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The Tobacco Act that was passed in the Riigikogu today tightens the requirements for the packaging and labelling of tobacco products and tobacco-related products in European Union Member States.

Sales packages of cigarettes and smoking tobacco will have to be labelled with new picture and text warnings as of 20 May 2016. A package must have the reference www.tubakainfo.ee, where help for quitting smoking can be found. Under the Act, smoking areas without walls in buildings will be prohibited as of 2017.

Fifty members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act on Amendments to the Tobacco Act (118 SE), initiated by the Government, 8 were against, and there were 2 abstentions.

With the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Appointment of the Representative of Estonia to the Control Committee of the Nordic Investment Bank” (174 OE), initiated by the Finance Committee, Remo Holsmer was appointed as the representative of Estonia to the Control Committee of the Nordic Investment Bank from 1 June 2016 to 31 May 2018.

The Control Committee is formed with the aim of ensuring conformity of the activities of the bank to its Statutes. The Control Committee is responsible for the audit of the accounting records of the bank, and submits the annual auditor’s report to the Board of Governors of the bank.

37 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Resolution, no one was against, and there were 6 abstentions.

The Minister of Culture Indrek Saar presented the report on the implementation of “The Fundamentals of the Cultural Policy until 2020” in 2015 to the Riigikogu.

In his report, Saar pointed out that the aim of the cultural policy is to build a society which values creativity, maintaining and promoting the Estonian national identity, studying, storing and carrying on cultural memory, and creating favourable conditions for the development of viable, open and diverse cultural space and participation in culture. “Internationalisation, which has been set as a goal, is important not only in terms of export and reputation management; internationalisation also ensures the development and preservation of culture,“ Saar stated.

Laine Randjärv, Mihkel Raud, Aadu Must and Krista Aru took the floor on behalf of factions during the debate.

Randjärv who spoke on behalf of the Reform Party Faction said that there is an extremely great interest in this field. Randjärv noted that hobby education is very important in cultural policy.

Mihkel Raud who took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction spoke of problems relating to the cultural space. He pointed out that the main function of our state, which is the preservation of the Estonian language and culture, is also kept on agenda in everyday activities in Estonia.

Aadu Must, who took the floor on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction, pointed out that the situation that must be spoken about in cultural policy is its conformity with the political circumstances. “We are speaking of a great migration and a migration crisis, but one of the greatest causes of fear with both immigration and emigration is cultural issues,” Must said.

Krista Aru, who spoke on behalf of the Free Party Faction, said that cultural policy is what we need most in the Estonian state today.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of two Bills

The Bill on Amendments to the Estonian Defence League Act and the Military Service Act (153 SE), initiated by the Government, will enable the medical commissions within the area of government of the Ministry of Defence access to the data on persons in the e-health information system if they have given their consent thereto. So the medical commissions will obtain the data necessary for health tests of persons liable to national defence obligation directly from e-health, and they in turn will be able to enter the results of their tests and diagnoses into the system. All information relating to health will be available in one place for servicemen and call-up selectees. Also, assessment of the state of health of call-up selectees will become simpler for the medical commissions, and both family physicians and attending physicians will have to spend less money and time in the health tests of people. The Bill will also amend the procedure for granting staff accommodation to servicemen.

The Bill on Amendments to the Law of Obligations Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (152 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the EU mortgage credit directive which will harmonise the regulation of housing loans. The amendments concern all loan agreements to consumers the aim of which is the purchasing of a registered immovable, those secured by a mortgage as well as those unsecured. In addition to housing loans granted by banks, the amendments relating to the Bill concern also consumer credits granted by smaller loan offices. The Bill provides that more information on a housing loan agreement will have to be provided to the consumer. In the future, a creditor will have to notify of the basic content of a housing loan agreement and the possibilities related thereto as general information on its website. In addition, banks will have to implement a single information sheet for providing consumers with personalised pre-contractual information in order to facilitate applicants for loan to get an overview of the terms of the agreement and to compare housing loan offers of different banks. At the same time, the right to withdraw from a consumer credit contract secured by a mortgage within seven days will extend to borrowers. In the event of other consumer credit contracts, the withdrawal period is 14 days. The Bill specifies the current regulation of responsible lending. The Bill provides that a loan agreement may be concluded only in the case when the consumer is creditworthy.

