The Riigikogu ratified the Association Agreements of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova with the European Union (EU), which provide for the deepening of economic relations between these countries and the EU, the approximation of legislations, and the establishment of free trade areas.
The Riigikogu approved with 65 votes in favour the Act on the Ratification of the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the One Part, and Ukraine, of the Other Part (714 SE), submitted by the Government; with 66 votes in favour the Act on the Ratification of the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the One Part, and Georgia, of the Other Part (705 SE), submitted by the Government; and with 62 votes in favour the Act on the Ratification of the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the One Part, and the Republic of Moldova, of the Other Part (706 SE), submitted by the Government.
The Association Agreements aim to accelerate the deepening of the political and economic relations of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova with the EU, as well as gradual integration of these countries in the EU Internal Market. Setting up free trade areas between Ukraine and the EU, between Georgia and the EU, and between Moldova and the EU will contribute greatly to that. The approximation of national legislations to EU legislation is also an important part of an Association Agreement.
In addition, the Association Agreements serve as the basis for the reform plans for the three countries with a view to contributing to the implementation of the principles of the rule of law, democracy, human rights and free market economy. The EU aid to these countries is also connected with the reform plan, and the Association Agreement will allow the partners of these countries to better direct their aid.
The Riigikogu also received an overview of the activities of the Government in implementing European Union policies. Reports were by Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and the Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Kalle Palling.
Rõivas said that the key to the success of Estonia’s European policy has always been openness, collegiality and the sense of responsibility, and Estonia is a predictable and trustworthy partner. In his report, the Prime Minister spoke of the expansion of the eurozone, the resolution of the Ukrainian conflict and helping Ukraine, the importance of the EU internal market for Estonia, and the difficulties in the development of the gas market in the Estonian region.
“We must help Ukraine with the resolution of the conflict, support to its reforms, as well as material aid,” Rõivas said. “The Ukrainian leaders have assured me that Estonia’s reform experience on its journey to the European Union is of high value to Ukraine.” He stated that the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis may involve the need to consider the imposition of additional sanctions on Russia.
The Prime Minister noted that the EU’s single market has become the domestic market of Estonian enterprises. “In August 2014, 72% of the produce of the Estonian people and enterprises went to the single market directly or through value chains,” he said. “It is therefore vitally important for Estonia that the single market works smoothly and with the lowest possible transaction costs. This means that getting into the market, the conclusion of transactions, and the enforcement of agreements must be as simple, fast, effective, and safe as possible for Estonian undertakings. This is why we stand by the belief that our end goal could be a European Civil Code. I hope that the Common European Sales Law initiative as well as cross-border movement of enterprises will remain the focus of the new Commission.”
In his report, Palling spoke of the integration of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova towards the European Union, the Ukrainian conflict and Russia’s role in it, the importance of the European funds in the development of Estonia, and the need to develop gas and energy supply security.
“If we want Ukraine to be successful, we have to ensure pressure on Russia,” Palling said. “Ukraine does not have that capacity. Therefore it is important to continue with the EU sanctions in their present form, in parallel to the process of finding a political solution. The sanctions support the efforts to find a lasting political solution. The sanctions are also a way to force Russia to take responsibility as a party of the conflict.”
Palling noted that, in 2014–2020, Estonia will get 5.9 billion euro as different support measures from the EU. “For example, with the 447 million euro assigned for financing transport, it is planned to continue with the construction of the four-lane Tallinn-Tartu motorway and also expand Tallinn airport,” he added.
Marko Mihkelson, Barbi Pilvre, Rein Lang and Mihhail Korb took the floor during the debate.
In his speech, Mihkelson pointed out problems in the development of the gas market. “The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union thinks that today the Prime Minister of the Republic does not have a reasoned mandate to enter into binding agreements with our northern neighbours on the issue of the LNG terminal without regard to the interests of Estonia,” he said. “The Pro Patria and Res Publica Union holds the position that the Estonian Government should make efforts that the regional LNG terminal and the investment made therefor would come to Estonia. Before entering into a binding agreement, this issue must be discussed as a matter of national importance in the Riigikogu.”
Pilvre said that, in the European Union, Estonia belongs to an exclusive club, access to which cannot be bought only with a big purse but the recognition of certain principles and values is necessary. “This club of 28 members is the European Union. A number of countries and nations are making efforts to get their foot in the door: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia,“ she said. “We have got into good company, and actually we should be aware every day how valuable this membership ticket is. It is now our duty to help others, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, in their aspirations.”
Lang noted that Estonia has fought for and won for itself a place in the European Union where it is not merely a taker and an after-speaker, but very clearly also a spokesperson. “I think that the main reason therefor is that Estonia is and hopefully will remain a state who does not narrowly pursue only its own national interests but can also see the whole and can see common interests and be the spokesperson for these common interests even in the case when it may be complicated in terms of domestic policy,” he said. “It is in fact one of the greatest values of our European policy which should definitely be retained.”
Korb found that more support should be received for the deprived from the Fund for European Aid. He also criticised the weak control of the Estonian-Russian border line, and the scarce support of Estonian farmers. “It is important to understand that Estonian farmer competes first of all with other farmers in the European Union today,” he added. “In order to stay in competition, the subsidies paid to our farmers must be equivalent to those paid in other countries.”
The Bill on Amendments to the State of Emergency Act, the Emergency Act and the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act (719 SE), initiated by the National Defence Committee, passed the first reading. It gives a clear legal basis for the use of direct coercion upon the use of the Defence Forces and the Defence League during a state of emergency and an emergency, for the performance of the functions imposed on them. These are actually technical amendments, because the rights of the Defence Forces and the Defence League will not be extended in terms of the current law. In the State of Emergency Act, the use of the concepts “Kaitsevägi ja Kaitseliit” [“the Defence Forces and the Defence League”] and “kaitsejõud” [“the Defence Forces”], which have the same meaning, is organised and harmonised. The State of Emergency Act will provide that the name of the Defence Forces as a governmental authority will be consistently used with a capitalised initial letter, instead of the earlier lower case use.
The deadline for submission of motions to amend is 11 November.
The Riigikogu rejected the Bill on Amendments to the Restrictions on Acquisition of Immovables Act (694 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, which had been intended to enable natural persons who are not citizens of the Contracting States of the European Economic Area but at the same time reside in Estonia on the basis of the residence permit of a long-term resident to acquire an immovable with an area of up to 0.2 ha. It would have given persons the possibility to purchase land in gardening associations. The current Act provides for national defence restrictions upon the acquisition of immovables. Natural persons who are not citizens of a Contracting State of the European Economic Area, and legal persons whose seat is not located in a Contracting State of the European Economic Area are prohibited from acquiring immovables on maritime islands (with the exception of Saaremaa, Hiiumaa, Muhu and Vormsi), in the cities of Narva, Narva-Jõesuu and Sillamäe, and in the rural municipalities of Alajõe, Iisaku, Illuka, Toila, Vaivara, Meeksi, Piirissaare, Mikitamäe, Orava, Räpina, Värska, Meremäe, Misso and Vastseliina. This restriction is justified by Article 65(1)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which gives Member States the right to take requisite measures which are justified on grounds of public policy or public security.
Mihhail Stalnuhhin took the floor during the debate.
48 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the rejection of the Bill.
The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): https://www.riigikogu.ee/?op=steno&stcommand=stenogramm&day=03&date=1415087872
Photos of the sitting: https://fotoalbum.riigikogu.ee/v/2014/Riigikogu/04112014/
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