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The Riigikogu passed an Act under which a natural person for whose benefit a usufruct on land has been established can grant a sub-lease of the land to a company owned by them or their spouse or relative.

The Act on Amendments to the Land Reform Act, the Act on Acquisition of Land on which Usufruct Has Been Established during Land Reform, and the State Assets Act (87 SE) enables natural persons for whose benefit a usufruct on land has been established to grant use of the land to other persons provided that agricultural production is continued on the land. An additional condition is set to the effect that the usufructuary is entitled to grant use of land to a company if more than half of the company is owned by them or their spouse or relative. It is important that the person in whose use the land is meet the above-mentioned conditions during the whole duration of the use of the land.

The Act also regulates the extension of usufruct contracts. Under the current law, extension of usufruct contracts should be performed under the Land Reform Act which is however not in accordance with the general principles for the administration of state assets and the principles of EU competition law. There is a conflict with state aid rules and the principle of equal treatment of persons. According to an amendment, usufruct contracts will be extended on the basis of the State Assets Act.

According to the Act, in order to extend a usufruct for up to 15 more years, the usufructuary engaged in agricultural production must submit a written application to the Land Board not later than three months before extinguishment of the usufruct. In the case when a usufruct extinguishes before 31 August this year, the usufructuary still has the right to submit an application to extend the contract for the establishment of usufruct on the current basis, that is, within three months after the due date for extinguishment of the usufruct. The contract is not extended if the land on which the usufruct has been established is required for the exercise of the powers of state, or is needed by a local government for the performance of its functions or for other public purposes.

For the uniform application of the conditions for the use of state assets, a market-based fee for the use of land is set as the fee in the event of the extension of usufruct contracts. The usufructuary is also obligated to pay land tax and other ancillary costs, taxes and encumbrances relating to the immovable property. The Act provides for a three-year period for a smooth transition to a market-based use fee. The fee is 33% of the market-based use fee in the first year after the extension of a usufruct contract, and 66% in the second year. A market-based fee is charged starting from the third year. The usufructuary can still submit an application to redeem the land.

89 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of passing the Act.

One Bill passed the second reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act, the Security Authorities Act and the Chancellor of Justice Act (152 SE), initiated by the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee, provides for extending the rights of the Defence Forces to conduct background checks to the extent that would ensure meeting the essential purpose of the check, that is, assessment of a person’s suitability to serve or be employed in the Defence Forces or to cooperate with the Defence Forces. Pursuant to the planned amendments, the Defence Forces will be able to perform acts beyond the current “check against registers” in order to obtain the information necessary for background check. The Defence Forces will be given the right to use covert measures when collecting information for the circumstances assessed within the framework of background checks, in order to ensure concealment of the collection of information.

The Bill will give the Defence Forces a new task: collection and processing of information to protect the restricted military area of the Defence Forces and to prevent threats. For that, it is provided that, in the case of persons posing an immediate threat to the restricted military area of the Defence Forces, the Defence Forces can verify the personal data of a person and do it covertly, use shadow information and covert measures, as well as conduct covert intelligence. The Bill establishes more specific and effective guarantees that will ensure performance of the notification obligation in the event of interference with the fundamental rights of a person. It is provided that the security authority will notify the person whose fundamental rights are restricted and who is identified in the course of such activity of the time and type of the act immediately after the declassification of the information collected. In the event of a decision of the head of a security authority or a relevant minister, it will also be possible to notify the person earlier once the initial term for classification expires.

The Bill will also amend the Chancellor of Justice Act. At least every two years, the Chancellor of Justice will exercise supervision over the justification of the cases where persons are not notified of acts under the Security Authorities Act and the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act.

Five motions to amend and specify the Bill had been submitted before the second reading.

The Supreme Court has declared the Act on Amendments to the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act, passed by the Riigikogu on 29 May 2019, to be in conflict with the Constitution.

Six Bills and draft Resolutions passed the first reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Medical Devices Act, the Emergency Act and Other Acts (165 SE), initiated by the Government, will bring the Medical Devices Act into conformity with European Union law.

The directives on medical devices, active implantable medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices have been regulating the field of medical devices in the European Union so far. Two new EU Regulations will be applied gradually in the future to replace them. The regulations aim to establish a more robust, transparent, predictable and sustainable regulatory framework for medical devices. This will ensure better safety of devices and a high level of health whilst supporting innovation. In connection with the application of the Regulations, the Medical Devices Act and other associated Acts need to be amended.

With the amendment to the Emergency Act, the Government of the Republic will be given the possibility to give orders to the authority coordinating the resolution of an emergency in the case of an emergency that has a significant social or economic impact or an impact extending to the territories of more than one local authorities.

The amendments to the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act are due to the urgent need to ensure that, after the emergency situation, the Health Board will have legal clarity and security to tackle situations that may arise. The purpose of the amendments is to ensure efficient and effective prevention of the spread of communicable diseases by giving the Health Board the right to establish a quarantine, to close down authorities and enterprises, to prohibit the holding of public meetings and the organisation of public events, and other measures necessary to prevent the spread of communicable disease. An amendment will enable to give the Government of the Republic the right to apply certain measures where the application thereof has a significant social or economic impact.

