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Today, the Minister of Public Administration Arto Aas gave to the Riigikogu an overview of the number of employees, the labour costs, expertise, recruitment, personnel changes and the development and training activities in the government sector.

In 2015, 135 300 employees worked in the public sector as a whole as reduced to full-time working time; 87 per cent of them were employed in the government sector and 13 per cent in other public sector. The public sector accounts for around a fifth of total employment in Estonia.

When speaking of the growth of the average wage in the government sector, Aas said that it had been 8 per cent last year, which was faster by two percentage points than the average wage growth in Estonia. Last year, average gross monthly wage was 1065 euro in Estonia, and 1079 in the government sector. Aas stated that the wage levels in the government sector vary by counties and, as can be guessed, the wage level is higher in Tallinn and Harjumaa than in other counties.

Aas pointed out in his report that the general gender wage gap in state authorities is significantly lower than the national average wage gap, having amounted to 9.2 per cent last year as compared to the 23 per cent wage gap in Estonia as a whole.

Total staff turnover was 11 per cent in the civil service last year, including the voluntary staff turnover of 7 per cent. Aas stated that voluntary staff turnover had been below the critical level in the civil service. At the same time, he said, it is clear that the state must make efforts in order to be a prestigious and desirable employer also in the future.

Aas said that the proportion of people with higher education is significantly larger in the civil service than in Estonia as a whole. If, on the average, 41 per cent of all employees in Estonia have higher education, employees with higher education account for as many as 76 per cent of our officials.

The Minister of Public Administration said that the challenge for this year and following years is the need to reduce government sector staff at the same pace with the general decline of the working-age population of the state as a whole.

“This is a common task for all of us, since a too large state apparatus would become a burden for our taxpayers,” Aas said. In his words, a merely mechanical reduction in state employees cannot and must not be a solution. “Our aim is actually to review the structural organisation of work, to review the tasks, and the standards for public services. Principal changes in the organisation of work of the state, and implementation of new e-services will support more efficient and faster organisation of work,” he listed. Aas said that the administrative burden of state authorities that the state has created for itself and that undertakings must bear when communicating with the state will also have to be assessed critically.

The Riigikogu passed eight Acts and a Resolution:

The Riigikogu passed with 91 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to § 13 of the National Defence Act (209 SE), initiated by the National Defence Committee, the aim of which is to provide in the National Defence Act the obligation of the Government of the Republic to notify also the President of the Republic, in addition to the Riigikogu, of a decision to increase the defence readiness.

The Riigikogu passed with 90 votes in favour the Family Allowances Act (217 SE), initiated by the Government, which consolidates into one Act the current Family Benefits Act, Parental Benefit Act and Maintenance Allowance Act. The benefits relating to the birth and raising of a child will collectively be called family allowances in the future.

During the debate, Vilja Toomast took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction, Heljo Pikhof on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, Dmitri Dmitrijev on behalf of the Centre Party Faction, Aivar Kokk on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction and Monika Haukanõmm on behalf of the Free Party Faction. They all supported the passage of the Act.

Toomast expressed her delight that, when developing the maintenance allowance scheme, an agreement had been reached with the Chamber of Bailiffs and Trustees in Bankruptcy who will have the main responsibility in collecting maintenance allowance from parents who do not wish to fulfil their parental duties in bringing up children.

Pikhof pointed out that, starting from the new year, the state will begin to pay an advance of 100 euro to a child growing up with one parent if the other parent evades performance of his or her duties. The state will collect from the debtor the maintenance allowance paid to the child.

Dmitrijev said that the Centre Party Faction proposed the amount of maintenance allowance to be 215 euro, that is, the minimum rate of maintenance, and not 100 euro. However, even though their amendment did not go through, the Centre Party Faction supported the passage of this Act. “The aim is positive in itself, and will definitely have a positive impact on one of the most sensitive target groups in Estonia – single parents and their children,” he justified.

Kokk noted that the Family Allowances Act is the greatest family policy change through the years which amends or repeals 24 different Acts with the Family Allowances Act in the interests of legal clarity in order to reduce duplication and harmonise the electronic proceedings conducted in the social sphere.

When speaking of maintenance allowance, Kokk said that it concerns 12 500 children in Estonia. “The currently planned 100 euro maintenance allowance paid by the state is not a large amount to a wealthy person but will greatly contribute to the subsistence of a poorer family,” he said.

Haukanõmm drew attention to the point that a good result can be achieved in the Riigikogu session hall if the issues raised and proposals made are approached open-mindedly and with an open heart.