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of five drafts

The Radiation Bill (169 SE), initiated by the Government, has been drafted within the framework of codification of environmental law, and the aim of the Bill is to organise the current law and to make the regulations more understandable to the addressees. The content of the regulation will mostly remain the same compared with the current Act, but some amendments and specifications have also been made.

The Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu stated that the most important consideration in the domain of radiation as regards this Act is the ensurance of safety requirements. “Within its scope of regulation, this Bill concerns all authorities and undertakings who use radioactive sources or engage in radioactive waste management,” Reinsalu stated.

The Bill on Amendments to the Public Transport Act (159 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Deniss Boroditsh and Urve Palo, provides that the deadline for obtaining the operator’s card of a person working as a driver in taxi service will be extended until 1 April 2017. In the opinion of the initiators of the Bill, this amendment will provide a transition period for obtaining the operator’s card.

Urve Palo, Viktoria Ladõnskaja and Mihhail Stalnuhhin took the floor on behalf of factions during the debate.

Urve Palo, who took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, said that when the Public Transport Act had been passed on 1 October last year, which had provided that, after six months, among other things, taxi drivers in the city of Narva would have to be proficient in Estonian at B1 level, it had been a mistake to establish this requirement in the Public Transport Act. “The mistake does not lie in the fact that we expect persons providing services in Estonia to be proficient in Estonian. The mistake was that we tried to solve now in six months the integration issues that have failed in a number of respects over 20 years,” Palo noted.

Viktoria Ladõnskaja, who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, said that this Act and the amendment thereto were very important because they indicated excellently not just a problem with an Act but the problems of the whole issue of integration. “We are convinced that integration is a security issue, because if one part of the society feels, or actually is, isolated in terms of region, language, or social or economic status, the risk arises that someone may take advantage of these divides malevolently, that is, play on our disunion,” Ladõnskaja said.

Mihhail Stalnuhhin, who spoke on behalf of the Estonian Centre Party Faction, said that language policy is after all a national priority that local governments cannot implement without substantial funding.

According to the Bill on Amendments to the Act on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Precursors thereof (170 SE), initiated by the Government, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances will have to be operatively included in the schedule of prohibited narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. It provides for a possibility for the inclusion of new psychoactive substances in the schedule of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances by groups of substances. A group of substances includes substances with a similar general structural formula. Under current law, new psychoactive substances are included in the schedule of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances one-by-one on the proposal of the State Agency of Medicines. The procedure of inclusion in the schedule takes two months at a minimum which means that often a substance is included in the schedule only later. Inclusion of substances in the schedule by groups will allow to quickly and efficiently restrict the spread and handling of new psychoactive substances.

The Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act (175 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, provides that the minutes of committee sittings will have to be more detailed. The minutes of a committee sitting must reflect in summary form the course of the committee sitting, and the development of the decisions and positions adopted. The positions of the people who take the floor at the sitting will be reported by name, and the results of voting will also be entered in the minutes by name.

The Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Election Act and Other Acts (160 SE),initiated by the Constitutional Committee, will update the procedure for conducting, organisation and supervision of elections. According to the Bill, the national electoral service, which will be established as a separate structural unit of the Chancellery of the Riigikogu, will be the organiser of elections at the state level. The national electoral service will be independent in the performance of the functions arising from Acts concerning elections. The National Electoral Committee will remain responsible for ensuring the fairness and lawfulness of the elections; it will ascertain the election results, exercise supervision over the organisers of the elections, and review complaints. At county level, the county head of elections will organise the elections, instead of the county electoral committee. Also, the current three-stage system for reviewing complaints will be replaced with a two-stage system, and the possibilities for voters to draw attention to deficiencies in the organisation of elections will be simplified.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a Proposal to the Government of the Republic” (147 OE), initiated by the Centre Party Faction, that provides for amendment of the Act in order to bind the receiving of the parental benefit with the obligation to take the child to medical examinations, was postponed to the next week.

The sitting ended at 6.14 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at: link (NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)

Riigikogu Press Service

Gunnar Paal, 6316351, 51902837

[email protected]