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The legislative amendments passed in the Riigikogu today reduce the social benefits for the persons who have been granted international protection, eliminate the obligation of the state to compensate for the repair and furnishing expenses of municipal apartments, and significantly reduce the obligation to compensate for the rent expenses for housing.

65 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act on Amendments to the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (81 SE), initiated by the Government, and there were 19 abstentions.

According to the amendment, the state supports a refugee upon necessity once by compensating the expanses relating to the conclusion of a rental agreement to the extent of up to six times of subsistence level rate per family. In that case, the maximum possible benefit per family is up to 780 euro.

The main aim of the Act is to transpose the European Union directives on conditions for granting international protection and on standards for the reception of applicants for international protection. The purpose of the directives 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.

The Act also 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.

Ken-Marti Vaher, who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction during the debate, supported the passing of the Act. He stressed that aliens are required to adapt themselves and acquire the Estonian language.

Oudekki Loone, who spoke on behalf of the Centre Party Faction, said that the Faction had remained neutral in the passage of the Act. Andres Herkel, who spoke on behalf of the Free Party Faction, Andres Anvelt, who spoke on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, Martin Helme, who spoke on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, and Kalle Laanet, who spoke on behalf of the Reform Party Faction, supported the passing of the Act.

The Riigikogu also passed with 75 votes in favour and 8 against the Act on Amendments to § 34 of the National Defence Act (182 SE), initiated by the National Defence Committee, according to which 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. When making a decision, the Government has to take into account the opinion of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu.

Martin Helme, who took the floor on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, did not support the passing of the Act.

With 71 votes in favour, 5 against and 2 abstentions, the Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act (155 SE), initiated by the Government, which amends the provisions concerning alien species. The Act implements the rules arising from European Union law with a view to prevent the introduction of invasive species. The Environmental Board is empowered to issue permits for keeping, breeding or use, as well as the import, transport and transit of alien species. The Act increases the rate of the fine for violation of the requirements for the use of alien species by ten times, to 32 000 euro, for legal persons. The Act also eliminates the deadline for bringing the protection procedures into conformity with the current Nature Conservation Act. Under the old procedure, all protection rules established before the current Nature Conservation Act would be repealed as of 1 May 2016. The amendment allows for the protection procedures to be updated until 1 May 2023.

Külliki Kübarsepp, who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction, and Keit PentusRosimannus, who took the floor on behalf of the Reform Party Faction in the debate, discussed the deadline for reviewing the protection rules. Pentus-Rosimannus stressed the importance of analysing their content.

Today, the Riigikogu passed the Resolution “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in Another International Military Operation Led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its Member State, the European Union or the UN upon the First Contribution thereto” (135 OE) which provides for the use of up to 50 active servicemen, as necessary, in an operation led by NATO or its Member State, the EU or the UN, or in another international military operation in compliance with the generally recognised principles of international law next year. 62 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Resolution, 8 were against, and there was one abstention.

The exact contribution of Estonia and the amount will depend on the needs of a specific operation and the possibilities of the state. Estonia can contribute with staff officers as well as certain units, for example, mine clearance team, infantry platoon or special forces. The law ensures that rapid and flexible contribution to operations is guaranteed with a Resolution of the Riigikogu.

Mart Helme, who took the floor during the debate, said that the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction did not support the Resolution of the Riigikogu. As a justification, he pointed out that the Estonian army should not be a mission army, but it must be ready to perform its duties in the protection of our citizens.

Member of the Reform Party Faction Madis Milling said that a maximum of up to 50 of our fighters somewhere else in the world are not a relevant force in terms of the Estonian national defence in the event of a possible crisis moment in Estonia. However, these up to 50 servicemen on a mission are a relevant force in the eyes of our allies, he said.

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of two Bills.

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (184 SE), initiated by the Government, which will transpose amendments to the European Union directive on the taxation of parent companies and subsidiaries. The amendments will preclude abuse of profit distributions of parent companies and subsidiaries, and the double non-taxation in the case of hybrid loans.

The Riigikogu also concluded the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Value Added Tax Act (192 SE), initiated by the Government, which will change the procedure of application of value added tax incentives on European Union institutions and the armed forces of NATO, and the conditions for declaration of value added tax on import. According to the Bill, instead of the refund of value added tax, the regulation of exemption from value added tax will be established for EU institutions and the armed forces of another NATO Member State, taking part in the common defence effort, and military headquarters.

The Riigikogu approved the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of the National Development Plan for Oil Shale Use for 2016–2030” (166 OE), submitted by the Government. The need to draw up the oil shale development plan arises from the Earth’s Crust Act and the Sustainable Development Act. In “The National Development Plan for Oil Shale Use for 2008–2015”, the next stage of the implementation of the development plan is planned for 2016–2030. The aim of the oil shale sector is the implementation of a national interest of efficient and sustainable use of oil shale as a national richness and the ensuring of sustainable development of the oil shale sector.

The Chairman of the Environment Committee Rainer Vakra said that two motions to amend the draft Resolution had been made during the second reading. The first of them will give the Government the task of analysing the development trends affecting this field, including the development of the energy market, every five years and, if necessary, amending the implementation plan of the development plan or submitting a proposal to amend the development plan to the Riigikogu. According to the other motion to amend, the Government will be required to pay greater attention to the research and development of oil shale chemistry in the implementation plan for the development plan.

During the debate, Artur Talvik took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction and moved to suspend the second reading of the draft Resolution. 10 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of this motion and 44 were against; thus, the motion was not supported. The Riigikogu passed the Resolution with 55 votes in favour, 11 against and one abstention.

The Bill on Amendments to the Copyright Act (163 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading in the Riigikogu. It will transpose the relevant EU directive the deadline for which is 10 April 2016. The aim of the directive is to harmonise the fundamental principles of the activities of the organisations related to collective management at European Union level. It also creates a mechanism for cross-EU licensing of the use of musical works, and establishes the obligation of supervision of the activities of collective management organisations.

Member of the Cultural Affairs Committee Heidy Purga, who presented the Bill, pointed out that the term “multi-territory licensing agreement” would be replaced with the words “European trans-national licence agreement” in the Bill. Purga said that this way it is more understandable that they are agreements applicable in European Union countries.

Collective management organisations are associations who give, on the basis of the authorisation of their members – authors, performers and producers –, licences for the use of works to different businesses, such as shops, shopping centres, restaurants, hotels or media services providers. There are four major collective management organisations in Estonia: the Estonian Authors’ Society, the Estonian Performers’ Association, the Estonian Association of Phonogram Producers and the Estonian Audiovisual Authors’ Union.

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.)

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