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The Riigikogu passed four Acts:

The State Budget of the Year 2008 Act (122 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 55 votes in favour (1 against, 4 abstentions). The Chairman of the Finance Committee Jürgen Ligi said in the overview of the proceeding that, in contrast to the earlier readings, the forecast of real economic growth had been modified, it having decreased to 5.2 per cent. „This is mainly due to slowing down of the growth of private consumption and investments but the nominal rate of economic growth has remained approximately 14 per cent and the forecasts of the Ministry of Finance see no need for a change in the forecast for the state budget tax revenues. “Such is their estimated change in the GDP structure,” Ligi explained. The surplus of the budget remains equal to 1.3 per cent of the GDP. The revenue of the state budget is 96.3 billion and the expenditure is 93.6 billion kroons. Pensions with 17.7 billion and health insurance with 13 billion constitute the largest part of expenditure in the budget. Additional expenses relating to pensions are 2.6 billion. These are payments to the pillar II pension by the state. 4.3 billion is assigned to agricultural and fisheries support and 3.6 billion for maintenance of state roads; education expenditure for local governments amounts to 3.3 billion which includes the salaries of teachers. Family allowances and parental benefit, both amounting to circa 2 billion kroons, also account for the more sizeable part of social expenditure. The surplus of the state budget is 2.7 billion kroons which will be assigned to the reserve fund.

Toomas Varek, Tarmo Mänd, Toomas Trapido, Eiki Nestor, Mart Laar, Keit Pentus and the Minister of Finance Ivari Padar took the floor in the debate in the course of the third reading.

The Prosecutor’s Office Act Amendment Act (104 SE), initiated by the Government, which harmonises the requirements for education and conditions for prosecutors with the requirements for judges and assistant judges and liberal legal professions, was passed with 66 votes in favour (3 against, 1 abstention). The Act amends the procedure for appointing of public prosecutors. Public prosecutors are appointed to office without public competition, as is the case with the Chief Public Prosecutor, the leading public prosecutors and senior prosecutors. According to the Act, a public prosecutor is appointed to office by the Minister of Justice on the proposal of the Chief Public Prosecutor.

The State Family Benefits Act Amendment Act (136 SE), initiated by the Government, which prescribes support for children under guardianship or foster care by raising the benefit to such children to 3000 kroons, instead of the current amount of 1500 kroons, was passed with 67 votes in favour. The Act enhances the possibilities for children without parental care to be raised in families and ensures a family centred raising environment for them.

The Holidays Act Amendment Act (145 SE), initiated by the Government, which provides the possibility for a father to use the holiday of ten working days during his wife’s maternity leave or within two months following the birth of the child, was passed with 76 votes in favour.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of five Bills:

The Bill on Amendments to the Veterinary Activities Organisation Act and Associated Acts (147 SE), initiated by the Government, which will bring the Act into conformity with the corresponding Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council. The major amendments concern veterinary supervision fees. The principles for calculating the fees will change, as well as the rates which will rise by half or more depending on the area of handling because the specified Regulation will no longer allow the use of reduction of the rates of fees starting from 1 January 2008. Another significant amendment is connected with reorganisations in the activities of veterinary laboratories and transfer from veterinary laboratory activity licences to the procedure of granting of authority.

The Bill on Amendments to the Weapons Act and the State Fees Act (97 SE), initiated by the Government, which regulates the state fee rates for weapons-related acts such that they correspond to actual costs incurred by the state. Certain disproportionately high state fees for weapons-related acts are decreased by the Bill. Special permits for importing and exporting, or pre-permits and permits for transmitting weapons or ammunition will be issued and registered by the Police Board, instead of the Personal Protection Service.

The Bill on Amendments to the State Fees Act, the Land Valuation Act and the Land Cadastre Act (154 SE), initiated by the Government, which brings the charging of fees for visa invitations into conformity with the Schengen acquis. In comparison to the current rates, the fees charged for review of visa applications will increase by 395–630 kroons. The current fee exemption for persons of 6 to 18 years of age is abolished, except for pupils and students travelling for study purposes. As of the accession to the Schengen visa area, only the visa applications of children of less than 6 years of age may be processed without charging a fee. Estonia is going to accede to the Schengen visa area on 21 December 2007.

The Bill on Amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act (137 SE), initiated by the Government, which updates the regulation relating to money laundering and terrorism prevention and takes account of the changes brought along by the rapid technological development and the transfer of criminal transactions to the high-speed global cyberspace.

The Decorations Act Bill (134 SE), initiated by the Government, which aims at simplification of the organisation of bestowal of decorations. The Committee on Decorations is liquidated and the right to make proposals is extended to everyone, including institutions, without any quota being established. The restriction on access to proposals for a specified term is established. The Office of the President of the Republic will be responsible for organising the administrative issues relating to decorations. The regulation of withdrawal of decorations and applying for the miniature of a decoration and an additional rosette badge is added. The Bill harmonises the descriptions and establishes the reference standards for decorations. Pursuant to the Bill, the Collar of the Order of the National Coat of Arms is going to be bestowed on the President of the Republic in the future.

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the Rescue Service Act Bill (164 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill regulates the legal status of rescue service workers and the organisation of work in rescuing. Among other things, the Bill provides a definition of rescue service workers, dividing them into rescue service workers engaging in management and rescue service workers directly performing rescue work. The Bill grants the right to retire in expectation of old-age pension up to three years before attaining the pensionable age to rescue service workers. The Rescue Board will pay a benefit to rescue service workers during that period in the amount equal to the amount of their old-age pension. Rescue service workers with the length of service in rescue service of at least 15 years would be entitled to such benefit. Another significant amendment is the proposal to bring the working time of rescue service workers into compliance with the Working and Rest Time Act and, in consequence, to replace 24-hour shifts by 12-hour shifts.

At Question Time, the Minister of Finance Ivari Padar answered questions about the effects of the changes in economic growth forecasts, economic growth and tax incentives for citizens’ associations. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet answered questions about Russia – Estonia relations, foreign co-operation and international human rights. The Minister of Justice Rein Lang answered questions about access to legal services and equal treatment.

The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) is available at: https://www.riigikogu.ee/?op=steno

The Riigikogu Press Service