At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu approved the Land Improvement Act which comprehensively updates the regulation of land improvement.
Land improvement consists of the building of new land improvement systems and the maintenance of the existing ones. As a result of the implementation of the regulation, the ability of the land improvement systems to function will improve first of all. If land improvement systems did not function, 50 per cent of Estonian land zoned for agricultural and forestry use would be waterlogged and the use thereof would be complicated. In order to ensure the functioning of land improvement systems, a protection zone for artificial recipient is provided for. No plantation, high vegetation or permanent boundary fence must be created, and access to the artificial recipient and the civil engineering work thereof must not be obstructed in a protection zone. Also, no other construction work must be built there without the approval or permission of the Agricultural Board.
Significant amendments introduced by the Act concern the qualifications and responsibility of the authorised specialist of an undertaking that operates in the field of land improvement. An obligation to participate in in-service training every five years is established for them. In the Act that was in force before, the role of the authorised specialist is more to advise the undertaking. The new Act provides that the specialist does and inspects, or directs and assumes responsibility for what is done. An authorised specialist must not be employed at several undertakings if his or her workload does not enable him or her to perform employment duties according to requirements. According to expectations, these amendments will improve the quality of building design documentation.
The Act amends the regulation of the management of land improvement systems as well as the land improvement association, according to which land improvement associations are no longer non-profit associations but legal persons governed by private law.
In the course of the proceedings on the Act, the principles for founding a land improvement association were also amended.
79 members of the Riigikogu voted for the passage of the Land Improvement Act (524 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic.
The Riigikogu passed another Act:
The Act on Amendments to the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act and Amendments to Other Acts arising therefrom (594 SE), initiated by the Government, organises the structure of the Defence Forces, and the activities of the Defence Forces are made more flexible in order to allow for quicker response to new tasks.
The current regulation does not allow for the structure of the Defence Forces to be changed operatively and flexibly. In the future, the structure of the Defence Forces, and the names of the structural units and the functions thereof will be established at the level of the statutes similarly to other government authorities. The functions and the rights and obligations of the Defence Forces remain regulated at the level of Act.
The obligation of the Government to establish the standard sizes and structure of military units, the names of their subunits and their categorisation according to armed services and branches, as well as the division of military units into high readiness units, rapid reaction units and reaction units, are omitted from the Act. This gives the Commander of the Defence Forces a larger activity space in the organisation of the performance of the functions of the military units. The official titles of the commanders of the structural units of the Defence Forces are also omitted from the Military Service Act. There is a reference to the effect that there are positions that are appointed by the Government or the minister responsible for the area. The Act that was passed concerns only the appointment of the Commander of the Defence Forces.
According to a proposed amendment to the statutes of the Defence Forces, no new positions appointed by the Government are established, but the Government is reserved the possibility to provide them. The Minister of Defence appoints the Deputy Commander of the Defence Forces, the Chief of Staff of the Estonian Defence Forces, the Commander of the Navy, the Commander of the Air Force, the Commander of the Special Operations Command, the Commander of the Military Intelligence Centre, and the Commander of the Support Command. The draft statutes are intended to give the Minister of Defence the right to appoint the Commander of the Cyber Command and the Commander of the Military Police.
The Act provides for the possibility to involve reservists in international military operations in order to increase the capacity of the Defence Forces to respond more quickly to immediate threats.
The Act also provides for the punishments for misdemeanour for the use of an unmanned vehicle in the military zone of the Defence Forces, and for photographing or recording without prior permission. The objects of the Defence Forces where the recording or forwarding pictures or images is prohibited are marked with prohibition signs, as a general rule, or a reminder is given upon the entry into the object. The Act also amends the rules for sending active servicemen on long-term secondments.
During the proceedings, seven motions to amend were submitted. As a major amendment, § 12 “Organisation of Defence Forces” of the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act is amended by adding four new subsections that specify the organisation of the Defence Forces. Under the amendment, task units may also be formed in the Defence Forces in addition to the units specified in the statutes. They can be formed on the basis of both regular structural units and wartime units. The Commander of the Defence Forces establishes the procedure for the formation of the task units of the Defence Forces.
81 members of the Riigikogu voted for the passage of the Act.
Two Bills passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Public Holidays and Days of National Importance Act (591 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, the Estonian Reform Party Faction, the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, the Social Democratic Party Faction, the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction and the Estonian Free Party Faction, aims to establish 1 October as the Local Government Day.
