At Wednesday’s sitting, the Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu made a report to the Riigikogu on the implementation of the development objectives of criminal policy in 2015, focusing on the issues of treatment of victims of crime, juvenile offenders, and high-risk criminal offenders.
Reinsalu stressed that reduction of recidivism and stronger assertion of the state with regard to hardened criminals will have to be an important objective of criminal policy in the near future. “It is not the honest people who must have fear in the public, but the hardened criminals dangerous to society must be afraid. Repeated commission of a dangerous crime must be a special danger to deter in criminal policy,” Reinsalu said.
Nearly 2000 people were released from prison in 2015, and approximately 70 per cent of them were released without any supervision. Reinsalu was concerned that there is a great probability that they commit a new crime. In the case of dangerous and recidivist criminals, a more appropriate measure is to apply post-sentence supervision of conduct more extensively which means that the sentence is served in the prison and then probation supervision continues also after the imprisonment,” Reinsalu said.
Amendments to the Penal Code entered into force at the beginning of last year. In Reinsalu’s opinion, the reduction of penal law regulation of social life had not brought about negative consequences, but the Act is fairer now, and people are treated more proportionally and in better conformity with the gravity of acts.
Reinsalu saw protection of victims of crime as one of the important issues in criminal policy development this year. “We are at the threshold of a new era in this issue, and this is precisely because the Riigikogu passed a package of amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure for the protection of victims last year,” Reinsalu said. He explained that earlier the role of the victim and the witness has traditionally been secondary in the Estonian law, but the situation will have to change now in the interests of supporting victims.
Reinsalu wished to change the policy of punishment for misdemeanours committed by minors where fine is one of the commonest punishments today. “We are planning to significantly extend the scope of measures that the justice system can use in the treatment of juvenile offenders. I mention here house arrest, probation and community service,” Reinsalu said.
In Reinsalu’s words, a revision of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been begun this year, with the main emphasis on the simplification of the proceedings, the reducing of bureaucracy and the saving of resources. This year, a personnel reform has also been started in the prosecutor’s office. The aim is that prosecutors could focus on their main work, that is, the function of bringing charges. Reinsalu also highlighted the establishment of modern prison conditions, and the obligation to ratify the international Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and to increase the protection of victims of human trafficking, including to prohibit the purchase of sexual services from victims of human trafficking. A relevant Bill is planned to be submitted for a round of approval this spring.
Toomas Vitsut from the Centre Party Faction, Raivo Aeg from the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, Kristjan Kõljalg from the Reform Party Faction and Andres Anvelt from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor on behalf of factions during the debate.
The Riigikogu passed an Act:
The Riigikogu approved with 62 votes in favour (4 against, 1 abstention) the Act on Amendments to the Railways Act and the Public Transport Act (129 SE), initiated by the Government, which transposes the EU Directives regulating the establishment of a single EU railway area and the certification of train drivers. The Act increases the transparency of the railway market and enhances cooperation with a view to facilitate international rail transport, provide incentives for sound and sustainable financing, and increase the competence of the Competition Authority in Estonia. The amendments concern in particular railway undertakings who will have to make changes in their business structure as necessary in order to separate the operation of the service facility from other activities. In the notice concerning the network, the railway infrastructure manager will have to provide more specific information on the terms and conditions for the use of railway infrastructure. To ensure sustainability of the railway infrastructure, the state is required to observe that the infrastructure manager would be able to also develop the infrastructure according to agreements concluded with the state which means that, if necessary, the state will have to contribute financially to the infrastructure manager. The Act species the requirements for the regular interim inspection of train drivers. Language skills have to be also assessed if the language designated for use on the railway by the railway infrastructure manager is not the train driver’s mother tongue. Linguistic knowledge is important in order that the train driver and the dispatcher would definitely understand each other, otherwise dangerous situations may arise due to misunderstandings. The Act specifies the code of conduct of the Technical Regulatory Authority for the cases where a train driver fails to comply with the requirements established.
