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The Riigikogu passed 11 Acts:
The Act on Amendments to the Land Tax Act Exempting Home Owners from Land Tax (51 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, according to which the owner of the land or the user of the land is exempt from payment of land tax to the extent of up to 0.15 ha on residential land in his or her use or land parcels located within yards on profit yielding land in cities, cities without municipal status, towns or small towns, and areas assessed as high density areas with a general plan by the local government or with a county plan by the county governor, and up to 2.0 ha in other places if the residence of the person is in a building located on such land according to the data on the place of residence entered in the population register, was passed with 54 votes in favour (39 against). The members of the building association who live in the building according to the data of the population register are also exempt from payment of land tax. The land used by the building association is exempt in the same rate, to the extent of 0.15 ha in high density areas and 2.0 ha in other places, respectively, distributed proportionally among the members of the building association. The Act enters into force as of 1 January 2013.
The Act on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (40 SE), initiated by the Government, which reduces the income tax rate to 20% instead of the current 21%, was passed with 54 votes in favour (39 against). The total amount of deductions allowed from the income of natural persons was reduced to 1920 euro instead of 3196 euro as of 1 January 2012. According to the Act, professional formal education is not treated as a fringe benefit in employment and service relationships. The Act creates a special procedure for tax calculation of the transfer of the cutting right and timber cut by which natural persons are able to deduct from the income received from the transfer the forest management costs incurred within the period of up to three years as of the year of receipt of the income from transfer of the cutting right and timber cut.
The Act on Amendments to the Paying Authorities and Electronic Money Institutions Act and Associated Acts and Amendments to the Investment Funds Act (45 SE), initiated by the Government, which updates the regulation of the issue and use of electronic money and at the same time harmonises it with European Union directives, was passed with 87 votes in favour. The Act harmonises the requirements for the activities of electronic money institutions and other electronic money issuers; simplifies the definition of electronic money; establishes a new more liberal framework of prudential requirements for electronic money institutions and specifies the bases of issue and redemption of electronic money according to which consumers have an enhanced right to exchange electronic money for real money at any time. In practice, electronic money or e-money services or products generally mean multi-purpose electronic payment instruments which are mainly used for everyday payments of small value.
The Act on Amendments to the Community-scale Involvement of Employees Act (48 SE), initiated by the Government, which is based on relevant European Union directives, was passed with 86 votes in favour. The Act improves the right of the employees of Community-scale undertakings and the groups of Community-scale undertakings to receive information in good time at the appropriate levels, by guaranteeing consultation. The Act also ensures better legal clarity.
The Act on Amendments to the Vocational Educational Institutions Act, the Private Schools Act and the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act (6 SE), initiated by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction and the Estonian Reform Party Faction, which creates the system of state recognition of vocational education, was passed with 49 votes in favour (36 against, 1 abstention). The Act sets a legal framework for carrying out the pilot stage of accreditation of the curriculum group which will be launched in 2011. In the course of this accreditation, independent experts from outside the school will give an evaluation based on internal evaluation to curriculum groups.
The Act on Amendments to the Aliens Act and Other Associated Acts (43 SE), initiated by the Government, which transposes the relevant European Parliament and Council directive, was passed with 80 votes in favour. The Act provides for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals. It establishes a general prohibition on the employment of third-country nationals who do not have a legal basis to stay in the European Union, and it also establishes sanctions against employers who infringe that prohibition. The Act provides a pecuniary punishment or up to 3 years’ imprisonment for allowing illegal employment for an alien with no legal basis to stay in Estonia.
The Act on Amendments to the Maritime Safety Act, the State Fees Act and the Ports Act (25 SE), initiated by the Government, which specifies the maritime safety requirements arising from European Union law and the liability in the event of violation of the Act, was passed with 83 votes in favour. The Act helps enhance marine safety through further development of the vessel traffic monitoring and information system and improvement of the port State control system in member states and in the European Union as a whole. In comparison to the Acts which are currently in force, the informing obligations imposed on shipowners remains essentially the same. As a measure to reduce the administrative burden, the Act contains provisions according to which it is possible to apply for release from the obligation to submit a notification of dangerous cargo and arrival to port to the Maritime Administration for ships engaged in a regular service. For shipowners and ship agents, the administrative burden will increase as the obligation to notify of the actual time when a ship enters and leaves the port is added.