The Act also provides for new principles of payment of maintenance allowance which aim to improve the subsistence of children living with one parent in the case when one parent does not perform the maintenance obligation. The amount of the maintenance allowance per child will be up to 100 euro. The provision of new principles of payment of maintenance allowance is an amendment that has been agreed upon in the Action Programme of the Government in order to alleviate the poverty of children living with a single parent.

In the course of the second reading, the Social Affairs Committee amended the Act in regard to recalculation of parental benefit so that next year the parental benefit of a parent who receives minimum parental benefit would not remain below the minimum rate of parental benefit, that is, 470 euro per month.

On the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice, the Social Affairs Committee brought the Parental Benefit Act into conformity with the Constitution in order to avoid unfair reduction of parental benefit. The Chancellor of Justice had found that an unfair situation may arise when the employer is late with the payment of the remuneration that the person has earned while working during the period when he or she received parental benefit. If the income from work received in one month does not exceed the limit established by law which is EUR 390 per month this year, the person who receives parental benefit receives both the income earned and the parental benefit granted to him or her. However, if the remuneration for several months, paid out as a lump sum due to the fault of the employer, exceeds the limit, this bring about a reduction in parental benefit.

In the interests of legal clarity, 24 special Acts are amended or repealed with the Family Allowances Act in order to reduce duplication and to harmonise the various electronic proceedings conducted in the social sphere. The amendments are connected with the development of the new information system SKAIS2 of the Social Insurance Board which will increase the effectiveness of the provision of public services and make the use of the services more comfortable for the people.

The Family Allowances Act will enter into force on 1 January next year, but the amendments concerning parental benefit arising from the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice will enter into force pursuant to general procedure, that is, on the tenth day following the date of publication in the Riigi Teataja.

The Riigikogu passed with 85 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act (231 SE), initiated by the Government, the aim of which is to organise the rights relating to the intelligence activities of the Defence Forces. For example, the Defence Forces are given the right to perform certain acts of information collection outside the Estonian state. Until now, the Defence Forces had such right only in the area of an international military operation.

The Act also extends the rights of the Defence Forces to act in a situation where the collecting of information requires concealment of identity. For that, the regulation of “covert identity” is provided, according to which the connection of a serviceman with the Defence Forces is concealed. Civilian control over the activities of military intelligence is ensured with supervisory control in the Ministry of Defence and internal control measures in the Defence Forces.

In the future, the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee of the Riigikogu will have the right to obtain information on the intelligence activities of the Defence Forces, to summon persons, to require documents for examination, and to have recourse to an investigative body or the Chancellor of Justice in the event of suspicion.

The Riigikogu passed with 82 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to § 17 of the Water Act (226 SE), initiated by the Environment Committee, which grants discretionary room to the Environment Committee, in order that it would be possible to resolve situations where the interests of environmental protection and heritage conservation are opposed. There was one abstention.

The initiation of the Act on amendments to the Water Act arose from the Resolution of the Riigikogu to support the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice of 1 December 2015 to bring the Water Act into conformity with the Constitution. Under the current Water Act, the owner or possessor of a barrage must, under the Nature Conservation Act, construct a passage for fish both upstream and downstream of the barrage if the barred water body or a section thereof has been approved as a spawning area or habitat of salmon, brown trout, salmon trout or grayling. For that, either a special passage for fish must be constructed on the barrage, or the barrage must be demolished, and the Act allows for no exceptions for the protection of other values. The amended Act amends the Water Act by adding a provision according to which it will be possible to set mitigating measures to the abovementioned obligation, or to release the owner of the barrage from the performance of the obligation to construct a passage for fish.

The Riigikogu passed with 79 votes in favour and 6 against the Atmospheric Air Protection Act (165 SE), initiated by the Government, which codifies environmental law: the provisions relating to atmospheric air protection are organised and at places restructured, and the processing of and reporting on permits are harmonised.

The implementation and checking of interrelated local and international requirements were simplified in comparison to the earlier procedure. In the drafting of the Act, account was taken of the existing practice, as well as the need to bring the Act into conformity with the directives. The Atmospheric Air Protection Act replaces the Ambient Air Protection Act.

The Riigikogu passed with 90 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Penal Code (220 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act transposes into Estonian law the relevant European Union directive on criminal sanctions for market abuse. According to a requirement of the directive, maximum punishments for market abuse will be increased from three years’ imprisonment to four years’ imprisonment.

The market abuse directive obliges Member States to criminalise manipulation and misuse of inside information. For example, leaking of internal information, insider dealing, or recommending or inducing another person to engage in insider dealing. The criminal offences set out in the directive have been set out as criminal offences in the Penal Code already.