Four Bills passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
Under the Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and Amendments to Other Associated Acts which Increases Fine Unit (146 SE), initiated by the Government, the amount of the fine unit that is the basis for imposing fines for misdemeanour in the Penal Code will be increased from four euro to eight euro. The amount of fine unit has practically remained unchanged since 1 October 2001. When the euro was adopted in 2011, the unit of the fine for misdemeanour was rounded from EUR 3.8 to EUR 4. The current fines for misdemeanours are having increasingly less effect on offenders. In connection with the rise of the fine unit, the rate of the cautionary fine for speeding will also grow. Five euro will be taken as the basis for calculation instead of the current three euro. In addition, amendments are provided that will somewhat alleviate the increasing of the amount of fine unit. First, upon imposition of a fine on a minor, a half of the maximum punishment permitted provided for for adults in the chapters concerning liability in the relevant Acts will be taken as the basis. Second, the term for voluntary payment of a fine will be extended to 45 days instead of the current 15 days. Third, the Bill will decrease the amount of the lowest possible fine from EUR 12 to EUR 8.
During the second reading, the deadline for entry into force of the Act was changed to 1 May 2016.
Külliki Kübarsepp and Henn Põlluaas took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Medicinal Products Act and the Health Insurance Act (154 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for the establishment of a single register of medicinal products that will perform the functions of the current register of medicinal products as well as the coding centre in the future. Only data on authorised medicinal products are maintained in the register of medicinal products. The coding centre also maintains data on authorised medicinal products and, besides that, data on unauthorised medicinal products, foods for particular nutritional uses, medical devices and medicinal product codes. The register of medicinal products is technically and functionally outdated and performs almost completely the same functions as the coding centre. When the two registers are merged, a register will be established that is newer in technical terms and is linked to the digital prescription systems. The new register will significantly improve user friendliness and increase the possibilities of using the online version of the register among doctors, pharmacists as well as patients. The information in the register is in Estonian and English, and it is significantly more user friendly compared to the old registers.
The Social Affairs Committee submitted a motion to amend the Bill that harmonised the terminology used in the Bill.
The Bill on Amendments to the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens and Other Associated Acts (81 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the EU directives on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (the Procedure Conditions Directive) and laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (the Reception Conditions Directive). The purpose of the Bill is to harmonise the procedures in Member States for international protection by establishing European Union minimum rules for the procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection. It will ensure higher standards for the procedures for international protection and increase the guarantees granted to applicants for international protection. The Bill provides for the possibility that the Government may, for example, for humanitarian considerations or for fulfilment of an international obligation, decide to receive an application for international protection outside of Estonia.
Member of the Constitutional Committee Mart Nutt said that 77 motions to amend the Bill had been submitted during the second reading, many of which have been incorporated into the text but have been formulated on behalf of the Constitutional Committee. Nutt explained the main motions to amend. First, the Riigikogu will be involved in the deciding on the granting of international protection. “It is the highest level that can be involved in the resettlement and relocation of asylum seekers in Estonia. The mechanism has been planned so that, before making a decision, the Government of the Republic will have to obtain the agreement of the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu. If the agreement is not obtained, the Government will have no right to resettle or relocate anybody in Estonia,” Nutt said.
Second, the Police and Border Guard Board will establish a list of safe countries of origin pursuant to law, and asylum will not be granted in Estonia to persons from these countries because their security is sufficiently guaranteed in their country of origin. Third, there is a plan to speed up court proceedings in a situation where a person has not been granted asylum and he or she is subject to expulsion. Fourth, procedural acts regarding relocation and resettlement in Estonia will generally be performed outside Estonia.
The Bill clearly sets out that aliens who settle in Estonia must observe the constitutional order and the state based on freedom, justice and the rule of law, and respect the values, language and culture of the Estonian society. If the person fails to do so, this will serve as the basis for revocation of the residence permit or refusal to extend it.
Nutt explained that the persons who are granted protection must not be in an advantageous position as regards social benefits compared to other residents. “Therefore the social benefits for them have been taken to the same level in the Bill as those for other residents of Estonia. The state will finance additionally only language training and translation services which is indisputably in the interests of the Estonia state itself,” Nutt said.
