Today, the Riigikogu passed six Acts.
The Act on Amendments to the Water Act and Associated Acts (905 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 67 votes in favour. The amendments transpose the European Union Directives on marine environmental policy and the framework for action in the field of marine environmental policy concerning maintaining of good environmental status of marine areas, ship-source pollution and the introduction of penalties for ship-source pollution offences. The amendment to the Building Act concerns the processing of the applications for a permit for the special use of water necessary for construction of structures permanently attached to the shore in public bodies of water and the issuing of permits for the special use of water which will fall within the competence of the Environmental Board. The amendment introduced to the Nature Conservation Act creates the possibility to drive all terrain vehicles and motor vehicles outside of roads and paths prescribed for such purposes, for gathering reed and collecting seaweeds in the limited management zones of shores and banks.
The National Library of Estonia Act (863 SE), initiated by the Cultural Affairs Committee, the purpose of which is to specify and improve the provisions concerning the functions, the composition of the Supervisory Board, the organisation of the work and the Director General of the National Library, and to update the structure of the Act, was passed with 69 votes in favour. The National Library of Estonia Act which is currently in force was passed on 19 March 1998 and it has been amended for six times. This Act which enters into force on 1 April 2011 repeals the Act which is currently in force.
The Act on Amendments to the Electronic Communications Act and the State Fees Act (855 SE), initiated by the Government, the main aim of which is to bring the Acts into conformity with the amendments package of 2009 of the internal market for electronic communications which amends the rules for the internal market for electronic communications dating from 2002, was passed with 66 votes in favour. Among other things, it provides the right of the Competition Board to disclose the number of the customers of the communications services provided by communications undertakings and the market shares of undertakings on the basis of the number of customers. With some exceptions in regard to certain provisions, this Act enters into force on 25 May 2011.
The Act on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act and the Taxation Act (912 SE), initiated by the Government, the purpose of which is to provide transition from the labour-consuming practice of approving of the calculations of environmental charges to declaration of environmental charges and thereby to ensure better administration of environmental charges, was passed with 66 votes in favour. Under the regulation which is created, persons will be required to pay the environmental charge on the basis of the data declared by them. In the future, the Environmental Board will no longer check the calculation of each payment separately and issue a payment notice for every calculation; instead, it will carry out random follow up checks. The Act enters into force on 1 April 2011, clause 1 2) enters into force on 1 July 2011 and clause 1 17) enters into force on 1 January 2012.
The Act on Amendments to the Waste Act, the Traffic Act, the Maritime Safety Act, the Heavy Goods Vehicle Act, the State Fees Act and the Roads Act arising from Reorganisation of the Road Administration and its Local Offices (892 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 66 votes in favour. Amendments are introduced to these Acts in connection with the merger of the Road Administration and local offices of the Road Administration as of 1 January 2011. As the result of the reorganisation, the Eastern Regional Road Administration, the Southern Regional Road Administration, the Western Regional Road Administration and the Northern Regional Road Administration were merged with the Road Administration. In these Acts, they are correspondingly renamed the Road Administration. As the Act essentially only amends the names of the agencies then the Act has an impact mainly in terms of legal clarity and is also reflected in the relevant legislation issued by the minister. The Act enters into force on the date following the date of publication in the Riigi Teataja.
The Act on Amendments to the Liquid Fuel Act and the Value Added Tax Act (895 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, the purpose of which is to organise the fuel market and to prevent value added tax evasion, was passed with 54 votes in favour. The Act provides the amounts of security for all sellers of fuel: on the release for consumption of fuel, the security of a seller of fuel is 1 000 000 euro, and the security of a seller of the fuel already released for consumption is 100 000 euro. The Tax and Customs Board requires securities in order to prevent emergence of fake enterprises and to improve receipt of the value added tax. At the same time, the Tax and Customs Board has the right, on the basis of the risk assessment, to also require a greater security from the seller of fuel, considering the potential value added tax liability, and to reduce it in the case of enterprises which have operated impeccably. As, on release for consumption of fuel, value added tax has to be paid on the total value of the fuel (in other stages, this has to be done only on the added value of the fuel), the potential damage to the state is the greatest on release for consumption of fuel, in the opinion of the initiator. Therefore, a significantly greater security is applied to the seller of fuel on release for consumption of fuel on and it will be possible to reduce it only starting from 2013. The security is not applied to a seller of fuel who handles only aviation fuels or liquefied gas. The initiator stated that the fuel market has reached a situation where even a person who lacks the infrastructure and staff necessary therefor and who can present the required share capital or a liability insurance contract only at the moment of application for registration can register as a seller of fuel. The Act enters into force on 1 April 2011.
