At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu passed the Statement of the Riigikogu “On Historical Memory and Falsification of History”, submitted by 73 members of the Riigikogu. Four Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu.
72 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Statement of the Riigikogu “On Historical Memory and Falsification of History” (140 AE) and one voted against.
The Statement of the Riigikogu is motivated by the provocative statements by the authorities of the Russian Federation relating to the outbreak of World War II, their falsification of historical facts in the interests of their super nation ideology, and the aggressive media campaigns organised for that purpose. By justifying the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols, the Russian Federation is gaining ground to continue its aggressive foreign policy towards its neighbouring countries and the whole Western world.
The Statement of the Riigikogu condemns the attempts of the authorities of the Russian Federation at rewriting history and at justifying the Treaty of Non-Aggression and its secret protocols concluded between the Communist Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany ahead of World War II. At the same time, they are trying to show the Western countries, in particular Poland who had been divided between the two aggressors by a secret protocol to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, as the main culprits in the outbreak of the war.
The Statement of the Riigikogu calls on the Government of the Republic to support the preservation of authentic historical memory, and emphasises that topics discussing the crimes of totalitarian regimes and the threats that have endangered democracy need to be included in the study programmes of Estonian schools.
The Statement recalls the Statement of the Riigikogu approved on 14 February 2012 which condemned the repressive politics of the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany, and the activities of the persons who have committed crimes against humanity in the service of these regimes, regardless of their citizenship and the location of commission of the crime.
Four Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Auditors Activities Act, the Financial Crisis Prevention and Resolution Act and Other Acts (reform of punishments for misdemeanours in the financial sector, sanctions arising from EU law) (111 SE), initiated by the Government, will bring the upper limits of sanctions in the financial sector in line with EU law. The Bill will amend the upper limits for the fines in the financial sector and the bases for calculating thereof. The Bill is connected with the Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (94 SE) which is in the legislative proceedings of the Riigikogu which will create the basis for providing for higher-rate sanctions. Under the current law, in most cases it is possible to impose a fine of up to 32 000 euro, and in certain cases up to 400 000 euro on a financial institution, and up to 300 fine units (1200 euro) on a natural person. Today’s upper limits for fines fail to fulfil the objectives provided for in EU law.
The Bill will raise the upper limit of a fine for a misdemeanour (up to five million euro in most cases), imposed on both natural and legal persons. It will also be possible to impose a fine of up to 10 per cent of the turnover of the legal entity or its consolidation group, or a fine of up to twice or three times the amount of the profits gained or losses avoided because of the infringement. For example, the upper limit for the fine imposed for failure by a bank to submit information to the Financial Supervision Authority will increase from 32,000 euro to 5 million. Also, in the event of a breach of the requirements established for the rules of procedure and internal control rules in the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act, the upper limit for the fine will increase from 400 000 euro to 1 million (in the case when the entity is not subject to supervision by the Financial Supervision Authority, e.g. a pawnbroker or a provider of a virtual currency wallet service) or five million (in the case when the person is subject to supervision by the Financial Supervision Authority).
In certain cases, however, the EU law also provides for even greater sanctions. For example, the Bill provides for a fine of up to 10 million euro (up to 32 000 under the current law) for an issuer who is in breach of the obligation to provide information relating to voting rights and alteration of the amount of capital. Even a fine of up to 20 million (up to 400,000 euro under the current law) will be provided for infringement of the requirements of the EU Regulation on improving securities settlement and on central securities depositories.
In addition, the limitation period for misdemeanours will be set at three years in the special Acts on the financial sector. The general limitation period for misdemeanours is two years, but the Penal Code also allows to prescribe a three-year limitation period. The general limitation period is insufficient for carrying out proceedings due to the complexity of misdemeanours committed in the financial sector.
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, will provide the possibility for Estonian farmers to obtain agricultural de minims aid to the maximum extent permissible by European Union law, that is, 25 000 euro instead of the current 20 000 euro. The aim is also that the Estonian state would be able to use the maximum possible total amount of agricultural de minimis aid, that is, 13.7 million euro instead of the current 11.4 million euro per three fiscal years. It will be possible for undertakings to check the outstanding balance of de minimis aid against the state aid and de minimis aid register that is accessible on the website of the Ministry of Finance.