According to a motion to amend, a person who has been granted international protection will have to participate in the adaptation programme. If the person fails to do so, this will serve as the basis for not extending the residence permit. A person who has been granted international protection will have to learn Estonian during his or her stay in Estonia. He or she will have to have acquired A1-level during one year, A2-level during two years and B1-level during five years. The persons who will not acquire Estonian will have to refund the costs of the language training to the state.
Nutt said that a residence permit is issued to a person enjoying subsidiary protection for one year, and to a refugee for three years. “The person who has been granted protection will return to his or her home country if the situation calms down there,” Nutt said.
Märt Sults, Ken-Marti Vaher, Oudekki Loone, Andres Herkel, Priit Sibul, Peeter Ernits, Henn Põlluaas, Kalle Laanet, Jaanus Karilaid, Martin Repinski and Mart Nutt took the floor during the debate.
Põlluaas moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill on behalf of the Conservative People’s Party faction.
The result of voting: 13 members of the Riigikogu in favour and 49 against. Thus the motion was not supported.
According to the Bill on Amendments to § 34 of the National Defence Act (182 SE), initiated by the National Defence Committee, participation in a specific military operation on the basis of a general mandate will no longer be decided by the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but the decision will have to be made by the Government of the Republic. When making a decision, the Government will have to not only hear the opinion of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu, but also take this opinion into account when making its decision.
Oudekki Loone, Madis Milling, Jaanus Karilaid and Ain Lutsepp took the floor during the debate.
Two Bills passed the first reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on the Ratification of the Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and Australia on Social Security (180 SE), initiated by the Government. The agreement on social security ensures social protection for people in the event of cross-border movement. The main target group of the agreement is old-age pensioners who live in Estonia or Australia and whose pension is paid for by the country of habitual residence where they earned their pension. The agreement will ensure that employees do not lose the insurance periods completed in the country of a Contracting Party when returning from there. The agreement will also enable employers to send employees to work temporarily in the country of the other Contracting Party, avoiding formation of double coverage for workers.
The Bill on Amendments to the Aviation Act (161 SE), initiated by the Government, will improve the level of aviation safety and harmonise national law with EU legislation. At the European Union level, the reporting of occurrences is regulated by a relevant EU Regulation. The entry into force of this EU Regulation requires amendments and specifications to be made to the Aviation Act. Necessary requirements are established for ensuring an efficient occurrence reporting system at all levels. Competent authorities will be designated, who will have to be notified of occurrences. The Civil Aviation Administration and the Safety Investigation Bureau continue to be the competent authorities. The procedure for the notification of the national competent authorities and for the transmission of the relevant data will be specified. The Bill will change the period of notification of an occurrence. Under the current Act, an occurrence must be reported within 24 hours but, under the Bill, within 72 hours. Compared to the current reporting system, the Regulation also sets out the requirement of the reporter to submit a preliminary analysis to the Civil Aviation Administration within one month after the occurrence and, within three months, a final report that would point out safety risks and describe the action implemented after that.
The Riigikogu did not support two draft Resolutions:
The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a Proposal to the Government of the Republic” (147 OE), submitted by the Centre Party Faction, which was intended to bind the receiving of the parental benefit with the obligation to take the child to medical examinations.
The result of voting: 33 in favour, 20 against, 1 abstention. As a majority vote of the members of the Riigikogu was needed for the Resolution to be passed, the Resolution was not passed.
The Bill on Amendments to § 403¹ of the Law of Obligations Act (106 SE), initiated by the Centre Party Faction, which provided for a possibility, in a negative economic situation, to transfer the property marked as security to the creditor or credit intermediary so that the property transferred would cover the existing and potential costs relating to the credit taken.
Jüri Adams from the Free Party Faction and Olga Ivanova from the Centre Party Faction took the floor during the debate. Adams was not happy with the content and the format of the Bill. Ivanova called on to support the Bill.
The Legal Affairs Committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading.
The result of voting: 50 members of the Riigikogu in favour, 28 against, and 7 abstentions. Thus the Bill was rejected.
The sitting ended at 7.09 p.m.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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