At Wednesday’s sitting, the Riigikogu rejected the draft Resolution on the disclosure of the materials of the committee of investigation of the VEB Fund.
46 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the rejection of the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Disclosure of the Materials of the Riigikogu Committee of Investigation of the VEB Fund” (234 OE), submitted by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction. 23 voted against, and there were two abstentions.
The draft Resolution provided for the lifting of the restrictions on access to the materials of the Riigikogu committee of investigation of the VEB Fund. The Riigikogu formed the committee of investigation of the VEB Fund on 12 March 2013. The committee held 40 sittings, and questioned 49 people at the sittings.
When presenting the draft Resolution, member of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction Henn Põlluaas said that unjustified classification undermines trust in the representatives and institutions of the state, and it does not fit with democracy and the principle of openness. “A crisis of trust and a division between the people and those in power is clearly obvious as it is. However, this loss of trust can be compensated by disclosing information, honesty and bringing the truth to light,” Põlluaas said.
“In such a serious case, the need to protect the right to privacy of persons and personal data does not outweigh the public interest and social good. After all, the committee was established with the aim of throwing light upon the financial machinations and falsifications kept secret by Eesti Pank,” Põlluaas added.
Andres Anvelt, who made a report as representative of the Constitutional Committee at the sitting, explained that the recordings of the committee of investigation of the VEB Fund are there, but they are covered by the principle that sittings are closed, arising from § 36 of the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act. “By now there is the judgment of the Supreme Court of 11 May 2015 in which the Court states that the sittings of the committees of the Riigikogu are closed as a general rule, and a sitting can be declared public only by a majority vote of the members of the committee,” said Anvelt who had been a member of the committee of investigation of the VEB Fund.
Anvelt stressed that a Resolution of the Riigikogu cannot amend an Act. “According to the principle of hierarchy of legal acts, lower-level legislation of specific application must be in conformity with legislation of general application, the Act in this case, and this is also the basis for the principle of closedness set out in § 36 of the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act. Also, since the restriction on access has been set on the basis of an Act, this draft Resolution would come into conflict with the Acts that obligate state authorities to impose restrictions on access to information or classify information as state secret,” Anvelt said.
Artur Talvik, who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction in the debate, stressed that transparency improves political culture, and that the Free Party supports the draft Resolution.
In the opinion of Martin Helme, who took the floor on behalf of the Conservative People’s Party Faction, the materials of the committee of investigation of the VEB Fund should be disclosed, and he called on to support the draft Resolution.
Rainer Vakra, who took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, recalled, as former chairman of the committee of investigation of the VEB Fund, that the members of the committee of investigation had decided then that the sittings of the committee would be closed. Vakra called on the members of the Riigikogu to listen to the recordings of the committee.
One Bill passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Civil Service Act (Estonia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union) (240 SE), initiated by the Government, which provides for a temporary amendment to the Civil Service Act in connection with the performance of the task of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union by Estonia in the second half of 2017. The Bill provides for specifications for officials who perform functions related to the Estonian Presidency.
Prior to the EU Presidency and for the time of the EU Presidency, a specification will be established for more flexible recruitment of personnel under which officials could be appointed to the service for a specified term without competition. An official can be appointed to the service without competition in the case when a post related to the tasks of EU presidency becomes vacant. It is a general rule of the Civil Service Act that a vacant post must be filled by way of public competition; in grounded cases, internal competition may also be carried out.
To compensate for an intensive work period and increased workload, and to motivate officials, there will be a possibility to grant an additional holiday of up to 10 calendar days and a possibility to pay a higher additional remuneration. The current procedure does not provide for additional holiday depending on the work contributed, and allows to pay additional remuneration of up to 20 percent of the annual basic salary of the official for the performance of additional duties.
In view of the decision that Estonia will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union six months earlier, that is, starting from 1 July 2017, the Constitutional Committee changed the dates in the Bill in the course of the second reading.
According to the motion to amend, public servants can use additional holiday until 31 August 2018. Also, the specifications applied to officials connected with the EU presidency will be in force until the abovementioned date. Initially, the specifications introduced into the Act were to be in force until 31 December 2018.
According to the personnel strategy of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union, the workload of an estimated 300–400 people will increase significantly, and for about 700 people the tasks related to the presidency will be spread over the EU presidency period.
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of one Bill:
The Bill on Amendments to the Working Conditions of Employees Posted to Estonia Act, the Social Tax Act, the Income Tax Act and the Employment Contracts Act (256 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the relevant EU directive concerning improvement of the terms and conditions of employment of workers posted to Estonia in the framework of the provision of services. The Bill provides for the responsibility of local contracting entities in the payment of wages to posted workers in the construction sector.
A constructor will have the right to demand payment of wages from the local enterprise if remuneration has been ordered by a court decision from the employer who posted him or her but it is impossible to collect it within six months. A remuneration claim will be limited to the minimum monthly wage in Estonia.
The Bill will simplify state supervision which is exercised by the Labour Inspectorate in regard to posted workers. The Bill establishes the procedure for cross-border notification of penalty payment and for presentation of penalty payment for collection.
In the future, the Act will not be applied to workers arriving from third countries who can enter the Estonian labour market on the basis of the Aliens Act.
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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