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The minister, who gave an overview of the implementation of the fundamentals of the cultural policy, said that the past year had been historic because Estonian culture had been more visible than ever before.

Minister of Culture Indrek Saar said that the year 2018 would go down in history as a year when more culture than ever before had been created and seen in Estonia. “Without being emotional, it can be said that it was a historic year. Whichever cultural sphere we look at, be it Estonian theatre or film, our literature or the visual art created in this land – there was so much going on everywhere, and so much of it attracted great international interest. Moreover, a great number of events will remain in history as something that, after decades have passed, will be described as new supporting branches of our many-sided culture,” Saar said.

The minister added that the number of people who had visited cultural institutions and events had exceeded the boldest expectations. “Therefore I can say with a calm self-confidence today that our national culture is in an extremely good condition.”

In his speech, the Minister of Culture also highlighted the salary rise of cultural workers. “When I first gave you an overview of the ‘The Fundamentals of the Cultural Policy until 2020’ in 2015, the minimum pay of cultural workers was 731 euro and it fell short of the then average salary by 46 per cent. We have made efforts, looked for and found funds to raise the salary to 1300 euro in four years, that is, a salary rise of as much as 78 per cent. The difference with the average salary has decreased to six per cent, and if the next Government continues at even a remotely similar pace, the target – the average salary – will have been achieved by 2020,” Saar explained.

The Minister also gave an overview of new cultural sites. He mentioned the Arvo Pärt Centre, the new building of the Estonian Academy of Arts in Kalamaja district in Tallinn, and the Estonian History Museum complex at Maarjamäe in Tallinn. “The construction of the hall of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre is in full swing, and the designing of the new television complex for the Estonian Public Broadcasting and the renovation of the National Library are major new investments. Establishment of joint storage facilities for museums is being planned,” he said.

During the debate, Aadu Must (Centre Party), Toomas Jürgenstein (Social Democratic Party), Heidy Purga (Reform Party), Krista Aru (Estonian Free Party) and Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa) took the floor.

The Riigikogu passed four Acts:

The Water Act (643 SE), initiated by the Government, organises environmental law. The Act provides for the bases for planning and organising water use and protection, the water protection requirements, the rights, obligations and liability of persons upon the use of water, the state supervision of compliance with the requirements for water use and protection, and the liability for violation of the requirements provided.

As a new requirement, the Act provides for the obligation to register activities that pose a risk to the aquatic environment. Amendments in the organisation of the issue of water permits and the registration of activities that pose a risk to the aquatic environment will reduce the current workload and speed up the adoption of decisions.

The procedure for issuing permits to foreign vessels for marine research is also provided for. At present, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs applies the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which are very general, to the application for such permits. In the future, the Ministry of the Environment will issue the permits.

The provisions concerning the water protection zone and the sanitary protection zone have been specified. The definition of water body is also specified. Fish farm ponds and tanks, rain water collection systems and other similar construction works established for a specified purpose are not treated as bodies of water. Such construction works do not have safeguard zones, but the general water protection requirements continue to apply to them.

As an important amendment, the rates of punishment for offences against the environment by legal persons are also raised. They rise to up to 400 000 euro in the case of some violations.

75 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.

The Act on Amendments to § 11 of the Income Tax Act (770 SE), initiated by the Government, amends the drawing up of the list of non-profit associations, foundations and religious associations benefiting from income tax incentives.

The Tax and Customs Board will update the list of non-profit associations, foundations and religious associations benefiting from income tax incentives on the first day of every calendar month, which will allow for a resolution to enter the association into the list, refuse to enter it into the list or delete it from the list to be made within 30 days as of submission of the application.

The associations that are entered in the list compiled by the Tax and Customs Board benefit from income tax incentives. A non-profit association, foundation or religious association operating in the public interest and for charitable purposes who has operated for at least six months is entered in the list. The associations entered in the list can transfer their assets to other persons exempt from tax if they do so for the achievement of their charitable objectives. Donations made to other associations on the list, costs incurred in entertaining guests, and payment of scholarships and grants under certain conditions are also exempt from tax. As at the beginning of this year, 2500 non-profit associations, foundations and religious associations have been entered in the list.

