On the occasion of a day of mourning, the Riigikogu began the sitting with a moment of silence. Today, deliberation of a matter of significant national importance was held in the Riigikogu, on the report “Potential Changes in Fiscal Policy Paradigm in the Estonian Parliamentary System” by the State Budget Control Select Committee. The report discusses the role of the parliament in the shaping of budget policy, and the related issues.
Chairman of the State Budget Control Select Committee Mihhail Stalnuhhin pointed out the aim of the report, and the fact that, to achieve the aim, members of the Riigikogu from both the coalition and the opposition had been interviewed from December 2015 to March 2016.
Member of the State Budget Control Select Committee and author of the report Kristjan Kõljalg presented the results of the interviews and the proposals made.
“Our aim is that, in the future, the state budget as a whole will be understandable and comprehensible to every member of the Riigikogu, and it will be easier to conduct proceedings on it,” he said. Kõljalg added that the role of the Riigikogu as a constitutional institution in deciding on its budget will have to increase.
Kõljalg said that increasing of the role of the Riigikogu in the conducting of proceedings on the budget and the budget strategy also presumes additional resources. “For example, the recently adopted amendments to the foresight, the establishment of a foresight unit at the Riigikogu, will create a favourable opportunity to use also this resource for dealing with budget issues.”
The state budget is the most important manifestation of the political will of the majority of the Riigikogu, the preparation of which has been delegated to the Government of the Republic, and the Minister of Finance and the Ministry of Finance are responsible for drawing it up. I think that the report even slightly underestimates the role of the Riigikogu in the formation of the state budget. For various reasons, we must think of the Riigikogu constantly when drawing up the budget. The Government simply cannot bring to the Riigikogu a budget that goes against the political will of the majority of the Riigikogu, because the budget will not be passed then,” the Minister of Finance Sven Sester said.
Sester said that the Ministry of Finance is always open to proposals and discussions to improve the budget process. “The Action Programme of the Government of the Republic provides for an updating of the State Budget Act. We would like to submit the State Budget Bill to the Riigikogu already during the coming year. The Government wishes to make the budget more understandable and flexible with the planned changes to the state budget process,” he said.
The Minister added that budget planning should be more closely connected with action plans of various fields, and should allow to better meet the needs of the society.
“In any case, the Finance Committee welcomes the initiative of the State Budget Control Select Committee for drawing up the report, and this also provides us a side-view of the possible shortcomings in our field of work,” said the Chairman of the Finance Committee Remo Holsmer.
“The state budget is based on Acts passed by the Riigikogu. As you know, nearly three quarters of the budget expenditure are fixed, and any changes to them in turn require a principal amendment of Acts. Very many changes increasing transparency and efficiency have taken place over the years in the drafting of, conducting proceedings on and reporting on the state budget. However, I also believe that it can be done better, more transparently, more comprehensively and more understandably. On the one hand, the budget is indeed prepared by the members of the Riigikogu, but on the other hand it is prepared for the people,” he said.
Holsmer also gave an overview of the proposals made in the Committee report. “The proposals made in the Committee report concern the role, competence and responsibility of the Riigikogu, the Ministry of Finance, the factions of the Riigikogu, the Finance Committee, as well as other committees and members of the Riigikogu, in the proceedings of the budget.”
The representatives of factions Tarmo Tamm and Andres Ammas took the floor during the debate.
The Riigikogu passed a Statement:
At the beginning of today’s sitting, the Riigikogu held a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of the June deportation, and adopted the Statement which says that the Riigikogu remembers the people who were violently deported 75 years ago and of whom many lost their families and lives.
The Statement of the Riigikogu says: “Today is the 75th anniversary of the tragic day of 14 June 1941, when thousands of people in Estonia were hit by a bloody action of violence of communist Soviet power. On that tragic date, the armed representatives of the occupation power arrested more than 10,000 inhabitants of Estonia under the darkness of night and in the early hours of morning.”
The Statement also notes that although 75 years have passed, it is our duty to remember that date and the tragic fate and unlived lives of the victims of violence. “It is our moral duty to commemorate the victims of totalitarian regimes and pass the knowledge about those events on to the coming generations,” the Statement declares.