During the debate, Signe Riisalo (Reform Party) and Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.

According to the Bill on the Approval of the Agreement Amending Section 14 of the Statutes, Annexed To the Agreement of 11 February 2004 between Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden Concerning the Nordic Investment Bank (174 SE), initiated by the Government, the amendment to the statutes extends the powers of the Board of Governors of the bank. The statutes are amended by providing that the Board of Governors which consists of the finance ministers of the member countries of the bank is vested with the power of deciding on principles for capital and liquidity management.

In addition, other amendments as to what decisions are within the powers of the Board of Governors are made to the statues, with the aim of using the bank’s funds more efficiently and updating the financial management framework of the bank.

As a result of the amendments, the bank will have an opportunity to begin to participate in equity investments, in addition to loans and guarantees. This means that the bank will be able to invest directly in an enterprise and to acquire a participation in it. The Baltic countries’ capital market is young, and thus the participation of the bank in Baltic enterprises might stimulate and diversify the Baltic capital market. In the Nordic countries, the need for equity investments is seen particularly in the field of the financing of environmentally-friendly projects and the financing of businesses that are in a growth phase. At present there is a shortage of investors specialised in environmentally-friendly or “green” investments.

The Bill on Amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act (155 SE), initiated by member of the Riigikogu Liina Kersna, will eliminate the transformation of descriptive verbal assessments to the grade scale at stages I and II of the basic school, in order to put an end to the duplication of the work of the teachers who use verbal assessment. This in turn will reduce the workload of such teachers. If a school that admits a student in the course of switching schools still wishes the formative assessments to be converted into five-point-system grades, the schools will be able to do so on the basis of a mutual agreement.

Under the current Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act, where a student leaves school or not later than at the end of stage II, the descriptive verbal assessments must be transformed to the five-point-system grade scale.

The Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act (156 SE), initiated by the Government, aims to increase competition in the reverse auctions for generation of electricity from renewable energy sources, to reduce the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and to improve the supply security of electricity generation in Estonia. Under the current regulation, the reverse auctions organised for the attainment of the national renewable energy objective are open only to generating installations that have not generated electricity before the reverse auction. According to an amendment, in the future, existing producers will also be allowed to participate in such reverse auctions, in order to motivate such producers to use renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels as input for electricity generation in the future. In such a case, the winner of the reverse auction can be paid support for each reverse auction during three years starting from commencement of the generation of electricity from the renewable source related to the reverse auction.

During the debate, Kalvi Kõva (Social Democratic Party) took the floor. On behalf of the faction, he moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 20 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 41 were against.

The Bill on Amendments to the Road Transport Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (157 SE), initiated by the Government, will extend the range of persons who will be 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 to vehicle storage facilities situated in the vicinity of the place of business of the carrier.

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 will be 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 Bill will also establish 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 Bill, the obligation to bring vehicles into conformity will lie with manufacturers. The Bill will provide 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.

The Bill on Amendments to the Building Code, An Act to Implement the Building Code and the Planning Act and the Energy Sector Organisation Act (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.

The Riigikogu suspended the second reading of a Bill

The Bill on Amendments to the Estonian Public Broadcasting Act (122 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction, will extend the target group and the range of persons with hearing disabilities to whom the Estonian Public Broadcasting must ensure the availability of the original programmes offered by the television programme services as far as possible.

With the Bill, the word “vaegkuuljatele” (“persons with hearing disabilities”) will be replaced with the words “kuulmispuudega inimestele” (“persons with hearing disabilities”) in the third sentence of clause 5 (1) 1) of the Estonian Public Broadcasting Act. The essential meaning of this sentence is that the original programmes of the Estonian Public Broadcasting must be made available to the maximum extent to people with hearing disabilities as far as possible. Original programmes also include, among other things, public communications, speeches and welcoming addresses by heads of state that are intended for the whole society and are broadcast on national television which currently do not always come with translation into sign language.

During the debate, Jüri Jaanson (Reform Party), Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party), Maris Lauri (Reform Party) and Urmas Kruuse (Reform Party) took the floor.

The Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. 44 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of the suspension, 35 voted against, and there was one abstention.

The Riigikogu set the deadline for submission of motions to amend the Bill as 5.15 p.m. on 20 May.

The Riigikogu did not pass a Resolution

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a Proposal to the Government of the Republic” (167 OE), submitted by the Social Democratic Party Faction, made a proposal to the Government to develop a package of economic measures to mitigate the effects of coronavirus in the media sector.

The initiators thought it necessary to consider, at least for the duration of the emergency situation, increasing the subsidies for home delivery of newspapers to an extent that would allow for lowering the home delivery prices by half. As owner of the postal operator “Omniva”, the state could have considered postponement of the deadline for payment of home delivery bills until the end of the emergency situation. The initiators also suggested that establishment of a lower VAT rate for subscriptions to digital editions of media publications be considered.

Indrek Saar (Social Democratic Party) took the floor during the debate.

At least 51 votes in favour were needed for the Resolution to be passed. 28 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passage and 8 voted against.

The sitting ended at 8.24 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

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.)

Riigikogu Press Service
Veiko Pesur
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