At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu approved the Act which ratified the agreement between the Governments of the three Baltic countries on mutual assistance and cooperation in the field of disaster prevention, preparedness and response.
The Agreement was signed by Andres Anvelt for the Government of the Republic of Estonia, Eimutis Misiūnas for the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and Rihards Kozlovskis for the Government of the Republic of Latvia in Vilnius 23 November 2017.
The Agreement helps enhance the cooperation of the three Baltic countries in the field of rescue services in the protection of population and in crisis management with a view to increasing the security in the region. So far, agreements on cooperation and mutual assistance in disasters have been entered into between Estonia and Latvia, and Lithuania and Latvia, but there has been no agreement involving all three Baltic countries. The scope of the Agreement includes disasters in the field of rescue services which may exceed the capacity of national resources of a country and its capability to handle the disaster. The Agreement does not apply to the events of accidents occurring in sea waters under the jurisdiction of the states of the Parties.
The Agreement establishes a general procedure under which the three Baltic countries can organise cooperation in the field of rescue services in disaster. To receive assistance, the requesting Party has to issue a request for assistance indicating the scope and type of assistance requested to a point of contact. The Party, to whom the request for assistance is directed, shall promptly decide whether it is in a position to render assistance.
In the most cases, the assisting Party bears the costs related to rendering of assistance. Depending on the event and the nature of rendering assistance, competent authorities may decide that for example costs of the exploitation of equipment, costs of medical assistance, and insurance costs are reimbursed. The costs related to the use of aircraft are also divided equally between the assisting Party and the requesting Party. Under the Agreement, the personnel from the assisting Party serve in accordance with the law of their own state.
68 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act on the Ratification of the Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of Estonia, the Government of the Republic of Latvia and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on Mutual Assistance and Cooperation in the Field of Disaster Prevention, Preparedness and Response (625 SE), initiated by the Government. There were two abstentions.
The Riigikogu passed five other Acts:
The Act on Amendments to the Public Information Act (671 SE), initiated by the Government, transposes the EU directive on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies. The directive aims to make the websites, e-services and mobile applications of public sector bodies better perceivable, operable, and robust for people, including persons with disabilities.
Under the Act, the websites and mobile applications of state and local government agencies, legal persons in public law, legal persons in private law and natural persons who are holders of information must meet technical accessibility requirements that allow persons with special needs to conveniently consume the content of websites.
As an exception, the accessibility requirements do not apply to holders of information providing a media service, e.g. the Estonian Public Broadcasting, as well as schools and pre-school child care institutions, except in the case of publication of general information, including information on acceptance, location and contact details.
The Act enters into force on 1 December 2018.
68 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and eight voted against.
The Act on Amendments to the Consumer Protection Act (661 SE), initiated by the Government, implements the Geo-Blocking Regulation in Estonian law.
As a result of the amendments that the Act makes to the Consumer Protection Act, undertakings are not permitted to discriminate between customers on the basis of their nationality, place of residence or place of establishment on the European Union internal market. The aim of the Regulation is that customers would not be discriminated with regard to prices or conditions of sale or payment on the European Union internal market when they wish to purchase products or services from another Member State. The Regulation discusses retail sale of goods on the web as well as traditionally, and electronic services, such as cloud services, data warehousing services, website hosting, search engines and internet directories. If undertakings wish to direct a customer from another EU Member State to a separate website, in the future, prior consent will have to be obtained. The Geo-Blocking Regulation does not establish an obligation to deliver goods everywhere in the EU. The Regulation does not apply to media services the main feature of which is the provision of access to copyright protected works or other subject matter.
The Act designates the Consumer Protection Board as the operational and supervisory authority for the Geo-Blocking Regulation, which enters into force on 3 December, in Estonia.
72 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and eight voted against.
