a result of the amendments, the right to tax the remuneration of non-residents working in Estonia is specified. An obligation to register with the Tax and Customs Board and to withhold income tax on remunerations is established for non-resident undertakings who have employees in Estonia.
90 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Alcohol Act, the Local Government Organisation Act, the Local Government Financial Management Act and the Income Tax Act (194 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, extends the deadlines by which local governments will have to adopt amendments to the budget strategy and the development plan and, on the basis of that, submit the draft budget and the explanatory memorandum to the municipal council this year. The regulation for withholding income tax on Natura 2000 support for private forest land is also amended.
In addition, the Act specifies the Alcohol Act. The explanatory memorandum to the Bill notes that, under the current Act, alcoholic beverages must not be placed so as to inevitably expose consumers to them when visiting the shop and the display of alcoholic beverages shall not be noticeably visible from the rest of the sales area, unless the compliance with those requirements is not reasonably feasible due to the size of the sales area. The Act specifies that, among other things, a selection of alcohol may be placed behind the seller in a shop, so that visitors cannot enter such part of the area of the display of alcoholic beverages. The display area may be located behind and beside the seller, and the seller may move around in it, but the decisive criterion is that the area must not be accessible to visitors.
During the debate, Maris Lauri (Reform Party), Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) and Aivar Kokk (Isamaa) took the floor.
55 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act and 7 were against.
The Riigikogu had deliberated the Act on Amendments to the Rescue Act and the Weapons Act (128 UA), initiated by the Government, again on 21 May 2020 and had decided not to pass the Act again without amendments. The Riigikogu had considered it necessary to amend the Act, and therefore the proceedings on the Bill had been relaunched from the stage of the conclusion of the first reading,
The Rescue Act is amended by adding provisions that regulate how the processing of the personal data of supposed victims is organised upon the provision of the crisis information service. In the course of the provision of the crisis information service, the personal data of persons who call the Emergency Response Centre (callers), as well as the personal data of supposed victims of crisis situations will be processed once the availability of the relevant queries will have been decided. The specific elements of the data to be processed will be regulated by the statutes of the database for processing emergency notifications (the name and personal identification code or date of birth of both the caller and the supposed victim, their connection to each other, as well as the caller’s telephone number).
A decision to provide information about supposed victims of a crisis situation can be made only by four authorities within their competence: the Health Board, the Rescue Board, the Police and Border Guard Board, and the Internal Security Service. When making a relevant decision, it will have to be assessed whether it is proportionate to process data upon the provision of the crisis information service in the event of the exceptional event that necessitates the issue of the data, and whether other notification channels are not sufficiently efficient for that.
The Act establishes the extent of the processing of the data that the database for processing emergency notifications requests from the health information system, and the restriction that the health data of supposed victims is not to be processed. It also provides that everyone has the right to prohibit (via the patient portal) the issue of data about themselves from the health information system upon the provision of the crisis information service.
Toomas Kivimägi (Reform Party) took the floor during the debate.
51 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act and 42 were against.
The Act on Amendments to the Building Code and Other Acts (173 SE), initiated by the Government. Three major amendments concern the requirements for the long-term renovation strategy for residential and non-residential buildings and the support measures, the installation of electric car charging infrastructure, and the assessment of the energy efficiency of existing technical systems and the energy efficiency of the systems. The requirements transposed from the EU directive will contribute to achieving the end goals of the directive. The relevant EU directive has been drafted as a part of the European Commission’s Clean Energy Package which focuses on energy efficiency, renewable energy and a fair energy price for consumers. The European Union has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further by at least 40 % by 2030 as compared with 1990. The European Union seeks to increase the proportion of renewable energy consumed, energy security, competitiveness and sustainability. The use of the existing building stock is responsible for 40% of the final energy consumption and 36% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union. With these indicators, the building stock makes up the largest share of the European Union’s energy demand. In Estonia, the relevant indicators are even higher, because buildings account for as much as 50% of final energy consumption in Estonia. In view of the great impact of buildings on final energy consumption, it is extremely important to improve the energy performance of buildings.
According to the directive, in the future, the requirements for technical systems will also apply to local renewable energy systems, that is, systems producing energy. The Act provides for the requirement that, when a new building is erected, its heating system be equipped with self-regulating devices where technically feasible and economically justified. The requirements will apply to new buildings which will have to meet the minimum energy performance requirements.