Inclusion on the list brings incentives for both the non-profit associations entered on the list and donors to such associations. A natural person can deduct from his or her taxable income donations made to the associations entered in the list to the extent of up to 1200 euro in aggregate of all deductions, but not more than 50 per cent of all taxable income. Legal persons can make donations to associations exempt from tax in the amount of up to three per cent of the total amount of the payments subject to social tax made during the same year, or 10 per cent of the profits for the last year.

The Act eliminates the committee who has been charged with the task of recommending proposals to the Tax and Customs Board to enter associations into the list, refuse to enter them into the list or delete them from the list. The initiative to eliminate the committee has come from the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations, and the aim is faster updating of the list. In the future, the tax authority will cooperate with the third sector with the help of a more flexible form of work, turning to the sectoral representative associations if necessary.

73 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.

The Act on Amendments to the Notarisation Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (719 SE), initiated by the Government, simplifies the acts and transactions requiring a notarial format for e-residents as well as for Estonian citizens abroad.

The Act creates a new form of notarial authentication, remote authentication, which allows authentication of, for example, transactions and powers of attorney of transfer and pledging of shares of private limited companies, as well as submission of applications for marriage and divorce, and succession or renunciation of succession via a video bridge between the notary and the client. For that, an Estonian citizen staying abroad or an e-resident must identify himself or herself at an Estonian foreign mission.

The notary fee upon remote authentication is higher by 20 euro compared to ordinary acts, and the state fee for acts performed in foreign missions is 30 euro.

The Act enables notaries to also certify digital signatures. This will facilitate electronic certification by an apostille of digitally signed documents (e.g. diploma, certificate, documentation, correction notice, notification, etc.).

76 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act.

The Act on Amendments to the Insurance Activities Act and the Law of Obligations Act (769 SE), initiated by the Government, allows commercial associations to also operate as insurance associations.

Insurance associations are subject to the same rules that apply to insurance undertakings operating in the form of a public limited company. An insurance association must apply for authorisation to pursue insurance activities from the Financial Supervision Authority. Also, the share capital of an insurance association must be equal to that of an insurance undertaking which is a public limited company. If an insurance association provides for example life, liability, credit or suretyship insurance, the share capital of the association must be at least three million euro. Upon provision of other non-life insurance, share capital must be at least two million euro.

Under the Act, issues relating to membership of an association are not restricted. It is possible for everyone to become a member of an insurance association as well as to terminate their membership under the conditions agreed upon in the articles of association. Associations are able to decide for themselves whether they insure the underwriting risks of only their members or also those of other people and undertakings, except in the event of the provision of compulsory liability insurance.

74 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act and there was one abstention.

Four Bills passed the second reading:

The Bill on Amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act (799 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction and the Government, is a consolidated Bill with the wording of the Bill (729 SE) initiated by the Government. The Bill on Amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act 729 SE, initiated by the Government of the Republic, and the Bill on Amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act and the Vocational Educational Institutions Act 505 SE, initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction, have been consolidated.

The Bill will create the possibility of imposing additional sanctions on students with the aim of ensuring a safe school environment that favours studying.

In order to ensure security, prevent situations of danger and intervene where necessary, the amendments provide for a list of items and substances prohibited for students in school, and the possibility for the school to additionally impose a sanction to take away and deposit prohibited items.

In case of justified doubt, items used by the student, including his or her clothes, and the locker used by him or her, will be checked. The person who applies the sanction to be established will have to have the training necessary therefor.

Krista Aru (Estonian Free Party) took the floor during the debate.