The Act on Amendments to the Riigi Teataja Act (659 SE), initiated by the Government, releases ministries from the obligation to draw up consolidated texts of the Regulations of ministers published in the Riigi Teataja. The function is transferred to the publisher of the Riigi Teataja, that is, the Riigi Teataja Division of the Ministry of Justice.
The amendment will allow to optimise the organisation of work of ministries. The publisher of the Riigi Teataja has the competence and technical possibilities to draw up and submit consolidated texts for publication. An additional post will be established at the Ministry of Justice. The necessary resource will be covered from the funds of the Ministry of Justice and other ministries.
Until now, the publisher of the Riigi Teataja has preserved on paper all original texts of acts submitted for publication, except for regulations of local authorities. According to the Act, the preservation of the paper print-outs of the original texts published in the Riigi Teataja is abandoned. This is not applied in the case of Acts as the most important legal acts. All original texts submitted for publication are digitally preserved in the Riigi Teataja information system.
73 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and eight voted against.
Under the Act on the Accession to the Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-Level Ozone and the Acceptance of the Amendments of 2012 to the Protocol (677 SE), initiated by the Government, Estonia wishes to accede to the Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-Level Ozone, which is known as the Gothenburg Protocol, and to accept the amendments of 2012 to the Protocol.
The objective of the Gothenburg Protocol is to reduce emissions of five pollutants: sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, volatile organic compounds that are caused by anthropogenic activities, and fine particulate matter. These pollutants cause adverse effects on human health, natural ecosystems, materials and crops, due to acidification, eutrophication or ground-level ozone as a result of long-range transboundary atmospheric transport. The Gothenburg Protocol has 27 parties, ten of whom have approved the amendments.
65 members of the Riigikogu voted for the passage of the Act.
The Act on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Estonia on the Amendment and Termination of the Agreement between the Republic of Poland and the Republic of Estonia on the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments (672 SE), initiated by the Government.
Termination of the agreement is necessary in order to ensure that investors from all EU Member States are accorded equal treatment based on European Union legislation.
The agreements for the promotion and protection of investments concern areas that are regulated by EU law – in particular the freedom of establishment and the free movement of capital and payments. Thus, protection of investments and equal treatment of investors is regulated by EU law, and there is no need for bilateral agreements between member states.
As regards European Union Member States, Estonia has entered into agreements on the protection of investments with Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Earlier, Estonia has terminated similar agreements with Italy, Czechia and Denmark.
73 members of the Riigikogu voted for the passage of the Act.
Eight Acts passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act and the Medicinal Products Act (689 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, provides for the right to exchange digital prescriptions and medical histories with the European Union Member States. A data exchange platform will mediate data from the health information system and the prescription centre to foreign countries, and from foreign countries to Estonian health care providers and pharmacies. The development and the legal space supporting it allow to ensure a better service for the patient as well as health care providers and pharmacies.
The Bill on Amendments to the Act on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Precursors thereof (640 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the EU Directive laying down the conditions for including new psychoactive substances in the definition of ‘drug’. As the requirements of the directive have been transposed into Estonian law earlier, the amendment will not affect our current situation. Estonia continues to include psychoactive substances in the schedule of narcotic drugs faster than it is done at European level. In the Act, the outdated reference to the Council Decision that has been repealed by the directive will simply have to be replaced. In addition, references to the EU legislation regulating drug precursors will be replaced and amended in the Act.
The Bill on Amendments to the Copyright Act (686 SE), initiated by the Government, is based on transposition of a European Union directive. The directive aims to ensure better access to books and other printed material for visually impaired persons. The directive allows to make, without the consent of the author and without payment of the remuneration, accessible format copies (e.g. an audio book of a book) of various works (book, journal, newspaper, magazine and other kinds of writing) for persons who are visually impaired. The EU directive is based on the Marrakesh Treaty of the World Intellectual Property Organisation which was adopted in 2013 and entered into force on 30 September 2016.
The Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act and Other Acts (662 SE), initiated by the Government, will make regulations more flexible and give ministers the possibility to delegate the performance of acts and the decision-making to officials on behalf of the authority. According to the Government of the Republic Act, the Planning Act and the Acts concerning the ownership reform, as a general rule, at present, the minister responsible for the field conducts administrative proceedings and exercises administrative supervision.
The Bill will give a minister the right to authorise a cooperation body of a local government to carry out an administrative duty of the state related to implementation of a national support programme. Under the current legislation, state authorities or, under the authorisation of a minister, state foundations have the right to perform such administrative duties. However, by their essence, several regional support programmes are better implemented at the local government level (for example, the local self-initiative programme and the sparsely populated areas programme).
With the amendment to the Land Reform Act, the minister responsible for the field will be given the right to authorise an authority of the area of government the Ministry of the Interior (the Police and Border Guard Board or the Internal Security Service) to provide a position of the Ministry of the Interior for the privatisation of border land areas.
During the second reading, the Constitutional Committee proposed to retain the requirement of higher education in law for the post of the State Secretary.
Hanno Pevkur from the Reform Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Taxation Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (675 SE), initiated by the Government, will make tax proceedings smoother and resolve problems that have arisen in practice.
According to current law and court practice, tax arrears can be collected only from a member of the management board of a company. In the future, it will be possible to collect them from the actual manager who has caused the tax arrears to the undertaking intentionally, acting behind the cover of a member of the management board entered in the commercial register.
As the current regulation may cause confusion and unnecessary disputes in defining the type of tax inspection, the concepts of tax audit and examination of individual cases will be eliminated by merging them into a single type of tax inspection. This will involve no major fundamental changes.
Besides data on tax arrears, information on other outstanding obligations of persons that have become due and that the Board is administering will be disclosed on the website of the Tax and Customs Board in the future. They are for example penalty payments, fines and tax liabilities of third parties imposed by a tax authority. At present, tax arrears in the amount of 10 euro are disclosed; in the future, tax arrears together with possible accessory obligations starting from 100 euro will be disclosed.
To make the work of the tax authority more efficient and in the interests of faster service of taxable persons, the possibility for the tax authority to issue certain administrative acts automatically will be provided for in the Act. The tax authority will perform inspection and will have the possibility to intervene as necessary. Official titles of employees, and the place of performance and extent of work will be entered into the employment register besides other data. The data are necessary for Statistics Estonia for collecting official statistics.
During the second reading, the Finance Committee made a motion to amend which would include a provision in the Heavy Goods Vehicles Tax Act under which the data submitted to the Road Administration would also be intended for the Tax and Customs Board for the exercise of supervision, and the Tax and Customs Board would be provided the right to request that the owner or possessor of a heavy goods vehicle correct the data submitted to the Road Administration if the owner or possessor has submitted false data to the traffic register and has paid less heavy goods vehicle tax than is due. According to another motion to amend, the Tax and Customs Board will no longer have to notify the Estonian Health Insurance Fund of the registration of the spouse of a self-employed person, but databases will exchange data automatically.
The Bill on Amendments to the State Budget for 2018 Act (695 SE), initiated by the Government, will change the current distribution of the state budget funds to the extent of about two per cent, but not the budget volume. Every ministry has submitted proposals concerning its area of government, where it would be necessary to direct more funds this year. 53 motions to amend the Bill have been submitted in total.
During the debate, Monika Haukanõmm from the Free Party Faction and Mihhail Stalnuhhin from the Centre Party Faction took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act (645 SE), initiated by the Government, will increase the maximum rate of the oil shale extraction charge to 10 euro per ton. During the second reading, the Environment Committee proposed not to change the principles for calculating the charge for the right to use oil shale, and not to link the oil shale resource charge to the market price of the products manufactured thereof (oil shale electricity), but to continue with the resource charge based on the oil price.
During the debate, Peeter Ernits and Rainer Vakra from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor.
