The Riigikogu passed four Acts and a Resolution:
The Act on Amendments to the Aliens Act and Other Acts (183 SE), initiated by the Government, which amends the provisions concerning importation of labour force, was passed with 67 votes in favour. The Act increases the immigration quota to 0.1 per cent of the permanent population of Estonia instead of 0.05 per cent, which will allow an estimated import of up to 1300 specialists annually. Employers will be obliged to pay the salary which is at least equal to the average annual wages in Estonia multiplied by the factor 1.24 to employees recruited from outside of Estonia. The Act cuts the period of searching established for the Labour Market Board down to three weeks instead of two months and prescribes fingerprinting of applicants for visa and applicants for extension of the period of stay. The specified requirement derives from the corresponding Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council.
The Act on Amendments to the Eesti Pank Act (182 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, which repeals the specific requirement of higher education for the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Eesti Pank or the Governor of Eesti Pank, was passed with 67 votes in favour. The Act grants the right to Eesti Pank to classify its documents for internal use only. According to the Act, Eesti Pank may classify information the disclosure of which would damage price stability and financial stability as information intended for internal use. This also applies to information to which a restriction on access has been established in the European System of Central Banks. As regards appointing of auditors, the Act provides that the Supervisory Board of Eesti Pank shall appoint independent auditors recommended by the Governing Council of the European Central Bank and approved by the Council of the European Union to monitor Eesti Pank’s activities.
The Act on Amendments to the Land Tax Act (161 SE), initiated by the Government, which specifies the rates of land tax on various protected areas, was passed with 69 votes in favour (1 vote against). The Act preserves only one rate – 50 per cent of land tax rate – in order to avoid the situation where different advantageous rates have been set for equivalent nature conservation areas. Nature conservation areas formerly taxed at the rate of 25 per cent of land tax rate will be exempt from land tax.
The Advertising Act (135 SE), initiated by the Government, which sets out tightened requirements for alcohol advertisements, was passed with 42 votes in favour (28 votes against). After the entry into force of the Act, alcohol advertisements must contain a warning text: “Attention! This is alcohol. Alcohol may damage your health.” The Act specifies requirements for express loan advertisements concerning loans of less than 10 000 kroons or loans with the term of repayment of up to six months. The Act provides that the annual percentage rate of charge is to be stated.
The Riigikogu heard the report on the railway policy of the state by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts. In the conclusion of his report, Parts noted that acquisition of the shares of Estonian Railways Ltd had been one of the most significant decisions of the state in recent years. However, this has been followed by a dramatic decrease in the volume of carriage of goods on Estonian railways, the profitability of the enterprise and, consequently, the value of the shares held by the state. Even so, financial means must be found for overcoming the problems awaiting solution in the railway sphere. Here, Parts was referring in particular to passenger train traffic. “The volume of the rail transport services for passengers available in Estonia will to a large extent be determined by the strategy for the next state budget and the decisions which will be made in the preparation of state budgets for following years,” the Minister said. Jürgen Ligi and Kalev Kallo also took the floor in the debate over the railway policy of the state.
The Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendments to the railway sphere of “Transport Development Plan for the Years 2006-2013”” (163 OE), submitted by the Government, which approved amendments to the railway sphere of “Transport Development Plan for the Years 2006-2013”, was passed with 39 votes in favour. A reference to the restructuring plan contained in the business plan of the Estonian Railways is also included. According to the plan, the enterprise will be split into three independent companies in the beginning of 2009, that is, the Estonian Railways Ltd and two subsidiary companies, one of which is going to engage in the management of infrastructures, and the other, in carriage of goods. The description of the situation has been updated in paragraphs concerning transit in Chapter 1. The East-West transit volumes pertaining to Russia were steadily growing at the time of preparing the development plan. However, these volumes saw a significant decrease in 2007 and forecasts concerning transit volumes have been revised.
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Land Improvement Act and Associated Acts (189 SE), initiated by the Government. The purpose of the Bill is to eliminate deficiencies which have become apparent after the entry into force of the Land Improvement Act on 1 July 2003. Maintenance of large land improvement systems being possible only through joint activities, the Bill provides a specified regulation concerning land improvement associations. The bases for determining land improvement systems and the requirements concerning the data to be entered in the register of land improvement systems are also specified in the Bill. Amendments to the Planning Act provide the obligation of indicating land improvement systems in county and rural municipality comprehensive plans.
At Question Time, Minister Urve Palo answered questions about family and population policy. The Minister of Regional Affairs Siim-Valmar Kiisler answered questions about regional development and regional policy. The Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder answered the question about labelling food products.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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