At today’s sitting of the Riigikogu, Minister of Rural Affairs Arvo Aller introduced the Agriculture and Fisheries Sector Development Plan until 2030. Its aims are that Estonian food is preferred, the environment and biodiversity are maintained, food sector companies are successful and rural and coastal communities are viable.
Minister of Rural Affairs Arvo Aller said that agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, foodstuff industry and food culture were fields including the whole population and territory of Estonia that had played and were playing an important role in the historical identity of the rural and coastal people in Estonia and in shaping the well-being and living environment of the people, including Estonian landscapes.
The minister pointed out that the drafting of the development plan had taken more than three years. It links together more than 30 separate development documents. Over 500 experts in their fields and over 150 representative organisations have participated in the drafting of the plan.
“The vision formulated in the co-creation of the agricultural development plan is the following: Estonian food is valued and it is good to live in the country. It is a vision of the future we are striving for, integrating the connections between sustainable food production and functioning rural life. There is not one without the other,” Aller said. “According to the vision, in 2030, Estonian food will have a good reputation and will be in high demand both in domestic and foreign markets. This will ensure all supply chain participants sufficient income to for the produce and food they produce and the services they provide. Good rural life is characterised by an attractive living and business environment where well-paid and varied jobs are available and unified and active communities are thriving. Therefore, in 2030 life in country will be valued, well developed and wealthy. There will be space for both large and small businesses who will contribute to the development of rural economy,” the Minister of Rural Affairs said.
In the minister’s words, an overall measurable goal of the development plan is that Estonian food is preferred, the environment and biodiversity are maintained, food sector companies are successful and rural and coastal communities are viable. “In order to achieve the overall goal, the produce of the agriculture and fisheries sector and food industry will have to be of very high quality, innovative and produced in an environmentally-friendly way,” Aller said. He added that, for this, more cooperation both within sectors and between different sectors was needed, and the latest research results and the best technologies needed to be applied.
The minister underlined that the current crisis had shown again that the domestic agriculture, fisheries and food industry sector was a very important strategic sector for every country.
In his report, Deputy Chairman of the Rural Affairs Committee Urmas Kruuse presented the discussion of the development plan in the Rural Affairs Committee. He pointed out that the discussions of the development plan had begun this March and the development plan had been discussed by sectors in the meetings. When speaking of the issues that had arisen in the committee, Kruuse highlighted labour issues and the financial capability needed to implement the objectives set.
During the debate, Ivari Padar (Social Democratic Party), Merry Aart (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Tarmo Tamm (Centre Party), Andres Metsoja (Isamaa), Heiki Hepner (Isamaa), Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party), Urmas Kruuse (Reform Party) and Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor.
The Riigikogu passed an Act
The Act on the Ratification of the Investment Protection Agreement between the European Union and Its Member States, of the one part, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, of the other part (246 SE), initiated by the Government, aims to improve investment conditions between the European Union and Vietnam. The agreement will benefit European investors, ensuring the protection of high-level investments in Vietnam, at the same time reserving the parties the right to regulate the sector and to establish legal provisions. An investment tribunal system will be established, which has been developed to ensure the protection of the rights of citizens through transparent and independent resolution of investment disputes.
Estonia signed the agreement in on 25 June 2019.
78 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act.
One Bill passed the second reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Notaries Act and Other Acts (200 SE), initiated by the Government, will amend the procedure for the assumption of the office of notary. In the future, a person to fill an office of a notary will always need to pass an examination, and he or she will no longer be able to run as a candidate on the basis of the result of an examination taken previously. The amendments will also amend the Notaries Act by including an obligation of refresher training for notaries, notary candidates and substitute notaries.
As an important amendment, the maximum rates of fines provided for notaries and bailiffs for disciplinary offences will be harmonised with the rates of the fines imposed on lawyers and patent attorneys. The upper limit of a fine will be raised from 6,400 euro to 16,000 euro.
The Bill will extend the conditions under which an assistant bailiff may substitute a bailiff. At the same time, the Ministry of Justice will be given the central role in the administration and development of the information system of state legal aid. When the amendments enter into force, in the future, the Minister of Justice will establish the statutes of the information system of state legal aid.
Three Bills passed the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Food Act (228 SE), initiated by the Government, is due to the need to reduce the administrative burden for food handlers, to use an opportunity to establish more flexible requirements for the buildings and premises of businesses and to enable marketing of food of animal origin on the basis of notification obligation.
The aim of the Bill is to provide more flexible hygiene requirements for handling food of animal origin for small businesses in order to reduce bureaucracy and to promote business development. According to the Bill, the authorisation obligation will be replaced by notification obligation. This means that, in the future, businesses who are not subject to authorisation under the European Union hygiene regulations will not have to apply for authorisation. It will be sufficient that they notify of their activities by submitting a notice of economic activities.
According to the Bill, starting handling of food will become simpler but all requirements relating to food safety will remain in place. Food placed on the market must be safe for human health. The handler is responsible for the conformity of the food handled and the handling, and the handler is required to use all opportunities to ensure this. Before starting activity and submitting a notice of economic activities, a business will still have to meet the requirements for premises, employees as well as documents, and it will have to have a self-check plan, etc.
The Bill on Amendments to the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act (227 SE), initiated by the Government.