The new day of national importance is intended to value more the role of local governments in the establishment, restoration and development of the Estonian state. The day of national importance will also provide an opportunity to introduce more the activities of local governments, and to better involve society in the resolution of the challenges facing local governments.
Igor Gräzin from the Reform Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Occupational Health Care and Safety Act and the Collective Agreements Act (581 SE), initiated by the Government, will facilitate the creation of a safe working environment and the prevention of damage to the health of employees, improve the legal clarity of the current procedure, and reduce the administrative burden for employers in complying with occupational health and safety requirements.
The explanatory memorandum notes that at present the employer must refer every employee to a medical examination in the first month of commencement of employment. It has appeared in practice that employers do not take the risk assessment of the working environment and the effect of hazards on employees as a basis when referring employees to medical examinations. Therefore employees undergo medical examinations uniformly, regardless of the degree of the risks actually affecting them.
The Bill plans to link the need for a medical examination of an employee more clearly with the risks in the working environment. In the future, an employer may refer an employee to a primary medical examination within a longer term, which means that a medical examination will be carried out during the probationary period and not in the first month of commencement of employment.
In the future, employers will have more possibilities to decide on the manner of instruction of employees, and on who carries out the instruction; for example, the instruction and training of employees, and the regulation of first aid, will be based on the needs of the enterprise.
Under the new procedure, an employee and an employer will have the possibility to agree on the payment of a contractual penalty for violation of occupational health and safety requirements. An agreement on a contractual penalty will have to set out the specific activities of the employee and the employer that are considered as violation of occupational health and safety requirements and that may involve risk to the health of the employee.
The amendments will eliminate the obligation of an employer to notify the Labour Inspectorate of the commencement of activities or of a change in the employer’s area of activity, and of the formation of a working environment council, and to submit the annual report on the activities of the working environment council every year. In addition, employers will no longer have to report to the Labour Inspectorate all minor occupational accidents, but cases where an occupational accident results in temporary incapacity for work, serious bodily injury or death. In the future, the Labour Inspectorate will not investigate occupational accidents while criminal proceedings are being conducted, in order to avoid parallel proceedings.
Three Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The aim of the Bill on Amendments to the Hunting Act and the Administrative Co-operation Act (633 SE), initiated by the Environment Committee, is to ensure that the hunting tourists who wish to hunt birds in Estonia have sufficient knowledge of the hunting rules in force in Estonia and the good hunting practice in Estonia, as a precondition for lawful behaviour. The Bill will amend the Hunting Act by adding the requirement that a person to whom a hunting certificate is issued in Estonia on the basis of a valid hunting certificate issued in a foreign state will be issued a small game hunting permit for hunting waterfowl in the case when he or she has undergone training in the field of hunting. The requirements for the training and the training provider and the volume of the training, and the procedure for conducting the training will be established by a regulation of the Minister of the Environment.
During the debate, Tarmo Kruusimäe from the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, Peeter Ernits from the Centre Party Faction, Mart Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, Külliki Kübarsepp from the Free Party Faction, Rainer Vakra from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Jürgen Ligi from the Reform Party Faction took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Radiation Act, the General Part of the Environmental Code Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (623 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the relevant EU Directive Euratom, laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation. The deadline for the transposition of the directive was 6 February.
Requirements to regulate the radon field will be added – there will be a new provision delegating authority to the Minister of the Environment to establish a reference level for indoor radon concentrations in workplaces, the procedure for radon measurements, and the obligations of the employer with regard to workplaces with a heightened radon risk. In connection with that, a relevant reference will also be added to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Labour Inspectorate will be included among the bodies exercising supervision over the Radiation Act, in addition to the Environmental Inspectorate and the Environmental Board. National reference levels for indoor radon concentrations in workplaces will be established by a Regulation. It will be required that radon measurements be carried out in workplaces within the areas with a heightened radon risk, and that notification be given of workplaces where the radon concentration continues to exceed the national reference level, despite the action taken to reduce radon risk.
As compared to the current Radiation Act, the Bill is more specific about human activities which involve the presence of natural radiation sources, and lists actions in the event of which measures (e.g. notification, protection measures, and radiation safety assessments) must be implemented to protect workers and members of the public. Such actions include, amongst others, cement production, operation of ground water filtration facilities and extraction of rare earths, where, in the course of various working processes, workers may receive greater than usual radiation doses. Members of the public may also receive radiation doses when material from activities which involve the presence of natural radiation sources is sent to reuse without a prior radiological control, for example, it is used in the production of building materials.