The Covered Bond Bill (760 SE), initiated by the Government, will create the possibility for credit institutions to issue covered bonds, which is a special type of bond. Covered bonds are guaranteed bonds issued by credit institutions, which are guaranteed by claims of “a high-quality bank” against borrowers which generally are claims arising from mortgage loans or loans granted to public sector. That is, put simpler, covered bonds are usually guaranteed by claims of credit institutions against recipients of real estate loans, in particular, housing loans, or against the state and local governments.

The provisions concerning the plegde of claims in the Law of Property Act will not apply to the guaranteeing of covered bonds; that will be subject to a special procedure. This means above all that, in the event of failure of a credit institution (the issuer), collateral will be separated and it will be excluded from the bankruptcy estate of the credit institution. At the same time, collateral is above all intended to satisfy the claims of covered bond holders (investors). In addition, the issuing of covered bonds is accompanied by strengthened financial supervision of the credit institution which among other things is manifested in the obligation to apply for an additional authorisation.

The Bill aims to create a legally reliable environment in Estonia for credit institutions for issuing covered bonds and for the functioning of the covered bond market. The Bill will develop the Estonian capital market by creating a possibility to issue a new type of bonds and to invest in them. In addition, financial stability will be increased by establishing an additional instrument for engaging capital from money markets for Estonian credit institutions, and the Estonian credit market will be enhanced by increasing the opportunity for credit receivers (in particular, businesses) to also receive funding under the circumstances of a financial and economic crisis.

The Bill on Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure and Other Acts (759 SE), initiated by the Government, will establish restrictions on the right of appeal in civil proceedings, enforcement proceedings and bankruptcy proceedings. The restrictions will mainly concern the right to appeal to the Supreme Court against a ruling of a circuit court concerning an appeal against a ruling of a county court. The proposals to set restrictions concern both the appealing against procedural rulings and the appealing against final decisions on matters on petition. The proposals made by the Supreme Court aim to ensure procedural economy, and better use of judicial resource. The Bill will also specify the limit for the reimbursement of the remuneration and expenses of the trustee in bankruptcy from state funds. Under the implementing provision, in the future, judicial decisions that have entered into force as of 1 January 2006 will be subject to publication on the Internet.

The Bill on Amendments to the Imprisonment Act (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.

Two drafts passed the first reading:

The Bill on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and the Republic of Belarus on Social Security (790 SE), initiated by the Government.

The Agreement was signed on 7 December 2018, and ratification of the Agreement by the Riigikogu is a prerequisite for the entry into force of the Agreement.

The Agreement aims to ensure pension insurance to persons when they move from one country to the other. It also determines which jurisdiction applies to the taxes paid on the remuneration of persons who live in one country and work in the other or are posted to the other country.

The Agreement concerns persons of old-age pension age living in Estonia and Belarus who wish to receive old-age pension. It also concerns working-age persons and children who wish to receive their pension under favourable conditions or survivor’s pension in the other country. In addition, the Agreement also concerns working-age persons who live in one country and work in the other (e.g. persons working for transport businesses, seafarers, undertakings) or are posted to the other country. As a general rule, the legislation of the country in which the person actually works is applied to a person working in the territory of a contracting party (with the exception of ship crew members). According to the data of Statistics Estonia, around 11,800 Belarusians lived in Estonia at the beginning of 2017.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “The Fundamentals of the Population Policy until 2035” (779 OE), submitted by the Riigikogu Study Committee to Solve the Demographic Crisis.

The fundamentals aim to secure the sustainability and development of the population of Estonia, and to ensure the preservation of the nation, language and culture.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “The Fundamentals of the Population Policy until 2035” is based on “The Fundamentals of the Population Policy 2035”. The document on the fundamentals defines the general aim and principles of the population policy of Estonia, and formulates the sub-aims and courses of action in the main fields relating to demographic development until 2035, acknowledging the need of the state to pay more attention to securing the sustainability and development of Estonian society.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)


Riigikogu Press Service
Veiko Pesur
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