The Riigikogu passed an Act motivated by the declared emergency situation and the problems arisen while resolving it.
The Bill on Amendments to the Assistant Police Officer Act and Other Acts (measures related to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 disease) (170 SE), initiated by the Government, received 54 votes in favour and 40 against from the Members of the Riigikogu.
The passed Act amends 33 Acts, introducing essentially three types of amendments. First, exceptions in the validity of various licences, and the duration and deadlines of various types of proceedings, provided for the time of the emergency situation. Second, exceptions intended to extend the competence and tasks of various authorities and persons, provided for the time of the emergency situation. Third, amendments initially required by the emergency situation but which are also essentially permanent in nature.
Amendments to several Acts provide temporary exceptions for the time of the emergency situation to extend health and training certificates obligatory for various professions Regarding the validity of existing activity licences and certificates, the qualification requirements are temporarily alleviated in some speciality fields, and certain procedural requirements and deadlines are simplified. These are mitigations provided for the time of the emergency situation which allow an uninterrupted continuation of certain services, the functioning of proceedings, and the performance of work during the emergency situation.
The Act also includes practical amendments to facilitate the resolution of the emergency situation. For the purposes of ensuring order and for a better involvement of assistant police officers and members of the Estonian Defence League, their competences in performing law enforcement tasks together with police officers have been harmonised. At the same time, the use of law enforcement measures by assistant police officers and members of the Estonian Defence League at the time of the emergency situation has been extended. Some state authorities have been granted additional competences and discretionary power for the time of the emergency situation. The permitted net debt burden for local governments and the procedure of the final examinations in basic schools and upper secondary schools have been amended. The rules on data processing and on informing the general public have been clarified.
The Act includes amendments motivated by the emergency situation which however are of a permanent nature and will remain in force in normal circumstances. These include in particular the amendments that allow remote performance of procedural acts in the administration of justice. A proposal has been made to introduce permanent amendments to the legislation concerning aliens.
During the debate, Toomas Kivimägi (Reform Party), Heljo Pikhof (Social Democratic Party) and Priit Sibul (Isamaa) took the floor.
Kivimägi said that the Reform Party Faction voted against the Act because of the amendments to the provisions concerning aliens, restrictions on foreign labour, and the Bankruptcy Act. He added that the Act included a number of amendments that had nothing to do with the emergency situation.
Pikhof said that there had been an evident wish to speed up the legislative proceeding of practical topics necessary for resolving the emergency situation but also to sneak in provisions that had nothing to do with resolving the emergency situation and that would require a more profound concentration and parliamentary debate. On the other hand, Pikhof expressed her satisfaction that the proposed amendments in the Emergency Act concerning the processing of personal data in the emergency situation and the processing of the data in databases had been omitted from the Act.
Sibul called the Act exceptional because it introduced amendments into more than 30 Acts. He admitted that the Act was not ideal from the legal technical point of view but that this was because of the lack of time caused by the emergency situation. After the many compromises made in it, Sibul declared Isamaa willing to support the passing of the Act.
One Bill passed the second reading in the Riigikogu.
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Rural Development and Agricultural Market Regulation Act and the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act (124 SE), initiated by the Government, is to provide a legal basis for applying a ceiling to the agricultural de minimis aid in Estonia.
The Bill will allow Estonian farmers to obtain agricultural de minims aid to the maximum extent permitted by the European Union law, i.e. EUR 25,000 instead of the current EUR 20,000. It would also allow the Estonian state to use the maximum possible total amount of agricultural de minimis aid, i.e. EUR 13.7 million instead of the current EUR 11.4 million per three fiscal years.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas replied to the interpellation concerning the future of Ida-Viru County, submitted by members of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, Lauri Läänemets, Ivari Padar, Helmen Kütt, Indrek Saar, Heljo Pikhof, Jaak Juske, Riina Sikkut, Jevgeni Ossinovski, and Katri Raik.
The interpellators inquired about Estonia’s immediate climate goals, and the construction schedule of the new Eesti Energia oil plant. They also asked whether the proposal for the Just Transition Mechanism sent by the European Commission to the Member States for their positions confines eligibility for aid to Ida-Viru County or extends it to the whole Estonia.
Prime Minister Ratas ensured the interpellators that Ida-Viru County was very important for the Government. Concerning climate goals, Ratas said that Estonia had set itself the goal of reducing greenhouse gases 70% by 2030 compared to 1990, which means that by 2030 Estonia’s greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced to the level of 12 million tonnes per CO2 equivalent.
Regarding the new oil plant, the head of government said that the Government had authorised the Minister of Finance to increase Eesti Energia’s equity capital with a monetary contribution of EUR 125 million on 27 March. This would allow Eesti Energia to build the new Enefit 280 oil plant, which should be completed in 2024 if all goes as planned.
Regarding the Just Transition Mechanism, Ratas said that the European Commission proposal currently defines only Ida-Viru County as an eligible region. However, during the negotiations, Estonia would strongly advocate in favour of supporting Just Transition activities also outside the Just Transition region in justified cases, if this contributes to the transition of the concerned region.
During the debate, Mihhail Stalnuhhin (Centre Party), Katri Raik (Social Democratic Party), Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party), and Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform Party) took the floor to speak about the future of Ida-Viru County.
During the open microphone, Jevgeni Ossinovski took the floor.
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.)
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