The second reading of six Bills was concluded.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Maintenance of Law and Order Bill (49 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The essence of the Bill is to define the concept of “public order” in the legal order of Estonia, to create a coordinated system of prevention and combating of threats to public order and of elimination of violations of order at the level of bodies responsible for maintenance of law and order and individuals, to define other basic concepts of the field and to provide uniform general principles of exercise of state supervision. At the same time, this Bill concerns the general and special measures of state supervision which include, among other things, the measures concerning collection of information for the purposes of state supervision and ensuring order at public gatherings. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Public Information Act and the Police and Border Guard Act (891 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to specify unregulated legal relations and the provisions that are insufficiently regulated, in connection with the establishing of the Police and Border Guard Administration. The Bill specifies the Public Information Act with a provision according to which the information concerning the weapons used by the police is classified as information intended for internal use. The Police and Border Guard Act is amended with specifications which regulate the detention of persons, the entry of the police into a fenced or marked immovable without the consent of the possessor thereof, physical examination of persons by police officers, the use of the alcoholometer, the stopping of vehicles, handing over of an intoxicated minor to his or her parents, etc. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Cemeteries Bill (888 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to resolve the vague and unregulated situation where there is no legal regulation which would ensure uniformity and consistency in the establishing and administration of cemeteries. Thus, the Act establishes the requirements for burying the body of a person or the remains of a dead person to a cemetery or cremation thereof and regulates the establishing, management and use of a cemetery and the closing of a cemetery for burials. It also establishes the requirements for storing and transportation of the deceased. The Bill resolves the vague situation where the maintenance of cemeteries and burial customs depend on the preference of the user of the cemetery or the administrator. The Bill helps to harmonise the activities of cemeteries in different local governments. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Constitutional Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act in connection with Reorganisation of Estonian Informatics Centre into Estonian Informatics Board (916 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to reorganise the Estonian Informatics Centre into the Estonian Informatics Board. The planned date of reorganisation is 1 June 2011. The new agency will be in the area of government of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and it will be created through reorganisation of the Estonian Informatics Centre. The purpose of the new agency will be to exercise state supervision over compliance with the security requirements set for information systems belonging to the state information system and ensuring vital services and over compliance with Acts upon taking into use of a database and administration of a database. It will also be the function of the agency to develop a system of security measures of the information systems, the data exchange layer of the information systems and the administrative system of state information systems and to organise the development of the state information system as a whole. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Environmental Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Act (927 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to eliminate the three deficiencies pointed out in the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Act by the European Commission and at the same time to terminate the infringement procedure No 2008/2292 which states that the relevant Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning integrated pollution prevention and control has not been correctly transposed into the Estonian legal system. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Cultural Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Research and Development Organisation Act (864 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Bill changes the system of financing of the research and development activities and establishes the Estonian Research Agency the functions of which will include organisation and carrying out of the assessment of applications for research grants, allocation of personal research grants, as well as analysing of the effectiveness and impact of research grants. As it is, the term of authority of the Scientific Competence Council will end on 28 February 2012. The membership of a research and development institution is determined such that it will involve the participation of support staff which is necessary in the realisation of every research topic while the current system provides no means for financing such staff. One of the most important aims is to increase the effectiveness of Doctoral study: Doctoral candidates will be granted social guarantees equal to those of employees and the career system of researchers will be rearranged. For this purpose, the position of junior research fellow is provided mainly to involve Doctoral candidates in research work, the regulation concerning research professor is improved at the level of a relevant Regulation, the definition of post-doctoral researcher is regulated at the level of the Act and several other amendments are made. These amendments should increase the number of students who make it to defend their Doctoral thesis. The Estonian Green Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of this Bill; 7 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour and 36 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported and the Bill was sent to the third reading.
The first reading of two Bills was concluded.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Law of Property Act and the Law of Obligations Act (878 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to lower the VAT on medicines and to allow old age pensioners and 4–16 year old children 90 % discount on all medicines from the list of medicinal products of the Health Insurance Fund, and thus improve their accessibility and the population health.
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the State Fees Act (889 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to improve legal protection and exercise of rights by reducing the state fees set out in civil court proceedings.
One Bill was rejected at the first reading.
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the Bill on Amendments to the Gambling Tax Act (859 SE), initiated by the Estonian Green Party Faction, was rejected at the first reading. 29 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Bill and 6 against it, which means that the Bill was withdrawn from legislative proceeding.
The Minister of Justice Rein Lang gave a report of the actions taken in 2009 to implement the development objectives of criminal policy until 2018. The new development objectives were approved in June 2010 and they determine the objectives and activities of the state in ensuring security within society. Lang drew attention to the standstill in the proceeding of the Anti-corruption Act in the Constitutional Committee. This Act would contribute to increased transparency of the public sector through a regulation for avoiding conflicts of interests and through a system for declaring economic interests. According to Lang, the number of registered crimes has remained at the 2009 level. Thefts and violent crimes warrant closer attention: the number of thefts increased by 6 %, while that of violent crimes decreased. At the same time, Lang deplores the tendency of victims not to involve the police in cases of violence: the last data show this rate to be up at 77 %. ”Of new crimes, identity thefts are reported to the police the most often, with 55 cases registered in 2010,“ the Minister said.
„A focal point in the new objectives is the prevention of crimes related to minors. Among other steps, we have set ourselves the priority objective of speeding up the detection of crimes and criminal proceeding. In 2010, the pre-trial proceedings of juvenile criminal cases took half the time they took in 2008,” Lang said.
The number of prisoners decreased by 4 %. According to Lang, a prison sentence is not something a court gives without thorough consideration and prosecutors do not demand imprisonment lightly. Only one third of the prisoners are first time offenders, while most are persistent repeat offenders. This said, the objective of the Ministry of Justice is not to reduce the number of convicted offenders, but the number of people held in custody.
Lang also touched on the international cooperation in solving crimes and protecting victims, the State Liability Act, the amendments to the Prosecutor’s Office Act, the activities of the Institute of Forensic Services, the revision of penal law and the victim study.
For more details, read the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):
The Riigikogu Press Service
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