The Riigikogu passed with 88 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Identity Documents Act, the Credit Institutions Act and the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act (232 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act simplifies the procedure for becoming an e-resident and makes e-services more user-friendly for them.

In the future, both e-residents and Estonian residents will have the possibility to open bank accounts without visiting a bank branch. Technically this will be effected with the help of IT-solutions where compliance with the requirement “know your client” applicable to credit institutions will have to be ensured. The amendment concerns all holders of an Estonian ID card, digi-ID or e-resident’s card.

The Riigikogu passed the Preservation Copy Act (157 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act replaces the current Legal Deposit Act. 80 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act, 6 were against, and there was 1 abstention. The Act updates the submission, collection and preservation of publications that are of significance to the Estonian culture.

The Act provides for the rules for the collection and preservation of the source material of printed publications and the source material of films. The number of printed publications submitted for preservation is reduced from eight to four, and the number of libraries who receive preservation copies is reduced from ten to four.

As modern technology for publishing of publications has changed, the state contribution to the activities relating to the preservation of digital publications and source material is increased. The amendment is necessary in order to avoid destruction of a significant part of the digital cultural heritage. Also to ensure the preservation and making available of printed publications that have been created digitally.

Under the Act, all preservation copies on a physical medium (except for source material of films) are collected through a single centre, the National Library of Estonia. The National Library will compile online publications statistics, in addition to print output statistics. The National Archives is charged with the task of collecting the source material of films with a view to ensuring the preservation of film heritage.

The Riigikogu passed with 65 votes in favour the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the International Military Operation “Inherent Resolve”” (244 OE), submitted by the Government. This Resolution allows participation of up to 10 Estonian servicemen in the US-led international military operation “Inherent Resolve” against Daesh/ISIL.

The US-led international military operation “Inherent Resolve” against Daesh/ISIL was launched on 15 June 2014. The aim of the operation is direct and supporting military action against Daesh, in the first place in Iraq and Syria. However, elements and headquarters leading and supporting the operation are also located in Bahrein, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

An important task of the operation is the training of the Iraqi security forces. At first, Estonia is planning to contribute by sending up to six infantry instructors to Iraq, where they would train Iraqi security forces units in cooperation with servicemen from Denmark, US, Latvia and other countries. Estonia will participate primarily with staff officers within the framework of this mandate as necessary.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of two Bills:

The Bill on Amendments to the Environmental Charges Act (233 SE), initiated by the Government, will specify the principles of imposing the natural resource charges and will highlight more clearly the charge based on the value of the natural resources belonging to the state.

The Bill will differentiate the bases for establishing environmental charges for mineral resources used for energy production, such as oil shale and peat, from the bases for establishing environmental charges for other mineral resources that are used in construction. According to the Bill, oil shale and peat will be charged for on the basis of the market value of the energy products or replacement products made from them. This will allow the Government to establish a system for charging state revenue for energy mineral resources that will be dependent on the market value of the energy product.

The price of energy products has been very changeable in recent years. The world market price of oil was very high from 2012 to 2014 which also brought about high state revenue from the oil shale sector. As the charging of state revenue had been provided for in advance for every year, the state did not charge all the possible revenue for its resources in these years. In the last couple of years, however, the price level of energy carriers has dropped very low. It has therefore become important for the state that the system of charging state revenue for these mineral resources would allow for taking sufficient account of the market situation. For this reason it has been analysed how to interconnect the system of collecting the resource charge and the market price.

In addition, the minimum rate of environmental charges for oil shale and peat will be reduced in the Act as of July 2015 to the level that would serve as compensation for the disturbance accompanying extraction in the local region. It will be accrued by local governments. The remaining share will be received in the state budget. The level for that will be established in view of receiving the state revenue to the extent of which it will be possible for the Government to implement the system dependent on the market price. Besides that, the Bill will retroactively repeal the use of increased coefficients of ambient air pollution charges in selected regions as of 1 January 2016.

Member of the Environment Committee Andres Metsoja gave an overview of the proceedings on the Bill. He said that motions to amend concern more precise fixing of receipt of money by the Environmental Investment Centre. After the implementation of the Bill, it would be clear and unambiguously understandable how money is accrued by local governments and the Environmental Investment Centre. Of the mineral resources extraction charge, 0.275 euro per ton extracted will be transferred to the budgets of the local government of the location of the extraction site when oil shale is extracted, and 0.29 euro per ton extracted will be transferred to the budgets of the local government of the location of the extraction site when well-decomposed peat is extracted.

