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The Riigikogu made amendments to the Public Transport Act with 76 votes in favour, and removed the provisions requiring the language proficiency level of taxi drivers and certification thereof.

The Act on Amendments to the Public Transport Act (159 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Urve Palo and Deniss Boroditsh, deletes the provisions requiring the language proficiency level of taxi drivers and certification thereof from the Public Transport Act, insofar as the language proficiency requirements in taxi services, as in many other areas of activity, are regulated by the Language Act and a Government of the Republic Regulation adopted on the basis thereof. When the Act enters into force, the Language Inspectorate will continue to exercise supervision over compliance with the language proficiency requirement by taxi drivers. The Act enters into force on the following day after its publication in the Riigi Teataja.

According to the amendments to the Public Transport Act that entered into force last year, as of 1 April this year, taxi drivers must have an operator’s card for the provision of service, and one requirement for obtaining it is a document certifying proficiency in Estonian at B1 level.

67 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act and 13 were against. There were no abstentions.

Viktoria Ladõnskaja, Krista Aru, Martin Helme and Mihhail Stalnuhhin took the floor on behalf of factions during the debate.

Ladõnskaja who represented the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction said that the amendment is necessary in order that circa 500 taxi drivers in Ida-Virumaa would not face the risk of becoming unemployed as of 1 April. She added that, at the same time, it is important to keep the language proficiency requirements in the Language Act and the Government Regulation. “It is an ingenious middle road – the people will not lose their jobs, and the language proficiency requirement remains,“ Ladõnskaja said.

Krista Aru who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction noted that the deadline for the language proficiency requirement for taxi drivers could have been changed in the Public Transport Act, rather than eliminating the language proficiency requirement from the Public Transport Act altogether.

Helme, who spoke on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party, did not support the amendment. “I seriously doubt if there are 500 taxi drivers in Narva at all,” he noted. “It also remains incomprehensible to me why these taxi drivers should all become unemployed suddenly if they fail to comply with the requirements that they have had all the time. If 25 years into our independence we are still speaking that more time is needed to acquire the most elementary level of Estonian, then we are actually admitting that almost nothing has been done in 25 years. “

Stalnuhhin, who took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction, welcomed the amendment. “I thank those who initiated the Bill, and I thank in advance all those who will support the passage of this Act,” Stalnuhhin said. “There are indeed 500 taxi drivers in Narva, and a few more.”

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the Organisation of Energy Sector Bill (162 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill will transpose the relevant EU directive pursuing the objective 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. Only the measures absolutely required by the directive will be implemented.

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. 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 energy performance requirements, and to procure energy-efficient buildings, products and services. According to the Bill, the central government includes the Office of the President of the Republic, the Chancellery of the Riigikogu, the Supreme Court, the National Audit Office, the Office of the Chancellor of Justice, the Office of the Prosecutor General and governmental authorities.

The Bill provides for the overall energy efficiency obligation, for the performance of which the state will tax fuels and electricity energy, support the renovation of multi-apartment buildings and street lighting, etc. A requirement to carry out energy audits regularly will be established for large enterprises, that is, enterprises which employ more than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover exceeding EUR 50 million, or an annual balance sheet total exceeding EUR 43 million. The first energy audit will have to be carried out six months after the entry into force of the Act, and in the future every four years.

The Bill also provides for the minimum requirements for the audits, and the competence requirements for energy auditors. There are circa 250 large enterprises in Estonia. The Bill will obligate energy utilities to measure the energy use of final consumers for management of energy consumption, and to offer access to the consumption data of final consumers free of charge both in real time and retrospectively.

The Riigikogu rejected the Bill on Amendments to the President of the Republic Official Perquisites Act (168 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, which was intended to change the procedure for payment of the representation allowance for the spouse of the President, and to make the amount of the representation allowance dependent on how long the person who receives the representation allowance has been the spouse of the President during the term of office of the President.

Mart Helme and Jüri Adams took the floor during the debate.

40 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the rejection of the Bill and 23 were against. There were no abstentions.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian): http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201603171000

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
Urmas Seaver
Phone: +372 631 6352; +372 50 39 907
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