To commemorate the victims of the June deportation, the Riigikogu passed the Statement of the Riigikogu “75 Years since June Deportation” (255 AE), submitted by all factions of the Riigikogu and 27 members of the Riigikogu on the initiative of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction. 83 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Statement.
“It is our moral duty to commemorate the people who lost their life, family, health, freedom or home through deportation. This will not bring back the victims, but through commemoration we may be able to prevent such grave crimes against humanity in the future,” said Mart Nutt who presented the Statement.
Kalle Laanet, who made a report on behalf of the Constitutional Committee, gave an overview of the discussions that had been held in the Committee.
Aadu Must, Kalev Kotkas, Andres Herkel, Martin Helme and Priit Sibul, who took the floor on behalf of factions during the debate, supported the passing of the Statement.
The Riigikogu passed an Act:
The Foresight Monitoring Act (239 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee, provides for the establishment of the Foresight Monitoring Centre at the Chancellery of the Riigikogu for conducting foresight activities.
Under the Foresight Monitoring Act, the Foresight Monitoring Centre will be established at the Chancellery of the Riigikogu for conducting foresight activities. The function of the Centre will be to prepare analyses of long-term social developments and development scenarios, and to monitor the implementation thereof.
The purpose of the Act is to ensure the carrying out of scientifically grounded, high-quality level analyses, studies and other activities necessary for understanding the long-term developments in Estonia, identifying potential risks and opportunities, and assessing different versions of activities.
The Foresight Monitoring Act also deals with reorganising the investment activities of the Estonian Development Fund (Eesti Arengufond). The Act contains the necessary amendments to the Estonian Development Fund Act and the Support of Enterprise and State Loan Guarantees Act. The activities of the Estonian Development Fund will be terminated, and the Estonian Development Fund Act will be definitively repealed on 1 July 2017.
Another important impact of the Act will be that the investment activities of the state in the field of venture capital will be brought under the executive power. “AS SmartCap”, an arm of the Development Fund, will be transferred to the KredEx Fund together with rights, obligations, and the investment capital of the Development Fund.
The Foresight Monitoring Act enters into force on the following day after its publication in the Riigi Teataja. The repeal of the part concerning investments in the Estonian Development Fund Act enters into force on 1 July 2017.
Member of the Centre Party Faction Mihhail Korb, who took the floor during the debate, said that the Centre Party Faction cannot support this Bill. Member of the Reform Party Faction Maris Lauri called on to vote in favour of this Bill. Member of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction Ken-Marti Vaher pointed out that the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction supports the establishment of the Foresight Monitoring Centre and the passage of this Act. Member of the Free Party Faction Krista Aru said on behalf of the faction that they support the establishment of the Foresight Monitoring Centre.
The Act required a majority vote of the members of the Riigikogu to be passed. 56 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and 28 were against. There were no abstentions.
Two Bills passed the second reading in the Riigikogu:
The Bill on Amendments to the Product Conformity Act (247 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee, will amend the Product Conformity Act by adding the regulation concerning the fees charged for mandatory accreditation. The aim of the Bill is to eliminate the legal deficiency in connection with the fee charged for mandatory accreditation.
The Bill on Amendments to the Water Act (243 SE), initiated by the Government, will specify the providing of information relating to bodies of groundwater in water management plans. The Bill will transpose the amendments to the EU Groundwater Directive. According to the Bill, information concerning every exceedance of pollutant content will have to be pointed out in the water management plan. Thanks to specified data, it will be possible to compare the condition of bodies of groundwater in Member States, to harmonise the methodologies for the evaluation of the pollutant content, and to plan more specific activities to protect groundwater. The state reviews the water management plans every six years.
The Riigikogu rejected a draft Resolution:
The first reading of the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Making a Proposal to the Government of the Republic in connection with Elimination of the Minimum Rate of Social Tax” (227 OE), submitted by the Free Party Faction, was resumed in the Riigikogu. The draft Resolution makes a proposal to the Government to develop a regulation that will allow to eliminate the mandatory minimum rate of social tax and to implement hour-based salary calculation.
Member of the Free Party Faction Andres Ammas took the floor during the debate.
35 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the draft Resolution, 2 voted against, and there were 3 abstentions. As the draft Resolution required a majority vote of the members of the Riigikogu, the draft Resolution was dropped from the proceedings.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201606141000
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.)