The Organisation of Energy Sector Bill (162 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the relevant EU directive pursuing the target of saving 20 % of the Union’s primary energy, or mineral resources and fuels, consumption by 2020, and of making further energy efficiency improvements after 2020. The Bill implements only the measures absolutely required by the directive. The deadline for the transposition of the directive was 5 June 2014, and the European Commission has initiated infringement proceedings against Estonia because of the delay.

Member of the Economic Affairs Committee Kalle Palling gave an overview of the proceedings on the Bill. He said that this Bill provides guidelines for achieving energy efficiency in energy production, consumption and distribution, besides organisation of procurements in buildings belonging to the state.

Palling pointed out as the most important thematic block in the Bill the obligation of the state to achieve a certain end-use energy savings target – 1,5 per cent of the energy sold to final customers nationally in the period from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2020. Palling said that such energy saving will be achieved with implementation of national energy efficiency measures that have already been planned, such as taxes and energy saving support measures. This will cover 95 per cent of the necessary amount of saving together with the excise duty rises approved here in the Riigikogu.

In Palling’s words, the proceedings on the Bill had significantly changed the solution as to how further energy saving measures will be organised. Palling said that the Bill does not provide for accompanying taxes or burdens in the implementation of the energy saving policy, although the Economic Affairs Committee had considered them on several occasions at meetings. It had decided to discard them at the 14 June meeting. The Bill will ensure transposition of the directive to the minimum extent.

The Bill provides for development of public sector energy efficiency, obligating the central government to renovate at least 3 % of the area of buildings each year to meet the minimum energy performance requirements, and to procure energy-efficient buildings, products and services. The Bill provides for the overall energy efficiency obligation, for the performance of which the state will tax fuels and electricity energy by excise duties, support the renovation of multi-apartment buildings and street lighting, etc.

The Organisation of Energy Sector Bill will also obligate energy utilities to measure the energy use by final consumers and to provide access to the consumption data of final consumers free of charge both in real time and ex post, in addition to electricity and gas in the provision of the district heating and domestic hot water service. The Bill also provides for the installation of individual and heat cost allocators or meters of final consumers where their use is economically reasonable, in the case of certain growth. Pursuant to a requirement of the directive, the Bill provides for an obligation to carry out energy audits in large enterprises every four years in order to create preconditions for achieving extensive energy saving in the industry sector on a wider scale.

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of three Bills:

The Bill on Amendments to the Estonian Flag Act (230 SE), initiated by the Government, will amend the Estonian Flag Act by adding a new flag day according to which the Thursday of the first full week of October will be Undertaking Day. The aim of Undertaking Day is to recognise and value entrepreneurship and enterprise.

The Minister of Entrepreneurship Liisa Oviir proposed to amend the Estonian Flag Act by adding a new flag day. “It is Undertaking Day, which is planned to be the Thursday of the first full week of October. It would be 6th October this year,” Oviir said when presenting the Bill.

Oviir said that the aim of this flag day is to value and recognise undertakings as creators of value in the society. “This flag day is a symbolic recognition that shows that undertaking as well as enterprise and entrepreneurship are fundamental values without which our society will not function,” she said. “Enterprise and entrepreneurship need much greater noticing and recognition in the society, and the role of undertaking needs wider awareness in different social groups.”

Oviir stressed that Undertaking Day would definitely not rise on an empty space because Estonia celebrated Undertaking Day as a flag day for the first time on 8 October last year.

Jaanus Marrandi from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate and proposed to support the Bill. So did the representative of the Estonian Reform Party Faction Andre Sepp.

The representative of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction Einar Vallbaum recommended not to rush with the Bill and proposed to do something serious for Estonian undertakings. Henn Põlluaas spoke on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction and said that the faction does not support this Bill.

Andres Ammas also took the floor during the debate, and on behalf of the Free Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. With 17 votes in favour and 33 against, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the Bill was concluded.

The Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act, the Citizen of the European Union Act and the Identity Documents Act (251 SE), initiated by the Government, has been developed to facilitate settlement in Estonia of aliens who are capable of contributing to the development of Estonia and whose stay here is consistent with public interests, European Union public law and fundamental freedoms.

The Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur who presented the Bill said that the aim of the amendments contained in the Bill is to promote and facilitate the stay, residence and employment in Estonia of talents who provide added value to the Estonian society and economy.