During the second reading, a direct reference to a block exemption regulation reiterating that the state aid support scheme has been legalised and is covered by a block exemption was included in the Bill.
90 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.
Under the Act on Amendments to the Fiscal Marking of Liquid Fuel Act and Amendments to the Taxation Act in connection with that (203 SE), initiated by the Government, oil shale mining undertakings are permitted to temporarily use diesel fuel for specific purposes on the territories of oil shale mines and open cast mines, in open cast mine technology and equipment, including in mining machinery, and the machinery used for transporting oil shale and ash. It is not permitted to use fuel marked with a fiscal marker in transport on public roads. It will be possible to use diesel fuel marked with a fiscal marker in the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 April 2022.
Under the current Act, in the period from 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2022, the rate of excise duty on diesel fuel is 372 euro, and the rate of excise duty on diesel fuel marked with a fiscal marker is 100 euro per 1000 litres. Starting from 1 May 2022, the rate of excise duty on diesel fuel will be 493 euro, and the rate of excise duty on diesel fuel marked with a fiscal marker will be 133 euro per 1000 litres.
58 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act and 13 were against.
The Act on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act (204 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for a reduction in the expenses of oil shale mining enterprises, allowing them to temporarily pay a lower pollution charge upon dumping oil shale fly ash and oil shale bottom ash. The purpose of the amendment of the Act is to provide that, in connection with the crisis of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease, by way of exception, a pollution charge rate of 1.31 euro per ton, instead of the current 2.98 euro, is applied to oil shale fly ash and oil shale bottom ash in 2020.
Maris Lauri (Reform Party) took the floor during the debate.
51 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act and 38 voted against.
The Riigikogu passed a Resolution
Under the Resolution of the Riigikogu “The Granting of a State Guarantee under Article 11 of the Council Regulation (EU) 2020/672 on the Establishment of a European Instrument for Temporary Support to Mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) following the COVID-19 Outbreak” (210 OE), initiated by the Government, the Riigikogu grants the European Commission a state guarantee in an amount of 48 716 500 euro on the basis of Article 11 of the European Council Regulation on the establishment of a European instrument for temporary support to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency (SURE) following the COVID-19 outbreak.
The guarantee agreement provides for the maximum amount of the financial assistance to be given for a guarantee, the conditions for calling on the guarantee, the reporting, the duration of the guarantee, and the connection of the agreement with the Council Regulation. The Regulation sets out the aim of the creation and the use of the instrument, the organisation of the guarantees from the member states, the duration of the validity of the guarantee, and the reporting. Articles 11 and 12 of the Regulation provide for the giving of the guarantee and the availability of the instrument. According to these provisions, the guarantee from the member states is expected to be 25% of the total amount of the instrument, that is, 25 billion euro. The guarantee will be divided on the basis of the shares of the gross national incomes of the member states in the gross national income of the EU. Estonia’s share in the guarantee is 0.194866%, and the divisions and the guarantee amounts are set out in the guarantee agreement.
The implementation of the Resolution will involve no direct immediate obligations for the Republic of Estonia. Obligations will arise if the guarantee is called on and Estonia has to pay the Commission the amounts requested under a guarantee demand or additional demand. At the same time, the Commission will be obligated to reimburse the member states the amounts paid under a guarantee demand or additional demand after the recipient of the loan will have paid the repayments or the countries who do not participate in the guarantee demand will have met the relevant claims.
82 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Resolution.
Three Bills passed the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Bankruptcy Act and Other Acts (195 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic, will increase the efficiency of bankruptcy proceedings and thereby improve the functioning of the business environment. Among other things, the Bill will provide for the establishment of an insolvency service, changing of the system of the remuneration of trustees, extension of the obligation to file a bankruptcy petition, speeding up of the determination of the number of votes of creditors, and the specialisation of courts.
The procedure for the defence and acceptance of claims will also be reorganised. Currently, the defending of claims takes place at a meeting of creditors for the defence of claims, and disputes over claims are adjudicated in separate and time-consuming proceedings. According to the Bill, in the future, the defending of claims will be conducted in writing, and the acceptance of claims will take place in court in single proceedings. It will be mandatory to substantiate objections, and the list of claims accepted without defence will be amended, which will result in a reduction of disputes over claims.