The explanatory memorandum notes that, due to its relatively simple rules, agricultural de minimis aid is often the most appropriate legal option in granting aid for example in situations where the EU’s state aid rules provide for no possibilities to grant aid or it is administratively too complex or costly to apply payment of the aid as state aid. The main limitation in the case of de minimis aid is that the granting of aid is connected with the ceiling up to which a farmer may be supported which is determined by EU law. In addition, a ceiling has also been laid down for the total amount of agricultural de minimis aid granted to a Member State.
In March 2019, the EU Regulation on agricultural de minimis aid entered into force, as a result of which the agricultural de minimis aid ceiling per undertaking increased from the earlier 15,000 euro to 20,000 euro, and the ceiling laid down for the Estonian state increased from the earlier 8 110 000 euro to 11 375 375 euro. Both of these are the ceilings for three years. These higher rates entered into force as directly applicable on the basis of EU law.
However, the EU Regulation gives the Member States an additional opportunity to further increase the ceiling for undertakings and the national cap – the ceiling for undertakings to 25,000 euro and the national cap to 13 650 450 euro per three years. In European Union law, the application of these higher limits has however been left for the Member States to be decided, and the application brings about two additional obligations for the Member States. First, as a new requirement, it will have to be monitored that the amount of aid granted to a products sector would not exceed a half of the national cap, that is, a product sector cap will apply. Second, it will have to be ensured that account on all the ceilings is kept in a national central register.
Under the Bill on Amendments to the Liquid Fuel Stocks Act (133 SE), initiated by the Government, in the future, during the first six months of a calendar year, the compulsory liquid fuel stocks will be calculated on the basis of the data for the last year but one before the calendar year in question. Earlier, such calculation method could be applied only during the first three months of a calendar year. As a general rule, the compulsory liquid fuel stocks are calculated on the basis of the quantities imported or consumed during the previous calendar year. In addition, references to European Union law will be specified in the Act. The Bill will transpose a European Commission implementing directive.
The Bill on Amendments to the Courts Act and the Prosecutor’s Office Act (134 SE), initiated by the Government. The amendment is necessary in order that Estonia could participate in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). The amendments mainly concern the legal status of the Estonian prosecutors working for the EPPO and the extent to which the Prosecutor’s Office Act is applied while they work for the EPPO.
Amendments will be made to the Courts Act so that it would be possible for judges to stand as candidates for the positions of European Prosecutors and European Delegated Prosecutors. The amendments proceed from the current principle according to which the authority and service relationship of a judge are suspended when the judge assumes office as a judge at an international court institution or a post equivalent thereto.
The status of the European Prosecutors and the European Delegated Prosecutors, and the extent to which Estonian law will be applied to such persons, will be provided for in the Prosecutor’s Office Act. The European Prosecutors will not be included in the Estonian prosecutor service because they must be independent in the performance of their duties. Differently from the European Prosecutors, the Delegated Prosecutors must be members of the national prosecutor’s office in order that they could perform their duties equivalently to national prosecutors, and they must have all the powers of national prosecutors. The term of office of the European Prosecutors is six years and it can be extended only once for three years at the end of the six-year period. The term of office of the Delegated Prosecutors is five years and it can be extended repeatedly.
The EPPO is established with the aim of ensuring more efficient proceedings on criminal offences affecting the financial interests of the Union, and ensuring that criminal proceedings are not affected by the departmental or political interests or goals of a Member State. 22 Member States have officially joined the EPPO by now. The European Commission has promised that the EPPO will start operating at the end of 2020.
The EPPO consists of a “central level” with a seat in Luxembourg, and a local level located in the participating Member States. The central level is comprised of the European Chief Prosecutor and the European Prosecutors. The local level is comprised of European Delegated Prosecutors (at least two in each participating Member State) who are based in their own Member States and manage criminal proceedings there and represent prosecution in the court of the Member State.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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