The Minister said that a more flexible regulation will be created to facilitate immigration of aliens connected with start-up. Second, there is a proposal to allow the issue of a temporary residence permit for enterprise also to big investors, and to facilitate the coming of family members of big investors to Estonia together with the big investor. With the Bill, ICT sector employees, aliens working in start-ups and aliens engaged in start-up will be excluded from the calculation of the fulfilment of the immigration quota.

The Minister explained that the Bill will also simplify the conditions for holding a residence permit by aliens studying in Doctoral study by allowing part-time studying under certain conditions. Also, settlement of aliens with a Doctoral level degree to Estonia will be facilitated by allowing the issue of a residence permit for settling permanently in Estonia under simplified conditions to doctoral students and persons with a Doctoral level degree. Besides, the incentives established for higher education students would also extend to aliens studying in European Qualifications Framework levels 4 and 5.

There is also a proposal to increase the flexibility of proceeding procedures relating to employment migration by allowing switching of posts at the same employer without having to apply for a new residence permit or the permission of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.

Besides, the Bill will eliminate the requirement according to which an alien can settle with his or her spouse if the spouse has resided in Estonia for at least two years. The Bill also contains a proposal to make various regulations more flexible and simpler. Pevkur pointed out as an example the requirement according to which an alien has to stay in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit for at least 183 days during a year. It is proposed to eliminate it, and to repeal also the regulation concerning short-term stay outside of Estonia and to replace it with the requirement to use residence permits for the intended purpose.

In the Minister’s words, the Bill also provides that all aliens staying legally in the state will be able to apply for a residence permit while they are in Estonia. There is a proposal to allow also for “automatic” grant of the right to a residence permit to a minor child who was born in Estonia or settles in Estonia immediately after birth. Also a proposal to exempt aliens under 15 years of age from the obligation of identity card or residence card.

During the debate, Henn Põlluaas took the floor on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction and Jüri Adams spoke on behalf of the Free Party Faction. Põlluaas moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. With 7 votes in favour, 38 against and 4 abstentions, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the Bill was concluded.

The Bill on Amendments to the Aliens Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (252 SE), initiated by the Government, has been developed to transpose the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conditions of entry and stay of third-country nationals for the purpose of employment as seasonal workers.

The Minister of the Interior Hanno Pevkur presented the Bill to the Riigikogu and listed the amendments proposed in the Bill.

The current Act provides for certain cases when short-term employment without a residence permit is permitted. Among other things, today, short-term employment is permitted in seasonal jobs connected with processing of agricultural products. As a result of an amendment, aliens will be permitted to work in Estonia for a short term in various fields, provided that the general regulations for the registration of short-term employment are met.

The Bill will allow short-term employment for up to nine months in a year, instead of the current six months. Scientists, teaching staff and top specialists will be permitted to work during the whole duration of legal stay.

In the future, aliens staying legally will have the possibility to submit an application for a long-stay visa while they are in Estonia. Also, for the stay on the basis of a long-stay visa, the maximum period of time allowed under Schengen law which is up to one year will be provided. The Minister added that, in order to ensure that a stay on the basis of a visa would not be a long-term stay, a condition will be set according to which a stay on the basis of a long-stay visa may not exceed one year in two years.

In the future, aliens staying on the basis of a long-stay visa will be allowed to extend their period of stay for the purpose of short-term employment in Estonia, but as a general rule the total duration of stay may not exceed nine months in a year.

The Bill also provides for the definition of seasonal work and the conditions for working in a state for seasonal workers. Also, a sub-type for working with a residence permit, temporary residence permit for intra-corporate transfer, will be established, and the conditions for application for the issue of a temporary residence permit for intra-corporate transfer will be provided for. Managers, specialists and graduate trainees who are transferred within a corporation will be able to apply for this residence permit. The maximum duration of the intra-corporate transfer will be three years for managers and trainee employees, and up to one year for graduate trainees. It will also be possible to work in Estonia with an intra-corporate transferee residence permit of another Member State. For example, it will be possible to work also in Estonia with an intra-corporate transferee residence permit issued in Finland.

The requirements for the remuneration paid to an alien working in Estonia for a short term with a residence permit will be changed, providing for the requirement to pay the average wage in Estonia, instead of the average wage multiplied by a coefficient of 1.24 as is the case at present.

Jüri Adams from the Free Party Faction and Jaak Madison from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor during the debate. Madison moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. With 12 votes in favour and 34 against, the motion was not supported and the first reading of the Bill was concluded.

The sitting ended at 7.12 p.m.

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
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
6316356; 515 3903
epp-mare.kukemelk@riigikogu.ee
Questions: press@riigikogu.ee

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