The Bill also provides for greater specialisation of courts in insolvency matters, as a result of which judges will adjudicate cases faster and in a more uniform manner. The adjudication of insolvency matters of legal persons will be centralised to Harju and Tartu County Courts. In the case of natural persons, the jurisdiction will remain the same.
In addition, the system of the remuneration of trustee in bankruptcy will be made more transparent and predictable. Pursuant to the Act currently in force, the remuneration of a trustee is calculated on the basis of the size of the bankruptcy estate, and the trustee does not have to keep working time records or prepare an expected action plan. The Bill will propose that, in all proceedings, a trustee will have to plan their expenses and potential remuneration at the beginning of proceedings and keep records of working time. This will make the proceedings more transparent and help courts and creditors to better estimate the formation of the remuneration of trustee.
In the bankruptcy proceedings of natural persons, which are simpler by their nature, it will be possible to pay the remuneration as a one-off fixed operation fee. If a trustee opts for an operation fee, they will not have to keep records of working time. The remuneration of trustee will also cover the trustee’s overhead costs, like the office expenses. In connection with that, the minimum and maximum rates of the remuneration of trustee will be increased by 21 per cent, which is the average rate of overhead costs.
The obligation to file a bankruptcy petition will be extended. Pursuant to the Act currently in force, it is possible that, in the absence of members of the management board, nobody has the obligation to file a bankruptcy petition. An amendment will extend the obligation to file a bankruptcy petition to persons who have the duty to ensure the existence of the management board. For example, in the case of a private limited company, such persons are the members of the supervisory board and the shareholders. They will not be held responsible if there is a management board.
In connection with the unexpected and abrupt change of the economic situation due to the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Bill will temporarily enable to make changes to the reorganisation plan and the debt restructuring plan more flexibly. The Act which is currently in force does not allow for the reorganisation plan to be changed. It will be a temporary opportunity, and it will be possible to submit the relevant applications until the end of 2020.
The Bill on Amendments to the Spatial Data Act and the Apartment Ownership and Apartment Associations Act (196 SE), initiated by the Government, will harmonise the bases for the establishment of unique addresses, simplify the communication with owners of address objects and ensure better interoperability between the state information systems.
The Land Board will be given the right to establish areas that have a unique address. Under the current procedure, densely populated areas and built up areas determined by a comprehensive plan are areas requiring a unique address. Since the abovementioned areas have not been defined in legislation, local governments determine them very variedly by plans. This involves the problem that buildings may be difficult to find.
Areas requiring a unique address that can be determined on uniform bases ensure uniform address organisation in the country, and at the same time involve no additional obligations or restrictions on construction or other activities.
In addition, the communication with owners of address objects will be simplified, and the possibility to notify of changes to addresses by e-mail and, in the case of apartment buildings, through the apartment association, will be included.
With the amendments to the Apartment Ownership and Apartment Associations Act, better interoperability between the state information systems, in particular the land register and the address data information system, will be ensured. When an apartment ownership is established in the land register, each apartment that is registered as an apartment ownership is also assigned a corresponding address object in the address data system.
The Bill on Amendments to the Place Names Act (186 SE), initiated by the Government, will change the functions of the Place Names Board in the resolution of name disputes and in the maintenance of the national place names register.
Under the Bill, the Place Names Board will no longer resolve extra-judicial name disputes but will present positions in name disputes. According to the Bill, a person may file a challenge to the local authority that makes a decision on a place name, or have recourse to the administrative court. In name disputes, the Place Names Board will provide a professional expert opinion which will be indicative by nature.
Amendments will also be made to the procedure for the establishment of the Place Names Board. In the future, the Minister of Public Administration will establish the statutes of the Place Names Board, and the number of the members of the Place Name Board will no longer be determined at the level of Act. At present, the Board may have 11-15 members.
The Bill will transfer the maintenance of the national place names register from the Ministry of Finance to the Land Board who is the authorised processor of the register under the current Act. According to the Bill, the functions of the authorised processor of the register will be assigned to the information technology centre of the Ministry of the Environment. On the basis of that, in the future, the Minister of the Environment will also establish the statutes of the register.