In the medical sector, the use of medical radiation equipment for purposes other than application of medical exposure will be added as a new issue. This may be for example radiological health assessment for employment purposes or for immigration purposes, or the use of ionising radiation for the identification of concealed objects within the human body or for detection of concealed humans as part of cargo screening. It will be taken into account that, when carrying out non-medical exposure procedures, a holder of a radiation practice licence must ensure compliance with safety requirements equivalent to those for medical exposure procedures.
In addition, smaller amendments will be made – terms will be added, existing terms will be specified, and in view of national needs, the register of radiation practice licences, radiation sources and nuclear materials will be merged with the environmental decisions information system.
The Bill on Amendments to the Atmospheric Air Protection Act (624 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose into Estonian law the EU directive on national commitments to reduce the emissions of the five main air pollutants.
The directive establishes national commitments to reduce pollutant emission for 2020 and 2030, and the requirements of the national programme for reducing emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants. The programme sets targets and measures for reducing atmospheric pollutants that are mandatory nationally. The directive covers the following pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, fine particulate matter, ammonia, and non-methane volatile organic compounds. Reduction of these substances in air pollution improves ambient air quality and brings about a positive impact upon ecosystems as well as the living and natural environment.
The directive to be transposed calls for strengthening of transnational cooperation in reducing pollutant emission. Among other things, countries will have to assess to what extent national emission sources are likely to have an impact on air quality in their territories and neighbouring countries, and describe emission reduction measures. It will also have to be ensured that the programme is coherent with other relevant plans and programmes. Up to now, countries have to a large extent been free to give content to the programme for themselves.
The directive is relatively flexible in terms of compliance with the limits, and allows countries to combine different measures according to their needs and availabilities, should there arise a risk of non-compliance with the commitments to reduce pollutant emission for some reasons. For example, as one measure, in a situation where, in a given year a country cannot comply with its emission reduction commitments due to an exceptionally cold winter, the emissions for the year in question may be reported as a three-years average to comply with those commitments. The three-year average emission is calculated on the basis of the year in question, the year preceding that year and the year following it. Upon implementation of flexibilities, the European Commission must be informed thereof.
The first national programme for reducing atmospheric pollutants will have to be provided to the European Commission by 1 April 2019, and it will have to be reviewed at least every four years.
The Riigikogu suspended the second reading of a Bill:
The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund Act and the Health Insurance Act (602 SE), initiated by the Government. 35 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 16 voted against. Thus, the second reading of the Bill was suspended.
The Bill provides for reduction of the number of the members of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund from fifteen to seven. The main aim of the amendment is to make the work of the Supervisory Board of the Health Insurance Fund more efficient. The supervisory board will include, by virtue of their office, the Minister of Health and Labour, the Minister of Finance and the Chairman of the State Budget Control Select Committee of the Riigikogu, as well as members appointed by the Government of the Republic: two members on the proposal of the Estonian Employers’ Confederation, a member on the proposal of the Estonian Trade Union Confederation and a member on the proposal of the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People.
The explanatory memorandum notes that standing advisory committees have been formed at the Supervisory Board of the Health Insurance Fund to involve representatives of the health sector in the development of health insurance and in the decision-making processes of the supervisory board. Through the advisory committees, when making decisions and forming positions, it is possible to involve the opinions of a significantly wider range of representatives of the health sector than those represented in the Supervisory Board of the Health Insurance Fund earlier.
A standing advisory committee to discuss the issues concerning the strategic development of the health insurance fund and the national health insurance was formed under the current Health Insurance Fund Act at a meeting of the Supervisory Board of the Health Insurance Fund this February. In addition, the committee on the list of health services who will give opinions on amending the list of health services will be established at the Management Board of the Health Insurance Fund under the Health Insurance Act. Starting from January 2018, the activities of the medicinal products committee have also been transferred from the Ministry of Social Affairs to the Health Insurance Fund.
The Bill will provide for additional requirements for the members of the supervisory board appointed by the Government of the Republic in order to reduce the possibilities of conflict of interest in the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.
During the debate, Helir-Valdor Seeder took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction and moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill, and Maris Lauri took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction and expressed support to the Bill.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
(NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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