The Act on Amendments to the Railways Act (27 SE), initiated by the Government, according to which the procedure for obtaining the train driver’s licence is changed pursuant to a European Union directive, was passed with 84 votes in favour. A train driver will have to obtain a train driver’s licence from a competent authority, attesting to the train driver’s compliance with general conditions, and a certificate granting the train driver entitlements to drive from the railway undertaking employing the driver. This will improve internal cooperation in the EU regarding the recognition of train drivers because when a uniform format of train driver’s licence is implemented it will be easier for train drivers to go to work in another member state. Railway traffic safety will also improve because, upon issue of certificates to train drivers, railway undertakings can directly check the existence of the competence necessary for the work of train drivers and, if a problem emerges, quickly take necessary measures (organisation of training, suspension of the validity of the certificate). The Act also amends the provisions concerning railway traffic safety by adding the obligation to include in the railway traffic register the data concerning the entity who maintains the rolling stock which will enable more effective inspection of the maintenance works. Also, measures for ensuring unrestricted visibility in the ground area are improved and the relevant provisions concerning the necessary elements of a misdemeanour are amended.
The Act on Amendments to the Water Act (55 SE), initiated by the Government, which eliminates conflicts in the regulation concerning water studies, was passed with 84 votes in favour. Among other things, the provision delegating authority set out in the Water Act is specified and, with a Regulation issued on the basis thereof, quality requirements for laboratories, including the limit of quantification of an analysis, are amended. This will increase the reliability of the results of the analyses carried out in the field regulated by the Act. National water monitoring results being one input in planning the activities in water management plans and in evaluating the effectiveness of activity plans, the quality of the results of laboratory analyses is especially important in making decisions. On the basis of these results, reports and overviews are prepared for the European Commission.
The Act on Amendments to the Ambient Air Protection Act (56 SE), initiated by the Government, the implementation of which enables to improve ambient air quality on the territory of the state, was passed with 82 votes in favour. The national monitoring system of ambient air quality in Estonia is improved in regard to the primary pollutants to be analysed. The territory of the state is divided into zones according ambient air quality on the basis of the concentration of each primary pollutant in the air layer near the surface. If the results of national monitoring of ambient air quality in a zone indicate that the level of pollution in regard to the concentration of a pollutant exceeds the limit value, the Environmental Board will have to prepare an action plan for improving the ambient air quality in the zone. Possessors of the sources of pollution located within the area will have to implement additional measures for reduction of the emission level of such pollutant. The issuer of the environmental permit will require the implementation of additional measures from the possessor of the source of pollution as a special condition.
The Act on Amendments to the Ambient Air Protection Act (57 SE), initiated by the Government, which transposes the relevant European Union Directives, was passed with 87 votes in favour. They aim to improve and extend the greenhouse gases emission allowances trading system of the Community. The Act also provides the establishment of the system of accredited verifiers in Estonia corresponding to the requirements of the trading system.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Märt Rask gave an overview of courts administration, administration of justice and uniform application of Acts.In his report, Rask discussed how to increase the availability of administration of justice for persons and to ensure a more reasonable duration of the proceedings. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court also gave an overview of the problems accompanying high state fees.
When assessing the situation of administration of justice, Rask said that, considering its available labour force resource, the Estonian court system is working at the limit of its power at present. Changes within the judicial system are necessary but merely amending the Codes concerning procedures or increasing the number of judges and announcing competitions of judges by campaigns will give no result, he stressed. “Systematic structural changes are needed which the previous composition of the Riigikogu failed to launch while conducting the legislative proceeding of the Courts Act. The Government coalition has set a political goal according to which the proceeding should not last longer than a hundred days in any instance. It is indisputably a right goal. Reduction of the duration of court procedures until this does not bring down the quality of the court procedure is in every way justified. At the same time, it is a very ambitious goal which cannot be achieved with simple statistical methods,” said Rask.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court noted that the principles of state fees and procedural assistance need to be reviewed with the aim of bringing state fee rates to the proportions corresponding to the standard of living in Estonia and into conformity with the Constitution so as to ensure everyone’s fundamental right of recourse to the courts to protect his or her rights.
President of Eesti Pank Andres Lipstok made a presentation on the 2010 Annual Report of Eesti Pank.
Chairman of the Management Board of the Financial Supervision Authority Raul Malmstein presented the 2010 Report of the Financial Supervision Authority.
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to § 5 of the State Family Benefits Act (11 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction.
The sitting ended at 1.45 p.m.
The Riigikogu Press Service