The Bill will also make other minor amendments based on the implementation practice. For example, as regards alternative place names, local authorities will no longer have to apply for a minister’s consent, but only the opinion of the Place Names Board. The status of place names will be defined more clearly whereby a place name will create no independent rights or obligations for the named feature.
The Riigikogu rejected a Bill at the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to § 140 of the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act (182 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction and the Social Democratic Party Faction, was intended to shorten the term for replying to interpellations in emergency situation, in order to improve the exchange of information between the Government and the Riigikogu.
During the debate, Andrei Korobeinik (Centre Party) and Kaja Kallas (Reform Party) took the floor.
On behalf of his faction, Korobeinik moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 52 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion, 42 voted against, and there was one abstention.
The Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise made the report “The rule of law in emergency situation”. At the beginning of her report, Madise said that the crisis had given a reassurance that, in difficult moments, the whole Estonia would mobilise itself. “Rest time and the division of roles had no importance in that situation. Those who knew and could did and decided, in both the public and the private sector. And I am particularly happy that it became clear: none of them can manage without a strong front line,” the Chancellor of Justice stated.
Then Madise focused on the points of concern that had emerged during the crisis. As she said, she was not sure whether such a nation-wide and trans-sectoral effort would be possible in a next potential emergency.
Madise considers the capacity to resolve crises the greatest problem. “An integral view from a regional power outage, stopping of a bushfire, an epidemic or a natural disaster to a situation of war – the picture, as you know, should be a whole, but unfortunately it is not,” she said. “The National Defence Act that is being discussed here in the Riigikogu, and potential amendments to the Emergency Act will provide a very good platform for creating such a comprehensive view,” Madise added. In her opinion, the Act will have to set out unambiguously in clear Estonian language who is allowed to restrict people’s rights and freedoms and to impose obligations on them. Secondly, what the division of work between the state and local governments is like in the solution of crises. Thirdly, to a certain extent it may be reasonable also to regulate who issues certain acts at national level or who manages what.
As another problem, Madise pointed out the damage that had been done to Estonia with substitutive activities. “It has taken years to rewrite laws, under the pretence of codification, revision and all manner of other activities, and yet what is the most necessary – figuring out solutions to specific problems that arise in life, and bringing them here – has not been done,” the Chancellor of Justice emphasised. “Why are such clear and specific laws needed? Indeed, because it is not correct to assume that, for example, health officials will complete their load of work with three vague Acts in one hand and a whole bunch of regulations in the other hand. They, as well as police officers, veterinary officials and many others, have been trained to do the substantial work on the front line, and not to argue about laws with ministries. Here is a concrete suggestion, if I may: the Riigikogu has the right to simply reject unnecessary laws and to have confusing laws be rewritten clearly,” she continued.
Third, Madise pointed out that, once the procedure for the resolution of crises would have been devised and written in law as far as necessary, things would need to be tested in exercises and then the lessons would need to be implemented. “Figuratively speaking, the Health Board and many other agencies and inspectorates should have a table setting out in detail who does what in the case of one or another crisis event, what the legal basis is, and what the legal form is. The task of an official is just to record which event is being dealt with. When we have a contagious disease that is about to cross our border, we will go the state border, we will issue mandatory precepts to people showing signs of infection, or their close ones, people will stay home, and we will also be able to tell them what will become of their income and other obligations. Currently we do not have this. This would be greatly needed,” Madise stated.
As the fourth point of concern, the Chancellor of Justice mentioned the good work and reliability of agencies and inspectorates. “It seems to me that sometimes the Health Board was condemned unfairly because they were precisely in a situation where, according to popular understanding, they had to deal with a highly contagious disease that spread quickly and extensively or became serious or life-threatening,” she explained.
At the end of her report Madise touched upon the issue of freedom and responsibility, that is, how much people are trusted to be sensible and use their freedoms responsibly in a crisis situation, and to what extent rigid restrictions are needed.
Alar Laneman (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Kaja Kallas (Reform Party) and Indrek Saar (Social Democratic Party) took the floor on behalf of the factions.
The sitting ended at 6.28 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
The video recording of the sitting can be viewed later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Your feedback is important. Please share it with us!