Under the Bill on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act (676 SE), initiated by the Government, a new national park, Alutaguse National Park, will be established to protect the nature in the typical and rare mire landscapes, forest landscapes and coastal landscapes, and traditional culture of Eastern Estonia.
The national park to be established will be located in Ida-Viru County and it will be established on the basis of the existing protected areas. It will include Puhatu, Agusalu, Muraka and Selisoo nature conservation areas and Kurtna, Smolnitsa, Jõuga, Struuga and Mäetaguse landscape conservation areas, the special conservation area of the headwaters of the River Narva, and the protected area of Iisaku forest park. The area of the national park planned will be 43 568 ha. The whole area is already protected, and the extent of the restrictions will not increase with the establishment of the national park. State land accounts for 42 627 hectares and private land accounts for 910 hectares of the national park to be established.
With the establishment of the national park, a uniform natural and traditional culture complex will be created in the region which will combine the current protected areas with their values into a whole. The planned national park will consist of several detached plots of land which means that the regions between the existing protected areas will not be incorporated into the national park to be established.
Seven Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Medicinal Products Act (656 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction, provides for the amendment of the provisions amended by the reforms of the Medicinal Products Act of 2014 and 2015 and the provisions that have been included in the Medicinal Products Act, so that the regulation of the Medicinal Products Act would not restrict the property of the operators of pharmacies and would allow to ensure the availability of pharmacy service also in rural areas.
The aim of the Bill is to eliminate the restrictions on the ownership of pharmacies, while at the same time preserving the possibility of obligating larger operators of pharmacies to open pharmacies in rural areas in order to ensure the availability of pharmacy service all over Estonia. To support this aim and to improve the availability of pharmacy service in rural areas, according to the Bill, the activities of branch pharmacies in cities with a population of over 4,000 people will have to be terminated in June 2020.
During the debate, Marika Tuus-Laul from the Centre Party Faction, Heljo Pikhof from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Jürgen Ligi from the Reform Party Faction took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act (714 SE), initiated by the Government, will update the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act on the basis of the amendments to current Regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council. Also, the manner of notification of the implementation of the measures necessary to maintain the area of a permanent grassland eligible for climate and environmental payment will be changed, and a mistake that occurred in the course of the amendment of the Public Procurement Act will be corrected.
On the basis of the amendments to an EU Regulation, as of 2018, Member States have the possibility to abandon the additional verification whereby a person proves that he or she is an active farmer. At present, farmers who, among other things, for example, operate airports, railway services, waterworks, real estate services, permanent sport and recreational grounds, must prove additionally that they are active farmers, to receive support; in the future, no additional proof will be needed. Such persons will be considered to be active farmers. In the future, the beneficiaries of the climate and environmental payment will not be announced in the official publication “Ametlikud Teadaanded”, but information will be published on the website of the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board, and a personal notification will be sent to the beneficiary.
The Farm Animals Breeding Bill (715 SE), initiated by the Government, will implement the EU Regulation on zootechnical and genealogical conditions for the breeding, trade in and entry into the Union of purebred breeding animals, hybrid breeding pigs and the germinal products thereof.
The Bill will establish the procedure for applying for activity licences for breeding, the object of inspection of activity licence and the procedure for approval of breeding programmes, the conditions for the application of the derogations concerning the entry of animals in herd-books and registration of animals in breeding registers, and the provisions concerning the exercise of supervision over breeding.
According to the Bill, the Veterinary and Food Board will be the competent authority within the meaning of the Animal Breeding Regulation.
The Bill on Amendments to the Rural Development and Agricultural Market Regulation Act (720 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for a provision delegating authority that will give the minister responsible for the field the possibility to provide that, in the future, applications, payment applications and other documents are to be submitted only electronically via the e-service environment.