The Bill will specify in the part concerning the implementation of the aid in the apiculture sector the content of the activity report drawn up for the apiculture year, and the source documents for eligible costs necessary for obtaining aid in the apiculture sector. It will be provided that the activity report drawn up for the apiculture year will have to contain the results of the apiculture programme, in addition to a description of the activities. This will enhance the implementation of the apiculture programme because, starting from 2018, the participating Member States are required to notify to the European Commission a report based on the performance indicators for the apiculture year.
According to the Bill, the eligible costs of implementing the apiculture programme will be compensated on the basis of the payment claim and cost receipts submitted electronically to the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board via the electronic e-service environment of the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board. Compared to the current procedure, compensation will no longer be based on the activity report approved by the evaluation committee. The aim of the activity report is to evaluate the qualitative implementation of the programme and the report is not needed to evaluate the eligibility of the activities carried out. A payment claim and the documents proving the expenditure incurred will be sufficient for this.
In addition, the Act will be brought into conformity with European Union law by including two measures in the Rural Development Plan, support for restoring agricultural potential and support for agricultural insurance, in the case of which applications will no longer need to be evaluated. This will enable to have application rounds open all year round.
The Bill on Amendments to the European Union Common Agricultural Policy Implementation Act (245 SE), initiated by the Government.
The Bill will clarify the application for an import licence for hemp seeds. The amendments concern the licences for hemp seeds other than for sowing, for example, those used as feedingstuff or for pressing oil. In order that the requirements in place would be unambiguously and clearly understandable to holders of licences in the future, the obligation to submit documents on the use of hemp seeds, the arrangements for authorisation and the carrying out of checks will be provided for by law.
The Bill provides that, before a person will acquire an import licence, he or she will have to obtain authorisation from the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board. He or she will have to submit documents on the use of hemp seeds to the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board within 12 months. The Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board will be given the competence to carry out checks on compliance with the requirements for the use of hemp seeds.
Practice has shown that operators fail to meet their obligations assumed under a licence. The obligation to submit documents derives from EU law under which, in the case of release for free circulation of hemp seeds other than for sowing, the import licence shall be issued only where the authorised importer undertakes that the authorities competent for checks concerning the relevant operations in the Member State where the importer is authorised will be provided, within the time limits and under the conditions set by the Member State, with documents. The same Regulation sets out the obligation of the Member State to approve the importer and to carry out checks. Thus, an authorisation by the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board will be a precondition for obtaining a licence, and submission of the documents within 12 months as of the issue of the licence will be a side-condition.
The deliberation of three Bills was transferred to tomorrow’s agenda
Due to the end of the working hours of the sitting, the Bill on Amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act (250 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and member of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, will be deliberated at tomorrow’s plenary sitting.
The purpose of the Bill is to extend the range of persons receiving unemployment insurance benefit to employees and officials who terminate their contract of employment or service relationship on their own initiative or by agreement of the parties and to increase the unemployment insurance benefit. The purpose of the Bill is to improve the economic subsistence of the unemployed for the time when they are looking for a job, enabling them to attend trainings so they can find a job that matches their skills and expectations.
The Bill on Amendments to the State Budget Act (increasing the transparency of the state budget) (251 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction, aims to ensure better transparency and understandability of the state budget and to improve the reporting on the implementation of the budget. This would enhance the role of the Riigikogu in the legislative proceedings on and the implementation of the state budget, and would ensure a timely response to possible deviations from an approved state budget.
The Bill on Amendments to the Funded Pensions Act and Amendments to Other Associated Act (287 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, is related to the reform of the second pillar pension scheme. The Bill will make the necessary improvements particularly to the regulation concerning the pension investment account and will correct reference errors and inaccuracies. The Bill is essentially of a technical nature. The Bill will make no amendments concerning the dates relating to the implementation of the reform of the second pension pillar or any other fundamental changes.
In relation to the investment account, specifications will be made in the movement of the money and data relating to the account. For example, the procedure for the entry into a pension contract will be specified, where it will be recommended to use the money on the pension investment account to pay insurance premiums. The Bill will also specify the procedure for making the lump-sum payment made to the pensioners in the second pension pillar scheme and the partial lump-sum payment due to be added on 1 January 2022 under the reform Act where the payment will also include the money on the pension investment account.
The Bill will also make some simplifications to the processes of the payment of money from the second pension pillar. If a person retires from the second pension pillar scheme and uses all his or her money contributed to the pillar to do so, under the Bill, the registrar of the pension register will be allowed to simply pay the person the money accrued on the person’s pension account later or to transfer such money to his or her pension agreement, depending on which payment option he or she has used.
The Investment Funds Act prohibits charging a fee for the redemption of the units of a pension fund from unit-holders who have attained the old-age pension age or who are going to attain such age in no more than five years. The Bill will extend the prohibition to unit-holders who are assessed as having no ability to work and who are already equal to pensioners in the second pillar pension scheme anyway under the reform of the second pillar pension scheme. In the Guarantee Fund Act, the regulation of the compensation for any loss caused to unit-holders of the second pension pillar will be amended by including references to the pension investment account to which the amount of compensation should be transferred once the person no longer makes contributions to the pension fund but uses a pension investment account instead.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
The video recording of the sitting is available to watch on-demand on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)