The amendment is necessary in order that in the future, if necessary, it would be possible to fully transfer to using the electronic system of the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board in respect of the supports granted under the Rural Development and Agricultural Market Regulation Act. Although it is possible to submit an application electronically already now, there is no possibility to transfer to exclusively electronic application. The purpose of the transfer to the electronic system of the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board is to simplify the submission of applications and to shorten the proceedings. The amendment does not mean that, in the future, only the electronic system of the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board will have to be used in all support measures, but it will give the minister responsible for the field the right to consider this option separately for each support measure.
In addition, the Bill will organise and specify the provision concerning the determination of the support to be granted in a budgetary year and the funds designated for granting the support.
The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (dangerous habitual criminals, criminals who are aliens) (658 SE), initiated by the Government, will enhance measures to respond to crimes committed by dangerous habitual criminals and criminals who are aliens.
The procedure for the enforcement of life imprisonment will be amended, the rights of victims will be extended, the question of the constitutionality of the minimum sanction rate provided for in subsection 141 (2) of the Penal Code will be resolved, the possibilities to address the recidivism threat arising from consumption of alcohol will be enhanced, and the regulation of the enforcement of community service will be made more flexible.
The purpose of the amendments is to reduce recidivism and thereby to increase social security.
The Bill on Amendments to the Imprisonment Act (prisoners’ access to the Internet) (680 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for allowing prisoners access to the websites of the Riigikogu and the Chancellor of Justice via computers specially adapted for that purpose and under the supervision of the prison authorities. At present, prisoners are not allowed to use the Internet, but they do have access to the official databases of legislation and the database of judicial decisions under the supervision of the prison authorities.
The amendment is due to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Romeo Kalda vs Estonia, whereby a violation of Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms was ascertained, as the prisoner had not been ensured access to the website of the Riigikogu, the website of the Chancellor of Justice and the website of the Council of Europe Information Office in Tallinn (the latter no longer exists). The amendments will ensure prisoners access to the website of the Riigikogu and the Chancellor of Justice. At the same time, access to the parts of websites that allow electronic communication will be prohibited.
The Bill will also amend the provisions concerning responding to emergencies in prisons, and the competence of the prison service in resolution of events that may endanger the security or order in the prison.
The Bill on Amendments to the Commercial Code, the Non-profit Associations Act and the State Fees Act (payment accounts) (712 SE), initiated by the Government, will facilitate investment into Estonian private limited companies by persons located abroad. Under the current legislation, Estonian non-residents have difficulties with opening bank accounts on behalf of companies in Estonia which is however a prerequisite for founding a private limited company under the ordinary procedure, under the current law.
According to the Bill, it will be possible to use an account located in a bank or payment institution established in any Contracting State of the European Economic Area upon the foundation of a private limited company in Estonia. Under the current law, only a bank account in a bank established in Estonia may be used. An account is necessary because the monetary share capital contribution must be paid to the account upon the foundation of a private limited company. The Bill will have no impact on the establishment of public limited companies; a securities account in an Estonian bank will remain a requirement upon the establishment of a public limited company.
The amendments will also enable to make contributions to the accounts of companies located in the above-specified banks and payment institutions to increase share capital. According to the Bill, the entry of the e-mail address of an undertaking in the commercial register and change thereof will be exempt from the state fee. Currently, a EUR 18 state fee must be paid to change an entry.
A Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Status of Members of the Riigikogu Act (647 SE), initiated by the Estonian Free Party Faction, provides for the amendment of the procedure for the reimbursement of work related expenses of the members of the Riigikogu so that work-related expenses are reimbursed to members of the Riigikogu on the basis of expense receipts in the amount of up to 10 percent of the salary of a member of the Riigikogu following the procedure established by the Board of the Riigikogu. The Bill also provides that the compensation for expenses are not used to pay lease payments for automobiles.
Jüri Adams from the Free Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 44 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 15 were against. Thus the Bill was dropped from the proceedings of the Riigikogu.
The sitting ended at 7.55 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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